الَّذِينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسَالَاتِ اللَّهِ وَيَخْشَوْنَهُ وَلَا يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ حَسِيبًا
Alladhīna yuballighūna risālātil-lāhi wayakhshawnahu walā yakhshawna aḥadan illal-lāha; wakafā billāhi ḥasībā
Those who deliver the messages of Allah and fear Him, and do not fear anyone but Allah; and Allah is sufficient to take account.
(Sūratul Ahzāb, No. 33, Āyat 39)
This verse reminds the Holy Prophet (s) that all those who deliver the message of God are not worried about the dissatisfaction of people with their message. When the Prophets changed what was traditional and prevalent in their societies they met with a lot of resistance and opposition. Those who did not like the changes that the message brought spoke against them, plotted to harm them, and taunted and ridiculed the message. But the true messengers of God were concerned only about Allah and were afraid only of His dissatisfaction with them.
This message is a reminder for all those who spread God’s message on Earth. People will be upset with the disruption of the habits and comfortable way of life that they have become accustomed to. New ways of thinking and living life are difficult to adjust to, and thus they will resent and oppose the messengers. But this should not discourage the messengers, for their goal is only that Allah not be displeased with them.
Tafsīr-e Namūne explains that the word yakhshawna refers to those who fear Allah, a fear that is mixed with respect. It is not just fear alone. Because Allah is so great in their eyes, these messengers are in awe of God. Muḥaqqiqe Ṭusī has distinguished between khashya and khawf saying that the khawf is due to the anticipation of negative consequences of sinning. Khashya is an awareness of the Greatness of God and the anticipation of being deprived of His Grace. Thus we read in Sūrat Yāsīn that the obedient servant has the khashya of the All-beneficent in secret (Q 36:11).
Those who truly want to spread God’s message on earth are sincere and determined. They understand that there is no greater blessing than guidance and there is no service better than giving this blessing to others. Thus they persevere on it, unaffected by what people might say or do.
This verse is a good reminder when we get affected by what others may say. Especially when what we say is done in the way of God, to spread His message and help others be guided towards Him. We need to be sincere about being apprehensive only of God’s displeasure.
Source: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (editor), Tafsīr-e Namūneh