“And We send not the messengers except as bringers of good tidings and warning.” [Quran 18: 56]
Ibn Ashur (d. 1973) explained how this verse goes together with prior verses. After Allah stated that mankind tends to argue and reject the truth and this refusal surely makes the Prophet depressed, Allah consoles His Prophet by reminding him his missions. The Prophet’s mission is only to teach people the truth with glad tidings and warning no more else, so when they deny his teaching it is none of his business. This verse at the same time is the guide line for every Muslims in preaching Islam since both glad tiding and warning must be balance. Maintaining a balance between giving people glad tidings and making them fear Allah’s punishment is one of the most important guidance of our religion until Allah mentioned phrase “bashiran wa nadhiran” four times in Quran and “mubashshirin wa mundhirin” four times too. In fact, research proves that reward and punishment promising are potent modulators of associative learning in instrumental and classical conditioning.
The Prophet indeed used this dual function very well. He gave rewards promising to encourage people doing noble deeds. For instance, our Prophet ordered his Sahabah (Companions),
“Invite people to Islam by giving them tidings and do not create in their minds aversion towards Islam. Show them leniency and do not be hard upon them.” [Bukhari & Muslim].
There are as well verses which fill the believer’s heart with peace and tranquility and so the heart finds glad tidings in them like description of Paradise. We all feel that receiving such glad tidings prompts us to be more diligent in our worship and to be keener on obedience to Allah.
On the other hand, the Prophet was asked by Allah to warn people so they avoid evil acts. Allah said,
“O you who covers himself with a blanket, arise and warn.” [Quran 74: 1-2].
He cautioned us by telling us he has seen in Hellfire when he performed Miraj. He declared several penalties for some major sins. Allah also makes us scare by informed us what has happened to those who disobeyed Allah as Noah’s people, ‘Ad, Thamud, Moses’ Pharaoh. Until one of the great military leaders, like Sun Tzu (d. 470 BC), agreed with this when he said, “Soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline. This is a certain road to victory.”
However, both these two things must be balance. A great notable scholar, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855), once said,
“Both hope and fear should be equal. Fear should not be dominant, and hope should not be dominant either. Whenever one of it dominates the other, then the doer will be doomed. Because if the person prioritized hope, then he would fall into the feeling of secure from Allah’s plot, and if he prioritized fear, then he would fall into the feeling of despair of Allah’s mercy.”
Therefore, we see in Quran that verses about glad tidings and warning always come one after another. It is because the most ideal state is that we hope for Allah’s mercy and, at the same time, we fear His punishment. Allah said, “They invoke their Lord with fear and hope.” [Quran 32:16]. He also stated, “Know that Allah is severe in penalty and that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Quran 5: 98]. In this regard, Ibn Qayyim (d. 1350) also quoted,
“A heart is like a bird which hope and fear are its two wings.”