When the time for prayer came, Ali (radi Allahu `anhu – may Allah be pleased with him) would begin to shake and the color of his face would change. When he was asked, “What’s wrong?” he would reply, “The time has entered for a trust that was offered to the heavens and the earth and the mountains and they declined to bear it (Qur’an, 33:72), and I undertook it.”
Their prayer differed from ours, because their feelings towards the prayer differed. We want to increase these feelings in our heart to truly taste the sweetness that is in prayer.
So we progressed from having a present heart, to understanding, torajaa (which was defined in the previous post). And now we would like to balance that rajaa with something else.
Before starting, I’ll remind you that we still did not unlock the key of tasting the sweetness of prayer. We’ll uncover it soon… but not today.
Hayba is a kind of fear that we should have towards Allah. Unfortunately when translated into English, words like ‘hayba,’‘khashya,’ ‘khawf,’ and so on are lost in translation and simply translated as ‘fear,’ when there are actually subtle but important differences between them.
Ibn Al-Qayyim shows us the discreet but important differences:
‘Khawf’ is to flee from the thing that you fear, and requires no knowledge of that which is feared. You can be afraid, or have ‘khawf’ from the dark.
‘Khashya’ on the other hand, is fear with knowledge. The more a servant has knowledge of his Lord, the more‘khawf’ turns to ‘khashya’. As Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge” (Qur’an, 35:28).
But ‘hayba’ is fear associated with respect, awe and glorification. You could, for example, fear fire. But the reason for your fear is that the fire may harm you, but fire has no ‘hayba’; you do not glorify it. However, one’s father could have a certain ‘hayba’; you could be afraid if you do something wrong, but that fear is out of your respect.
First rajaa’, now hayba?
Aren’t these two conflicting emotions? How can we combine them? It isn’t difficult because we do this everyday when we deal with the people around us. A student who submits a bad paper to his kind teacher, will fear failing because he knows that his paper is bad, but at the same time will have hope, rajaa’, that the teacher will pass him because his teacher is compassionate.
It is not so different when you deal with Allah. When you recognize your sin and are before Allah, you have fear but at the same time you hope for the generosity of the Al-Kareem, the Most Generous. This is most apparent in “sayyid al-istighfar” (the master supplication for forgiveness), the du`a’ (supplication) we are recommended to say every morning and every evening, which the Prophet (sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him) described as being the best way to ask for forgiveness:
“O Allah, You are my Lord, there is none worthy of worship but You. You created me and I am your servant. I keep Your covenant and my pledge to You so far as I am able. I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done. I recognize Your blessings upon me, and I admit to my misdeeds. Forgive me, for there is none who may forgive sins but You.”*
Notice that in this du`a’ you are combining rajaa and fear; you admit to your misdeeds, but you also ask Allah to forgive them.
Gems on this kind of fear
Everything that you fear, you flee from, except Allah. Your fear from Allah causes you to flee to him. Allah says in the Qur’an,
“So flee to Allah” (Qur’an, 51:50).
The Prophet (saw) in his du`a’ said:
“There is no refuge and no asylum from You except with You.”
The Prophet (saw) also said:
“O Allah, I seek refuge in You for Your pleasure and against Your wrath and in Your forgiveness and against Your punishment and in You from You. I am not able to praise You as You can praise Yourself.” (Muslim)
You recognize Allah’s wrath but also you seek refuge in His forgiveness, and know that the only refuge from Him is by fleeing to Him. Ibn Al-Qayyim said about this du`a’ in particular that no one knows the degree of tawheed and knowledge and servitude in these words except those who have deep knowledge. He said that if one were to explore all the meanings of this du`a’, a huge book would be written, and to enter into this realm of knowledge you would see that which no eye has witnessed, no ear has heard, and that which has never been imagined by any human.
Knowledge of Allah and Knowledge of Yourself
This hayba is the highest level of fear, as it is coupled with awe and love and knowledge. This fear increases when the servant increases his knowledge of Allah and increases his knowledge of himself. When you increase your knowledge of Allah, and recognize His power and majesty, you increase in fear. On the night of the Prophet’s (saw) ascension, the Prophet (saw) described Jibreel, who has 600 wings and is the Angel chosen to give the Prophet (saw) revelation, as being afraid.
Then when we remember our own sins, in relation to Allah’s power and majesty, we increase in fear. We realize our shortcomings and our heedlessness, and the fact that we are being given a chance is because of Allah’s forbearance.
Most fears are unnerving, except the fear of Allah, this hayba, because Allah is the One who will guide you to the best of places: Paradise insha’Allah (God willing).
Let us try to couple this feeling of hayba of Allah, with the emotion of rajaa in our prayer.
*Reference: Whoever recites this with conviction in the evening and dies during that night shall enter Paradise, and whoever recites it with conviction in the morning and dies during that day shall enter Paradise, Al-Bukhari 7/150. Other reports are in An-Nasa’i and At-Tirmithi.