IT is a commonly perceived notion that Muslims fear God far more than they love Him. As this notion has gained ground, so have the punitive aspects in religion.
These are often discussed in detail. It is rare to find discourse on the love for God, except in the concept of Sufism, as if it was unheard of for common Muslims to love and be loved by God, or at least to aim for such a goal.
A search of the Quran and readings of tafseers reveal that God’s love for man has been mentioned at least 20 times in the positive sense, and as many times in the negative sense, wherein He states the qualities of those He does not love.
In both cases, God has described the choices He would like human beings to make for themselves. Rather than being a ‘conditional’ love, this is a love of unimaginable depths.
Those who are committing sins of treachery, boasting of their riches, doing wrong to others, indulging in usury, wasting resources, committing excesses, creating chaos on earth, and being arrogant will not gain His love.
God loves those who do good, are kind, pure, just, fair and peaceful, keep promises and are forgiving, are patient and trust in God and follow the Prophet (PBUH).
The Quran is also replete with warnings from God to mankind, to learn from the signs of nations destroyed because they fell into decadence, and from the signs of the universe.
The first set of signs would give man proof of what he himself might face if he chooses evil over good, follows his desires and gets tempted by Satan rather than be guided by God’s messengers.
By repeating these warnings again and again, God tries to convey to human beings that He is deeply concerned about their fate, and that they must try to control their weaknesses, by fear if they must, to avoid the fire of hell that awaits other detractors who did not listen despite continued warnings and direct guidance through apostles and prophets.
The other signs that God refers to in His Book are the unending and immeasurable blessings that have been bestowed upon us. Where does so much diversity in creation come from?
And where are the sources of commands to the elements of nature? How has it been possible that man is able to meet his needs at any place on earth, and that he has achieved intellectual, physical and spiritual feats continuously?
How has the system of day and night following each other worked so tirelessly over thousands of years? The pleasures of the world, the senses, and the ability to appreciate beauty and to love are no mean gifts to be taken lightly.
And yet we take all of these for granted. They come from One whose love is supreme. But if at all we mention Him, we do so in fear.
We can love God by thinking of Him, remembering Him, following His directives as best we can, following what His Messenger gave us in the form of his Sunnah, and asking Him for everything that we need in this life.
Our dependence on others for our succour must cease, for it is only God who can provide for all our needs.
Our love of God can be enhanced through a firm belief that God turns away if He finds us engaged in activities that are likely to hurt other fellow human beings, whether or not they are present.
He will not be found in mosques or madressahs where hatred or distorted messages of religion are expounded; He will remove Himself from duroos (lectures) where anyone, including followers of other religions or sects, is being abused; He will distance Himself from events and places where people are engaged in activities that demonstrate waste of scarce resources or arrogance.
God is, perhaps, to be found in simpler and austere ways of life. If one could talk to Him on a daily basis, one would find that finally, He is to be found in one’s heart — the best place He can be.
Should one then fear God at all? It might be difficult not to be afraid of the repercussions of one’s sins, especially if one believes that one of God’s 99 attributes is complete and total justice.
If He must be just, He cannot reward everyone just because He has to love; He also must give due deserts to those who paid no heed to His warnings. Otherwise justice would be missing.
It is, therefore, the retribution or the consequences of one’s deeds that one must be afraid of.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.