Why fear God?

Why is it that true believers enjoy fearing God? Why would our Creator want us to fear Him and what kind of benefits does it bring to us?

Third Word (Part 2)

NOTE: The quoted passages are from Ustadh Bediuzzaman’s book and the commentaries below them are my own.

 

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Third Word

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

 (In the name of Allah the Merciful the Compassionate)

 

(People, worship; Baqara 21) يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلنَّاسُ ٱعۡبُدُواْ

If you would like to understand what a great profit and happiness is worship [and] what a great loss and destruction is sinfulness and dissipation, look [and] listen to this short allegory:

One time, two soldiers receive an order to go to a faraway city. They go together until the path splits. A man is present there [and] says to them:

“This path on the right, while it has no harm, nine of ten travelers taking it find great profit and comfort. As for the path on the left, while it has no benefit, nine of ten [of its] travelers find harm.  Furthermore, both are equal in terms of shortness and length. There is only one difference that the traveler of the orderless ungoverend left path goes without a bag [or] a gun. He sees an outward lightness [and] a deceptive comfort. As for the traveler of the right path, under military order, [he] is obligated to carry a four okka[1] bag filled with substances of food and a perfect two okka government-owned gun capable of crushing and defeating every enemy.”

This pleasant one [of] those two soldiers, after listening to the words of that instructive man, goes to the right. He takes a weight of one batman[2] on his shoulders and back. However, his heart and soul (rooh) are saved from thousands of batmans of feeling indebtedness [toward others for asking help] and of fear. As for the other unhappy one, [he] leaves the military, does not want to follow the order, [and] goes to the left. His body is saved from one batman of weight; but his heart is crushed under thousands of batmans of feelings of indebtedness [for asking help] and his soul under boundless fears. He travels in the form of both a beggar towards everybody and [one] trembling from everything [and] every event, until he reaches the desired location; there, he sees the punishment of a rebel and a fugitive.

As for the one who likes military order, retains his bag and gun, and goes to the right; he travels without asking help and feeling indebted to anybody, without fearing anyone, with a relaxed heart and conscience. Until he reaches the desired city; there, he sees a reward befitting to a virtuous soldier nicely completing his duty.

Hence, o rebellious soul! Know that those two travelers, one of them are the obedient ones to Godly law, the other are the disobedient people following their desires. As for that path, [it] is the path of life such that it comes from the world of souls, passes through the grave, and goes to the afterlife; while that bag and gun are worship and restraining oneself from sin (taqwa).

The sense of fear exists in all of us. Depending on where we direct it, it either becomes a source of agony or that of joy.

Directing fear towards the creation

The degree to which you fear something depends on how powerful you think they are. Thus, the underlying reason of fearing the creation is the assumption that they possess power and may use it against us. In order to avoid their harm, we must constantly hope for their mercy. Yet most of the time, we either do not receive it at all or not enough of it. The thought that we must continuously please others and worry about their thoughts while not receiving the mercy we desire from them becomes a source of stress and agony in our lives.

Directing it towards God

Here, the author beautifully explains the fear of God,

“Yes, to fear The Almighty Creator means to find a path to the compassion of His mercy [and] take refuge. Fear is a whip [which] throws [one] into the bosom of His mercy. It is known that a mother, for instance, scares a child [and] draws him to her bosom. That fear is highly pleasurable to that child. Because it draws [him] to the bosom of compassion. However the compassion of all mothers is a single flash of divine mercy. (Twenty Fourth Word, fifth branch, first fruit)”

 

What exactly should we fear when fearing God? Fearing God means to fear losing His love and to fear committing acts that will make us deserve His punishment.

 

Now how does fear lead to joy? As seen in the passage, it goes as follows,

  1. The mother scares her child
  2. The child is fearful and takes refuge in his mother as there is nobody else to protect him
  3. This triggers her compassion towards him; she takes him in her arms
  4. The child feels her compassion and experiences a sense of security and joy.

 

Recall from the previous post that God uses hope to motivate us to become better people and reach our full potential as human beings. Similarly, He also uses fear for the same purpose. As in the analogy, God frightens us with punishment so as to deter us from sins. Due to the greatness of His punishment, we have nobody to seek protection from besides Himself. However, as much as God is a God of mightiness He is also a God of compassion, in fact more so. Once we seek His help, His compassion is drawn towards us and we are taken under His protection. This experience is a pleasurable one: it allows us to comprehend the ultimate power of our Creator and His eternal compassion towards us. Put another way, our fear draws divine compassion towards us, thus becoming a source of joy. We realize that we have an all Powerful Creator Who loves and cares for us.

Note that the feeling of being protected is experienced in the presence of danger or fear. In the absence of fear, there won’t be any need for protection. Hence, the presence of punishment and fear is what allows us to experience what it’s like to be protected by an All-Powerful Creator.

 

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