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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Fear and Hope - Perspective of Quran and psychology

Is there any relation between fear and hope? Why they are together in these verses of Quran Quran Chapter Prostration 30:24 24 Among His signs is this: He shows you the lightning, giving rise to [both] fear and hope, and sends down water from the sky, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless: in this, behold, there are signs indeed for people who use their reason! Quran Chapter Prostration 32:16 16 They forsake their beds, calling upon their Lord in fear and in hope, and spend out of what We have provided them with. 17 No soul knows what joy is kept hidden in store for them as a reward for their labors.

Fear and Hope in perspective of Worship of God

To worship God means utter prostration of oneself before Him. The Being before whom the act of worship is performed is no tyrant or tormentor but an extremely kind and compassionate Being, to whom we owe limitless blessings. So this expression of lowliness before Him is necessarily tinged with love.

The relation of man to God is the relation of extreme humility with an extremely beloved Being. At the very moment when man is shivering in awe of God, when his eyes fill with tears at the thought of Him, his best feelings are even then reserved for his Lord, and he draws closer to God in great attachment. Man, then, finds himself rapt in a love of the greatest poignancy. Though his humility in the presence of God is undoubtedly the result of fear, this fear is not of the kind produced by the sight of a fearful object. It is a feeling which no single word can properly convey. It is a mixed feeling of extreme hope and extreme apprehension, and man is never able to decide which of the two is to be preferred—hope or apprehension.

It is a situation of love and fear in which man runs towards the very Being he fears, hoping to receive from Him His divine blessings. It is a state of mental anguish, yet at the same time it is a state of complete solace.

From the book: Vision of Islam


Let’s consider the evidence:

- They are both motivators, one towards something and one away from something.

- They are both felt when an event has either positive or negative outcomes that are impactful and, or meaningful to the individual.

- Physiology doesn’t lie! They both cause anticipatory physiological responses which are uncannily similar, i.e sweaty palms,

excitement, and trepidation. The only difference is the fact that one outcome is desired and the other is not!

- They are both felt where meaningful consequences require action from the individual, yet where total control of the outcome is not

possible and therefore there is an element of speculation.

Which one is the better motivator?

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between hope and fear is the fact that fear tends to motivate us to act far more rapidly. An example would be whereby we hope for health, but this hope doesn’t tend to motivate us to go and see a dentist or doctor preventatively. As soon as we are faced with illness, we will rapidly go to the doctors and take action. We therefore react to our fears rather than our hopes. It is an interesting question: “How much better would our lives be if we reacted to our hopes rather than our fears”? Perhaps some people actually do and perhaps this is what separates those hopeful inspirational achievers from the fearful reactive masses. “We hope vaguely but we fear precisely”, and this means that just as fear focusses and narrows, hope opens and broadens the mind. We need to experience fear an element of fear to experience hope, and yet if we give in to this fear, and live in a state of fear – it can crush us. We should therefore aim to live in a state of hope and hopefulness

Why does Fear seem to dominate Hope?

Science has gathered evidence of primary and secondary emotions and positive and negative emotions. The science suggests the separation and evidence due to the different neuropsychological origins and, so far, fear is considered to be a primary emotion which does not require cognitive intervention and processing, and hope a secondary one requiring cognitive processes. This argument can be challenged by considering that whilst there are primary fears, there are also fears that are born of cognitive processes which can be demonstrated in the creation of phobias and the potential for the cure of these phobias by psychological interventions. There is a solid argument therefore for both primary and secondary fears. If this is true, then hypothetically, there is also an argument for primary and secondary forms of hope.

It is suggested that fear as a primary emotion will override hope as a secondary emotion in times of extreme perceived threat, and that this emotion is activated spontaneously and based on past and present affective experiences (LeDoux, 2003). The emotion of hope, however, requires complex secondary cognitive processes based on deliberate thinking and positive affective components (Snyder C. R., 1991). Snyder suggests that hope has a rationality to it, and that it is felt when a positive goal is expected. The limitations with this approach, and indeed the counter argument is suggested where hope is felt in the yearning of relief from negative conditions (Lazarus, 1999)


Our Merciful and Loving God wants us to be realistic, to be present and mindful of ourselves, be aware, be knowledgeable, be truthful, to be accountable and to be consequential to our actions in this world (this is fear) , because this will save us from the mischiefs and blunders of our own doings and save others as well due to actions taken by our free will. The hopeful part is more related to the future, closely tied to our faith in God and taking hopeful and positive actions taken towards our goals to do good for our selves and for others.

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