In our journey to Allah, there are three essential provisions that we must take: love, fear and hope. Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) praises the Prophets: “…They used to race towards the good deeds and invoke us with hope and fear; and they were humbly submissive to us” (21:90).
Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) writes, “The heart in its journey to Allah is like 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 the two wings is damaged, the bird becomes vulnerable to every hunter and predator.”
This Ramaḍān, let us strive to increase our īmān by increasing our fear, hope and love of Allah.
Throughout the month of Ramaḍān, we should strive to increase our fear of Allah, especially when we recite the Qur’ān inside and outside of ṣalāh. Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) says, “Allah has sent down the best message—a Book of perfect consistency and repeated lessons— which causes the skin of those who fear their Lord to tremble, then their skin and hearts soften at the mention of (the mercy of) Allah…” (39:23). Similarly, we should try to increase our fear of Him by reflecting on His greatness and majesty. The fear of Allah should make us tremble in awe of Him and fully humble ourselves to Him.
Allah is The All-Powerful (al-Qadīr), and there is none stronger than Him. He is The Compeller (al-Jabbār): when He intends something to be, He only says to it, ‘Be’, and it is. He is The All-Dominant (al-Qahhār): if He wished, He could destroy the heavens and the earth in an instant. He is The Mighty (al-ʿAzīz): nothing can overcome Him. He is The Supreme (al-ʿAẓīm): His magnificence is beyond our comprehension. He is The Perfect Master (al-Ṣamad): He needs none, yet all of His creation is in need of Him. He has no rival, no partner and no helper. He is The Highest (al-Aʿlā) and there is none greater than Him.
He is the King of all kings. On the Day of Judgement, the whole earth will be enclosed in a single grip of His Hand, and all the heavens will be rolled up in His Right Hand. Then He will shake them and say, ‘I am the King, I am the King. It is I who created the world out of nothingness, and I who will return it to how it was.’ On that Day, none will escape His justice. He is the Lord of the heavens and the earth.
How can we, then, not fear Him?
Similarly, we can increase our fear of Allah in this month by reflecting on the terrors of the grave, the horrors of the Day of Judgement, the gravity of standing before Allah, the sharpness of the ṣirāṭ and the torment of the Hell-fire. A practical means to do this is to visit the graveyard and ponder on all of the above.
Fearing Allah: A Unique Fear
The fear of Allah is unique to other types of fears. In life, you tend to run away from things you fear. For example, anyone who is scared of spiders or rodents will freeze or run upon seeing them. However, fearing Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) is unique and beautiful. It makes you run to Him, and not away from Him. The more you fear Him, the more you turn to Him.
A fear of worldly matters is usually accompanied with a dislike of it. However, the fear of Allah is coupled with love and respect for Him, since you are in awe of Him. This type of fear is known as khashyah, a reverential type of fear.
The fear of Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) is not an irrational fear. It is a fear built on knowledge. The more you get to know Him, the more you fear Him.You are in constant awe of His majesty, greatness and power. Those who recognise Allah and appreciate His greatness and majesty, will always fear that their deeds will not be accepted due to their deficiencies.
The fear of Allah should be a deterrent, which leads us to stop sinning. Fear should make us obey Him. A person who fears Allah in the world will have no fear in the hereafter: he will be shaded on the Day of Judgement, freed from Hell-fire, admitted into Paradise and Allah will be happy with him.
Fear is not an end, but it is the means to an end. When the residents of Paradise will enter Paradise, their love for Allah will multiply, but their fear will come to an end, and they will be told,
اُدْخُلُوا الجَـنَّةَ لَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَآ اَنْتُمْ تَحْزَنُوْنَ
“Enter Paradise! There will be no fear for you, nor will you grieve” (7:49).
Hoping in Allah
Just as we should increase in our fear of Allah throughout this month, we should combine this with increasing our hope in Him. We should hope that He forgives us, frees us from the Hell-fire and accepts us from the People of Paradise.
When we recognise who Allah is, our hearts will be overwhelmed with hope. There is no one kinder, more loving or more generous than Him. Allah is The Fashioner (al-Muṣawwir): He has created us in the most beautiful form. Allah is The Extremely Merciful (al-Raḥmān): His mercy encompasses all of His creation. Allah is The Concealer of sins (al-Sittīr): He does not expose us despite the multitude of our sins. Allah is The Gentle (al-Rafīq): He loves gentleness. Allah is The Most Compassionate (al-Ra’ūf ); His compassion knows no ends. Allah is The Most Modest (al-Ḥayiyy): He feels shy to turn us back, empty-handed. He is the One True God, and there is no one like Him.
Hope in Allah, known as rajā’ in Arabic, is to behold the vastness of Allah’s mercy and have full confidence in His generosity. Hoping in Allah motivates us to worship Him with joy. It allows us to manifest our ʿubūdiyyah (servitude) to Him and propels us to make duʿā’. It makes our heart attached to Him and love Him. Hope makes our journey to Him beautiful.
“Hope (in Allah) is a necessity for the seeker, on his journey to Allah. The seeker would nearly perish if he lost hope even for a moment, for he moves between: (1) sins which he hopes will be forgiven; (2) shortcomings which he hopes will be rectified; (3) righteous deeds which he hopes will be accepted; 4) steadfastness which he hopes to attain and sustain; (5) closeness to Allah and a high rank with Him which he hopes to attain; — and no seeker can ever afford to lose sight of these.” – Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh)
Husn al-Zann Billah
Hope (rajā’) springs from thinking good of Allah, and expecting the best from Him (ḥusn al-ẓann billāh). Allah loves for His servant to have good thoughts about Him, think the best of Him, and have hope in Him. Allah says in a ḥadīth qudsī: “I am as My servant thinks of Me…” (Bukhārī).
All of us will face difficulties in our lives. Sometimes, these difficulties may feel overwhelming. But instead of thinking ‘Why me O Allah?’, we should have good thoughts about Allah. We should expect good from Him in times of ease and difficulty, and we should believe that Allah wants good for us in all situations. We should always think the best of Him, and remember that He is al-Ḥakīm: The Wisest. Maybe there is a hidden wisdom in the difficulty. He is al-ʿAlīm: The All-Knowing. Maybe He knows something which we do not. He is al-Laṭīf: The Most Subtle. Perhaps this trial we’re enduring will be the key to our eternal success.
No matter what we are going through, we should never lose hope. In his deep pain and sorrow, Yaʿqūb (ʿalayhis-salām) complained to Allah and cried excessively, but he never lost hope in Allah. He said to his sons, “O my sons! Go and search (diligently) for Yusuf and his brother. And do not lose hope in the mercy of Allah, for only disbelievers lose hope in Allah’s mercy” (12:87).
Balancing Hope and Fear
The believer is always in a state of both hope and fear. We have to balance the extremes of hope and fear. Too much hope can make us complacent and neglectful of our duties. And too much fear can cripple us with despair.
The pious people of the past would advise that during good times, when we are more likely to forget Allah (ʿazza wa jall), we should increase our fear of Him. And during difficult times, we should increase our hope in Him. Other scholars stated that throughout one’s life, fear should be dominant over hope; but towards the end of one’s life, hope should become dominant. Jābir (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said, “I heard the Prophet ﷺ say three days before his demise: ‘None of you should die, except with thinking good of Allah (ḥusn alẓann)’” (Muslim).
The Greatest Hope
The best and loftiest type of hope is the hope of meeting Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) Himself. The best thing a person can hope for is the pleasure of Allah, Paradise, and to see Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) Himself. Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) describes this type of hope as the “essence of īmān”. Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) says,
فَمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُوْا لِقَآءَ رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَٰلِحًا وَّلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِٓ أَحَدًَا
“So whoever hopes for the meeting with their Lord, let them do good deeds and associate none in the worship of their Lord” (18:110).
“The most precious gift in my heart is hope in You; the sweetest words on my tongue are Your praise, and the most beloved moment to me is the moment in which I will meet You.” – Yaḥyā b. Muʿādh (raḥimahullāh)
May Allah Dhul Jalāl wal-Ikrām (The Lord of Majesty and Honour) make us of those who hope in Him, fear Him and love Him.
How to Cultivate the Fear of Allah in Your Heart
- Reflect on Allah’s greatness and might
- Reflect on the Qur’an (tadabbur)
- Reflect on the hereafter and its various stages
- Reflect on your sins and their consequences
- Ask Allah to grant you awe of Him
How Do You Attain Hope in Allah?
- Reflect on the blessings of Allah
- Reflect on the amazing rewards He has promised
- Reflect on the mercy and kindness of Allah
- Reflect on the Names of Allah which invoke hope
- Reflect on the Qur’an (tadabbur)
Undoubtedly, the greatest pleasure of this world is the pleasure of knowing and loving Allah. This is the highest level of bliss one can experience in this world. In contrast, other temporary pleasures of this life are like a drop in the ocean – for indeed, the soul, heart and body were created (to know and love Allah). The most joyous aspect of the world is to know and love Allah, and the greatest pleasure in Paradise will be to see Allah.” – Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh)