The Prophet salAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallaam explained ihsān as being:
“That you worship Allāh as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He sees you.” (1)
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, may Allāh have mercy upon him, said as a part of his commentary to the above Prophetic words:
It indicates that the servant (‘abd) should worship Allāh in this manner; namely, evoking the feeling of His nearness and of His being with him as though he sees Him. This in turn necessitates reverence, fear, awe and glorification [of Allāh]; as occurs in the narration of Abu Hurayrah: “That you revere Allāh as if you see Him.” It also necessitates sincerity in worship, as well as exerting all one’s efforts in improving, completing and perfecting it. (2)
Ibn Rajab further said: “It has been said that it [the second part of the sentence] is the cause for the first part. This is because when the servant is ordered to have vigilance (murāqabah) of Allāh whilst worshipping Him and to feel His closeness, to the point that it is as if he was seeing Him, then this may be difficult. So he seeks aid to attain this through his faith that Allāh sees him, is fully aware of his secret and public [acts], his inner and outer [states], and that nothing of his affairs is ever hidden from Him. When he actualizes this station (maqām), it becomes easier for him to move to the second station, which is where there is a continual realization, upon spiritual perception (basīrah), of Allāh’s closeness to His servant and of His being with him; to the extent that it is as if he actually sees Him.