Freedom from fear and grief is essential to our inner happiness. Everyone wants to get rid of all the fears and anxieties that make one’s life uncomfortable. In the words of poet philosopher Allama Iqbal, “the highest stage of man’s ethical progress is reached when he becomes absolutely free from fear and grief”. In Holy Quran, Allah SWT repeatedly promises believers this freedom.
They shall neither fear, nor shall they grieve.
This phrase, with few variations, appears at least seventeen times in Quran; i.e. 2:38, 2:62, 2:112, 2:262, 2:274, 2:277, 3:170, 5:69, 6:48, 7:35, 7:49, 10:62, 39:61, 43:68, 46:13. If we carefully evaluate these verses we will see that this freedom does not come from mere promise of entering Islam. But rather it is a spiritual state a believer can achieve by continuous righteous conduct; by putting his faith into action. Every time this topic comes up in Quran, it is mostly preceded by a call of having true faith in Allah and doing good deeds. For example in Surah Al-baqarah it says
Whoever submits his whole self to Allah and is a doer of good – he will get his reward with his Lord; there shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve. [Quran 2:112]
This raises the obvious question regarding the link between faith, action, fear and grief. It is important to discuss this point at this stage.
Fear can take different forms but here we focus on the fear that generally results in inaction. We fear to do something either because of our ignorance of consequences or our past failures. But if we are doing what is commanded by Allah then no matter what the consequences are we have no fear because Allah has power over everything. Our faith should empower us to overcome our fear because deep down we know that we can be ignorant but Allah is all knowledgeable. This is the reason why every righteous deed should bring a kind of inner satisfaction with it. Grief, on the other hand, usually results from a loss of someone or something we value in our lives. Faith is an antidote to grief. If we truly believe in Allah then we know that everything happens with His Will. Stronger the faith, easier it would be for a believer to overcome grief or loss.
Faith is strengthened by action because righteous deed is nothing but an actualization of faith. If we fail to overcome our grief or to do the right thing then it shows weakness in our faith. Righteous conduct and faith both contribute in our ethical progress; deeds help us to strengthen our faith which in turn helps us to overcome our fear and grief. It is not something that can be achieved overnight but it is long journey of spiritual contentment that continues throughout the life of believer. Here are few more examples from Quran.
We said, “Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance, there shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve. [2:38]
Those who spend their wealth for the cause of Allah and do not make the recipient feel obliged or insulted shall receive reward from their Lord. There shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve. [2:262].
In fact anyone who believes in God and the Last Day, and performs good deeds, there shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve. [5:69]
So whoever believes and reforms, there shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve. [6:48]
A litmus test
It is clear that for a believer ultimate faith in Allah and righteous conduct are absolutely necessary to achieve this state of spiritual perfection where no fear or anxiety remains. It can also be used as a litmus test to check our ethical progress. If we are not free from our fears and anxieties then it means we are not doing what is expected from us as believers. It demands a critical evaluation of our choices, our priorities and even our understanding of religion to identify the source of our fears.
There are two more aspects worth mentioning here.
Suffering is not fear and grief
First is that we should not confuse suffering with fear and grief. If life has a purpose then suffering for that purpose brings inner happiness. Suffering or hardships can be part of a believer’s test; fear and grief are not. Suffering and happiness can coexist; grief and happiness can’t. A believer making the right choice that involves hardships in the path of Allah can be truly happy. Happiness of soul doesn’t come from absence of suffering but from doing what is right for the sake of Allah. This is the reason why the only criterion for superiority in the sight of Allah is the most ‘righteous conduct’. He says in Quran
Verily the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. [49:13]
Faith is blind without knowledge
Second is that without knowledge faith is blind; it can cause destruction. Knowledge brings the sight of ‘reason’ to the believer which keeps him from confusing right with wrong. In the absence of knowledge evil deeds can be misunderstood as righteous actions. Those who are spreading violence and killing innocents in the name of Islam are the direct product of this ignorant faith without doesn’t use reason. Faith is a very powerful force and it must be applied in the right direction otherwise it can be counterproductive. As rightly put by a Persian adage
Religion is like a candle that can illuminate one’s cottage; it can also set it on fire: the choice is one’s own.
May Allah help us all in achieving true freedom from fear and grief.