Love for and fear of Allah are two of the most essential and profound feelings we can have. The seed of love for Allah has been planted in our spiritual heart from the time when Allah revealed Himself to all the souls and asked:
“Am I not your Lord?”
And each and every soul replied:
“Indeed (You are)”.
Love for as well as fear of Allah are necessary to keep us on the Straight Path, to follow the perfect way of life He ordained for us, and to feel spiritually whole. But how can we balance these two seemingly opposite emotions?
The Believers are Extreme in Their Love
Allah mentions that one characteristic of the believing people is their deep, stronger, extreme love for Allah (Quran 2: 165).
Stronger here means stronger than any other love. It is our love for Allah that pushes us to do good, to pray and to work on our relationship with Allah. If we nourish the seed of love for Allah in our heart, our love will grow stronger.
How can we nourish it?
By doing good deeds. By remembering Allah abundantly. And by abstaining from acts that He has forbidden us to do. With every good deed, our love will grow. Ideally, our love for Allah is greater and stronger than any other love we have for creation.
Many Loves in One Heart
There is a beautiful story about one of the grandsons of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
When Al Hussein (may Allah be pleased with him) was still small, he asked his father Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) about love. He asked his father whether he loves Allah and Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) replied:
Yes, of course.
Then Al Hussein asked whether he also loved his maternal grandfather, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Ali again replied with yes.
Little Al Hussein continued to ask whether his father also loved his mother, Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) and himself and his brother and Ali replied that he loved all of them. Then little Hussein asked an innocent question:
“Father, how can you combine so many loves in your heart?”
Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was happy about this smart questions and replied:
The love for your maternal grandfather, your mother, yourself and your brother I feel because of my love for Allah, who commands me to have this love for all of you.
This story shows us that our love for Allah should be above every other love and should be the source for every other love for His creation. Our love for Allah should be the source to do good and the refrain from doing evil.
Fear Out of Awe and Love
It is also out of this deep and stronger love that the feeling of fear of Allah emerges. Our Islamic scholars point out that fear of Allah is not the fear we have of creation.
It is not a scary type of fear; rather, it is a fear that results out of awe and love for Allah. We are worried, we are afraid to displease our Beloved Allah.
This fear is motivational in nature. It should never paralyze us; rather, it should push us beyond our own limits in battling our lower desires. Our aim being to only please our Creator.
Love, Hope and Fear
Although we know that love for and fear of Allah are closely related, it is necessary to cultivate both. Love is closely related to hope. We hope for Allah’s mercy. Because of our deep love for Allah, we have a good opinion of Allah (husne-dhan-billah).
However, at the same time, we do everything possible to attract His mercy and love for us by doing good deeds.
We show our love for Allah by abiding by His laws and seeking His pleasure. We have hope that He overlooks our small faults and flaws but we abstain from big sins. We do our best to keep away from committing sins and unlawful acts because we fear Allah’s punishment (Quran 17: 57).
How Can We Balance Love, Hope, and Fear?
This dynamic nature between love and hope for and fear of Allah can be described with an example from our daily life.
Let’s imagine an exam situation. Ideally, the reason we are facing the exam is due to our love for knowledge and for the subject.
Before the exam, we have fear that we do not pass the exam. This fear motivates us to prepare for the exam. This preparation can be compared to us doing good deeds and staying away from sin. Because of our preparation and the time we put into studying for the subject, we will develop hope that we pass the exam with a good grade.
A Motivational Force to Do Good
This example shows us that love is not enough to master the knowledge we have chosen and to pass the test.
Similarly, love for Allah is not enough to pass the test of this world. Our Muslim scholars agree that this world is a test and we have to pass the test in order to obtain Allah’s eternal pleasure. Therefore, it is necessary for us to study and follow the rules given to us by Allah.
Similar to the example of passing an exam. Once we study and do good, we will have hope to pass the exam.
Hope in Allah’s mercy consists of both love for Him and fear His punishment. Both feelings have inherent a motivational force that pushes us to draw closer to Him.