The Combination Of Hope and Fear in Human Nature
In human nature hope and fear have been put together. These two are born with man in his infancy and grow with him. The fear of pain, suffering, poverty, and disability is a feeling that arises from within. On the other hand, there is the hope of security, comfort, prosperity, and strength. Every wish and hope that is fulfilled is immediately replaced by another. Fear and hope define and delimit our thoughts, conduct, and goals, and the very direction of our lives. Man chooses his path through life in accordance with their character and extent. The person whose thoughts are occupied with expectations of wealth, position, and power, defines his goals on their basis and directs his activities toward these goals. That which preoccupies his mind and concerns is the choice of such means and methods as will materialise his hopes and desires in the shortest time.
However, one who has liberated himself from the bondage of such desires does not devote his efforts to this kind of goals in an unlimited and unconditional manner, for he is master of himself and is free from the chains of such obsessions.
By relying on the principle of fear and hope, Islam relieves the human being from every kind of fear which oppresses the soul and which has no bearing on real life. Because a fear that does not help change the unpleasant realities of life is futile. In this way, it liberates the human soul from fears relating to mundane matters and the tral1sitoly gains of life, calling it to effort and endeavour in all fields of life. In the same way, it expels every deviant hope from the human soul and thus preserves it from deviance, so that man may orient himself towards a worthy and vigorous life and abstain from putting his reliance in anything except the eternal power of God.
Islam believes that none of the ordinary factors, however imposing, has essentially the power to cause benefit or harm. Hence they are not fit to be feared. That which should be feared is that Power that embraces every being in Its omnipotence, sovereignty and dispensation. It is that which grants and deprives, gives and takes away. The Glorious Qur'an refers to this truth in these words:
(O honoured Messenger) say: "Who provides you out of heaven and earth or who rules over hearing and sight and who brings forth the living from the dead and brings forth the dead from the living and who directs the affair?" They will surely say "God" Then say: "Will you not then be God-fearing? (10:31)
Moreover, since man's hopes are often related to various bounties of life and comforts and joys of a corporeal kind, Islam does not deprive anyone of wholesome joys and pleasures of this kind and does not ask people to turn their back on worldly matters. However, it redirects hopes from false and illusory values to real and true values and worthy aspirations. It warns man that he should not be deceived by transitory joys and get immersed in carnal desires and lusts, thus failing to realise everlasting and true joys. At all times it impels him to seek the pleasure of the sacred and glorious Essence of God:
Indeed, it is the abode of the Hereafter that is (true) life, did they but know! (29:64)
The emphasis placed on God-fearing in Islamic teachings in fact refers to the trepidation that one ought to feel concerning one's own conduct. This kind of fear is not only not harmful but is of great benefit, as it embraces the entire ambit of human conduct. The fear of the undesirable consequences of misconduct sharpens one's sense of caution and vigilance. It brings harmful urges under control and transforms man into a self-disciplined and orderly being.
Solely placing hope in God and His infinite compassion without any fear and trepidation concerning the consequences of one's conduct leads to unbridled and unprincipled behaviour and gives rise to many vices.
A person who is not wary of his own conduct and who pins all hopes in God's forgiveness and mercy can perpetrate any kind of inappropriate actions without feeling any kind of trepidation and still remaining hopeful. Possibly, his entire conduct and character may sink in sinfulness while his hopes remain nigh.
Accordingly, this absence of fear vis-à-vis God will lead to the degeneration of human conduct. That is why in religious teachings it has been emphasised that man's ideal condition is one wherein he wavers between fear and hope: while placing hope in God's infinite mercy, he should be afraid of the consequences of his own conduct, refraining from falling victim to pride and conceit.
Imam Sadiq, may Peace be upon him, said:
Fear keeps a watch over the human heart and hope is the soul's intercessor and that of its aspirations. Those who know God, fear Him, while they place their hopes in His grace. This fear and hope are like two wings of faith. By their means, those who study the order of being and creation fly towards God's good pleasure, and they witness God's promises and warnings with the eyes of their intellects. By inspiring awe in respect of His warnings, the fear of God turns them towards God's justice, and the hope in Him calls them toward His beneficence and favour. This is how hope revives the heart and fear suppresses satanic inclinations. 4
These who are equipped with the weapons of knowledge and faith are fearful of God's just retribution. In observing the Divine precepts, their motive is to be complaint towards God and His commands and prohibitions. A fear that arises from foresight serves as a warning that leads one to take precautionary measures. It impels him on the path of duty and draws him to observe his multifarious responsibilities. It restrains him from becoming polluted with the filth of sin and causes man to always keep his true felicity in view under all circumstances.
From the viewpoint of the Qur'an it is knowledge that produces awareness of real dangers that arise from unprincipled conduct:
Only those of His servants who possess knowledge fear God. (35:28)
There is no doubt that the knowledge which raises a person to the rank of men of knowledge and is the means of self-discipline and inner purity is one which contributes to the development of the soul and guides its possessor to the infinite power of God and draws him to His worship. This knowledge preserves the human consciousness and intellect from being polluted with sin, and it is itself the most significant means for awakening the mind to the contemplation of the order of being and the remembrance of God:
[Surely in the creation of the heavens and earth and in the alternation of night and day there are signs for men possessed of minds] who remember God, standing and sitting and on their sides and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth: 'O Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain. Glory be to Thee. Guard us against the chastisement of the fire. (3:190-191)
According to the Qur'an, guidance and insight are also products of the state of awe and fear vis-à-vis the Creator
And he who fears shall be heedful ... (87:10)
A man questioned the Noble Messenger, may Peace and God's benedictions be upon him and his Household, concerning the following verse of the Qur'an
[Surely those who tremble in fear of their Lord, and those who believe in the signs of their Lord, and those who associate naught with their Lord] and those who give what they have been given their hearts quacking that they are returning to their Lord, [those vie in good works, outreaching to them. (23:60-1)
He asked the Prophet (S) if the verse also applies to someone who commits theft and adultery and drinks wine and yet fears God The Prophet (S) told him "It means a person who performs prayer and fasting and gives a helping hand to others, while fearing lest God should not accept any of his works "
A harmful and blameworthy kind of fears is one which arises from weakness and abasement. Such fears not only do not motivate anyone to perform edifying deeds, but also hinder progress and become obstacles in the way of human felicity. That is why in the course of their educative programmes the leaders of the Islamic faith have sought to liberate their followers from the bondage of unrealistic fears which weaken man's will power and destroy his self-confidence, through reliance on the great power of the intellect and conscience.
When 'Ali, may Peace be upon him, was prepared to march towards the scene of battle after having mobilised his army for war with the Khawarij, one of his companions who had some knowledge of astrology told him that it was not a propitious hour for setting out for battle and that it would lead to his defeat. 'Ali, may Peace be upon him, gave him the following reply dispelling his wrong ideas. He told him
Do you think that you can determine the hour during which evil would befall people if they go forth? Do you claim to warn them of the hour they would suffer harm if they go forth during it? Whoever confirms what you say rejects the Qur'an, considering that by believing you he does away with the need to seek God's help for attaining what he desires and avoids what he shuns. You want some one who obeys your prescriptions to praise you rather than His Lord, for as you claim, it is you who guide him concerning the hour in which he can secure benefits and avoid harms!
Then turning to the warriors of Islam, 'Ali, may Peace be upon him, declared "Set out in God's Name!" 5
In this way, the Prince of the Faithful ordered the soldiers to march towards the battlefield by putting their reliance in the might of the Lord and without paying attention to the nonsense of the astrologer and heeding his prophecies Finally, the battle ended with the enemy's defeat and victory of 'Ali's army
In another of his sayings 'Ali, may Peace be upon him, instructs his followers in these words
Whenever you are apprehensive of the difficulty of some task, be steadfast and forbearing until it becomes easy for you. With all the hardship it may involve, make it appear simple and easy to those around you. As a result similar task will become inevitably easy for you to carry out. 6
Psychologists say in this regard:
We come across many people in daily life who are demoralised by fear, which they allow to dominate them.
Many people refrain from participating in social activities due to fear Overwhelmed by fear, they surrender to it and evade their social responsibilities.
Many students do not question their teachers due to fear, or they are so much overwhelmed by fear at the time of tests that they become incapable of responding properly Many people do not admit their mistakes because of fear, and there are some who do not have the courage say 'No,' because they are afraid that something will happen to them if they do not comply.
The consequence of this kind of behaviour is that fear is allowed to dominate the person. Gradually it diminishes his capacity to overcome his fear and increases his daily problems.
Someone who wants to have an exciting life in adult years should develop courage within himself. Everyone needs one or another kind of courage in life, and what could be better than acquiring it in childhood? If we develop personal courage t the proper time in life, we will have greater strength when it is needed.
There is a good way of developing courage and that is to carry out what is essential for mastering one's fear. Everyone has faced situations in life when he could carry out some task but refrained from performing it due to some fear (conscious or subconscious). For instance, you had an opportunity to participate in class discussions but did not because you were afraid. Or a friend of yours made to you a proposal which was against the principles you believed in, but you did not say 'No' to him so as not to disappoint him. Or you made a mistake which you did not admit due to fear. All these are forms of fear.
Now if you evaluate a situation and do what you must, you have been able to create courage within yourself, and this is the way to develop courage. Everytime that you do this, you will be adding to your courage, and gradually you will be able to overcome your fear. By developing courage you will be quite able to solve your problems 7
Today, despite all the advancements made by man in his struggle against the forces of nature, people remain constantly obsessed in their lives by anxieties concerning the future, by fears of failure, sickness, defeat and so on. Baseless anxieties and fears of accidents and other hardships of life paralyse many creative and vigorous minds and consign many original and invaluable ideas to oblivion.
The Noble Messenger, may Peace and God's benedictions be upon him and his Household, says
The worst characteristics that may afflict a person are excessive stinginess and inordinate fear and cowardice. 8
4. al Fayd al Kashani, Muhajjat al bayda, vol. 7 p. 283
5. Nahj al Balaghah, Khutab 79
6. al Amidi, Ghurar al Hikam, p. 319
7. Marguerite Malm & Malm Herbet Sorenson, Psychology for Living, p. 299
8. Nahj al fasaha. p. 382
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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