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Love, Hope, Fear: The Ultimate Balance

By Hania Faheem

A walk along the beach. Nothing new, nothing grand. Just an ordinary, mundane gesture. As water began to touch my feet, I turned around and saw the subtle trail my footsteps had made in the sand. And that’s when I noticed: the trail wasn’t exactly a horizontal line from the shore to the water. It actually fluctuated from the horizontal; a little to the right, a little to the left, bending a little here and a little there, before it brought me to my destination. It made me reflect: no matter what path we take in life, we are always seeking balance. It’s impossible to travel any road in a straight line. There will always be bends in the trail, slight deviations from the straight line but ultimately a bounce right back to it is what happens in the end. 

And that just made me realize how we, as humans, constantly need to reconfigure, redirect, and renavigate our lives according to its changing tides. And how important it is to strike balance in everything we do.

As I stood there gazing at the unending miles and miles of ocean ahead of me, a bird caught my eye stretching its white wings across the ocean. And that is when this great saying came into my mind which aligned my thoughts perfectly. Ibn al-Qayyim said:

“The heart, in its journey to Allah, is like that of a bird: love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings.”

{Madarij al-Salikeen (1/513)}

And in this one saying, Ibn al-Qayyim captured perfectly the basis of the relationship between God and Man, and how to achieve the balance in that.

Love forms the basis for any relationship, so naturally, it forms the integral core of our relationship with Allah as well. But most of us go to extremes when it comes to the other two: fear and hope.

Too much fear of Allah would be a denial of His infinite mercy when He Himself says that He is The Rahman, The Rahim. But to only hope in His mercy and not actively do deeds to earn His goodwill or not to make efforts to stay away from sins would not fit a believer either. Basically: if we cut down any one of the two wings of the bird: it falls. It is the delicate balance between fear and hope, guided by love that we must wish to attain. 

Deep inside of us, our Imaan takes the shape of a bird who charters its course towards Allah with Love, carried on each of its sides by Fear and Hope. It struggles to remain horizontal at all times, sometimes tipping up or down on the right wing, sometimes on the left. But it knows that this struggle is worth it because at the head of the struggle is the greatest motivation: Love. And the destination that this bird is headed towards is the reunion with its Maker which is worth all the ups and downs it can experience in life.

To be on the straight path of love for Allah, and to balance that path on one hand by Fear of His judgment, and on the other by Hope of His infinite mercy. That is the ultimate balance one must strive for in this life. So whoever you are, wherever you are, I pray that you find it within yourself to maneuver your life and your relationship with Allah along the lines of these three simple, yet profound words: Love, Hope, and Fear.

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