One of the distinguishing traits of those believers who have attained to perfection in their faith, is their fear of Allah that is born of their reverence and love for Him. In reality fear of Allah is fear and anxiety that the servant may lose the infinite love, pleasure and contentment that our Lord has for us.
That is why the evervigilant hearts of those believers who have perfected their faith, tremble with awe when the name of Allah is mentioned. This state also brings about other elevated traits, such as correct etiquette towards Allah, sincerity and taqwa (Allah-consciousness or piety). Almighty Allah states in the Holy Qur’an:
‘The believers are those whose hearts tremble when Allah is mentioned, whose faith is increased when His Signs are recited to them, and who put their trust in their Lord’ (Al-Anfal, 8:2).
‘…(O Prophet) Give good news to the humble-hearted, the obedient and the sincere, whose hearts quake at the mention of Allah’ (Hajj, 22:34-35).
Whenever the knowledge, gnosis and love of Allah increase in a person, that person’s fear of Allah also increases proportionately.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“My knowledge of Allah is greater than any of you and I am also the one who fears him the most” (Bukhari, Adab, 72: Muslim, Fadail, 127).
On another day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was asked:
“What type of voice and recitation is best when it comes to reading the Qur’an?”
The Messenger of Allah replied:
“The voice and recitation of the one in whose voice you hear the fear of Allah when he recites”.(Darimi, Fadail al-Qur’an, 34).
Those who fear Allah in truth, fear nothing else. Fear of Allah is the light of happiness in their hearts. The believers who fear Allah are those whom Allah is pleased with and who are pleased with Allah. (Al Bayyina, verse 8) Almighty Allah invites such of these servants to two Paradises. (Al Rahman, 46)
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said:
“There is no believer who has wept tears out of fear of Allah, be they as small as a fly but enough to wet their cheeks, for whom Allah has forbidden the (eternal) fire” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd 19).
“The one who weeps out of fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk returns to the mother’s breast. The dust that is raised in the path of Allah and the smoke of the hellfire will never come together” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 8/2311).
“There are two drops and two marks that are more pleasing to Allah than anything else: the two drops are the teardrops that fall out of fear of Allah, and the drops of blood that are shed in the path of Allah. The two marks are the mark one leaves behind after struggling in the path of Allah, and the mark left behind after one has performed any of the obligatory forms of worship” (Tirmidhi, Fadail al- Jihad, 26/1669).
Allah Most High has censured those hard-hearted people, deprived of the fear of Allah as follows:
‘Then your hearts became hardened after that, so they were like rocks or even harder still. There are some rocks from which rivers gush out, and others which split open and water pours out, and others which crash down from fear of Allah. Allah is not unaware of what you do’ (Baqara, 2:74).
The Most Beloved Prophet (pbuh) has said:
“O Allah, I seek refuge in You from knowledge which is of no benefit, from a heart that does not fear (You), from a soul that is never satiated, and from a prayer that is not answered” (Muslim, Zikr, 73).
One who does not fear Allah is lower than the animals and minerals. In the same vein, our forefathers have said: ‘Fear the one who does not fear Allah’. In truth, it is their end affair which is a frightening one. For their hard hearts, the darkness of their ignorance and lack of feeling is not found even in inanimate beings.
It is true that, according to divine decree, even beings which are considered lifeless go through states of fearing Allah. The following verse expresses the truth of this:
‘If We had sent down this Qur’an onto a mountain, you would have seen it humbled, crushed to pieces out of fear of Allah. We make such examples for people so that hopefully they will reflect’ (Al-Hashr, 59:21-22)
There must always be in the heart of the believer, fear that one may be deprived of gaining Allah’s pleasure and love and being afflicted with His punishment; and at the same time hope of attaining to His endless mercy and compassion. That is, the heart of the believer must oscillate between the two poles of fear and hope. This balance between the feelings of fear and hope has been expressed as ‘bayn’al- hawfi wa al-raja’, (between fear and hope).
The believer must preserve this balance in his heart, through constant prayer, in recognition of his state of nothingness and seeking refuge, until Certainty, that is death comes to him. It is stated in the Holy Qur’an:
‘…Call on Him fearfully and eagerly. Allah’s mercy is close to the good-doer’ (A’raf, 7:56)
‘…and are hoping for His mercy and fearing his punishment. The punishment of your Lord is truly something to be feared’ (Isra, 17:57).
The Prophet (pbuh) has said:
“If the believer truly knew the intensity and quality of the punishment of Allah, he would never be able to hope for Paraidse. And if the non-believer truly comprehended the mercy of Allah, he would never give up hope of entering Paradise” (Muslim, Tawba, 23).
“Paradise is closer to each of you than the strap of his own shoe. And Hellfire is likewise” (Bukhari, Rikak, 29).
Thus the path to eternal happiness and peace passes through keeping the heart in balance between fear and hope of Allah. This is because the lover is in constant fear of hurting and losing their beloved. The believer, too, must fear losing the love of Allah but be always hoping to attain to His Mercy.