IN THE FIRST part of this two-part article, we intimated that the modern English word “fear” lacks the sense of awe and respect when applied to Allah—thus missing the point of the Quran’s key term taqwa. When the Muslim is exhorted, Itaqi Allah! (“Fear Allah”), s/he is being reminded that our Lord is above and beyond what we can comprehend—and thus are otherwise helplessly in need of Allah’s prophetic instruction. Only awe and submission are proper responses to His sending us Guidance and mentoring us in successfully conducting our lives on His earth.
To fear Allah is to be conscious of Allah’s all-pervading Presence so as to refrain one’s self from thanklessness and bad deeds, on the one hand; and on the other, to cherish the opportunity for thanking God and for participating in good deeds:
So fear Allah as much as you can; listen and obey; and spend in charity for the benefit of your own souls. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls–they are the ones that achieve prosperity. Sûrat Al-Taghâbun, 64:16
…That is the command of Allah, which He has sent down to you: And if anyone fears Allah, He will remove his ills from him, and will enlarge his reward. Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:5
How do we know how to please Allah—whom we are fearful to displease?
[Noah] said: “O my people! I am to you a warner, clear and open, that you should worship Allah, fear Him and obey me, so He may forgive you your sins and give you respite for a stated Term. For when the Term given by Allah is accomplished, it cannot be put forward. If you only knew. Sûrat Nûh, 71:2-4
We please Allah by following [=obeying] the Guidance given to our Prophet ﷺ:
But Allah did punish [Pharaoh] and made an example of him–in the Hereafter, as in this life. Verily in this is an instructive warning for whoever fears Allah. Sûrat Al-Nâziʿât, 79:25-26
By degrees shall We teach you [O Muhammad] to declare (the Message), so you shall not forget, except as Allah wills. For He knows what is manifest and what is hidden. And We will make it easy for you (to follow) the simple (Path). Therefore give admonition in case admonition profits (the hearer). The admonition will be received by those who fear (Allah). Sûrat Al-Aʿla, 87:6-10
So he who gives (in charity) and fears (Allah), and (in all sincerity) testifies to [ultimate] Goodness–We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss. Sûrat Al-Layl, 92:5-7
And those who have faith and do righteous deeds–they are the best of creatures. Their reward is with Allah: Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow. They will dwell therein forever, Allah well pleased with them, and they with Him. All this for such as fear their Lord and Cherisher. Sûrat Al-Bayyinah, 98:7-8
As for those who trust (“fear”) Allah—and trust His Prophetic Guides, they have no legitimate grounds for giving in to their fearfulness felt at threats facing them in this life:
Verily those who say, “Our Lord is Allah,” and remain firm (on that Path), on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. Sûrat Al-Aḥqâf, 46:13
The Just Society
The task for believers to build a just society on this earth is such a strong thrust in Islam that one must ask how this can be put into operation and maintained. Without fanfare and without philosophizing, Allah prescribes for us its straightforward grassroots protocol, in which any and every believer is instructed to take part:
O you who believe! Give of the good things which you have (honorably) earned. The Evil One threatens you with poverty and bids you to unseemly conduct. Allah promises you His forgiveness and bounties. And Allah cares for all and He knows all things … And whatever you spend in charity or devotion, be sure that Allah knows it all. But the wrongdoers have no helpers …Whatever of good you give benefits your own souls, and you shall only do so seeking the “Face” of Allah. Whatever good you give, shall be rendered back to you. And you shall not be dealt with unjustly. Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:267…272
This welfare “program” can begin even without organizing formal mechanisms. It depends upon “God-fearing” individual donors who give to those in need with the understood motivation of giving to Allah.
Beware Our Adversary
A major card played by Shayṭân against the believer is that of engendering within him a fearfulness of poverty:
Satan threatens you with the prospect of poverty and bids you to be niggardly, whereas God promises you His forgiveness and bounty; and God is infinite, all-knowing, granting wisdom unto whom He wills: and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted wealth abundant. But none bears this in mind save those who are endowed with insight. Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:268-269
We are not to be scared (negative emotion) of Shayṭân. Instead, by contrast, we are to “fear Allah” (a positive trust in our bounteous Lord).
What is the antidote to our fears of Shayṭân, when such fears present themselves to us in daily life?
Verily, they who are conscious of God bethink themselves [of Him] whenever any dark suggestion from Satan touches them–whereupon, lo! they begin to see [things] clearly … and then they cannot fail [to do what is right]. Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:201-202
Now whenever you happen to read this Quran, seek refuge with God from Satan, the accursed. Behold, he has no power over those who have attained to faith and in their Sustainer place their trust: he has power only over those who are willing to follow him, and who [thus] ascribe to him a share in God’s divinity. Sûrat Al-Naḥl, 16:98-100
Even Shaytân Fears Allah!
Underneath his huffing and bluffing, Shayṭân promises what he cannot deliver—in the end only to be forced to admit that he, too, “fears Allah”:
Remember when Satan made their (sinful) acts seem alluring to them, and said: “No one among men can overcome you this day, while I am near to you.” But when the two forces came in sight of each other, he [Satan] turned on his heels and said: “Lo! I am clear of you; Lo! I see what you see not; lo! I fear Allah; for Allah is strict in punishment.” Sûrat Al-Anfâl, 8:48-49
(Their allies deceived them), like the Evil One, when he says to man, “Deny Allah“ but when (man) denies Allah, (the Evil One) says, “I am free of you: I do fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds!“ The end of [Satan and those who follow him] both will be that they will go into the Fire, dwelling therein forever. Such is the reward of the wrongdoers. Sûrat Al-Ḥashr, 59:16-17
Fairness of Choices and Knowing Their Consequences
One’s fear of Allah and one’s fearfulness of Shayṭân’s alluring deceptions which cause us to depart from Allah’s Straight Path, both involve strong emotional challenges as well as strong motivations for submitting to Allah’s blessed intentions for us. We Muslims are set up to experience the two in balance as a natural process of our learning to submit to Allah in trust.
For those times when we forget who our Lord is and when we are not so ready and willing to respond to the mercy of our Architect, we are reminded—in strong terms—of the disastrous results built into the structural makeup of our natural world. We can choose between actions which bring reward and happiness to us in our communities, or, we can choose actions which bring suffering and regret. Allah, in the Quran, presents us with a choice of cultivating either the healthy “fear of Allah” (taqwa) or of meeting up with fearful punishment—brought upon us due to our own negligence or willful detours from the Straight Path.
Keeping in mind our Jewish and Christian compatriots, yes even those among our readership, let us be reminded of the words found in today’s Biblical book (Proverbs 1:7), associated with Prophet Suleimân (Solomon) son of Prophet Dâwûd (David). This “proverb” serves to remind us that Allah’s message to mankind has ever been a renewal of the same practical instruction:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom/knowledge.
Our Prophet, Muhammad ﷺ, and the Quran, repeatedly remind us that taqwa is at the heart of our pleasing Allah.
Itaqu Allah! “Fear Allah.”