07 July 2019 CE | 05 Dhul-Qadah 1440 AH

Hadith Explanation

Fear of Allah

Abu Hurairah (radi Allahu anhu) narrated that the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “A man who had never done a pious deed said to his family members, ‘When I die burn me to ashes and divide the ashes into two parts. Scatter one of them on land and the other in the ocean. By Allah! If Allah gets hold over this body, He will punish it as severely as He may not have punished anyone else.’

When he died, his family members obeyed his instructions. Allah commanded the land to gather his ashes and it collected every particle of his ashes on it. And He commanded the ocean and it too gathered all particles even from its depths. (Then He gave it life and speech and) He asked him, ‘Why did you do that?’ He said, ‘My Lord! Fear of You!’ So Allah forgave him.” [Sahih Bukhari]

This hadith highlights the importance of having fear of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala). The man had done no good deed throughout his life despite Allah’s blessings on him, but at the time of his death the events of his life flashed before his eyes and made him so fearful of Allah’s punishment that he instructed his family members to burn his body and scatter his ashes over land and sea in the hope that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) would not be able to put his body together again to punish him.

The man made a gross misjudgment of Allah’s attributes and supposed that by treating his body in this way he would be able to defeat Allah’s plans to revive him. Allah, who has created life out of nothing, is fully capable of gathering scattered particles in the expanse of the universe and reviving the dead. However, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) forgave the man because his wrong approach had been prompted by fear of Him and punishment at His hands.

Thus, having the fear of Allah is a noble and valuable asset. Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) says in the Quran, “But as for him who feared the standing before his Lord and restrained his soul from caprices, surely the Garden shall be his abode.” [79:40-41]

This hadith also teaches us never to despair of the mercy of Allah Most High. We should hope that He will forgive everyone who makes a sincere repentance and seeks forgiveness. A believer must maintain two balanced approaches; that of fear and hope – fear of being punished and hope for His mercy. It is not correct to lean on any one approach alone. As a bird with one wing heavier than the other cannot fly so also having a disbalance in fear and hope will not allow a person to be a successful Muslim. An extremity of fear makes one too despondent to do good deeds, while over dependence on hope makes one neglect piety.

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