Worshiping Allah in fear and hope

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Islam teaches us to worship Allah out of love for Him but with a healthy balance of fear and hope.

Allah said:

تَتَجَافَىٰ جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

They arise from their beds and they supplicate their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend from what We have provided them.

Surah As-Sajda 32:16

And Allah said:

إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَيَدْعُونَنَا رَغَبًا وَرَهَبًا ۖ وَكَانُوا لَنَا خَاشِعِينَ

Verily, they would hasten to good deeds and supplicate to Us in hope and fear, and they were humbly submissive to Us.

Surah Al-Anbiya 21:90

Al-Bara ibn Azib reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْلَمْتُ وَجْهِي إِلَيْكَ وَفَوَّضْتُ أَمْرِي إِلَيْكَ وَأَلْجَأْتُ ظَهْرِي إِلَيْكَ رَغْبَةً وَرَهْبَةً إِلَيْكَ

O Allah, I submit my face to you and entrust my affair to you. I commit myself to you out of hope and fear of you.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2710, Grade: Sahih

Fear of Allah means to fear falling into sin and earning His punishment in the Hellfire.

Allah said:

وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا تُرْجَعُونَ فِيهِ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ ثُمَّ تُوَفَّىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا كَسَبَتْ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ

Fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah. Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, and they will not be treated unjustly.

Surah Al-Baqarah 2:281

Fear of Allah makes us think twice before we commit a sin. It is the quality of mindfulness and awareness of Allah that resides inside the heart of a believer.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, pointed to his chest three times and he said:

التَّقْوَى هَاهُنَا

Godfearing piety is here.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2564, Grade: Sahih

Indeed, the description of punishment in the Hereafter found in the Quran and Sunnah should increase our resolve to be righteous. On the Day of Judgment, those who did not fear Allah will wish they had never been born.

Allah said:

إِنَّا أَنذَرْنَاكُمْ عَذَابًا قَرِيبًا يَوْمَ يَنظُرُ الْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ وَيَقُولُ الْكَافِرُ يَا لَيْتَنِي كُنتُ تُرَابًا

Verily, We have warned you of a near punishment on the Day when a man will observe what his hands have put forth and the disbeliever will say: Oh, I wish that I were dust!

Surah An-Naba 78:40

Fear of Allah is the source of all knowledge as it motivates us to seek the truth and act in accordance with it.

Allah said:

إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ غَفُورٌ

Only those who fear Allah among His servants are those with knowledge. Verily, Allah is Almighty and Forgiving.

Surah Al-Fatir 35:28

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him would say during his sermons:

خَيْرُ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى وَرَأْسُ الْحِكْمَةِ مَخَافَةُ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

The best provision is mindfulness of Allah, and the foundation of wisdom is the fear of Allah the Exalted.

Source: Al-Jami’ As-Sagheer 1609, Grade: Hasan

And in the previous scriptures, it is written:

יִרְאַ֣ת  יְ֭הוָה  רֵאשִׁ֣ית  דָּ֑עַת  חָכְמָ֥ה  וּ֝מוּסָ֗ר  אֱוִילִ֥ים  בָּֽזוּ

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

However, we need to balance our fear of Allah with our hope in His reward and His Paradise.

Allah said:

فَقَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَارْجُوا الْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ

Shuaib said: O my people, worship Allah and hope for the Last Day and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.

Surah Al-Ankabut 29:36

Hope in Allah motivates us to perform good deeds and to abandon our base materialistic desires for the sake of righteousness.

Allah said:

الْمَالُ وَالْبَنُونَ زِينَةُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِندَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ أَمَلًا

Wealth and children are only adornment of the worldly life, but enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for one’s hope.

Surah Al-Kahf 18:46

The description of Paradise in the Quran and Sunnah should increase our resolve to perform good deeds to be rewarded in the Hereafter. In fact, it is a major sin to despair of the mercy of Allah.

Allah said:

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

Say: O My servants who have transgressed against themselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Verily, Allah forgives all sins. Verily, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.

Surah Az-Zumar 39:53

And Allah said:

وَمَن يَقْنَطُ مِن رَّحْمَةِ رَبِّهِ إِلَّا الضَّالُّونَ

Who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except for those astray?

Surah Al-Hijr 15:56

Therefore, we should have a healthy balance of fear and hope in our worship of Allah. The idea of balance in worship is expressed eloquently in Ibn Al-Qayyaim’s metaphor of the bird on its journey to Allah.

Ibn Al-Qayyim said:

الْقَلْبُ فِي سَيْرِهِ إِلَى اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ بِمَنْزِلَةِ الطَّائِرِ فَالْمَحَبَّةُ رَأْسُهُ وَالْخَوْفُ وَالرَّجَاءُ جَنَاحَاهُ فَمَتَى سَلِمَ الرَّأْسُ وَالْجَنَاحَانِ فَالطَّائِرُ جَيِّدُ الطَّيَرَانِ وَمَتَى قُطِعَ الرَّأْسُ مَاتَ الطَّائِرُ وَمَتَى فُقِدَ الْجَنَاحَانِ فَهُوَ عُرْضَةٌ لِكُلِّ صَائِدٍ وَكَاسِرٍ

The heart on its journey towards Allah the Exalted is like that of a bird. Love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings. When the head is healthy, then the two wings will fly well. When the head is cut off, the bird will die. When either of two wings is damaged, the bird becomes vulnerable to every hunter and predator.

Source: Madarij As-Salikeen

Let us remember that our hearts are just like a bird on a journey to Allah in the Hereafter. Our love of Allah is the basis of our worship, and our fear and hope are like two wings that propel us along the straight path toward our final destination.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

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