Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and Mu`adh b, Jabal relate that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fear Allah wherever you are. Follow up a bad deed with a good deed and it will blot it out. And deal with people in a good manner.” [ Sunan al-Tirmidhi ]
The importance of this hadith:
Ibn Rajab says: “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 taqwa. 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 says: “And We had enjoined upon those who were given the Scripture before – as well as yourselves – to fear Allah.” [ Surah al-Nisa’ : 131]
It is Allah’s right over His servants that they fear Him as He ought to be feared. Allah says: “O you who believe! Fear Allah as He ought to be feared and do not die except as believers.” [ Surah Al `Imran : 102]
Ibn Mas`ud explained what it means to fear Allah as He ought to be feared by saying: “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 says:
“Indeed, Allah is with those who fear Him and those who do good.” [ Surah al-Nahl : 128]
“And My mercy encompasses all things, and I shall decree it for those who fear Me.” [ Surah al-A`raf : 156]
“He is worthy of being feared and worthy of granting forgiveness.” [ Surah al-Muddaththir : 56]
“And whoever fears Allah – He will pardon him his sins and grant him a great reward.” [ Surah al-Talaq : 5]
“Indeed, those who fear Allah will be among gardens and rivers, in a seat of truth near an All-Powerful Sovereign.” [ Surah al-Qamar : 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 says: “And whoever fears Allah, He will make for him a way out, and provide for him from whence he could never imagine.” [ Sûrah al-Talaq: 2-3]
This is Allah’s promise. We should draw strength from it when we are tired in life with difficulties that tempt us to resort to what Allah has forbidden.
The relationship between knowledge and the fear of Allah
Allah says: “It is only those who have knowledge among Allah’s servants who fear Him.” [ Surah Fatir: 28]
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 Abbas said about this verse: “They are those who know that Allah is capable of all things.”
He also said: “The verse means: The only people who fear me are those who know my power, my might, and my dominion..”
Ibn Kathir says in his commentary of this verse: “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.” [ Tafsir Ibn Kathir ]
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 `Abbas said: “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.”
Follow up a bad deed with a good deed
The Prophet (peace be upon him) tells us that performing a good deed wipes away the sin incurred from perpetrating an evil one. Scholars have disagreed whether the “good deed” being referred to here refers 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 says: “And 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.” [ Surah Hud: 114]
A man once came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 (peace be upon him) said: “Have you prayed with us the Fajr prayer?” When he replied that he had, the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited: “Indeed, good works do away with evil deeds.” [ Sahîh al-Bukhârî (526) and Sahîh Muslim (2763)]
However, a believer should always repent for his sins. Allah says: “And 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.” [ Surah Al `Imran : 135]
A believer should follow up his sincere repentance with the performance of good works. This is what Allah wants from us. He says: “Indeed, I am Most Forgiving to whoever repents, believes, and works righteous deeds and then continues upon guidance.” [ Surah Taha: 82]
Allah also tells us: “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-Furqan: 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: “A servant, if he acknowledges his sin and then repents, Allah will forgive him.” [ Sahih al-Bukhari (4141) and Sahîh Muslim (2770)]
And deal with people in a good manner
Allah tells us repeatedly in the Qur’ân to observe good manners in our dealings with others. He says: “Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from those who are ignorant.” [ Surah al-A`raf : 199]
Allah says: “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 : 34]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is the perfect example of what it means to possess good manners. Allah says, describing him: “Indeed you are of a great moral character.” [ Surah al-Qalam : 4]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) emphasized how good manners are of paramount importance in Islam when he said: “I was sent only to perfect good manners.” [ Musnad Ahmad (8952)]
Indeed, he tells us those good manners are part of faith. He said: “The believers with the most complete faith are those who have the best manners.” [ Sunan al-Tirmidhi (1162) and Sunan Abî Dawud (4682)]
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 (peace be upon him) said to Ashajj `Abd Qays: “You possess within yourself two qualities that Allah loves: discernment and forbearance.” [ Sahîh Muslim (17)]