Quarterly: Issue No 61
TAQWA (PIETY) - BASIC PRINCIPLE OF THE
We all know
the importance of the kalimah “La Ilaaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasoolullah” (There is
none worthy of worship besides Allah, Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allah) and how that
this kalimah is a prerequisite to being a Mu’min. But
moulding our lives on the basis of this kalimah is equally important in the
eyes of Allah and thus we need to ensure that these solemn words indeed get
lodged in our hearts so that they direct our behaviour and lives.
More than a
billion people today read and say this kalimah, yet many of us would agree that
the Muslim Ummah as a whole will be quite possibly missing out on additional
mercy and blessings of Allah unless we start living by these words of the
kalimah in our lives. Many amongst us either don’t know how to live up to those
words or simply don’t want to do so. To them, recognizing a deity called
“Allah” is all that is needed to be categorized as a “believer”. However, the
Noble Quran tells us that it may be nothing short of a sign of hypocrisy.
The fact is
that those who call themselves “Muslims” need to infuse their hearts with
“Taqwa” if they want to be viewed by Allah as true believers. In the English
language, “Taqwa” has been translated and interpreted in various ways viz.
piety, righteousness, fear of Allah, being God conscious, and so on. But we all
know that, similar to other Arabic words in the Quran, it is difficult to get a
corresponding one word translation. Instead, some Qur’anic words pack more
detailed concepts that must be elaborated on when translated into other
first Surah Al-Fatihah, which is generally considered
as a supplication (Dua), the Quran continues with
Surah Al-Baqarah Verse Number 2 as follows:
is the Book (the Quran), wherein there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are
Al-Muttaqin (People of Taqwa).” (Sura Al-Baqarah : 2)
This verse thus makes Taqwa a prerequisite for seeking guidance from the Noble Quran (a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun, i.e. who have Taqwa). Tafsir ibn Kathir states: “Hidaayah – correct guidance – is only granted to those who have Taqwa.”
WHAT IS TAQWA?
summarize the fundamental teaching of the Noble Qu’ran
in one word, that would be ’Taqwa’.
Otherwise, we have not read the Noble Qur’an with proper attention.
Umar ibn Khattab (Radiyallahu
Anhu) once asked Ubayy Ibn Ka’ab (Radiyallahu Anhu) the
definition of Taqwa. In response Ubayy Ibn Ka’ab asked: “Have you ever
had to traverse a thorny pathway?” Umar replied in the affirmative and Ubayy
Ibn Ka’ab continued, “How
did you do so?” Umar
said that he would carefully walk through after first having collected all
loose and flowing garments in his hands so nothing gets caught in the thorns
hence injuring him. Ubayy Ibn
Ka’ab said: “This is the
definition of Taqwa, to protect oneself from sin through life’s dangerous
journey so that one can successfully complete the journey unscathed by sins.”
Abu Darda (Radiyallahu Anhu) said: “From the
completion of Taqwa is that the
servant fears His Rabb even with regards to things, the weight of an atom.” (Sahih Muslim) Abu Darda’s advice for those who wish to accomplish a character
of Taqwa is that they should fear to even commit the smallest of sins.
messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Taqwa is here.” and he
pointed to his chest. (Sahih Muslim)
the most important concepts in the entire Islamic tradition is Taqwa.
Linguistically speaking, the word is derived from the root “wa
qa ya” which means
‘to guard against, preserve, shield and prevent’. The verbal noun (wiqaayah)
refers to a shield or barrier. In a religious sense, taqwa
is thus a means of guarding against those things which bring Allah’s
displeasure. The definition of Taqwa is defined by some Ulama (scholars) as
Hatim al-Assam (ra) said: “I have
chosen four things to know, and have discarded all the knowledge in the world
besides.” He was asked, “What are they?” He answered:
First, I know my
daily bread is apportioned to me, and will neither be increased nor diminished;
consequently I have stopped to argue about it.
Second, I know that
I owe Allah a debt which no other person can pay instead of me; therefore I am
occupied with paying it.
Third, I know that
there is one pursuing me (i.e. Death) from whom I cannot escape; accordingly I
have prepared myself to meet him.
Fourth, I know that
Allah is observing me; therefore I am ashamed to do what I ought not to
It is Taqwa
that gives meaning to our simple worship rituals that otherwise would be
nothing without it. Haven’t we pondered what would the physical actions of
salaah (prayers) such as bowing and prostrating mean without a heart infused
with Taqwa? What makes the hunger and thirst (when fasting) of a believer
different from the same actions of a non-believer? How would the physical acts
of going between the two mountains of Safaa and Marwa (in Hajj and Umrah)
become valuable in the eyes of Allah? It’s the
Taqwa in our hearts that provide these simple physical rituals a special
meaning in the eyes of Allah. For
example, when mentioning the ritual of sacrificing animals (in Allah’s name) in
the Quran, Allah says, “It is neither their meat nor their blood
that reaches Allah, but it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus have We made them subject to you that you may magnify Allah for
His Guidance to you. And give glad tidings to the Muhsinoon
(doers of good).” (Surah
Al-Hajj: 37). Let’s
ensure, therefore, that our worship is not limited to empty acts but is rather
based upon Taqwa.
WHERE DO WE STAND IN RELATION TO OUR TAQWA AND THE
GUIDANCE FROM ALLAH?
If we read the
first few verses of Surah Al-Baqarah (almost the beginning of the Quran), we
would note that Allah describes three types of people related to guidance.
group: In the first
few verses (verses 2 – 5), He clearly explains that the Quran is a guidance for
those who have Taqwa in their hearts and this guidance causes them to be
successful. The people described in these verses are those who:
(1) Believe in
the unseen (e.g. Allah, angels, day of resurrection, pre-destination etc.
(3) Spend for
Allah’s causes from what Allah has provided to them
(4) Believe in
what Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad
(5) Believe in
what Allah revealed to the prophets before Muhammad, and
(6) Believe in
group: The second
group (described in verses 6 and 7) falls on the other end of the spectrum, and
these are the disbelievers. In describing them Allah says that it is the seal
on their hearts and ears as well as covering on their eyes that have caused
them to disbelieve.
group: Here, Allah uses
more verses (verses 8 through 18) in describing those regarding whom Allah
says: “And of mankind, there are some
(hypocrites) who say: "We believe in Allah and the Last
Day" while in fact they believe not.” (Verse
8) Some of the attributes that Allah
points out of these people in the verses that follows:
think they are deceiving Allah and the believers but in fact they are deceiving
their hearts there is a disease (of doubt and hypocrisy).
(3) When Allah
tells them to believe by modelling themselves according to the prophet and the
true believers, they say, “Shall we
believe as the fools have believed?” Allah then
responds by saying that “Verily, they
are the fools but they know not.”
mock the believers in turn and then Allah says: “Allah mocks
at them and gives them increase in their wrongdoings to wander blindly.”
remarks about these people: “These are
they who have purchased error for guidance, so their commerce was profitless.
And they were not guided.”
(based on verses 2 – 18 of Surah Al-Baqarah) should be sufficient to move our
hearts to the core and should create the urgency to associate ourselves with
the first group (the ones with Taqwa). While a majority of us believers will
associate ourselves with the first group, our behaviours and attitudes may
instead make us appear to belong to the third. Let us therefore ensure that our
actions - not just words - disclose that we are people who have Taqwa. Ameen!
Ilaaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasoolullah”, we should
take a few steps to lodge Taqwa (piety, righteousness, humbleness, fear, God
consciousness, etc.) in our hearts. Some of the main steps include the
Know as a
believer that it is Allah’s right to be obeyed: Let us never
forget that it is Allah’s right to be obeyed. A benefit of understanding
Allah’s right over the servant is that it opens the door of humbleness in front
of Allah and closes the doors of conceit. It allows one to realize that
salvation is only through Allah’s grace and mercy. It is
Allah’s right that He should be obeyed and not disobeyed; that He should be
remembered and not forgotten; and that He should be appreciated and not
Audit ourself: From time to
time we should pause and assess the condition of our hearts. If we do that with
full introspection, it wouldn’t be difficult to determine whether our hearts
are filled with piety and fear of Allah (Taqwa), or have remnants of hardness
and a carefree attitude about Allah and His teachings. Allah says in the Quran:
“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep
your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the
morrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allâh is All-Aware of what you do.” (Surah
Al-Hashr:18). Allamah Ibn Kathir says that the phrase ‘let each
soul see’ or “let every
person look” in the
above verse means to take an account of one’s own actions before being audited (by
Allah) (Tafseer of Ibn Kathir: 4/346).
Taqwa in our deeds: Once we build
the Taqwa in our hearts (become cognizant of, and fear Allah in all your
affairs), you should start practicing it in your actions. The Sahaba and Salaf
used to exert themselves in ensuring that their actions reflected the Taqwa in
their hearts. It’s said that Ibn Omar used to stay
awake the whole night if he missed a prayer in congregation (because he knew
(through the Taqwa in his heart) Allah’s pleasure associated with one praying
in congregation). Imam Ghazzali mentioned that we let ourselves (our nafs) off
the hook when it (our nafs) is our biggest enemy and is more likely to rebel
against our own selves (Ihya Ulum
al-Din, 4/381). About ensuring that we bring Taqwa in our actions, Abu Dhar reported that the Messenger of Allah, said: “Fear Allah
wherever you may be; follow up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe
(the former) out, and behave good-naturedly towards people” (Tirmidhi).
Condition ourself to inculcate Taqwa: We have to
condition ourselves to fear Him by observing and reflecting more about our
existence, our vulnerability as humans in this ocean in which we are
journeying, and about the end that each one of us will meet soon. We should
also become avid learners about what pleases Allah and what displeases Him and
take that seriously. This observation and learning will enable us to learn new
truths that can help us condition our states and hearts to inculcate the
required Taqwa in our hearts. Allah
says: “Verily the
most honourable of you with Allah is the most God-fearing of you; verily Allah
is Knowing, Aware.” (Surah al-Hujuraat Verse 13).
May Allah, the
Almighty, guide us all. Ameen!
O Allah! Your
Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than
in my own deeds.
Requesting your humble duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa