Love of Allah and Fear of Allah
Allah says, "Do not take two gods. He is only One God. So dread Me alone." (Surat an-Nahl: 51)
Fear of Allah is one of the essential attributes of a believer. Because, it is fear of Allah that draws a person nearer to Allah, makes him attain a deeper faith, enables him to conduct himself responsibly towards Allah every moment of his life, and nurtures his dedication to values of the Qur'an. The fact that the good morals Allah expects from His servants come with the fear of Allah is reaffirmed by the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in these words:
Fear Allah wherever you are; if you follow an evil deed with a good one you will obliterate it; and deal with people with a good disposition. (At-Tirmidhi)
Failure to understand the real meaning of fear of Allah causes some to confuse it with other kinds of mundane fears. However, fear of Allah differs greatly from all other type of fear.
The Arabic word used in the original text of the Qur'an (khashyat) expresses overwhelming respect. On the other hand, the Arabic word used in the Qur'an to refer to worldly fears (hawf) expresses a simple kind of fear, as in the fear one feels when faces with a wild animal.
A consideration of the attributes of Allah leads to a better understanding of these two kinds of fear, both expressed by different words in Arabic. Worldly fears are usually caused by a potential threat. For example, one may fear being murdered. However, fear of Allah is different. Allah is the All-Compassionate, the Most Merciful and the Most Just. Therefore, fear of Allah implies showing respect to Him, the All-Compassionate, the Most Merciful and the Most Just, and avoiding exceeding His limits, rebelling Him and being of those who deserve His punishment.
The consequences that a fear of Allah has on people make this difference apparent. Faced with a deadly danger, a person panics; seized with hopelessness and desperation, he fails to exercise his reason and discover a solution. Fear of Allah, however, actuates wisdom and adherence to one's conscience. Through fear of Allah, a person is motivated to avoid that which is evil, corruptive, and likely to cause either physical or mental harm to him. Fear of Allah fosters wisdom and insight. In a verse of the Qur'an, Allah informs us that it is through fear of Allah that wisdom and understanding is acquired:
You who believe! If you have fear of Allah, He will give you a criterion (by which to judge between right and wrong) and erase your bad actions from you and forgive you. Allah's favor is indeed immense. (Surat al-Anfal: 29)
Worldly fears cause man anxiety. Fear of Allah, however, not only gives rise to increased spiritual strength, but also to peace of mind.
It is through fear of Allah that man avoids those evil actions displeasing Allah. In one verse of the Qur'an, it is stated, "...Allah does not love anyone vain or boastful." (Surat an-Nisa': 36) A Allah-fearing person strives diligently to abstain from boasting, and to engage rather in actions one expects to earn Allah's love. For that reason, fear of Allah and love of Allah are mutually exclusive.
Fear of Allah, in fact, removes the obstacles to drawing nearer to Allah and earning His love. Foremost of these obstacles is one's lower self. From the Qur'an, we learn that there are two aspects of the soul; the one inspiring evil and mischief, and the other, guarding against every inclination to evil.
...the self and what proportioned it and inspired it with depravity and a fear of Allah, he who purifies it has succeeded, he who covers it up has failed. (Surat ash-Shams: 7-10)
Struggling against this evil, and not giving in it, requires spiritual strength. This strength derives from fear of Allah. A Allah-fearing person is not enslaved by the selfishness of his soul. The awe he feels for Allah draws him away from thoughts and deeds unworthy of His pleasure. A verse of the Qur'an informs us that only those who fear Allah will take heed of the warnings imparted to them:
You can only warn those who act on the Reminder and fear the All-Merciful in the Unseen. Give them the good news of forgiveness and a generous reward. (Surah Ya Sin: 11)
Man's striving must be to feel a more profound fear of Allah. To effect this noble sentiment, he must reflect upon Allah's Creation and recognize the supreme artistry and power represented in its every detail. His thinking must enable him to attain a better grasp of His grandeur and add to his awe. Indeed, Allah commands us:
You who have fear! Have fear of Allah with the fear due to Him and do not die except as Muslims. (Surah Al 'Imran: 102)
So have fear of Allah, as much as you are able to, and listen and obey and spend for your own benefit. It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful. (Surat at-Taghabun: 16)
The more a believer fears Allah, the more loving he becomes. He better acknowledges the beauty of Allah's Creation. He acquires the ability to recognize the multitude of people, nature, animals, and in everything around him, as reflections of Allah's sublime attributes. Consequently, he comes to feel a deeper love for such blessings, as well as for Allah, their Creator.
A person who grasps this secret also knows what love of Allah is. He loves Allah, over and above anything else, and understands that all beings are the work of His Creation. he loves them in accordance with Allah's pleasure. He loves believers who are submissive to Him, but feels aversion for those who are rebellious towards Him.
The true love that makes man happy, brings him joy and peace, is love of Allah. Other forms of love, felt for beings other than Allah, are, in the words of the Qur'an, love peculiar to idolaters, and consistently leads to anguish, sorrow, melancholy and anxiety. The idolaters' love and the love believers feel for Allah are compared in a verse as follows:
Some people set up equals to Allah, loving them as they should love Allah. But those who believe have greater love for Allah... (Surat al-Baqara: 165)