Does to cry with the fear of Allah mean to cry by shedding tears or to feel sad in the heart?

Details of the Question
The importance of crying with the fear of Allah is stated in some hadiths and religious talks. What is meant by this crying: to cry with to cry by shedding tears or to feel sad in the heart?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

To cry with the fear of Allah can be by shedding tears or feeling sad in the heart.

We attribute most of the crimes and sins that are committed to the lack of fear of Allah in the people who commit them. We say, “If those people had feared Allah and avoided His penalty, they would not have done so.” How should fear from Allah be? How can we associate a discipline based on terror and fear only with the tolerance of Islam and the endless mercy of Allah Almighty?

Believers are described as follows in the Quran:

“For, Believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put (all) their trust in their Lord.”1

As it is understood from the verse above, there is a close relationship and connection between the strengthening of the faith and the settlement of the fear of Allah in the hearts. What does strengthening of the faith as the verses of Allah are read mean? Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır explains the issue as follows:

“As evidences from ilm (knowledge) and deeds increase, investigative belief develops. Close knowledge and belief increase.”2

Investigative belief has levels. The level ofilm al-yaqin (knowledge of certainty) opposes doubts by evidences. Imitative belief, that is, belief that is transferred from parents and that is not based on deep research, can sometimes be defeated by a slight doubt but a belief that is obtained by evidences will not be harmed even by numerous doubts.  

The second level of investigative belief is ayn al-yaqin (vision of certainty); it also have levels in it.It has as many levels as the beautiful names of Allah that are manifest in the universe and their levels. A believer will have a sound and steadfast belief based on his ability to see and read those manifestations. In the highest levels of this stage, man reaches a degree that can read the universe like the Quran. That is, for instance, he can read Allah Almighty’s names like al-Khaliq (the Creator), al-Musawwir (theShaper of Beauty) , al-Muzayyin (the Adorner), al-Mulawwin (the Giver of Color), al-Jamil (the Beautiful) andar-Rahim (the All-Merciful) on a flower. He watches the manifestation of the names of the Creator that creates, shapes, adorns, colors, beautifies them and shows them compassion and mercy.

The third level is named as haqq al-yaqin (absolute certainty). A person who reaches this level has passed the veils that surround the realms of beings and has attained a belief that will not be shaken in the face of the attacks by armies of doubts.3

The belief of prophets and spiritual guides have this depth. The belief of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who was the addressee of Allah Almighty’s beauty and speech in Miraj (Ascension), and Abdulqadir Ghaylani, who followed his trace and improved his spirit so much as to observe the High Throne from the earth, can be given as examples of belief at this level. 

This belief, which is like the ocean, can be attained only through ilm. That ilm definitely has to be an ilm that leads man to belief. Is it possible to describe the fear and shivering felt by those who ascend to those levels of belief with ilm as if they are in the presence of Allah Almighty?

“Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge.”4

The verse above expresses this reality. This respect and fear becomes manifest in every believer based on the degree of their belief.

For, as man knows his Lord through ilm, his love and respect to Him increases. For, the endless perfection above all those levels of perfection definitely deserves endless respect. A shivering mixed with joy encompasses you in the presence of a spiritually great person who has an unreachable degree with his superior solemnity and unique personality; think of the mood in which you will in the presence of Allah Almighty, who has a perfection endless times superior to that person.

Allah has endless compassion and mercy as well as endless jealousy and dignity/might. As it is repeated in many verses of the Quran, Allah is both Rahim (all-Merciful) and Aziz (Mighty). He embraces the whole realm of beings with His endless compassion and mercy as a necessity of his name ar-Rahim; on the other hand, He punishes those who rebel against His laws and touch His dignity with their rebellion. 

Therefore, a person who is in the presence of Allah Almighty is overwhelmed by the attraction of that endless mercy on the one hand and his heart shivers at the thought of the terror of His wrath on the other hand. Is it possible for such a person to rebel against Allah’s orders and to violate His prohibitions?

This fear leads man to Allah just like love. As Badiuzzaman Said Nursi puts it,

“To fear the Glorious Creator means finding a way to His compassionate mercy, and taking refuge in it. Fear is a whip; it drives you into the embrace of His mercy. It is well-known that a mother gently scares her infant, for example, and draws it to her breast. The fear is most pleasurable for the child, because it drives him to her tender embrace.Whereas the tenderness of all mothers is but a flash of Divine mercy. That means there is a supreme pleasure in fear of Allah.”5

Thus, the reason why man was given the feeling of fear is to lead him to Allah. Therefore, if we use this feeling in other places by driving it away from its real purpose, we will incur great losses. When we use our love in wrong places, that love becomes a feeling that suffocates us in agonies by being rejected by the people we love, by being insulted by them and by being forced to leave them though we love them. Similarly, using the feeling of fear in wrong places transforms man’s life into a dungeon. For, the beings that are not worth fearing but that we fear can do nothing to us but cause us to live in derogation. They can neither help us nor soothe our fear. On the contrary, they destroy us by turning away from us by an insensitive mercilessness or increasing their attacks. 

The relationship of the feeling of fear with belief and tawakkul (trust in Allah) is explained as follows in Sözler (Words):

“In fact, for a worshipper with a truly illuminated heart, it is possible that even if the globe of the earth became a bomb and exploded, it would not frighten him. He would watch it with pleasurable wonder as a marvel of the Eternally Besought One’s power. But when a famous degenerate philosopher with a so-called enlightened mind but no heart saw a comet in the sky, he trembled on the ground, and exclaimed anxiously: ‘Isn’t that comet going to hit the earth?’ (On one occasion, America was quaking with fear at such a comet, and many people left their homes in the middle of the night.)”6

Footnotes:

1. al-Anfal, 2.
2. Hak Dini Kur'ân Dili, 3:2367
3. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi. Emirdağ Lahikası-I, p.102, 103.
4. Fatir, 28
5. Sözler (Words), p. 331
6. ibid.

(Mehmed Paksu, Çağın Getirdiği Sorular)

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