Why Do Believers Fear Allah?
To understand why believers fear Allah, it is very important to understand that fear of Allah is a feeling which incites a believer’s faith, eagerness, love and respect for Allah. This fear guards a person against adopting attitudes which Allah does not approve, curbs the overflowing desires of the self and reigns in boundless evils. When experienced from a positive perspective, this fear gives constant rise to good actions and attitudes.
This fear distances the believer from Allah’s punishment, and draws him towards Allah’s pleasure and mercy, which results in great spiritual satisfaction. It inspires in a believer the need to respect Allah’s boundaries, gives him an uncompromising determination in seeking Allah’s approval and a constant vigilance. Subsequently, the fear of a believer in this world will save him from the fear of the Last Day and the eternal fear and terror of Hell. A Qur’anic verse declares:
Those who give away their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Surat al-Baqara: 274)
Believers who fear Allah’s warnings and punishment and who adhere with absolute vigilance to His order and judgment will possess a superior morality, which Allah approves of: modesty, tolerance, thoughtfulness, devotion, a pure intellect and a deep awareness of the surpassing excellence of Allah’s creation. Such people will display exemplary conduct and possess a high awareness and great sensibility. In essence, fear of Allah spiritually enriches the believer. It increases their inner sight, and engenders a noble spiritual state enhanced by subtle intimations of divine wisdom; it is the key to eternal reward and happiness.
They fear Allah's Majesty
A believer who has an awareness of Allah as described in the Qur’an and who sincerely reflects on His attributes will immediately begin to experience that inner awe that is due to Allah’s exalted rank and superiority. Allah’s majesty, vastness and infinite power will create within the believer a fear full of absolute awe and amazement.
This fear is a natural fear, which grows in the heart of a believer who is conscious of Allah’s high and exalted rank. The levels of this fear will increase in proportion to the depth of a person’s faith and capacity for reflection. This kind of fear is referred to in the Qur’an as hashyat (to fear with awe).
Allah is the possessor of infinite strength, infinite knowledge and possesses infinite wisdom. He does what He wills when He wills. He will not be questioned about what He does, but He will question people about what they have done. Our Lord is rich beyond need of any being. However, all of creation is dependent on Him. Everybody and everything is created from nothing and it is Allah Who ensures their existence. He is the owner of everything and everybody. If He willed to do so, He could exterminate everyone and replace them with other creatures. He never forgets anything. If Allah wishes for something to be, He merely says, “be” and it will be. Nothing can ever tire Him. For an intelligent person to adopt an attitude of indifference toward Allah for even a moment would be out of the question, let alone taking up a rebellious stance against Him Whose superiority is infinite.
A person who recognizes Allah as described in the Qur’an and who appreciates His strength will be overwhelmed with awe at His vastness and adopt the attitude of humility and caution that is due to Him. A believer who knows Allah’s greatness, majesty and strength is also aware of His other attributes such as “The Avenger” “The Compeller” “The Punisher” and “The Degrader.” He will also know that any attitude or speech which is contrary to His commands will not be without response from Him. The believer will act in the knowledge that Allah is at all times aware of everything, that He is all surrounding and all encompassing, and that He is closer to him than his jugular vein.
As a result of the believer’s sincerity, Allah will reward him by His infinite Mercy with affirmation in this world, and in the Hereafter with Paradise:
For those who fear the Station of their Lord there are two Gardens. (Surat ar-Rahman: 46)
Most certainly, to appreciate Allah as is due, it is necessary to possess a very good understanding of His Qur’anic signs (verses) as well as being able to recognize His signs in the physical world. From the tiniest atom or cell to the greatest stars or galaxies, possessing detailed knowledge in relation to Allah’s creation increases a person’s fear of Him. By being aware of these things one gains an even greater appreciation of Allah’s infinite wisdom, power and knowledge as manifested in the intricacies of the countless things He has brought into existence, and one is also better able to grasp the utter uniqueness of His power to create. This in turn would serve as a means of increasing many times over the fear of Allah. Thus, Allah reveals this secret in the Qur’an:
… Only those of His servants with knowledge have fear of Allah. Allah is Almighty, Ever-Forgiving.(Surah Fatir: 28)
They fear Allah’s warnings
In another verse Allah advises the believers to fear His warnings as they would fear His exalted rank:
… That is the reward of those who fear My station and fear My threat. (Surah Ibrahim: 14)
Allah has promised to those who do not believe in and obey Him, who never pay regard to what is pleasing to Him and who do not recognize His commands and prohibitions, an endless, spiritual and physical punishment. A true believer knows that no one in this world is safe from Allah’s punishment. It is because of this that he is fearful of being subjected to the intolerable and infinite punishment of Hell, which Allah has promised to those who repudiate belief. The spiritual state of the true believers is described in the Qur’an in the following manner:
[Believers are] those who affirm the Day of Judgment. Those who are fearful of the punishment of their Lord. No one is safe from the punishment of his Lord. (Surat al-Ma‘arij: 26-28)
The souls of those believers who truly fear Allah tremble on hearing recited those verses of Qur’an which refer to the Fire. On the other hand, those who refuse to believe cannot properly comprehend the meanings of the Book of Allah, even if they do read it. Therefore, only true believers will perceive in these Qur’anic verses Allah’s warning to them of the torments of Hell. The only people who will pay heed to the Qur’an, fearing Allah’s punishment and act cautiously, are the true believers. As a result, they model themselves not on other people, but rather, on those God-fearing believers who are praised in the Qur’an, and the prophets.
These people do not grow arrogant or over confident, thinking to themselves, “these verses cannot possibly apply to me, since I am a believer.” On the contrary, as a result of their faith, they will constantly hope for redemption and Allah’s mercy, as emphasized in the following verse:
… they call on their Lord in fear and ardent hope. (Surat as-Sajda: 16)
About this issue, the Prophet Muhammad (saas) said:
“When the heart of a believer is filled with these two feelings of hope and fear, Almighty Allah fulfils his hope and saves him from what he fears.”(Ibn Majah)
In order to protect people from Hell, Allah’s numerous warnings and reminders are to be found in the Qur’an. In the hope that the rejectors may become fearful and become cautious in their behavior, they have been warned with the punishments they will face in the Hereafter. This is emphasized in the Qur’an:
… “The real losers are those who lose themselves and their families on the Day of Rising.” Is not that clear loss? They will have awnings of Fire above them and awnings below them. By that Allah strikes fear into His servants: “O My servants, fear Me!”(Surat az-Zumar: 15-16)
The reality is that Allah has warned people, either through His verses or by the mediation of His prophets or even through particular incidents which occur as warning experiences. He will invite them and frighten them with His punishment. “… We frighten them, but it only increases them in their excessive insolence.” (Surat al-Isra’: 60) The verse clearly shows that for those who persistently reject faith, Allah’s warnings are of no benefit, rather they encourage them to greater outrageousness. When the time comes, the punishment they have denied will manifest as certain truth. Allah declares in one of His verses:
Woe to you, and woe! Then woe to you, and woe! Does man reckon he will be left to go on unchecked? (Surat al-Qiyama: 34-36)
Those who distanced themselves from fear of Allah during their time on Earth and denied Allah’s punishment, will be given their records in their left hand after they are called to account, at which time they will be judged accordingly and will be sentenced to infinite punishment and driven to Hell in groups. They will be in a state of total psychological collapse as they are dragged to the gates of Hell. Allah describes the moment in His verses in the following manner:
Those who do not believe will be driven to Hell in companies and when they arrive there and its gates are opened its custodians will say to them, “Did Messengers from yourselves not come to you, reciting your Lord’s Signs to you and warning you of the meeting on this Day of yours?” They will say, “Indeed they did, but the decree of punishment is justly carried out against the disbelievers.” They will be told, “Enter the gates of Hell and stay there timelessly, for ever. How evil is the abode of the arrogant!” (Surat az-Zumar: 71-72)
In this manner, they will enter through the gates of Hell to remain there forever. The gates of Hell will be drawn closed and locked. There will be no possibility of escape, and their bodies and souls will be subjected to infinite, unbearable pain. However, none of the punishments they will be subjected to will kill them. After each exposure to the Fire their scorched flesh will be renewed and the punishment will continue. They will long for the punishment to come to an end, but they will receive the following answer:
They will call out [to the custodian of the Hell], “Malik, let your Lord put an end to us!” He will say, “You will stay the way you are.”(Surat az-Zukhruf: 77)
The punishment of Hell is of different types, each one of which is beyond human powers of imagination. The deviators will be firewood for Hellfire, they will be tormented by it. Their faces will be rolled over in the Fire, with hands tied they will be thrown into a narrow space in the fire where they will be boiled and branded. Whilst in this state they will be scourged with cudgels made of iron, they will wear shirts of tar and will sleep on beds of fire covered with fire. They will eat bitter thorny bush and poisonous zaqqum and will drink blood and scalding pus. The boiling water they will be made to drink will lacerate their bowels, the Fire will sear their faces, their lips will be drawn back from their teeth, and they will sigh and gasp. All these are just one perspective on the physical punishments of Hell.
The people of Hell will also be subjected to the psychological equivalent of the pain they suffer physically. Simultaneously they will feel helplessness, hopelessness and remorse, and they will be subjected to degradation, disgrace, abasement, humiliation, anger, rage and quarrel. At the same time, the punishments inflicted upon them will devour, and destroy them.
Under this multiple onslaught of pain and suffering, each one of them will be alone as enemies one to another. They will constantly curse one another. Their insane screaming, bawling, begging, moaning and groaning will merge into a deafening howl.
It would be easy to imagine that those subjected to this punishment are creatures of another kind. However, this is not so, they are people who once inhabited the Earth who you may have seen walking along the street, some of whom you may recognize and know personally. Nothing has changed except that at a time they least expected, the angels of death have taken their souls and they have found themselves answering and paying for the sins they have committed. Amongst Allah’s creatures, it is only the true believers who are aware of Allah’s great warning and whose condition is one of fear and hope:
[The servants of the All-Merciful are] those who say, “Our Lord, avert from us the punishment of Hell, its punishment is inescapable pain.”(Surat al-Furqan: 65)
In addition, there is another hadith from our Prophet (saas) as a mercy from Allah:
The Prophet (saas) said: "Anyone with even a peck of faith in his heart will emerge from the fire." Abu Said said: "Whoever falls into doubt (of the fact related by this notice) must read this verse: "Allah does not wrong anyone by so much as the smallest speck." (Surat an-Nisa, 40) (Tirmidhi, Sıfatu Cehennem 10, (2601))
They fear losing Allah’s approval and love
The true believer who possesses an intimate and profound love of Allah knows very well that the most important nourishment for this love is again an intimate, profound fear which is full of respect. True believers, who have tasted the indescribable spiritual pleasures of loving Allah, are very afraid of committing any offence or error that might endanger that love or, worse still, arouse the displeasure or enmity of their Most Beloved, Allah.
Fear of Allah is inextricably linked to love of Allah. Love of Allah can only be achieved with nearness to Allah, which becomes a reality when one develops an intimate and sincere attachment to Him. However, nearness to Allah is not possible without His love and approval, and this is gained by protecting His boundaries and fulfilling His commands. This however, is not a position that can be arrived at without first establishing fear of Allah, because the soul of a person who does not fear Allah will constantly be drawn towards doing things which Allah does not approve of and being neglectful and indifferent towards those things which Allah desires of us. It is for this reason that the only way to gain Allah’s approval is through fear of Him.
This order of things is established by Allah. Hence, to imagine that one will earn His love and approval before one has acquired fear of Him is a sign of great self-deception. Before all else, Allah has ordered people to fear Him. To overlook this imperative and to say that one only needs to love Allah makes no sense. People who assert that they love Allah whilst they remain indifferent to what may be displeasing to Him are, in reality, deceiving themselves in their attempts to ease their own consciences. The love of Allah they refer to is a figment of their imagination and is superficial in nature. People who truly love Allah are extremely meticulous and decisive when it comes to the matter of adhering to His commands and prohibitions. Arguing that fear of Allah is unnecessary is in fact no different from saying, “there is no need for fasting, prayer and worship.” Such people resort to a variety of excuses not only on the matter of fearing Allah but also in order avoid fulfilling many of Allah’s other commands.
They know that Allah could respond even on Earth
The Qur’an is full of references to Allah punishing some people as a result of the sins they have committed on Earth. Despite Allah’s providing them with ample opportunities to avoid it, those who have persisted in their denial of belief have suffered the consequences of Allah’s response whilst still on Earth for what they have done and have remained as prime examples for other people.
A prime example of this is the story of Qarun, who was given great wealth by Allah. As a result of this vast wealth he became arrogant and developed an exaggerated sense of his own self-importance. People were initially convinced of Qarun’s great power and were in total admiration of him, however, later on, when he met his demise as a result of his fierce pride, they finally understood the truth. In a totally unexpected and unprecedented manner, Qarun was destroyed as a direct result of his rebelliousness, and made a clear object lesson for all mankind to learn:
He went out among his people in his finery. Those who desired the life of this world said, “Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses.”(Surat al-Qasas: 79)
We caused the Earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was not someone who is helped. Those who had longed to take his place the day before woke up saying “Allah expands the provision of any of His servants He wills or restricts it. If Allah had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the unbelievers are nor successful.”(Surat al-Qasas: 81-82)
The story of Qarun and other accounts in the Qur’an of many a magnificent and powerful community that have been unable to protect themselves from Allah’s punishment draw particular attention to the fact that Allah has punished them here on Earth. This reality is explained in many Qur’anic verses:
Have they not travelled in the Earth and seen the final fate of those before them? They had greater strength than them and cultivated the land and inhabited it in far greater numbers than they do...(Surat ar-Rum: 9)
… Did he not know that before him Allah had destroyed generations with far greater strength than his and far more possessions?...(Surat al-Qasas: 78)
How many generations We have destroyed before them who had finer furnishings and a better outward show!(Surah Maryam: 74)
The thing that distinguishes a true believer from other people is their consciousness of all these issues, they fear Allah with inner awe and behave cautiously. When they make a mistake or even commit a wrong action, they are aware that Allah could respond immediately and so they turn to Him in a state of remorse and repentance, begging Him for forgiveness.
A true believer is very fearful of Allah but at the same time puts his trust in Allah’s infinite mercy. This sensibility comes purely as a result of reflecting on the Hereafter.
In the Qur’an Allah makes mention of those people who have quite the opposite attitude. Even though the coming punishment is plain to see, they fail to connect it to the reality of their own predicament and persist in their wrongful conduct. Their situation is described in the Qur’an as follows:
When they saw it as a storm cloud advancing on their valleys they said, “This is a storm cloud which will give us rain.” No, rather it is what you desired to hasten—a wind containing painful punishment, destroying everything at its Lord’s command! When morning came you could see nothing but their dwellings. That is how We repay the people of the evildoers. (Surat al-Ahqaf: 24-25)
In conclusion when we look at the Qur’an we see that bad deeds, as long as the one who commits them doesn’t repent and cease immediately as is due to Allah’s exalted justice, do not go unpunished. However, this punishment sometimes reaches people here on Earth, and sometimes is revealed on the Day of Reckoning. Those who show ingratitude and persist in what they do, are never safe from the punishment that Allah is able to inflict upon them within an instant. This reality is described as follows in the Qur’an:
Do you feel secure against Him causing the shore to swallow you up or sending against you a sudden squall of stones? Then you will find no one to be your guardian. Or do you feel secure against Him taking you back into it another time and sending a violent storm against you and drowning you for your ingratitude? Then you will find no one to defend you against Us.(Surat al-Isra’: 68-69)
The Prophet Muhammad (saws) expresses Allah’s exalted justice as follows:
“By Him in Whose hand my soul is, you must enjoin what is reputable and forbid what is disreputable, or Allah will certainly soon send punishment from Himself to you. Then you will make supplication and not receive an answer.” (Tirmidhi)
People cannot live their entire lives irresponsibly, because they are accountable to Allah. To go against this would be to incur the severity of Allah’s punishment. To persist consciously with such behavior is clear evidence of failure to appreciate the totality of Allah’s power. If Allah willed, He could at any moment withdraw all of the blessings He has bestowed upon mankind. This is referred to in the Qur’anic verses cited below:
If We wished, We could put out their eyes. Then, though they might race for the path, how would they see? If We wished, We could transform them where they stand so they would neither be able to go out nor return.(Surah Ya Sin: 66-67)
The reality is that everything a person owns, every breath he takes, every second of his life he owes to Allah, and because true believers are aware of these realities they are constantly mindful of exceeding Allah's limits.
They fear being caught ill-prepared for death
Death is a reality. On average, a person will remain on Earth for approximately sixty years following which the eternal life commences. This eternal life will be lived either in the Garden (Paradise) endowed with endless blessings, or in the Fire (Hell), which has been created especially to inflict pain on body and soul. Whenever Allah wills, He can end a person’s life on Earth and move him to the Hereafter and there is no doubt that this decision can become a reality within a blink of an eye.
A person can never know when he will die, the time his trial will end or the moment of his final judgment. As a result he should be quite fearful and cautious about being caught out unprepared when that moment arrives, being unable to account for his actions and being burdened with obligations that he has either neglected or postponed and not taken seriously. When the angels of death arrive there is no further possibility to complete unfinished obligations or to compensate for work that should have been completed. The deeds done up to that moment will either be to one’s profit or loss and one will be called to account and held responsible for them or rewarded for them, as the case may be.
Death is a reality from which there is no return. Every person is allowed to “live long enough for anyone who was going to pay heed to pay heed”(Surah Fatir: 37) When the appointed time of death arrives, no matter how much a person begs and pleads he will not be given another chance. No additional time will be granted him to fulfil the responsibilities towards Allah that he had not fulfilled up to that time. To prevent true believers from becoming heedless and negligent Allah has cautioned them:
Give from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says, “My Lord, if only you would give me a little more time so that I can give charity and be one of the righteous!” Allah will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Munafiqun: 10-11)
People should never be satisfied with themselves and what they have done insofar as they remain conscious of death becoming a reality at any moment and being caught ill-prepared for an end that has no return. One should spend every moment striving to protect Allah’s limits.
Thinking about death increases one's fear of Allah
Mr. Adnan Oktar's Live Interview On Tempo TV (January 13th, 2009)
ADNAN OKTAR: Death is a great blessing. It is a door opening to the Heaven for the believers, for people to attain Allah, insha'Allah. And it is a clear proof that destroys desire for this world. Death is one of the first amongst the reasons which discipline human beings and is one of the most important causes for composing good manners. Death deeply affects people, it deeply affects all the humans. And the fear from Hell, that is the fear of Allah. When these are present, a person becomes kinder, more compassionate, merciful; he becomes more intelligent, tender, agreeable and easy-going. And this is the foundation and root of a good moral life. For this reason, we regard death as a means to draw us close to Allah, and as a means to Heaven. And in this way, we know that it is a blessing, insha'Allah.
They fear the Day of Judgment
The fear of Allah and the Day of Judgment nurtured by those possessing faith is described in the following Qur’anic verse:
Those who fear their Lord in the Unseen and are apprehensive about the Hour.(Surat al-Anbiya’: 49)
In addition, in another Qur’anic verse Allah makes mention of the inner fear of the believers:
In houses which Allah has permitted to be built and in which His name is remembered, there are men who proclaim Hhis glory morning and evening, not distracted by trade or commerce from the remembrance of Allah and the performance of prayer and the giving of alms; fearing a day when all hearts and eyes will be in turmoil.(Surat an-Nur: 36-37)
For both the people who have remained far removed from fearing Allah throughout their lives, and those who believed and have behaved cautiously, their earthly actions will be shown to them one by one. Furthermore, without omitting even the slightest detail, on that day those who have lived an irresponsible life without fearing Allah and without acting cautiously will understand what they are destined for:
That Day people will emerge segregated to see the results of their actions. Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it. Whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it. (Surat az-Zilzal: 6-8)
As a result of their fear and remorse, they will want to die and cease to exist. Their ruinous existence is described in the following verses of Qur’an:
But as for him who is given his Book in his left hand, he will say, “If only I had not been given my Book and had not known about my Reckoning! If only death had really been the end! My wealth has been of no use to me. My power has vanished.”(Surat al-Haqqa: 25-29)
But as for him who is given his Book behind his back, he will cry out for destruction but will be roasted in a Searing Blaze. He used to be joyful in his family. He thought that he was never going to return. But in fact his Lord was always watching him!(Surat al-Inshiqaq: 10-15)
Following this, the deeds contained in the individual records will be weighed on sensitive scales, which Allah has prepared for the Day of Judgment. Not an atom’s weight of injustice will be done. If one is not amongst the cautious, one’s scales will be light and one will be apprehended, chained and sent to the place one deserves. Not only will nobody help each other, one will not even be able to help oneself. The pain of one’s helplessness will engulf one’s entire being:
But as for him whose balance is light, his motherland is Hawiya. And what will convey to you what that is? A raging Fire!(Surat al-Qari‘a: 8-11)
On that day, people who lead their lives on Earth without fear of Allah will have all their sins laid before them one at a time. Not only the deeds committed but also all the evil deeds that they may have intended. When that time comes they will not be able to do anything about the remorse they will experience Even their attempts at denial will fail since their hearing, sight and skin will begin to speak in evidence against them as decreed by Allah:
It may be that those who disbelieve will wish that they had been Muslims.(Surat al-Hijr: 2)
The fear that true believers feel ensures that they continue to behave cautiously and conscientiously, being fully aware that Allah’s verse will be manifested on that day. It is for this reason that so long as one remains on the Earth one must be wary of involvement in anything that one cannot give an acceptable account for. In fact, it is inconceivable that a person possessing a sound intellect could act contrary to this. Allah’s knowledge is everywhere and envelops and penetrates everything. He is closer to a person than his own jugular vein, whilst specially assigned angels record everything without missing the slightest detail. For a person to be preoccupied with the worthless and transitional affairs of this world at the expense of forgetting the Day of Judgment is the greatest heedlessness possible.
From the moment we open our eyes in the morning it means that Allah has created a new day and another chance for us. We should be mindful of the moment when we will be accountable to Allah, and start the day with sincere intentions. Our intention however, should be to distance ourselves from behavior and actions which Allah does not approve of. No one would like to find himself amongst those who when the moment arrives will be apprehended and sent to an endless punishment crying, “If only...” and “How I wish....”
Mankind! Fear your Lord and fear a day when no father will be able to atone for his son, or son for his father, in any way. Allah’s promise is true. So do not let the life of this world delude you and do not let the Deluder delude you concerning Allah.(Surah Luqman: 33)