Fear (khawf)

The Concept

Fear of Allah is one of the greatest acts of worship of the heart. Allah says: &"That is only Satan who frightens (you) of his supporters. So fear them not, but fear Me, if you are (indeed) believers&" (Âl-&"Imrân: 175).

&" …and Allah warns you of Himself… &" (Âl-&"Imrân: 30).

In this ayah Allah mentions that fear should only be felt towards Him and that it is a requirement of Iman, as the amount of fear of Allah a person has depends on the amount of Iman he has.

&"Aisha, the mother of the Mu&"meneen (may Allah be pleased with her), said: &"I asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about this verse: ‘ …and those who give what they give while their hearts are fearful because they will be returning to their Lord …’” “Are they those who drink intoxicants and steal?” He said: &"No, O daughter of As-Siddiq. They are those who fast, perform Salat, and give charity while they fear that their Lord will not accept it from them&" (Narrated by at-Termidthi).

That which encourages one to have fear of Allah

1-Glorification of Allah (mighty and majestic is He) and exalting Him, as the Mu&"men has knowledge of Allah and His Beautiful Names and Attributes. &"They fear their Lord above them…&" (An-Nahl: 50).

2-The fear that he will land up in a place he hates, a place of painful torment in Jahanem – and how wretched a destination it is!

3-A Mu&"men&"s feeling that he is not fulfilling his obligations enough and realizing that Allah is All-Knowing, All-Seeing and Al-Capable. He also does not look at how small the act of disobedience he is committing is, but rather how great a status Allah, whom he is disobeying, has.

4-Contemplation of the words of Allah that are full of warnings and threats to those who disobey Him, abandon His laws and turn their backs to the light which He has sent to guide us.

5-Contemplation of the words of Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) by looking into the life of the Messenger.

6-Pondering on the Greatness of Allah (mighty and majestic is He), for he who ponders will understand the beautiful Names and Attributes of Allah better. The person who understands the Greatness of His Lord realizes how severe His threats are, and undoubtedly feels fear. Allah says: &" …and Allah warns you of Himself… &" (Âl-&"Imrân: 30).

To have fear of Allah (mighty and majestic is He) makes a Mu&"men learn about Him, and knowing Him makes one have piety, and having piety makes one obey Him.

Allah (mighty and majestic is He) says: &"They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal, while the earth entirely will be (within) His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand&" (Az-Zumar: 67).

7-Pondering about death and its hardships, and that it is an inevitable truth: &"Say: &"Indeed, the death from which you flee - indeed, it will meet you&" &" (Al-Jumu&"ah: 8).

This leads to one having fear of Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: &"Frequently remember the destroyer of pleasures (meaning death); for no one will remember it while in hardship but he will feel ease, and while in ease but he will feel disturbed” (Narrated by at-Tabarani).

8-Pondering about what will take place after death, and about the grave and its terrors. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I used to forbid you from visiting the graves, but now visit them, for they will draw your attention away from this world and remind you of the Hereafter” (Narrated by ibn Majah).

Al-Baraa&" said: “We were with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) at a funeral, and he sat at the edge of the grave weeping, until the ground became wet. Then he said: ‘O my brothers, prepare yourselves for something like this’” (Narrated by ibn Majah).

Allah (mighty and majestic is He) says: &"O mankind, fear your Lord and fear a Day when no father will avail his son, nor will a son avail his father at all. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and be not deceived about Allah by the deceiver&" (Luqmân: 33).

9-Pondering over the consequences of sins which people tend to consider as being small. Such sins were illustrated by the Prophet (peace be upon him) with an example of a group of people who went down into a valley. So one of them collected a small stick of fire wood and another collected another stick, (and they continued like this) until they managed to collect enough wood to make a fire to bake their bread. There is a relationship between the sticks of firewood and making the fire on one hand, and small sins and how it causes the skin of the sinners to roast on the other hand: &"Every time their skins are roasted through…&" (An-Nisâ&": 56)

10-A Mu&"men knows that he could be prevented from repenting by sudden death, and regret at such a time, i.e. without the ability to repent, is worthless. Allah the Exalted says: &"(For such is the state of the disbelievers), until, when death comes to one of them, he says: &"My Lord, send me back&" &" (Al-Mu&"minûn: 99).

And He says: &"And warn them (O Muhammad) of the Day of Regret&" (Maryam: 39).

11-Pondering about the chance of dying when one is doing evil deeds. Allah says: &"And if you could but see when the angels take the souls of those who disbelieved…They are striking their faces and their backs?&" (Al-Anfâl: 50).

12-To be in the company of those who increase one’s piety and fear of Allah. Allah (mighty and majestic is He) says: &"Keep yourself patient (by being) with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance&" (Al-Kahf: 28).

Fear of Allah is related to two issues:

A. Fear of His torment: Allah promises He will inflict His torment on whosoever used to ascribe partners to Him, worshipping them besides Him, and those who disobey Him and abandon His commands.

B. Fear of Allah: This is the fear felt by learned men and those who know their Lord: &" …and Allah warns you of Himself… &" (Âl-&"Imrân: 28).

When fear settles in the hearts, it eradicates lusts and drives out the love of the worldly life.

The more a Mu&"men knows Allah, the more piety and fear he has towards Him. Allah (mighty and majestic is He) says: &"Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge&" (Fâtir: 28).

This is because when they gained complete knowledge of their Lord and His beautiful Names and Attributes, their piety and fear of Allah increased and poured into their hearts, and it then became apparent in their deeds.

The fruits of having fear of Allah include:

A. In this worldly life:

1-It is one of the ways of becoming steadfast in this life, increasing one’s Iman and making one feel confident (that Allah will not fail to fulfill His promises); as if you were promised anything by somebody, for example, and you actual receive what you had been promised, your trust and confidence in that person increases. (Similarly, Allah promised good to the Muslims, so when they receive good they become more certain about Him and His religion.) Allah (mighty and majestic is He) says: 13) Those who disbelieved said to their messengers: &"We shall surely drive you out of our land, or you must return to our religion.&" So their Lord inspired to them: &"We shall surely destroy the wrongdoers.’ 14) ‘We shall surely cause you to dwell in the land after them. That is for he who fears My position and fears My threat&" (Ibrahîm: 13-14)

2-It motivates one to carry out good deeds and to be sincere in doing so. It is also one of the reasons for not asking anything in return for these good deeds in this worldly life so as not to decrease the reward in the Hereafter. Allah says: 9- (They say): &"We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude.’ 10- ‘Indeed, We fear from our Lord a Day austere and distressful&" (Al-Insân: 9-10).

Allah will surely guide the one who fears Him to everything that is good.

He also says: 36- (Such niches are) in mosques which Allah has ordered to be raised and that His name be mentioned therein; exalting Him within them in the morning and the evenings 37- (Are) men whom neither commerce nor sale distracts (them) from the remembrance of Allah and performance of prayer and paying of zakah. They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will (fearfully) turnabout… (An-Nûr: 36-37).

This means that on that day people will be very disturbed and will be turning about in fear. This is what urges them to perform good deeds, for they desire to be saved and to escape from the torment as they fear they will be given their records in their left hands.

B. In the Hereafter:

1-A slave of Allah (who fears Allah) is in the shade of Allah&"s Throne on the Day of Judgement. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: &" …and a man who refuses the call of a charming woman of noble birth for illicit intercourse with her, saying: &"I fear Allah&"… &" (Narrated by al-Bukhari).

It is apparent from this Hadeeth that this believer actually says this to the woman in order to reprimand and stop her, and to also remind himself. He insists on his stance and does not back down after he announces his principles &"…and a person who remembers Allah in seclusion so his eyes become flooded with tears&" (Narrated by al-Bukhari).

The fear of Allah and piety that causes tears to form in the eyes is a reason why Jahanem will not touch them on the Day of Judgement.

2-It is one of the reasons for being forgiven. This is evident from the following Hadeeth of the Prophet (peace be upon him): &"Amongst the people who were before you there was a man whom Allah had given a lot of money. While he was on his death-bed, he called his sons and said: &"What type of father have I been to you?’ They replied: &"You have been a good father.&" He said: &"I have never done a single good deed; so when I die, burn me, crush my body, and scatter the resulting ashes on a windy day.&" His sons did accordingly, but Allah gathered his particles and asked (him): &"What made you do this?&" He replied: ‘In fear of you.&" So Allah bestowed His Mercy upon him (i.e. forgave him)&" (Narrated by al-Bukhari).

In this case, Allah pardoned him because of his ignorance; and his fear of Allah interceded for him, otherwise he would have been punished - since a person who denies the resurrection is a Kafer.

3-It leads a Mu&"men to Jannah, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: &"He who is afraid of the pillage of the enemy, sets out in the early part of the night; and he who sets out early, reaches his destination. Be on your guard as the commodity of Allah is precious. Verily the commodity of Allah is Jannah&" (Narrated by at-Tirmidthi).

4-Safety on the Day of Judgement. Allah the Exalted says in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “By My Glory, I shall not make My servant experience fear twice or protection twice; if he fears Me in this world I shall protect him on the Day of Resurrection, but if he felt safe from Me in the world, I shall cause him to fear in the Hereafter” (Narrated by al-Baihaqi).

5-Being included amongst the Mu&"meneen described by Allah in ayat like this one: &"Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so…&" (Al-Ahzâb: 35).

All of the above are honourable labels that one should strive to acquire.

Allah the Exalted says: 16- They arise from (their) beds; they supplicate their Lord in fear and aspiration, and from what We have provided them they spend. 17- No soul knows what has been hidden for them of the comfort for eyes as reward for what they used to do (As-Sajdah: 16).

Allah the Exalted says: &"Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing (in prayer), fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord (like one who does not)? Say: &"Are those who know equal to those who do not know?&" Only they will remember (who are) people of understanding&" (Az-Zumar: 9).

The Magnificent also says: 27- Those who are fearful of the punishment of their Lord- 28- Indeed, the punishment of their Lord is not that from which one is safe (Al-Ma&"ârij: 27-28).

Allah praises the best of His slaves who are the prophets, because they have fear of Him: &"Indeed, they used to hasten to do good deeds and supplicate Us in hope and fear&" (Al-Anbiyâ&": 90).

In addition to this, the angels themselves have fear of Allah.

Allah the Exalted says: &"They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded&" (An-Nahl: 50).

6-The feeling that Allah is pleased with them. Allah the Exalted says: &"…Allah being pleased with them and they with Him. That is for whoever has feared his Lord&" (Al-Baiyinah: 8)

The fear of those who know their Lord well.

Those who have much knowledge about their Lord, although they perform good deeds and have hope in Him, fear Him, the Exalted, and revere Him to the greatest extent possible. Examples of this level of fear are as follows:

- The Prophet (peace be upon him) as he cried while he was performing Salah (prayer) to the extent that his noble chest would make a sound like that of a boiling pot. (Narrated by Ahmed, Abu Dawoud and An-Nisa&"i).

- Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) took hold of his tongue one day and said: &"This is what will lead to my destruction!&"

He also said: &"I wish I were a tree that would be cut and done away with.&"

- &"Omar ibnul Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said: &"I wish I was something that was not worthy of being mentioned. I wish that my mother had not given birth to me.&"

&"Omar also said: &"If a camel dies due to negligence on the bank of the river Euphrates, I would fear that Allah might hold me responsible for it on the Day of Resurrection.&"

And he said: &"If a caller from the heavens announces: &"O people, all of you will enter Jannah except one!&" I would think that this one is me!!&"

- &"Othman ibnu &"Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) said: &"I wish that if I die I would not be resurrected on the Day of Judgement.&"

He said this though he used to spend all night making tasbeeh (i.e. saying &"Subhana Allah&" (Glorified be Allah)), performing Salah and reciting the Qur&"an.

- The mother of the Mu&"meneen, &"Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), when she read Allah&"s words, reciting the following verse: 26- They will say: ‘Indeed, we were previously among our people fearful (of displeasing Allah). 27- So Allah conferred favour upon us and protected us from the punishment of the Scorching Fire’ (At-Tûr: 26, 27)

while she was praying and kept crying and crying. &"If You should punish them - indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them - indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise&" (Al-Mâ&"idah: 118).

Rulings and notes about having fear of Allah:

1-The word khashya (which also means fear) is more specific that fear, for khashya (reverence) is related to those who have true knowledge of their Lord: &"…Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Forgiving&" (Fâtir: 28).

Hence, reverence is fear associated with having much knowledge of Allah, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: &"By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and revere Him more than you&" (Narrated by Muslim).

The extent of one&"s fear and reverence for Allah is proportional to one&"s knowledge of Him, His beautiful Names and Attributes, His Perfection and His Glory.

Allah says: &"Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Forgiving&" (Fâtir: 28).

2-Fear is praiseworthy when it makes a Mu&"men be diligent and work, and to repent while regretting his sinful act and intending to abandon it. Fear results from knowing how ugly the sin is and how severe the punishment is. It also results from knowing Allah, the Great, the Mighty and the Most Exalted. Moreover, there is no need to have fear if it does not make one diligent and make one repent.

He who has fear of Allah will never be harmed by anyone, and he who has fear of any other being beside Allah will never be safe.

Al-Fodayl bin &"Iyadh

3-Having fear of Allah is an obligation and a requirement of Iman. It is one of the best ways to reach Allah’s pleasure and it is a feeling which is most beneficial for the heart. It is an obligation for every Mu&"men to have fear of Allah. It prevents him from sinning, inclining too much to the worldly life, taking bad friends, and being negligent of and indifferent to his duties.