What is Taqwa? What acts constitute Taqwa? How should one attain Taqwa?
What are the pitfalls a seeker of Taqwa should be mindful of?
Taqwa is fear of God. It is the fear of earning His displeasure and being deprived of His all abounding mercy. Of course this fear is based on clear knowledge of His attributes of Justice and Perfection. It is like a shield that keeps one cautiously on guard against all evils. Taqwa can therefore be said to imply; virtue, devoutness and good conduct.
Keeping the foregoing in mind, a person can attain taqwa if he submits wholeheartedly to every order of His Lord. The Qur’an and the Sunnah contain all that is needed for a person to attain Taqwa. When a person willingly submits to every directive from the Shari’ah (the Law of God), his iman (faith) will reach great heights and thus make of him a God-conscious person. As a result, he will in his every affair fear doing any sort of evil as he is aware of God.
According to Proverbs 1:7 from the Bible:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (KJV)
It really is true that the ignorant, due to their laziness amongst other things, dislike any sort of rules, discipline, order and instructions. Without this though, they may well deprive themselves of the wisdom that these qualities provide.
Any such act as comes in the way of your fulfilling your religious duties and which thus weaken your faith should be avoided. The devil will try to convince a person to do all sorts of evils in order to lead him away from the straight path and hence cause him to lose his piety and God-consciousness (Taqwa). Thus we need to make sure that we do not follow the devil’s footsteps. This means that we not only avoid the obvious evils and forbidden things but that we also avoid the paths that lead to them. The Holy Qur’an states:
O you who believe! Enter into submission one and all and do not follow the footsteps of Shaitan; surely he is your open enemy. –Al Baqarah 2:208
Allah (swt) also says in the Qur’an:
Those who fear Allah, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, bring Allah to remembrance, when lo! they see (aright)! –Al Araf 7:201
The true believer’s fear of God is so intense, that not even an evil thought can remain in his mind, for as soon as it visits, he removes it without delay and invites God to his thoughts. This is true God-consciousness.
Allah (swt) gives a very sound piece of advice in the following verse:
Oh you who believe! Fear Allah and be with the truthful. –Al Tawbah 9:119
Fear God’s punishment, especially when you think of doing something evil and be in the company of righteous people in order to avoid evil suggestions from the devil and his helpers, whether these come to you while you are alone or surrounded by evil people. Being in the company of good people will add to your strength, it will protect you.
Allah (swt) further says:
Oh you who believe! Fear Allah, and let every soul look to what it sends forward for the morrow. And fear Allah; Allah is aware of what you do. –Al Hashr 59: 18
Fear Allah (swt) so that you do nothing to displease Him and make sure you are aware of what you are sending ahead for yourself so that it does not come back to haunt you, for God is witnessing everything and He will implement His absolute justice in the hereafter. Note the repetition of “fear Allah” to stress the importance that this holds.
Allah (swt) gives a description of the God fearing as follows:
Their limbs do forsake their beds of sleep, the while they call on their Lord, in Fear and in Hope: and they spend (in charity) out of the sustenance which We have bestowed on them. –Al Sajdah 32:16
Allah (swt) mentions:
…You can warn only those who fear their Lord, Unseen and establish prayer. And whosoever becomes clean, becomes clean only for himself; and to Allah is the return. –Fatir 35:18
It is only those who fear God, those who know that though they see Him not; He surely sees them and who perform their prayers that will be successful in the hereafter.
The importance of fearing God more than anything and anyone is deeply stressed on various occasions in the Qur’an. The true believer fears God most and for this reason would never submit to evil out of fear of a certain person or situation as he is aware that the most just God is a witness to his every action. He fears losing even the smallest jot of God’s mercy and good pleasure. Such is Taqwa.
Overzealousness is not Taqwa. Therefore we need to be careful not to commit such a mistake. As I stated, a God fearing person will try to avoid every sin, while also trying to do every good deed that will earn him God’s nearness. However, this should not be deemed as meaning that we are to despair of every minor spill. It is in fact part of a pious person’s style that he picks himself up when he falls. Such a person does not lose hope in God’s mercy but rather keeps his trust in it. We know that we humans are fallible and therefore we are bound to make errors. We can only try our best.
Enjoying oneself is not forbidden either. We can very well take part in sports and entertaining activities as long as they do not entail such characteristics as would render them prohibited according to the Shari’ah. The earth and all the good things that it contains have indeed been made for our benefit and therefore enjoying them is clearly permissible. Thus God says:
This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. –Al Ma’idah 5:5
Another pitfall that should be avoided is thinking that the appearance of a person makes him pious. From the verses that I have quoted it becomes abundantly clear that Taqwa is in the inside and causes one to be good in conduct. It is not necessarily something that we can spot in the physical appearance of a person. Taqwa is a quality that originates from the heart. It is spiritual and may very well expose itself in a pious person through his good actions and manners but it is derived from ones mind, heart and soul. In a Hadith, it was narrated that the Prophet (p) said:
…The piety is here, (and while saying so) he pointed to his chest thrice… (Sahih Muslim: Book 32, Hadith number 6219)
I hope the above is of some help at least as an introduction to Taqwa and how it may be attained.
May God bless and keep you,
October 23, 2004