Miroslav Volf compares the Muslim faith and that of Christian and argues that both of them share a similar understanding of the fear of God. Volf thus suggests that the idea of having a common God and the common fear of that God can motivate both Muslims and Christians to purse the common good. This paper aims to evaluate Volf's argument by examining the concept of the fear of God in Sufism and Christianity. This paper examines the writings of Al-Ghazali and that of Paul to compare their understandings of the topic, fear of God. This comparative study will enable us to understand the similarities and differences in the understandings of Sufism and of Christianity. In addition, it will provide a common ground on which the two religious groups can continue or start their conversation.
On one hand, there are clear similarities between Al-Ghazali's understanding of the fear of God and Paul's. Both understand the fear of God as the appropriate attitude of believers, and this fear of God derives from the eschatological perspective, that is the understanding of God as the eschatological judge. On the other hand, there are also differences in the understandings of Al-Ghazali and Paul. Al-Ghazali understands and explains fear as a couplet with hope, and argues that the believers are to overcome the former and focus on the latter. However, Paul does not understand the fear of God as something to overcome, rather he argues that all believes should contain the fear of God. In addition, the hope that Al-Ghazali mentions is about the forgiving of sins at the last judgment, while Paul explains understands hope as the hope of resurrection that is given to all believers whose sins are already forgiven. Only when one rightly understands the similarities and differences between the understanding of the fear of God in Sufism and Christianity, there can be a true conversation between the two groups.