The importance of balancing our hope and fear
Many people talk about “maintaining a balance” in life. What does that actually mean? What does it mean to you?
There are many types of balance: the well-known work/life balance, socialising/“me time,” and so on. These few examples may apply to you, but the balancing act of time and priorities depends on the person. While it may seem overrated or impossible, maintaining balance throughout our lives is key for our overall well-being, as well as a concept that Islam promotes.
Islam teaches us to worship Allah out of love for Him but with a healthy balance of fear and hope. Fear of Allah means to fear falling into sin, disappointing Him by transgressing what has been ordained and earning His punishment in the Hellfire. However, we need to balance our fear of Allah with our hope in His reward and His Paradise. Hope in Allah motivates us to perform good deeds, by believing that His plan is far greater and better than we can ever know and to abandon our desires for the sake of righteousness, through following the Qur’an and authentic Sunnah (prophetic teachings).
“They arise from their beds and they supplicate their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend from what We have provided them.”
Therefore, we should have a healthy balance of fear and hope in our worship of Allah and outlook to life. The idea of balance in worship described in the metaphor below, highlights how our fear and hope are as if we have two wings that can help us fly on the straight path towards our ultimate destination.
Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“The heart on its journey towards Allah the Exalted is like that of a bird. Love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings. When the head is healthy, then the two wings will fly well. When the head is cut off, the bird will die. When either of two wings is damaged, the bird becomes vulnerable to every hunter and predator.”
Keeping a balance also helps prevents stress, and we all know stress causes adverse health effects and leads to an increase of visits to healthcare providers. Sometimes our lives can get imbalanced because “It’s getting too much” or “I’m too busy” or “There’s never enough time to do everything” which may be true, but it is ultimately up to us how we spend our time and thoughts – we do have free will, however much out of control things may feel. Saying, “I don’t have time” for something can be equivalent to saying: “That’s not a priority for me.” That can be okay, as long as we actually acknowledge what are and are not our priorities – a significant rule to maintaining balance. Finding balance requires motivation and work, but our overall well-being is worth it.
It also requires us to be flexible depending on the situation, not everything is doom and gloom always. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to switch between two concepts, or to think about multiple concepts simultaneously. This is important to avoid becoming too disheartened in situations that make you feel there is no other way.
“And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty).”
Allah reminds us time after time because He does not want us to lose hope and the Prophet (ﷺ) even had hope for those who were the worst of people (for example, Abu Jahl) yet prayed for their guidance. There are many instances in the Qur’an and ahadith (prophetic narrations) reminding us to not become too overwhelmed or relaxed with fear or hope. We should have hope for ourselves and for other people, for better to come by relying on Allah alone – it is He alone that can change any circumstance in whichever manner He befits so let us not lose hope in Allah, Al-Qaadir (All-Able).
What helps you keep a balance of your fear and hope?