In the name of Allāh, Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.
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All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation; may Allah extol the mention of our noble Prophet Muhammad in the highest company of Angels, bless him and give him peace and security―and his family, his Companions and all those who follow him correctly until the establishment of the Hour.
The saying of Allah (the Most High), “It is only Shaytān who suggests to you the fear of his allies, so do not fear them but fear Me, if you are true believers.”
Shaykh al-Islām Muhammad ibn ʿAbdul-Wahhāb (rahimahullāh) said:
Allah, the Most High, said:
إِنَّمَا يَعْمُرُ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَلَمْ يَخْشَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۖ فَعَسَىٰ أُولَٰئِكَ أَن يَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُهْتَدِينَ
“The mosques of Allah shall be maintained only by those who believe in Allah and the Last day, perform salāh, and give zakah and fear none but Allah. It is they who are expected to be on true guidance.” (Surah at-Tawbah 9:18).
And He, the Most High, said:
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ فَإِذَا أُوذِيَ فِي اللَّهِ جَعَلَ فِتْنَةَ النَّاسِ كَعَذَابِ اللَّهِ وَلَئِن جَاءَ نَصْرٌ مِّن رَّبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ إِنَّا كُنَّا مَعَكُمْ ۚ أَوَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَعْلَمَ بِمَا فِي صُدُورِ الْعَالَمِينَ
“Of mankind are some who say: ‘We believe in Allah.’ But if they are made to suffer for the sake of Allah, they consider the trial of mankind as Allah’s punishment; and if victory comes from your Lord (the hypocrites) will say: ‘Verily we were with you (helping you).’ Is not Allah best aware of what is in the breasts of mankind and Jinn? (Surah al-’Ankabut 29:10).
Abu Sa’eed (radiyallāhu ʿanhu) said as ascribed to the Prophet (salallāhu’alaihi wasallam): “It is from the aspects of weakness in certainty (yaqeen) to seek to please the people by displeasing Allah, and praising them for that which Allah has provided, and that you blame them because Allah does not give you. For indeed Allah’s provisions are not driven by the eagerness of the eager one, nor averted by the hatred of the hater.” (Reported by Al-Bayhaqi in Shuʿbul-Imān, 1/382, no. 203. Sheikh al-Albāni graded it weak, daʿeef, in As-Silsilah Ad-Daʿeefah, no. 1482).
ʿA’ishah (radiyallāhu ʿanha) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Whoever seeks Allah’s pleasure at the cost of the people’s displeasure, then Allah will be pleased with him, and He will cause the people to be pleased with him.
And whoever seeks the pleasure of the people at the cost of Allah’s displeasure, then Allah will be displeased with him and He will cause the people to be displeased with him.” (Reported by Ibn Hibbān in his Saheeh, 1/510 no. 286. Sheikh al-Albāni graded it authentic (saheeh) in Taʿliqāt al-Hisān, no. 286).
Sheikh Ahmad an-Najmi begins his explanation with the words of Imām ‘Abdur Rahman as-Saʿdi (rahimahullah) who said that the author wrote this chapter so as to obligate the fear and dread of Allah alone, and not to attach that to or feel that for any of the creation. This chapter is a clarification that one’s Tawheed is not perfected except if this is done, and it is necessary to explain this matter further and to dispel any doubts. Know that fear and dread can be a type of worship. Sometimes fear can be something which is natural and normal, and this is in accordance with the reasons that lie behind that fear and what it is related to. So, if the fear and dread are due to the deification of someone, or someone taking something as a god, and it is a means of nearness to the one that is feared, and it invites him to inward obedience and hidden fear, and prevents him from disobeying the one who is feared, then this type of fear is only for Allah alone, and it is from the mightiest of the obligations of Imān.
To direct this type of fear to someone other than Allah is major shirk which Allah does not forgive because such a person has associated partners with Allah in this worship. [End of Imām as-Saʿdi’s words].
Examples of Relying Upon Other than Allah
Reliance upon the creation can be a means, and if the one who relies on it believes that it is only a means, then in this case it is not major shirk, rather it is minor shirk if it is beyond what is normal and natural. The Sheikh an-Najmi narrated a story related to this affair: There was a group of students who graduated from University, so they sought employment. Some of them sought help from a government minister and some of them sought the help of other people of rank (for them to act as intermediaries and to put in a good word for them)―and they obtained jobs in far-away places. From them was a man who was weak and poor, and had no one to help him, however, he was strong in Imān. He made plentiful duʿa and he trusted and relied upon Allah. In each prayer he would supplicate to Allah, beseeching his Lord, seeking employment close to where he lived ― so Allah granted him that. He remained in that employment until his retirement.
The seeking of help by other students from people of high rank is not considered shirk. However, if a person relies too much on others in seeking that which they desire, then this may be considered lesser shirk, and Allah knows best. The one who relies upon and trusts in Allah solely, then this one achieves success in this world and in the hereafter.
An Example where Fearing Other than Allah is Major Shirk
An example where the fear is considered as Major Shirk: There was a man who claimed wilayah for himself (i.e., to be a walī, beloved to Allah). He had a farm with cattle which he claimed were protected― the people believed that because he was a walī of Allah that he was able to see anyone who tried to take anything from his farm and that he even knew their intentions!
Because of this, no one would go near his farm (out of fear that he had these powers), so this is Major Shirk. These were not mere thoughts and imaginations that the people had, rather it was something that they had firm belief in. If the fear of this man went beyond their fear of Allah, or it was equivalent to it, where they believed that this man had control over and knowledge of the unseen, then this is considered major shirk that exits a person from the fold of Islām. This fear is not the normal fear that a person would have for such things as wild beasts or other harmful matters. The latter (i.e., natural fear) is what keeps us within the boundaries of protecting our families, property and wealth. This is why we hear from many of the scholars statements saying that nothing should prevent a person from coming to the masjid if he hears the adhān except if he fears that some harm could come to him or his family, for example, that he could be killed by insurgents, bandits or the khawārij―all of this is normal, natural fear.
However, abnormal fear is that you fear a person because you think he has knowledge of the unseen and that he knows your intentions, or that you think he has other powers―this is not permitted. As for fearing a person with a natural, normal fear such as fearing that he may beat or kill you, or take your wealth, then this is a natural fear that does not enter into ʿibādah (worship)―so this is permissible and does not exit a person from Islām
Summary of the Four Types of Khawf (Fear)
- Fear that is normal, rational and permissible such as the fear of a wild beast, bandit or highway robber.
- Fear that is disliked: when a Muslim attaches himself to the means (depending on that) but he does not exceed beyond what is normally practiced, such as a man depending on a someone to fulfil his needs – e.g., he thinks he must rely get close to so-and-so to get him employment, otherwise he fears he will remain unemployed, but it is a natural type of fear, not exceeding what is normal.
- Fear that is harām (prohibited) or shirk asghar (minor shirk) such as man who depends utterly upon the means, beyond what is expected and normal, in order to fulfil a need, overly relying on the creation to fulfil his needs.
- Fear that is harām and is shirk akbar (major shirk) that exits a person from the fold of Islām: where a person is attached to the creation as he should attach himself to Allah in reliance; or he is is more dependent (out of fear) upon a person than he is upon Allah, in the fulfilment of a need, or to remove distress from himself. This level of fear exits a person from Islam.
The Relevance of the Ayah to the Chapter Heading
The chapter heading mentions the Āyah from Surah Āli ʿImrān:
إِنَّمَا ذَٰلِكُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ يُخَوِّفُ أَوْلِيَاءَهُ فَلَا تَخَافُوهُمْ وَخَافُونِ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
“It is only Shaytān that suggests to you the fear of his allies (and close followers), so do not fear them but fear Me (i.e., Allah) if you are true believers.” (Surah Āli ʿImrān, 3:175)
This means that shaytān causes you to fear his allies and followers―and Allah has forbidden His believing servants from fearing the allies of Shaytān. From the āyah we understand that if you truly believe, with true imān, then your imān embraces this affair of fearing Allah―and not fearing the allies of Shaytān.
As for the relevance of the āyah from Surah at-Tawbah to the chapter where Allāh mentions:
وَلَمْ يَخْشَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۖ فَعَسَىٰ أُولَٰئِكَ أَن يَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُهْتَدِينَ
“…and fear none but Allah. It is they who will be on true guidance.” (Surah at-Tawbah 9:18).
This means that they do not fear (i.e., with the fear that comes under the heading of worship) except Allah, the Most High. This is a divine fear that enters into the definition of worship (ʿibādah)―and it is only for Allah. So, you do not fear those who cannot harm you such as those people who fear ghosts and ghouls, and you do not fear individuals who claim knowledge of the unseen because the unseen and what is written for you (in the future) is in the Hand of Allah alone, under His Decree.
Likewise, we do not allow the allies of shaytān from the world of humans and jinn to put fear into our hearts. This is what we teach our children, and make firm in their hearts―that we do not fear the devils from the world of the jinn―it is only Allah that we fear, and we seek refuge with Allah from the Shayatīn among the mankind and jinn. He is All-Powerful over them because He is their creator.
As for the āyah from Surah al-ʿAnkaboot:
مِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ فَإِذَا أُوذِيَ فِي اللَّهِ جَعَلَ فِتْنَةَ النَّاسِ كَعَذَابِ اللَّهِ وَلَئِن جَاءَ نَصْرٌ مِّن رَّبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ إِنَّا كُنَّا مَعَكُمْ ۚ أَوَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَعْلَمَ بِمَا فِي صُدُورِ الْعَالَمِينَ
“Of mankind are some who say: ‘We believe in Allah.’ But if they are made to suffer for the sake of Allah, they consider the trial (the difficulties that come to them) from mankind as Allah’s punishment. And if victory comes from your Lord, they (the hypocrites) say: ‘Verily we were with you (helping you).’ Is not Allah best aware of what is in the breasts of the mankind and Jinn? (Surah al-’Ankabut 29:10).
The meaning here is that the people stop obeying Allah out of fear of the people afflicting them. The trials inflicted by the people prevents them from fulfilling Allah’s commandments, out of fear of being afflicted. Therefore, the relevance of this ayah to the chapter is clear: we do not fear the people―and if we are afflicted then we accept this, as everything is in the hands of Allah.
Regarding the first Hadeeth mentioned by Imām Muhammad ibn ʿAbdul Wahhāb, it is weak but its meaning is correct. And that is: attaining the pleasure of the people by making Allah angry is forbidden. Likewise, to praise the people because of that which Allah has provided, being forgetful that Allah is the One who turns and subjugates the hearts and knowing that He is the One who sends the provision, then this is also forbidden.
The meaning here is not that you should not be grateful if a person shows goodness towards you, rather it is obligatory upon you to thank Allah first, then you thank the people for the good that they have done for you, as an act of kindness and compassion towards them. As for a person thanking the people and forgetting Allah, then that is blameworthy.
As for blaming the people for that which Allah did not give you, when you know that Allah is the One who gives and withholds and that if He wanted He could have subjugated the creation to you―therefore, it is not befitting to dispraise and censure the people when something is withheld from you.
The latter part of the Hadeeth which states that ‘the provision of Allah is not driven by the eagerness of the eager one,’ then its meaning is that the provision is in the Hand of Allah and that sometimes a person may be eager to receive something from another person, but Allah prevents that and so it does not reach him. However, sometimes the opposite occurs, where there are some people who hate that something good comes to you, but it still reaches you regardless of what they want, and all of this is from Allah, the Most Generous, the Kind.
Regarding the hadeeth of ʿA’ishah (radiyallāhu ʿanha) who narrated that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Whoever seeks Allah’s pleasure at the cost of the people’s displeasure, then Allah will be pleased with him, and He will cause the people to be pleased with him. And whoever seeks the pleasure of the people at the cost of Allah’s displeasure, then Allah will be displeased with him and He will cause the people to be displeased with him.” This means that whoever is eager and keen to please Allah, even if it means that by doing so he gains the displeasure of the people, then Allah (the Most High) will recompense him such that the people become pleased with him. This is because of the fact that he took the means which were effective in earning the pleasure of the people. The opposite is also true: whoever seeks the pleasure of the people by displeasing Allah, then Allah will be angry with him, and the people will also become angry with him, because he took the means that caused them to become angry with him―and the hearts are in the Hand of the One who turns them, i.e., Allah (the Most High).
So, this whole chapter revolves around the issue of fearing Allah, relying upon Him, and not leaving that reliance on Allah due to fear of the people, the trials of the people, losing a job, or because shaytān has put fear in your hearts―all of this is of no concern to the true believer. The true believer depends upon Allah and fears Him, and he does not fear the people―instead he has complete reliance upon Allah. This does not mean that he does not have natural, rational fear―that is normal, so he protects his home, locks his car door, he seeks all the necessary means and puts his trust in Allah.
Taken mostly from Shaikh Ahmad Ibn Yahyā An-Najmi’s (rahimahullāh) explanation with additions from other scholars and notes from Abu Khadeejah.
الحمد لله رب العالمين وصلى الله على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه وسلم
Some of this article was transcribed by Umm Maryam (may Allah reward her) from the classes of Abu Khadeejah (SalafiSounds.com). Please share it with others.