Fear Allah Wherever You Are, Behave with Good Character
Abû Dharr Al-Ghifârî and Mu’âdh ibn Jabal رضي الله عنهما relate that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
اتَّقِ اللَّهِ حَيْثُمَا كُنْتَ وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا وَخَالِقِ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ.
Fear (heed) Allah wherever you are; follow (following) up a bad deed with a good deed and it will blot (erase) it out; and deal with people in a good manner. [Sunan al-Tirmidhî, Book 25, Number 1987].
The Importance of this Hadith
Ibn Rajab رحمه الله says: فهذه الوصية وصية عظيمة جامعة لحقوق الله وحقوق عباده.
This is powerful advice, bringing together the rights of Allah and the rights of His servants.
The Fear of Allah
The Arabic word for the “fear of Allah” is taqwâ. It comes from the root word meaning “to protect from something, to prevent.” Indeed, a person exhibits the fear of Allah by seeking to prevent Allah’s punishment by carrying out what Allah has commanded of him and abstaining from what Allah has prohibited him. Allah had called upon all people in every era to fear Him. Allah Almighty says:
وَلَقَدْ وَصَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ أَنِ اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ.
We had enjoined (recommend) upon those who were given the Scripture before – as well as yourselves – to fear Allah. [Sûrah al-Nisâ 4:131]
It is Allah’s right over His servants that they fear Him as He ought to be feared. Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ.
O you who believe! Fear Allah as He ought to be feared and do not die except as believers. [Sûrah Ali Imrân 3:102].
Ibn Mas’ûd explained what it means to fear Allah as He ought to be feared by saying:
أن يطاع فلا يعصى، وأن يذكر فلا ينسى، وأن يشكر فلا يكفر.
It means that He is to be obeyed not disobeyed, remembered not forgotten and shown gratitude not ingratitude. The fear of Allah is the path to forgiveness, salvation, and the attainment of Allah’s mercy.
Allah said in Sura Hashr 18-19:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَلْتَنظُرْ نَفْسٌ مَّا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ. وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنسَاهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ.
O ye who believe! Fear Allah, and let every soul look to what (provision) He has sent forth for the morrow. Yea, fear Allah: for Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do. And be ye not like those who forgot Allah; and He made them forget their own souls! Such are the rebellious transgressors!
Allah said in Sura Baqarah 186 ayah;
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ.
When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he called on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.
Allah Almighty says:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوا وَّالَّذِينَ هُم مُّحْسِنُونَ.
Indeed, Allah is with those who fear Him and those who do good. [Sûrah al-Nahl 16:128]
وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ.
My mercy encompasses all things, and I shall decree it for those who fear Me. [Sûrah al-A’râf 7:156]
هُوَ أَهْلُ التَّقْوَىٰ وَأَهْلُ الْمَغْفِرَةِ.
He is worthy of being feared and worthy of granting forgiveness. [Sûrah al-Muddaththir 74:56]
وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يُكَفِّرْ عَنْهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِ وَيُعْظِمْ لَهُ أَجْرًا.
Whoever fears Allah – He will pardon him his sins and grant him a great reward. [Sûrah al-Talâq 65:5]
إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَنَهَرٍ. فِي مَقْعَدِ صِدْقٍ عِندَ مَلِيكٍ مُّقْتَدِرٍ.
Indeed, those who fear Allah will be among gardens and rivers, in a seat of truth near an All-Powerful Sovereign. [Sûrah al-Qamar 54:54-55]
Allah promises those who fear Him that He will provide for their needs and grant them a way out of their worldly difficulties. Allah Almighty says:
وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُ مَخْرَجًا. وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ.
Whoever fears Allah, He will make for him a way out, and provide for him from whence he could never imagine. [Sûrah al-Talâq 65:2-3]
This is Allah’s promise. We should draw strength from it when we are tried in life with difficulties that tempt us to resort to what Allah has forbidden.
The Relationship between Knowledge and the Fear of Allah
Allah Almighty says: إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ ۗ
It is only those who have knowledge among Allah’s servants who fear Him. [Sûrah Fâtir 35:27]. Imam At-Tabari said: those who know that Allah is able to do all things. Ibn Abbas said: the one among His servants, who knows about Ar-Rahman, is the one who does not associate anything in worship with Him, the one who accepts as lawful that which He has permitted and accept as unlawful that which He has prohibited. He obeys His commands and is certain that he will meet Him and be brought to account for his deeds. (Tafseer ibn Katheer).
Sa’eed bin Jubayr said; Fear is what stands between you and disobeying Allah, may He be glorified. Hassan Al-Basri said; the knowledgeable person is the one who fears Ar-Rahman, with regard to the unseen, who likes that which Allah wants him to like, and who shuns that which angers Allah. Then Hassan recited the ayah:
إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ ۗ.
It is only those who have knowledge among Allah’s servants who fear Him. [Sûrah Fâtir 35:27].
Sufyan Ath-Thawri narrated from Abu Hayyan At-Taymi from a man who said; it used to be said that the knowledgeable are three types; (first) one who knows Allah and the command of Allah. (Second) one who knows Allah but does not know the commands of Allah, and (third) one who knows the commands of Allah but does not know Allah.
The one who knows Allah and command of Allah is the one who fears Allah and knows the limits (hudud) and obligatory duties (faraid).
The one who knows Allah but does not know the command of Allah is the one who fears Allah but does not know the limits and obligatory duties.
The one who knows the command of Allah but does not know Allah is the one who knows the limits and the obligatory duties but does not fear Allah.
There are two ways in which knowledge and the fear of Allah are related. The first is that true fear of Allah comes about as the result of having proper knowledge of Allah and His perfect attributes.
Ibn Abbâs رضى الله عنه said about this verse:
الذين يعلـمون أن الله علـى كلّ شيء قدير .
They are those who know that Allah is capable of all things. [Tafsir Al-Tabari, Verse 35:28]
He رضى الله عنه also said: The verse means: The only people who fear me are those who know my power, my might, and my dominion. Ibn Kathîr رحمه الله says in his commentary of this verse:
إنما يخشاه حق خشيته العلماء العارفون به؛ لأنه كلما كانت المعرفة للعظيم القدير العليم الموصوف بصفات الكمال المنعوت بالأسماء الحسنى، كلما كانت المعرفة به أتم، والعلم به أكمل، كانت الخشية له أعظم وأكثر.
The only people who fear Allah in the true sense are those who are knowledgeable about Allah. This is because the more knowledge a person has about the Almighty, the All-Powerful and All-Knowing, who possesses the attributes of perfection and the best of names – the more perfect and complete this knowledge is – the greater and more total his fear of Allah will be. [Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr, Verse 35:28]
The second way that the fear of Allah and knowledge are related stems from the fact that the fear of Allah is to seek to prevent Allah’s punishment by carrying out Allah’s commands and abstaining from His prohibitions. Consequently, a Muslim needs to have knowledge of these matters in order to fear Allah properly. An ignorant Muslim may have a sense of fear, but he will not be able to fully carry out what that fear requires of him. Ibn Abbâs رضى الله عنه said:
العالم بالرحمن من عباده من لم يشرك به شيئاً، وأحل حلاله، وحرم حرامه، وحفظ وصيته، وأيقن أنه ملاقيه، ومحاسب بعمله.
To have knowledge of the Most Merciful is to be someone who associates nothing as a partner with Him, who deems lawful what He has made lawful, who prohibits what He has prohibited, who preserves what He has enjoined upon him, and who has certainty that he shall meet Him and that his actions will be accounted for. [Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr, Verse 35:28]
Follow up a Bad Deed with a Good Deed
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم tells us that the performing a good deed wipes away the sin incurred from perpetrating an evil one. Scholars have disagreed whether the “good deed” referred to here is specifically to the context of repentance or whether it is general for all good works. The strongest view is that all good deeds can wipe away evil deeds. Allah Almighty says:
وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ طَرَفَيِ النَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ ۚ إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ.
Establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good works do away with evil deeds. That is a reminder for those who take heed. [Sûrah Hûd 11:114]
A man once came to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and informed him that he had contact with a woman like a husband has with his wife, except that he did not go so far as to fornicate with her. This man had just prayed the Fajr prayer. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
هَلْ حَضَرْتَ الصَّلاَةَ مَعَنَا.
Have you prayed with us?
When he replied that he had, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم recited:
إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ
Indeed, good works do away with evil deeds. (11:114). [ Sahîh al-Bukhârî, Volume 1, Book 10, Number 504; Sahîh Muslim, Book 37, Number 6660]. However, a believer should always repent for his sins. Allah Almighty says:
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا فَعَلُوا فَاحِشَةً أَوْ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ ذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا لِذُنُوبِهِمْ وَمَن يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَلَمْ يُصِرُّوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلُوا وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ. أُولَٰئِكَ جَزَاؤُهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَجَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ وَنِعْمَ أَجْرُ الْعَامِلِينَ.
Those, who when they commit an indecency or wrong themselves, remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who forgives sins except Allah – and then do not knowingly persist in what they have done, for them is forgiveness from their Lord and gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they shall abide forever. How great is the reward for those who work righteousness. [Sûrah Ali Imrân 3:135]
A believer should follow up his sincere repentance with the performance of good works. This is what Allah wants from us. He says:
وَإِنِّي لَغَفَّارٌ لِّمَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا ثُمَّ اهْتَدَىٰ.
Indeed, I am Most Forgiving to whoever repents, believes, and works righteous deeds and then continues upon guidance. [Sûrah TâHâ 20:82]
Allah Almighty also tells us:
إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا فَأُولَٰئِكَ يُبَدِّلُ اللَّهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ حَسَنَاتٍ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا.
Except for those who repent, believe, and work righteous deeds. For those, Allah will change their evil deeds into good deeds, and Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. [Sûrah al-Furqân 25:70]
This is especially true for major sins. A Muslim must never leave a major sin to go without repentance, for Allah’s promise of forgiveness is for those who turn to Him in sincere repentance. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
فَإِنَّ الْعَبْدَ إِذَا اعْتَرَفَ بِذَنْبٍ ثُمَّ تَابَ تَابَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ.
A servant, if he acknowledges his sin and then repents, Allah will accept his repentance. [Sahîh Muslim, Book 37, Number 6673]
And Deal with the People in a Good Manner
Allah Almighty tells us repeatedly in the Noble Qur’an to observe good manners in our dealings with others. He says:
خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِينَ.
Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from those who are ignorant. [Sûrah al-A’râf 7:199] Allah Almighty says:
وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ.
Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better. Then he between whom and you there had been hatred will become as though he were your dear friend. [Sûrah Fussilat 41:34]
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم is the perfect example of what it means to possess good manners. Allah says, describing him:
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ.
Indeed you are of a great moral character. [Sûrah al-Qalam 68:4]
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم emphasized how good manners are of paramount importance in Islam when he said:
بُعِثْتُ لِأُتَمِّمَ حُسْنَ الْأَخْلَاقِ.
I was sent to perfect good manners. [Muwatta, Chapter on Good Character] Indeed, he tells us that good manners are part of faith. He said:
أَكْمَلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِيمَانًا أَحْسَنُهُمْ خُلُقًا.
The believers with the most complete faith are those who have the best manners.
[Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Book 10, Number 1162] Among the good manners that we should cultivate is to be sensible in our dealings with others and not to react hastily when they do that which displeases us. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said to Ashajj Abd Qays:
إِنَّ فِيكَ لَخَصْلَتَيْنِ يُحِبُّهُمَا اللَّهُ الْحِلْمُ وَالْأَنَاةُ.
You possess within yourself two qualities that Allah loves: discernment and forbearance. [Sahîh Muslim, Book 1, Number 24].
Imam Sedin Agić
Feb, 26, 2012 – 04 Rebius-Sani 1433.