The Al-Khawf or fear station is one of the most splendid stations of the road and the most beneficial to the heart. It is also mandatory upon everyone. Allah said,
“So fear them not, but fear Me, if you are believers.” [3:175],
“And fear none but Me.” [2:40],
“So fear not men but fear Me.” [5:44]
Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, also praised His people in His book, saying, “Verily! Those who live in awe for fear of their Lord… It is these who race for the good deeds and they are foremost in them.” [23:57-61]
Aisha once asked the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, “O Messenger of Allah, when Allah says And those who give that (their charity) which they give with their hearts full of fear…” [23:60] is he the one who commits adultery, drinks alcohol or steals?” He said, “No, daughter of As-Siddeeq. It is the man who fasts, prays, and pays sadaqah. But he fears that none will be accepted from him.” (Tirmithi and others)
Al-Hasan al-Basri said, “By Allah, they performed the acts of obedience and struggled in them and they were afraid that their deeds will be rejected.” The believer has combined good deeds and fear and the hypocrite has combined bad deeds and a sense of security.
Other terms have similar meanings to al-khawf but are not synonymous, such as khashyah. Abu Al-Qasim Al-Junaid said, “khawf is to expect punishment as long as you breathe.” It has been said that khawf is the restlessness of the heart because of the remembrance of the cause of fear. It has also been said that khawf is the strength in knowledge of the rulings and decrees. This is the reason for khawf and not khawf itself. It was also said that khawf is the escape of the heart from the occurrence of adversity when the heart senses it.
Khashyah is more specific than khawf. Khashyah is a quality that is particular of the people knowledgeable of Allah. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says, “It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah.” [35:28]
As a result khashyah is associated with knowledge. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, is reported to have said, “Indeed I have the most piety for Allah and have the greatest khashyah for Him.” (Bukhari and Muslim) And he is the most knowledgeable of Allah.
Khawf can be likened to a movement or a reaction but khashyah is involvement, action and tranquillity. A person who sees the enemy, floods or similar causes of fear will have one of the following two reactions: movement; i.e., running away from the cause, which is the state of khawf; or staying calm and staying in a place where the cause cannot reach him, and this is khashyah.
Khawf is for the common believers, while khashyah is for the knowledgeable and the scholars. The presence of Khawf and khashyah is according to how much knowledge is there, as the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said, “Indeed I am the most knowledgeable of Allah amongst you and have the most khashyah for Him.” (Bukhari and Muslim) He also said, “If you would know what I know, you would laugh little and weep much. You would not have joy with your wives in bed and you would go out to high places and pray fervently to Allah, The Mighty.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi and others)
The person with khawf resorts to fleeing and holding. The person with khashyah resorts to holding to knowledge. Their similitude is like a person who has no knowledge of medicine and a skilled, highly trained and educated physician. The former resorts to diet and escape for treatment of his ills while the doctor resorts to knowledge of diseases and medicines.
Abu Hafs said, “Khawf is the whip of Allah. He corrects with it those straying from His door.” He also said, “Khawf is a light in the heart, with it one can see the good and evil. Everyone you fear you run away from except Allah. When you fear Him, you run away to Him.” The person with khawf is a person fleeing from His Lord to His Lord.
Abu Sulaiman said, “When khawf departs from any heart, it falls apart.” Ibrahim bin Sufyan said, “When khawf settles in the heart, it burns the places of vain desires within it and it kicks out the love for this world.” Thun-Nun said, “People are on the road (meaning the Straight Path) as long as they have khawf. When they lose it, they stray from the road.”
Khawf is not sought itself. It is simply a means sought to obtain something else. It disappears when the cause of khawf disappears. That is why the people of Paradise will have no khawf, nor will they grieve.
Khawf is related to deeds and actions, while love is related to Allah and His Attributes. The love of the believers to their Lord multiplies when they enter the House of Bliss and they will have not fear. For that, the station of love is greater and higher than the station of khawf.
The truthful khawf is what comes between the person and the prohibitions of Allah. If khawf exceeds that, then there may be a concern for getting into despair and hopelessness. Abu Uthman said, “The true khawf is being cautious of committing sins manifest or hidden.”
I heard Shaikhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah say, “The commendable khawf is what restrains you from the prohibitions of Allah.”
Al-Harawi said, “Khawf is to slip away from comfort and security by recognizing the warning of Allah.” The beginning of khawf is to fear the punishment. This is the kind of khawf that produces sound emaan (faith). This can be attained by believing in the warnings of Allah and remembering the sin. Khawf is preceded by feeling and knowledge. It is impossible that a person may have khawf without having feelings of fear.
Khawf is associated with two things: first, the thing feared; and second, any thing that may lead to it. Khawf can then be as great as the feeling of the person to the feared thing and what leads to it. When a person doesn’t think that something would lead to the object that should be feared, then would not fear that thing. The same is true if he does not know the measure of the fearful thing then, he would not have the correct fear.
Khawf (fear) and rajaa’ (hope) complement one another. The similitude of the heart in its travel to Allah is like a bird. Love is its head, and khawf and rajaa’ are the wings. When the head and both wings are sound, the bird is capable and skilled in flying. However, when the head is cut off, the bird will die. When the bird loses a wing, it then becomes a target for every hunter and predator.The scholars favored, however, the wing of khawf over the wing of rajaa’, especially wh en the person is young and healthy. They favored the wing of rajaa’ over the wing of khawf when the person is about to leave this world.
Abu Sulaiman said, “The heart ought to have more khawf. When rajaa’ dominates, it ruins it.” It was also said, “The best state is to have the same amount of khawf and rajaa’, but to have more love. Love is the boat, rajaa’ is the leader, khawf is the driver, and Allah is the One Who helps those reach the goal by His Grace and Generosity.”