One of the most beautiful things about the concept of worship in Islam is the truly unique way in which it incorporates the feeling of love, fear and hope within the hearts of the worshippers of Allah. Understanding how to combine these three qualities into the worship (ibadah) of Allah is one of the most essential things that every Muslim must grasp, not least because every sect which has drifted from the Straight Path has strayed in the aspect of worship. The deviation of the other religions in this regard is clear for all to see: "God is love! Jesus is love!" say the Christians, denying the fact that Allah should be feared too. As for the Jews, their hearts were filled only with hope; hope that the Fire will never touch them, since they were the "Promised People".
In Islam however, no worship is complete without the presence of all three qualities: love of Allah, hope in His Mercy and fear of His Punishment. Contemplate the opening Surah of the Qur'an - Surah al-Fatihah - and you will see this for yourself.
Ayah 1: "All praise [and thanks] is for Allah, Rabb of all the worlds."
In this opening ayah (verse) of the Qur'an, we have LOVE of Allah and every time we recite this ayah we are testifying to our love for Allah. How is that you ask?
It is because in the ayah, we are acknowledging that Allah is our Rabb and the Rabb of all the worlds. Rabb is usually translated as 'the Lord', but this translation does not do justification to this name of Allah and all the meanings this name carries. In reality, Rabb means that Allah is the Creator of everything; He sustains and nourishes everything; He gives life and Death; anything good that we have is from Him; everything is dependant on Him and nothing can happen unless He wills it. Furthermore, for the Muslims He - the Rabb - in the One who has guided us to the Truth and given us good morals and manners.
Thus when we testify that Allah is our Rabb, then we are acknowledging that He is the One who has given us so many blessings - so many that if we try to enumerate His blessings, we would be unable to do so. So how could we not but LOVE Him?
After all, we all love those who show kindness towards us or present us with gifts. And therefore the Messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam encouraged the exchange of gifts between Muslims because it helps to strengthen ties and develop love for one another. He sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Give gifts to one another, you will come to love one another." [Collected by Imam al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad and declared hasan by al-Albani in al-Irwa' (1601)]
So imagine the LOVE we should have for our Rabb who has given us everything: nice families, shelter, security, food, health and above all the Guidance of Islam and the Sunnah. We should be overwhelming in our love for Him. That is why we praise Him and thank Him and say, "All praise (and thanks) is for Allah, Rabbil-'alameen."
Ayah 2: "The Rahman (Merciful) and the Rahim (Mercy-Giving)."
In the first ayah of Surah al-Fatihah, Allah mentioned He was the Rabb. In this ayah two more of His Beautiful Names are mentioned: ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. Ar-Rahman means that He is the Most Merciful. Ar-Rahim means that He is the Giver of Mercy, in other words His actions are full of Mercy and He shows Mercy to His creation [As explained by Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751H) in Bada'i al-Fawa'id].]
When we mention these two names of Allah, then we have HOPE. Since He is the One who is full of Mercy, and we hope He will forgive our mistakes and shortcomings. We should never loose hope, because Allah says in the Qur'an, "O My slaves, who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, Verily Allah forgives all sins (except sins). Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful." [Al-Qur'an 39: 53]
The need to have FEAR in our worship is shown by the next ayah of Surah al-Fatihah.
Ayah 3: "King/Master of the Day of Judgement."
When we recite this ayah, we remind ourselves of the Day of Judgement - that awful Day, when all of humanity shall stand before Allah naked, uncircumcised and barefooted. People will appear drunk though they are not. On that Day, every person will stand before Allah and account for his sins, knowing that not even the smallest action which he did is hidden from Allah: "So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom shall see it." [Al-Qur'an 99:7-8]
So when we recite this third ayah of Surah al-Fatihah, we remind ourselves of this Judgement and accountability and that should bring about in us a sense of fear - that maybe our evil actions will be too great and we will be responsible for them - May Allah protect us from such a fate. Then the next verse goes on to say: "You alone we worship." i.e. we single out Allah for our worship. And how do we worship Him? With LOVE, HOPE and FEAR. And in order to achieve these qualities, we need Allah's assistance, so we say then, "We seek Your Aid."
Striking the Balance
After understanding the need to have love, hope and fear in our worship, the next question that naturally arises is that, in what proportion should these qualities be present in our worship? Again we turn to the Qur'an for the answer.
"Call upon Him with fear and hope." [Al-Qur'an 7:56]
"Their sides forsake their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope." [Al-Qur'an 32:16]
So both fear and hope should be present in our hearts in equal proportions. Anas reported that the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam entered upon a young boy who was dying. The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam asked, "How are you?" The boy replied, "O Messenger of Allah, I am in between hoping in Allah and fearing for my sins." The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "The like of these two qualities do not unite in the heart of a servant except that Allah gives him what he hopes for and protects him from what he feared." [Collected in Sunan at-Tirmidhi and Sunan ibn Majah and authenticated by Shaykh al-Albani in Ahkam al-Jana'iz (no.2)]]
Therefore whenever we do a good action, we should hope that it has been accepted by Allah, but at the same time we should also have fear that maybe it isn't enough or that the good deed has not been worthy of acceptance. Likewise when we sin, we should have hope that Allah will accept our repentance and forgive us, but we should also fear that we may be accountable for it.
This balance should be reflected in our da'wah (which of course is also worship). So when we invite others to the Truth, we should not give them the impression that 'they have nothing to worry about', nor do we suggest that 'they are doomed forever'. Rather we couple warnings with encouragement. We inform them of the horrors of the Fire and tell them about the bliss of Paradise. Just as we find Allah telling us in the Qur'an:
"Verily your Lord is quick in punishment and verily He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Giver of Mercy." [Al-Qur'an 7:167]
And the scholars of Islam say, "He who worships Allah with hope only is a murji'i. He who worships Him in fear only is a haruri [khariji]. And He who worships Allah in love only is a zindiq [eg. the Sufis, the Christians, etc]. But he who worships Allah in fear, love and hope is a muwahhid mu'min [a believer upon tawhid]." [Quoted by Ibn Rajab in at-Takhwif min an-Nar]
The murji'a were a sect that emerged within the first century of Islam. The people of this sect believe that sins do not affect faith i.e. no matter what sins a person commits, his iman (faith) is complete and perfect. They worship Allah only with hope because they believe that as long as one believed and testified to Islam, they would enter Paradise regardless of their actions.
Unfortunately, all too often nowadays we find a similar attitude amongst many Muslims today, which is why we find that so often we try to advise someone to turn to the din and abandon sin, they just point to their hearts and say, "Allah knows what is in my heart", or "Allah forgives", or something else like that.
As for the khawarij, they worshipped Allah in fear only because they held that anyone who commits major sins was a disbeliever and would therefore dwell in Hellfire forever. This of course is gross extremism and straying from the correct path. The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "There were two men of Banu Isra'il who strove equally. One of them committed sins and the other strove hard in worship. And the one who strove in worship to see the other in sin and kept saying to him: 'Desist.' So one day he found him committing a sin and so said to him: 'Desist.' So he replied, 'Leave me by my Lord, have you been sent as a watcher over me?' He said, 'By Allah, Allah will not forgive you, nor will Allah admit you to Paradise.' Then their souls were taken and they came together before the Lord of the Worlds. So Allah said to the one who strove in worship: 'Did you have Knowledge of Me, or did you have any power in what is in my Hands?' And He said to the sinner: 'Go and enter Paradise through My Mercy.' And He said to the other: 'Take him to the fire.' " Abu Hurayrah said: "By Him in whose Hand is my soul! He spoke a word which destroyed this world and the hereafter for him." [Collected in Sunan Abu Dawud (english trans. vol. 3, p. 1365, no. 4883). See Sahih al-Jami' (4455) of Shaykh al-Albani]
Therefore we should never say of anyone that he or she is a 'lost cause' or 'doomed' or the like for this is a great sin. However, we fear for those who commit major sins because they have been threatened with punishment in the Qur'an and the Hadith. However it is up to Allah whether He chooses to punish them or whether He will forgive them.
The zindiqs - or the heretics - are groups, such as many of the Sufis who have become like the Christians and reduced the religion to just 'love' and so all their talk and their mystical practices are centered around developing more 'love'.
It is thus clear how imbalances in any of the three qualities of worship can lead to major deviation and straying to the True Guidance. It is therefore important for every Muslim to combine all three of them in his heart properly. As was mentioned before, the fear and hope should be in equal proportions. This was the opinion of most of the Salaf. Fudayl ibn 'Iyyad said that, when one is healthy and well, then fear should predominate, but when terminally ill then hope should predominate - so that one should strive to do good when well and not despair of Allah's Mercy when terminally ill [at-Takhwif min an-Nar], but as for love then that should be uppermost. As Fudayl ibn 'Iyyad - rahimahullah - (d. 187H) said:
"The love is better than the fear.
The fear checks us from sinning,
and the love makes us do what is prescribed with an open heart."
[Reported in at-Takhwif min an-Nar of Ibn Rajab. Note that some scholars hold that the fear is better than love, and Allah knows best.]
May Allah grant us what we hope for and protect us from what we fear. And may the Blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, upon his family, his Companions and upon all those who follow Guidance until the Last Day.
(s) Ad-Da'wah illallah