Remaining Steadfast through Love and Fear of Allah

Another Memorable Lecture at my place,                                                                 by Sister Umm Muhammad

Allah, the Exalted, revealed to His Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam):

“Indeed, those who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allāh’ and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], ‘Do not fear and do not grieve, but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.'”   (Sūrah Fuṣṣilat 41:30)

A man came to the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) and said, “Advise me.”  He told him, “Say, ‘I believe in Allah,’ and then remain steadfast.” (Al-Bukhārī and Muslim)

And according to a narration by Aúmad, he (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) said, “Say, ‘I believe in Allah,’ then remain steadfast.”  The man said, “O Messenger of Allah, all the people say it.”  The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) replied, “Some people before you said it, but they did not remain steadfast.”

Keeping steadfast in a secular world

Muslims are expected to fulfill the requirements of Islam and abide by its rulings under all conditions and wherever they might be.  The Qur’an reminds us:

وَلِلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ

And to Allah belongs the east and the west.  (2:115)

Remaining steadfast is more difficult when believers are few, but their reward is multiplied. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) said: “Islam began as something strange and will return to being something strange, so glad tidings to the strangers.” (Muslim)

So if a Muslim sees that he is a stranger among people because of his Islam, even among his family, then this is glad tidings conveyed by the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) to him.  Some early scholars used to advise, “Keep fast to the path of truth, and do not succumb to loneliness because of the few who tread it; and beware of the path of falsehood, and do not be deceived by the many headed on it to destruction.”

With the rise of secularism a new phenomenon appeared in the last century: people who call themselves “non-practicing Muslims.”  They claim to love Allah but will eagerly try to convince you that the true place of faith is in the heart.  This, they say, makes unnecessary certain visible acts of obedience such as salāh, Hajj or Islamic dress, and are quick to point out that many people pray or wear hijāb and then behave in a most un-Islamic manner, while they themselves are kind, well-mannered and charitable because they have understood the “spirit” of Islam.  And we find Muslims who consider that being religious involves praying and fasting, but otherwise feel they are free to live their lives according to any social, political or economic system they please.

Prof. Muhammad Qutb asked: “How did a Muslim come to imagine that he could oppose the teachings of his Lord and betray His trust, refuse what is lawful, preferring the unlawful, accepting compromises in order to preserve his status in a society based on immorality and oppression… and still claim devotion to Islam?  And how could a Muslimah imagine that she could oppose the teachings of her Lord and betray His trust, covet and backbite, expose herself to every eye, willingly raise her children as contented members of a non-Muslim society… and still imagine that the “good intent” in her heart would cancel all of that before Allah (subhanahu wa ta‘ala)?”

They will argue that some hadiths tell you, “Whoever says La ilaha ill-Allah and Muammadun rasūl-Allah will enter Paradise.”  But they forget that when Mu‘adh asked if he should give people the good news, the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) said, “  دعهم  يعملوا  ” – “Let them work.”

And Allah (subhanahu wa ta‘ala) repeats time after time in the Qur’an that His reward will be for those who believe and do righteous deeds (وعملوا الصالحات). The shahadah is a  commitment to action.  Belief must be motivation to positive action – doing as one is directed by Allah regardless of customs and traditions, the opinions of men, one’s own desires, laziness or reluctance.  In Sūrah al-Mulk (67:2), Allah described Himself as: The one who created death and life to test you which of you is best in deeds, not in lip service.  

Love of Allah is indeed an Islamic obligation and it is the basis of faith; by perfecting one’s love of Allah, he perfects his faith.  And if love of Allah is lacking, tawḥeed is also lacking.  The evidence for this is in Sūrah al-Baqarah (2:165):

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَندَادًا يُحِبُّونَهُم كَحُبِّ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِلَّهِ

And among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him].  They love them as they [should] love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.

Because Allah is the source of existence, grantor of life, creator and sustainer of all, man is totally indebted to his Creator for his continuing existence hour by hour, not to mention such blessings as his many possessions and abilities.

وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لاَ تُحْصُوهَا

And if you should count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them.     (16:18)

The basis of love for Allah is the appreciation of His perfection and knowledge, His mercy and generosity and that He is the source of everything good. The more one knows about Allah the more he will love Him. The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) loved Allah more than anyone else because he knew the most about Him.  He also knew how that love should be expressed – through earnest, willing and precise obedience.

True love of Allah is preferring what Allah wants from His servant over what the servant himself might want.  It is demonstrated by following the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) and preferring his judgment over that of others. 

قُلْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُم ذُنُوبَكُم

Say, [to the people, O Muammad], “If you should love Allah, then follow me;
Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.
  (3:31)

The belief that faith and love alone suffices is a big deception.  What good are they in practical terms?  Unless faith is translated into actions, there can be no effect, no change, no improvement, no progress, no reform, no accomplishment and no reward.

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) did not order us to love Him – He left that to us.  But He did order us to fear Him.  In the Qur’an Allah  has ordered fear of Him over 70 times;  for example:

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُم إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ

And fear Allah and know that unto Him you will be gathered.  (2:203)

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُم مُلاَقُوهُ

  And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him.  (2:223)

وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا تُرْجَعُونَ فِيهِ إِلَى اللَّهِ

   And fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah.  (2:281)

وَلَقَد وَصَّينَا الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الكِتَابَ مِن قَبلِكُم وَإِيَّاكُم أَنِ اتَّقُوا اللهَ

“And We have instructed those who were given the Scripture before you and yourselves to fear Allah.”  (4:131)

So if we love Allah we will fear His displeasure and anger and fear His punishment – at every time and place, among other people or alone.  And Allah’s mercy at the time of Judgment will be for those who feared Him in this world.  The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam) informed us that Allah, the Exalted, has said, “By My might and My majesty, I will not combine for My servant two securities nor two fears.  If he feels secure from Me in the world I will make him fearful on the Day I gather My servants, and if he fears Me in the world I will make him secure on the Day I gather My servants. ”   (Al-Bazzār – hasan)

Love and fear of Allah is the basis of worship, obedience and the motivation to persevere through difficulties.  We see in the Qur’an how Allah reminds us over and over of His names and perfect attributes so that they will remain in our minds and hearts.  Knowing that Allah alone is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Provider, the Controller, the source of all benefit and harm in whose hand is the Judgement and final destination of men requires through common sense and reason that He be loved and feared, and thus, worshipped and obeyed. This combination of love and fear will produce maximum efforts to please Allah and to avoid His displeasure.

The result of love and of fear is conscientious obedience.  People need to understand that they would never neglect the request of one they love, nor would they ignore the command of one they fear.  If they did, it would surely prove that their claims were false.  Allah has confirmed:

نَبِّئْ عِبَادِي أَنِّي أَنَا الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ  وَأَنَّ عَذَابِي هُوَ الْعَذَابُ الأَلِيمُ

“Inform My servants that I am the Forgiving, the Merciful, and that My punishment is the painful punishment.”  (15:49-50)

So a Muslim should always be in a state of both hope and fear.  He should not let fear overwhelm him and make him despair of Allah’s mercy.  But he should never be so secure in expecting mercy that he disregards the consequences of his negligence and wrongdoing.

Being a devoted servant of Allah means giving oneself to Him and remaining steadfast:

قُلْ إِنَّ صَلاَتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

“Say, ‘Indeed, my prayer, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.”  (6:162)

But every soul has certain weaknesses, and the Shayṭān is always looking for an opportunity to take advantage of them and exploit them to the utmost degree.  Each individual soul is susceptible to certain kinds of temptations more than others; so one needs to recognize his own particular weaknesses and be on guard against them.  A Muslim must always exert effort to remain obedient to Allah, and when he is overcome at times and disobedience occurs, he must repent immediately.  You can be motivated to repent by imagining your state if you should happen to die while committing a sin, either openly or secretly – the humiliation of its exposure before all creation on the Day of Judgement.  The Prophet (r) said, “Every servant will be brought back to life in accordance with the state in which he died.”  (Muslim)  Remember the punishment of the grave and that of the Hellfire.  But trust that Allah accepts sincere repentance accompanied by reform – and then expect forgiveness, the approval of Allah and the blessings of Paradise.

Continued effort is a sign of righteousness and leads to success, for Allah said in the Qur’an:

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُم سُبُلَنَا

“And those who strive for Us, We will surely guide them to Our ways.” (29:69)

So every step of progress, no matter how small, brings a person closer to Allah because He said in a hadith qudsi:  “Whoever approaches Me a hand span I approach him a cubit.  And if he approaches Me a cubit I approach him a fathom. If he comes to Me walking I come to him running.”  (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

You’re on your own – with Allah’s help

Just look, in every place you find yourself and every moment that comes to you, for something that will please your Lord, what you think He wants to see you doing, and do it. Then you will be a devoted servant.

You can take the opportunity to do da‘wah and earn the reward whether you succeed or not.  The manner of a da‘wah worker is to begin with others in a gentle way, with friendliness and ease in order to reach their hearts, discover the extent of their willingness and remove any barriers.  Remind negligent Muslims of Allah’s words:

أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُم لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ وَلاَ يَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلُ
فَطَالَ عَلَيْهِمُ الأَمَدُ فَقَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُم وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُم فَاسِقُونَ

Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth?  And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient.    (57:16)

Try to bring people, even if only a short way, toward awareness of their duty to Allah.  Be concerned with getting them to progress, even a little, because that step can be the beginning of something more.  A person under the authority of another (such as a wife or a child) has to use kindness and good manners when there are disagreements, by explaining Shari‘ah evidences for the obligation of obeying Allah and His Messenger (sallAllahu ‘alyhi wasallam), avoiding sin, adhering to truth and not obeying any command from a husband, father, mother or anyone else that is against the rulings of the Qur’an or authentic Sunnah.

But don’t be rigid on issues about which there is justifiable disagreement among qualified scholars.  Muslims are under obligation to accept rulings from three sources: the Qur’ān, the authentic Sunnah and the matters on which a consensus of scholars has been confirmed, not merely alleged.  Beyond these three, a faqeeh may exercise his discretion based on sound understanding of the texts and the established principles and general precepts of Islamic Law.

Keep company with good and righteous people so they can help you to practice Islam and guide you towards that which will bring you happiness in this world and in the Hereafter.  Good friends are one of the best means of helping you to obey Allah and to avoid sin and error.  Keep away as much as possible from the people of innovation and baseless opinion, lest they tempt you and weaken your resolve.  Allah has warned:

وَإِن تُطِع أَكثَرَ مَن فِي الأَرضِ يُضِلُّوكَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللهِ

And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of Allah.  (6:116)

وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا لَيُضِلُّونَ بِأَهوَائِهِم بِغَيرِ عِلمٍ

And indeed do many lead [others] astray through their [own] inclinations without knowledge. (6:119)

Read a portion of Qur’an daily, learn the meanings of the Qur’an and pray qiyām al-layl whenever you can.  Make a lot of du‘aa’ and ask Allah for guidance.  Revive the faith in your heart, for faith is what brings a Muslim everything he seeks in this world and the Hereafter.  The means of reviving and strengthening faith are many, and it should be noted that faith increases when one obeys Allah and decreases when one disobeys Him.  Among the signs that Allah is pleased with someone is that He guides him to do more good.

Make your goal in life to earn the approval of Allah and the victory of Paradise.  Remember the greatness of Allah and the insignificance of this world and its impermanent state. Remember the certainty of death and the shortness of life.  Remember that the ultimate source of all benefit and harm to yourself and all beings is Allah.  If you fear blame, fear the blame of Allah rather than the people; and if you like praise, work for the praise of Allah.  Remember that Allah looks into your heart and knows your deepest secrets.

And don’t forget to supplicate:

رَبَّنَا لاَ تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ

“Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us
and grant us from Yourself mercy.  Indeed, You are the Bestower.”
  (3:4)

والحمد لله رب العالمين

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