What is Taqwa?

FruitsofTaqwa.jpgTaqwa is an Arabic word that does not easily translate into one or two words of English.  It is most often defined as God-consciousness but sometimes it will be translated as piety or fear of Allah.  Taqwa is derived from root letters that mean ‘to shield’.  Thus Islamically taqwa takes on a distinct meaning.  According to some scholars taqwa is being conscious of Allah’s presence and His knowledge thus being motivated to perform righteous deeds and avoid those, which are forbidden.  Noted Islamic scholar Ibn Rajab said the essence of taqwa was to create for oneself a shield that would guard one against Allah’s anger or punishment.

“O you who believe!  Have taqwa of Allah, as you should have of Him and do not die except as Muslims.” (Quran 3:102)

By understanding that this life is nothing more than a transient place and a mere stop upon our journey to the Hereafter, a person is able to acquire taqwa and thus benefit from its many fruits.  The great sahabi and fourth Rightly Guided Caliph of Islam Ali ibn Abi Talib said “The world (of this life) is departing and the Hereafter is arriving, and each of these two has its seekers; so, be among those who seek the Hereafter and not from among those who seek the charms of this life! Today there is action (of good or bad deeds) but no accounts, and tomorrow there will be accounts, but (there will be) no action (of deeds to be done).”[1]

The Benefits (or Fruits) of Having Taqwa

·       Having taqwa of Allah causes a person’s affairs in this world to become easy.  One of the biggest benefits of taqwa is that Allah will grant a person with taqwa, or a person struggling sincerely to attain taqwa, peace of mind, contentment and tranquility in this life.  There will be no all-consuming worry or grief.

“...  And whosoever has taqwa of Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him.” (Quran 65:4)

“As for him, who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty to Allah, and has taqwa of Him and believes in a reward from Allah, we will make smooth for him, the path of ease.” (Quran 92:5-7)

·       Taqwa provides a way out of difficulty.  Part of being human is searching for a way to escape our problems and difficulties.   People look for solutions and ask advice from family and friends and may even seek advice from newspaper columns.  In times of severe stress some people take drugs or drink alcohol as a means of escape but having taqwa means we have access to the greatest advice there is or ever will be.  The words of Allah in the Quran and advice from His Messenger Prophet Muhammad.  Taqwa is the key to solving all dilemmas and problems.

“...  And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him (has taqwa), He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty).”  (Quran 65:2). 

·       A person with taqwa performs righteous deeds and those deeds are accepted and loved by Allah.  Taqwa is the motivating force; it pushes a person to righteousness because those with taqwa know that Allah observes inner motives and outward actions.  Taqwa is nurtured by worshipping and serving Allah with ihsan and it increases when one carries out righteous acts such as prayer, fasting, contemplation and remembrance of Allah.

“O you who believe!  Have taqwa of Allah and always speak the truth.  He will direct you to do righteous and correct actions and will forgive you your sins and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed attained a great achievement.” (Quran 33:70-71)

“Verily Allah accepts only from the righteous (those who possess taqwa).” (Quran 5:27)

·       Taqwa provides protection from Shaytan.  When Shaytan approaches a believer trying to beautify an evil deed, taqwa serves as a shield, which that protects the person from evil.

“Verily, those who have taqwa, when an evil thought comes to them from Shaytan, they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).” (Quran 7:201)

·       By the will of Allah Taqwa blesses one’s sustenance and grants one economic prosperity.   Humankind constantly searches for ways to increase sustenance and facilitate a life of comfort and ease.  Sometimes in our eagerness we forget that it is Allah alone who is the Provider and Sustainer of not only us but the universe and all that exists.  If we truly desire an increase in provisions then taqwa is our means to acquire it.  Allah has informed us what is available to those who possess taqwa and place their trust in Him. 

In the previous lesson we examined the fruits of taqwa by looking at several verses from the Quran.  From this we learned that taqwa was a desirable characteristic that believers needed to strive for; that striving would in turn bring the believer innumerable benefits.  In this lesson we will look at what the salaf had to say about taqwa.  These men, women and children would analyze their taqwa, however they would never claim to be the possessor of taqwa.  This was something they considered to be between them and Allah, because Allah said the following in the Quran:

“… So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He knows best who has taqwa.” (Quran 53:32)

Prophet Muhammad said, "Taqwa is here," and he pointed to his chest.[1] 

Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, the righteous leader of the Muslims, said, "None can reach the station of taqwa until he possesses neither action nor words that can be exposed to his embarrassment either in this world or the Hereafter." He was once asked, "When does the worshipper reach the peak of taqwa?" He replied, "If he puts all his thoughts and desires in his heart on a plate and then wandered around in the market, he should not feel ashamed of anything there." 

Umar ibn Al-Khattab asked Ubay ibn Kaab about taqwa (piety).  The latter said: Have you walked through a thorny path? Umar answered: “Yes, indeed”.  Ubay then asked him: “What did you do?” Umar replied: “I tucked up (my garment) and did my best (to avoid thorns)”.  Thereupon Ubay said, “That is Taqwa”.

Fudhayl ibn 'Iyad  (died 803 CE), a thief who turned his life around for the sake of Allah was asked, "Which country would you like me to live in?" He replied, "There is no connection between you and any nation.  The best country for you is the country which helps you to acquire taqwa”.

Sufyan ath-Thawri ibn Said (716–778 CE) was an Islamic scholar and jurist who also compiled ahadith.  A great number of narrations are attributed to him.  He said in regards to taqwa, “We met a people who loved it when it was said to them - Fear Allah the Most High they would heed this submissively, but today you find that people only become annoyed at this!” If we look at the year this great man died we can see that it was less than 100 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad.  In that short span of time taqwa had already begun to lose its importance.  Understanding the meaning of taqwa and how to acquire it is a very important Islamic concept.

The Caliphs of Islam advised themselves and those around them to have taqwa.  They knew that to fear Allah meant to be aware that Allah was watching them all the time, they knew that there was no place to hide a sin, mistake or misdemeanor.  Allah, the Most Merciful, sees our transgressions, yet treats us with unending mercy if we have sincere taqwa.

Abu Bakr said in a sermon, ‘I advise you to have the fear of Allah.[2]  And when he lay dying, he called Umar and advised him to fear Allah.[3] In the same way, Umar wrote to his son saying, “I advise you to have fear of Allah.”[4] Ali ibn Abi Talib advised the leader of one of his armies saying “I advise you with the fear of Allah Whom you will undeniably meet.”[5]

Remember that taqwa encourages a believer to be wary of anything that displeases Allah.  Taqwa also makes a believer eager to please Allah.  Following are a few easy things that we can do in order to increase our taqwa:

1.     Spend some time every day reciting the Quran.

2.     Ponder over the meanings of God’s words and try to act accordingly.

3.     Remember Allah with words of praise, such as Alhamdulillah.

4.     Try to keep busy doing good deeds, remember this can be as simple as smiling.

5.     Keep good company.  Try to be around those you perceive to have taqwa.

6.     Try to be humble.

7.     Acquire religious knowledge.

“… And take provision; but indeed, the best provision is taqwa of Allah.  So have taqwa of Me, O men of understanding.” (Quran 2:197)

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