[Madaarij us-Saalikeen] The Station of Fear

Ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullah wrote that fear is one of the most important stations on the path of worshiping Allah and most beneficial for the heart. Allah s.w.t has praised those who possess the attribute of fear, saying:

“And such (are the believers) who are humbled by the fear of their Rabb.”
[Al-Mu’minun 23:57]

Fear of Allah’s displeasure and punishment is not only for the grave sinners, but it is also for the pious and observant believers, as in the following hadeeth:

‘Aishah the wife of the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
“I asked Rasulallah (ﷺ) about this Ayah:
And those who give that which they give, with their hearts full of fear… (23:60)
referring to someone who drinks alcohol and steals?”

He (ﷺ) said:
“No, O daughter of As-Siddiq.
They are those who fast, perform Salat, give charity
– while they fear that their Rabb will not accept it from them.
It is these who hasten to do good deeds, and they are the foremost of them (23:61).”

[Tirmidhi | Graded Hasan]

Al-Hasan commenting on this said, “By Allah, they (the Companions) obeyed Him and strove hard in it, yet they feared it might be rejected. A believer combines righteousness with fear in his heart, while a hypocrite combines evil with impunity.”

The true and praiseworthy fear is that which stops a person from the prohibitions of Allah. And another praiseworthy category of fear is to fear returning to the state of sinfulness and heedlessness after one has attained closeness to Allah.

Abu Uthman said, “Sincerity of fear is vigilance from sins, open and secret.” And Sheikh Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said, “The praiseworthy fear is that which prevented you from the prohibitions of Allah.”

🔖 Two Types of Fear: Khawf and Khashya
There are several words used in the Qur’an to refer the word [fear], but in this particular post, I will only highlight two that are mentioned in Ibn al-Qayyim’s book. Allah s.w.t. said:

“So fear them not, and fear [khawf] Me alone, if you are believers.”
[Ali Imran 3:175]

“So do not fear people, but fear [khashya] Me.”
[Al-Maaidah 5:44]

Ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullah wrote that scholars said [khawf] means:
– The anticipation of punishment.
– Allah’s lash with which He straightens up those who are fleeing from His door.
– To do away with careless sense of security by envisioning the great news (of the Last Day).

However, the word [khashya] is more specific – it is specific to the true knowers of Allah. Khashya is fear associated with the intimate knowledge (ma’rifa) of Allah, as Allah s.w.t. said: “Truly, those who fear [khashya] Allah from among His servants are the knowers.” [Fatir 35:28]

In essence, as what my teacher taught, [khawf] means a general fear, fear of something that is impending, eg. death, or the Day of Judgement. However [khashya] is fear with knowledge, a higher station of fear, for this fear never subsides within a believer’s heart who truly has knowledge.

For example, two people are attending a funeral processing, during which both of them are humbly reminded of their deaths to come. One of them is fearful [khawf] of this impending event. He fears for that day. However, one month or two months later down the road, he forgets about it and returns to sins and transgressions. But the other person is a person of knowledge, he has [khashya] – fear with knowledge, he steers away from all types of sins because he WHOLEHEARTEDLY KNOWS that Allah is Ever-Watching, Ever-Hearing. His fear does not diminish.

This is one of the reasons why – my dear sisters in faith, and my brothers in Islam – that the beautiful Names and Attributes of Allah s.w.t. is a critical branch of knowledge that every believer must try to learn. Only those who learn this knowledge will truly experience [khashya]. Subhanallah, it is a fundamental knowledge for any Muslim and extremely beneficial in all aspects of our lives, and more so for our Akhirah. May Allah grant us beneficial knowledge – Allahumma ameen.

🔖 Balancing Fear with Hope
Ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullah wrote that when fear exceeds boundary, it may bring hopelessness and despair. This is why it is important for a believer to balance his fear with hope. The heart in its journey towards Allah s.w.t. is like a bird whose head is love, and hope and fear are its two wings. When the head and the two wings are sound and healthy – the flight of the bird is good; but when the head is cut off – it immediately dies; and when either or both wings are deficient – the bird cannot properly fly and may become victim of a trap. The righteous predecessors preferred to strengthen the wing of fear during good times when heedlessness is feared, and to strengthen the wing of hope at times of calamity and when near death.

Fear is not the end in itself, but a means towards an end. When that end, i.e. Allah’s ultimate pleasure, is attained, then there is no longer need for fear. As Allah says to the people of Jannah: “There is no fear upon them, nor do they grieve.”

The one who fears Allah is a refugee
towards His Rabb’s [mercy] from his Rabb’s [displeasure].

Madaarij us-Saalikeen, by Ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullah