The True Meaning of Taqwa – Protecting oneself from the Hellfire by following the orders of Allah (swt) by doing what He (swt) has commanded and avoiding what He (swt) has forbidden.
“O you who believe! fear Allah as He should be feared and die not except in a state of Islam.” [TMQ 3:102]
Allah (swt) in the Quran emphasises the concept of Taqwa to us many times in the Quran.
Taqwa is one of the most profound concepts in Islam. Taqwa is an avenue by which Muslims relate to one another in society and a means to channel their actions. Because of the great importance of taqwa, it has been referred to numerous times in the Qur’an and Sunnah in order to emphasise its relevance and significance to the Muslims.
Allah (swt) strongly emphasises the rewards of people with taqwa in this life and the Hereafter. It is these muttaqeen that Allah (swt) grants assistance, victory and provides for. Thus, understanding the concept of taqwa is vital and mandatory for every Muslim.
Unfortunately, this is the very concept which some of us have left behind, as a result of intellectual decline. The disbelievers in the distant past, as well as in present times, have understood the importance of taqwa and the Islamic creed, and how it could jeopardise their interests. They realised how taqwa and the Islamic creed (‘aqeedah) were the roots of power to the Muslims. Today we see a campaign to destroy the concept of Taqwa by making us divide the Deen from the Dunya, to secularise our understanding of Islam such that we limit it to personal Ibadat and akhlaq (morals) and detach from any other aspect of life such as economics, politics or social affairs. Allah (swt) warned us in the Quran about their continuous attempts to extinguish his light i.e. Islam, He (swt) said:
“They wish to extinguish Allah’s Light with their mouths, but Allah will not allow but that His Light is perfected even though the kuffar may detest it.” [TMQ 9:32]
Unfortunately due to the influence of the idea of separating the Deen and Dunya, we can see many misunderstandings amongst us as to who is defined as the Mutaqqi. A picture of a person who over emphasises prayer, fasting, and things such as donating to the masjid, while living a secluded and isolated life would be the one with taqwa, even though the same person would deal with usury, lie and do nothing towards reviving the Ummah.
Due to this idea, people look to Islam as a religion like the other religions who are not complete Deen’s that have come with solutions to every aspect of life. So if I were to ask anyone from amongst the general population of Muslims, ‘what are the rules of Salah?’ I am sure most people would be able to answer this question. But if I was to ask ‘what is the ruling or economic system of Islam?’, ‘what are the Shariah rules relating to contracts and company structures’ or ‘what is our shar’iah responsibility towards the Muslims around the world who are being attacked such as in Iraq and Palestine?’ then I think many people would not know the answers to these questions, we must ask why? Didn’t Allah (swt) reveal to us a complete Deen covering all aspects of life? Didn’t Allah (swt) say in the Quran:
“And We have sent down to you the Book as an explanation of everything, a guidance, a mercy and glad-tidings for those who submitted themselves to Islam.” [TMQ 16:89]
So let us understand the true meaning of Taqwa. In contrast to the distorted picture that people have today, the Qur’an and Sunnah defines the idea of taqwa as protecting oneself from the Hellfire by following the orders of Allah (swt) by doing what He (swt) has commanded and avoiding what He (swt) has forbidden. Many ayat in the Qur’an point to this:
“And unto Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. And, verily, We have recommended to the people of the Scripture before you, and to you (O Muslims) that you (all) fear Allah, and keep your duty to Him, But if you disbelieve, then unto Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is Ever Rich, Worthy of all praise.” [TMQ An-Nisa’ 4: 131]
Taqwa comes from the word ‘waqiya’, which means to protect. It is protection from the Anger of Allah (swt) and His (swt) punishment. This is why Taqwa is used to describe the performing of actions, which pleases Allah (swt) and abstaining from all actions that displeases Him (swt).
Taqwa in essence means god consciousness, being conscious of Allah (swt) in all our actions and affairs.
Also, in the Prophet’s (saw) last khutbah he said, “I ask you to fear Him (swt), listen to Him (swt), and obey.” Both the ayah, as well as the hadith, are commanding Muslims to have taqwa. A person should have taqwa as a barrier between himself and the Anger and Displeasure of Allah (swt). Through taqwa, the Muslim strives to obey Allah (swt) and abstains from His prohibitions.
The son of ‘Ali (ra), Al-Hasan (ra) once said, “The people who have taqwa (al-muttaqoon) are the people who avoided whatever Allah (swt) has prohibited and have done whatever Allah (swt) has ordained.”
‘Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (ra) once said, “Taqwa is not by fasting the day and not by praying the night. And its not by mixing between the two of them. But taqwa is leaving what Allah (swt) has made Haram and by doing what Allah (swt) has made Fard. After one has done this, Allah (swt) will provide good things for that person.”
Ibn Juzayy said in his dictionary of terms from the introduction to his tafsir: “Taqwa’s meaning is fear, clinging to obedience to Allah and abandoning disobedience to Him. It is the sum of all good.”
A true muttaqoon is a person who strives to possess a solid understanding and knowledge of the rulings of Allah (swt) through the Qur’an and Sunnah. Without proper knowledge of the Islamic rulings, a person would not know what is asked of him/her. Therefore, it is a must to understand Islam properly as well as to have the proper intention of pleasing Allah (swt) in carrying out these actions.
Imam Ahmad mentions a hadith, narrated by a Sahabi, whereby a person once asked, “Oh Messenger of Allah, give me some advice.” The Prophet (saw) responded, “I advise you to fear Allah (swt) because it is the head of everything.” In another occasion the Prophet (saw) replied, “Fear Allah (swt) because it is the collection of all goodness.” Allah (swt) also promises to be with those who have taqwa. Allah (swt) says,
“Truly, Allah is with those who fear Him, keep their duty unto Him, and those who are muhsinun (doers of good for Allah’s sake only).” [TMQ An-Nahl 16:128]
Also taqwa constitutes a reason, that Allah (swt) has provided, in order to help one who is experiencing hardship and distress. Allah (swt) promises,
“Whoever fears Allah, Allah will grant him a way out of hardship.” [TMQ At-Talaq 65:2]
Allah (swt) had also promised forgiveness of sins to those people who are muttaqoon.
“And whoever fears Allah, and keeps his duty to Him, He will forgive his sins from him and will enlarge his reward.” [TMQ At-Talaq 65:5]
Allah (swt) has given the glad tidings for those who have taqwa. The news of paradise is assured to such people, giving hints at the vast rewards to those who take Allah (swt) as their Lord in their actions.
“Verily those who are fearful of Allah (have taqwa ) are the people who, when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan, they remember Allah and indeed they then see aright.” [TMQ Al-A‘raf 7:201]
“And he (Muhammad) who has brought the truth and those who believe therein, those are al-muttaqoon (the pious and the righteous).” [TMQ Az-Zumar 39:33]
Hence, from what Allah (swt) has outlined through the wahi, we can see that a person who possesses taqwa is not one who lives an isolated life, only praying, fasting and maintaining good character alone. Instead, the muttaqoon are those who fear Allah (swt) and look to what Allah (swt) has ordained in carrying out his actions to avoid His (swt) displeasure and anger. These people are involved with the Ummah, active in his/her life, concerned with the affairs of the Muslims, while at the same time praying, fasting, spending in Allah’s cause, having good morals and are forgiving. All these descriptions can be attributed to a person who has taqwa.
The Deen has come to regulate the Dunya, not be separated from it. There is no concept of monasticism in Islam i.e. being like a monk. The Prophet (saw) said, “There is no monasticism in Islam.”
Umar ibn al Khattab once looked at those praying and said, “The great number of times any of you raises and lowers his head does not deceive me. The [real] deen is being cautious and meticulous in the deen of Allah, and refraining from what Allah has forbidden, and acting according to what Allah permits and forbids.”
Narrated Abu Huraira, the Prophet (saw) said, “The dunya is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the kafir (disbeliever),” [Sahih Muslim, vol.4, #7058]
This means that we live within the prison of the Shariah, that every single action we undertake is based upon the revelation of Allah (swt). This means we must accept Islam completely and all of its rules including the rules relating to society, economics and Khilafah. This does not mean that we deny the world and that seeking material development and advancement according to the rules of Shariah is wrong.
In fact once when Imam Ibn Hajar al Asqalani, a famous scholar in the past who died in 852 AH, who wrote the commentary of Sahih al Bukhar entitled ‘Fath al Bari’, was walking with his grand entourage through the town, they came upon a miserable, poor and dejected Jew. When the Jew recognized Ibn Hajar, he called out to him, “O scholar of Islam! Is it not true that your Prophet has said that this life is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the kafir? How is it that you are living in lavish wealth being a so-called believer, and yet I live this meagre and miserable existence?” Ibn Hajar responded, “What you say of the Prophet (saw) of what he has said is true. You should know that this opulence you see me living in, is a prison compared to what awaits for me in the Hereafter. And, you should know that what you are living is Paradise compared to what Allah has prepared for you in the akhira.”
We must realise that that every Muslim is obliged to believe in the Islamic Shari’ah as a whole otherwise we would be Kafir. Therefore the concept of secularism i.e. to separate the Deen from the Dunya is a Kufr concept. It is Kufr to deny the AHkam Shari’ah as a whole, or any definite (qaT’ai)detailed hukm of them. This is the case whether these ahkam (rules)are connected with worships (ibadaat), transactions (mu’amalaat), punishments (uqoobaat), foodstuffs, etc. So the rejection of the verse:
“So establish regular prayer”[Al-Baraqah:43]
Is the same as rejecting the verses:
“But Allah has permitted trade and forbidden usury,”[Al-Baraqah:275]
“As to the thief, male or female, cut of f his or her hands,”[Al-Ma’idah:38]
And is the same as rejecting the following verse calling the believers brothers regardless of their colour, language or ethnic origin – thus prohibiting nationalism i.e. to believe that we are better than others based upon our ethnic origin. So the Muslims in Iraq, Palestine and Iraq are our brothers just as the Muslims in Delhi, Bangkok or Jakarta:
“The believers are nothing else but brothers” [TMQ Al-Hujurat: 10]
Or the verses to do with ruling by what Allah has revealed, which we see the rulers in the Muslim world today ignoring, such as:
“And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the Zaalimun (unjust, oppressors).” [TMQ 5:45]
“And rule between them by that which Allah revealed to you, and do not follow their vain desires away from the truth which came to you.” [TMQ 5:48]
In fact Allah (swt) has explicitly told us in the Quran that we are not believers unless we accept all of the rules of Islam. He (swt) said:
“But no, I swear by your lord (allah), they will have no Iman, until they make you, (o prophet) rule between them in whatever they dispute amongst themselves, and then they find no resistance in their souls from what you have decided, instead they submit with absolute submission”. [TMQ An Nisa: 65]
Allah (swt) warned us of only taking Islam partially, He (swt) has condemned us if we think that politics is not part of Islam or that economics is not part of Islam, or that Islam has nothing to say about the current world situation. We must accept Islam as an Aqeeda and a system. Allah (swt) said:
“So do you believe in some part of the Book and disbelieve in some. The penalty awaiting those who do this is nothing but humiliation in this life and the severest of punishment on the day of Judgement.” [2:85]
Allah (swt) has revealed to us the best system to regulate the affairs of the Dunya so why are many of us even unaware of it?
Let us look at some examples of Taqwa from the Sahaba:
Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Ibn Abi Awfa (may Allah be pleased with them both) who said:
“We were struck by extreme hunger on the nights of Khaybar. On the day of Khaybar we found some domestic Asses so we slaughtered them. When the pots began to boil the caller of the Messenger of Allah called out to us and said: overturn your pots and do not eat anything of the meat of donkeys. ‘Abd Allah said: we said that the Prophet forbade them because the Khumus (i.e. a fifth of the spoils) had not been taken out of it. He said others said that he has prohibited them completely. I asked Sa’eed b. Jubayr who said, he has prohibited them completely.”
Al-Bukhari reported on the , he said:authority of Anas b. Malik: “I was serving drinks to Abu Talha al-Ansari, ‘Ubaidah b. al-Jarrrah and Ubayy b. Ka’b prepared from unripe dates and fresh dates when a visitor came and he said: Verily liquor has been prohibited. Thereupon, Abu Talha said: O Anas! Stand up and break this pitcher. I stood up and (took hold) of a pointed stone and struck the pitcher with its lower part until it broke into pieces.”
Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of ‘Ayisha (may Allah be Pleased with her) who said: “We have been told also that when Allah revealed the order that the Muslims should return to the pagans what they had spent on their wives who emigrated (after embracing Islam) and that the Muslims should not keep unbelieving women as their wives, ‘Umar divorced two of his wives.”
Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of ‘Ayisha (may Allah be pleased with her) who said:
“May Allah have mercy on the Muhajir women. When Allah revealed the verse: “And let them draw their headscarfs all over necks and bosoms” [TMQ An-Nur:31] they tore their wrappers and concealed themselves with them.”
Abu Dawud reported on the authority of Safiyyah bint Shaybah who reported on the authority of ‘Ayisha (may Allah be pleased her) that:
She (‘Ayisha) mentioned the women of Ansar, praised them and said good words about them. She then said: “When Surat an-Nur came down, they took the curtains, tore them and made head covers of them.”
Ibn Ishaq said: “…Al-Ash’ath b. Qays came to the Messenger of Allah as part of the Kindah delegation. Az-Zuhri informed to me that he came with eighty riders from Kindah. They entered the mosque of the Messenger of . They had long hair and put kohl (in their eyes). They wore Jubbahs with silk hems. When they entered the presence of Allah’s Messenger he said to them: did not you embrace Islam ? They said: Yes. He asked: ‘then what is this silk put around your necks? So they tore the silk and threw it away.”
Hanzalah b. Abi ‘Aamir (may Allah be pleased with him) who was bathed by the angels heard the call to the battle of Uhud. He hurriedly responded to the call. He was martyred on the day of Uhud. Ibn Ishaq said: The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
“Your companion is being bathed by the angels, ask his family what happened to him?” His wife was asked. She had been a bride on that night. She said he went out in a state of impurity when he heard the call. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “That is why the angels have bathed him”.
So let us be the ones who have Taqwa in its true meaning. Let us take Islam completely. Let us take heed from the words of Allah (swt) and may He (swt) strengthen us so that we can follow what He has said.
“O you who Believe! Enter into the Fold of Islam completely. And follow not the footsteps of Satan, for he is to you a clear enemy” [TMQ 2: 208]