la-antum ashaddu rahbatan fī sudūrihim minallāh;
dhālika bi-annahum qawmun lā yafqahūn
Indeed they have a greater fear of you in their hearts than of Allah.
That is because they are a people who do not understand.
(Sūratul al-Hashr no.59, Āyat 13)
Those who do not have faith in Allah are vulnerable to many forms of fear. They fear what others will say, what people will think and do. They fear the uncertainties of life, the downs that everyday life brings for most people, fear of failure, of pain, rejection, etc. and ultimately living in anxiety. They are afraid of the negative emotion that causes anxiety and tightness as they anticipate an unpleasant occurrence. That is the relationship most people have with fear.
Such fears stem from not having a correct perspective of life. Those who have faith in Allah know that all things are controlled by Him. When He is ultimately in charge it makes no sense to be afraid of those who have no power of their own.
In this verse Allah talks about the hypocrites. They were afraid of the believers, scared of the consequences of battle against them. They had intense rahba for the believers, more than what they had for Allah. Rahba is a form of fear that has nervousness and caution mixed with it. It is different from khashya which has an element of awe in it. The fear is because the hypocrites saw the believers and understood their qualities; their determination, their strength, their fearlessness etc. They recognized them for what they were. But they did not believe in Allah’s abilities nor recognize His qualities. They did not understand His greatness and His justice, thus fearing the outcome of their plots and actions. Hence Allah declares them to be a people who do not understand. Lack of understanding the reality was the cause behind the fear they had.
If they understood that nothing can harm or benefit except by the power and will of God then they would not have that fear. The misconception that humans can hurt them is costly. It robs them of peace and security, making them agitated and fearful. Contrast this to those who know all is in the hands of Allah – it is what Allah wills not what people will, what Allah wills even if people dislike it. Daily after the Morning Prayer we say hasbunallāhu wa-ni‘mal wakil – Sufficient for us is Allah and He is the best Disposer of affairs (Q 3:173). Such people would not harbor rahba from other human beings.
Pure Tawhid demands that a believer have only fear of Allah in the heart, not combined with fear of anyone else. It is not possible to have two fears in the heart, of Allah and of other than Allah. That would signify a deficiency in the connection with Allah and understanding of His absolute power.
The Ummah today needs to remind themselves of this verse and purge themselves of the fears that overtake their lives. Recite this verse often and remember that it is only those who do not understand who would fear others. It will calm down many of your fears and bring peace to your life.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh