TAQWA: Fearing Allah (SWT)
Taqwa can be compared to walking through a narrow path with thorny bushes on both sides and a person passing through it tries his level best to save his clothes from being torn. The thorns are the sins and the clothes is one's Iman.
Linguistically Taqwa means forbearance, fear and abstinence, but in the Islamic terminology, Taqwa has a distinct meaning. Taqwa is a high state of heart, which keeps one conscious of Allah's (SWT) presence and His Knowledge, and it motivates him to perform righteous deeds and avoid those, which are forbidden.
The essence of Taqwa is to make a shield (which guards) against Allah (SWT)'s anger and punishment. That shield is to obey His commandments and abstain from His punishment. [as explained by Ibn Rajab (rh) in Jami al-Uloom wal-Hikam]
Allah (SWT) says: "O you who believe! Have Taqwa of Allah (SWT), as you should have of Him and do not die except as Muslims." [Soorah aal-Imraan (3): 102]
Ibn Mas'oud (RA) said speaking about this verse, Allah (SWT) is meant to be obeyed, and not disobeyed; remembered at all times, and not forgotten; and to be thanked; and we are not to be ungrateful to Him."
Talq Ibn Habeed (a tabi'e) said: "Taqwa (piety) is that you act in obedience to Allah (SWT), and hope in His Mercy, upon a light from Him; and Taqwa is leaving acts of disobedience to Allah (SWT) out of fear of Him, upon a light from Him." [Ibn Abee Shaybah in Kitaabul-Emaan (no: 99)]
Taqwa alone is the criterion of greatness in the Sight of Allah (SWT)
Allah (SWT) says: "O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah (SWT) is that (believer) who has Taqwa (God-consciousness, fearing Allah (SWT)). Verily, Allah (SWT) is All-Knowing, All-Aware." [Soorah al-Hujurat (49): 13]
Allah (SWT) has erased all distinctions of racism, cast and color and made all human beings equal. He has established a unique criterion for greatness and that is Taqwa. Taqwa is the essence of the teachings of Allah (SWT)'s Messenger (SAW).
Whenever Allah (SWT)'s Messenger (SAW) sent his Sahabah on a military expedition, he would advice them to have deep-rooted Taqwa of Allah (SWT) and he would also advise the rest of his military party likewise.
The Sahabah (companions of Rasoolillah(SAW)) continued this practice of giving mutual advice of Taqwa after Allah (SWT)'s Messenger (SAW) passed away. Umar Ibn Khattab (RA) wrote to his son, Abdullah: "To proceed: 'Verily I advise you to have taqwa (fear) of Allah (SWT), the Mighty and Majestic, for whoever fears Him, Allah (SWT) will protect him, and whoever gives a loan to Him, Allah (SWT) will reward him, and whoever thanks Him, Allah (SWT) will increase Him."
Some benefits of Taqwa
1. Taqwa is a means by which a believer performs righteous deeds and Taqwa causes the righteous deed to be accepted by Allah (SWT).
Allah (SWT) says: "O you who believe! Have Taqwa (fear) of Allah (SWT) 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 (SWT) and His Messenger has indeed attained a great achievement." [Soorah al-Ahzaab (33): 70]
and: "Verily Allah (SWT) accepts only from those who are the muttaqoon (those who posses Taqwa)." [Soorah al-Maaidah (19): 71-72]
2. Taqwa makes one deserving of Allah (SWT)'s Pleasure and Love. Allah (SWT) says: "Verily, the most honorable of you in the Sight of Allah (SWT) is that (believer) who has Taqwa." [Soorah al-Hujurat (49): 13]
and: "Whoever fulfills his pledge and has Taqwa of Allah (SWT) much, then indeed, Allah (SWT) loves those who are muttaqoon (those who posses Taqwa)." [Soorah Aal-Imraan (3): 76]
3. Taqwa causes sins to be forgiven and increases rewards. Allah (SWT) says: "And whoever fears Allah (SWT) and keeps his duty to Him. He will remit his sins from him, and will enlarge his rewards." [Soorah at-Talaaq (65): 5]
4. Taqwa keeps one steadfast on the Straight Path and protects him from deviation.
Allah (SWT) says: "O you who believe! Have Taqwa of Allah (SWT). He will give you a Furqaan (criterion to judge between right and wrong)." [Soorah al-Anfaal (: 29]
Imaam Ibn al-Katheer (rahimahulla) said in his Tafseer, 'Ibn Abbas, as-Sudde, Ikrimah, adh-Dahhak, Qataadah and Muqaatil, Ibn Huyyan, all said about 'Furqaan' that it means a way out (from difficulty).
Mujaahid added: 'A way out from difficulty both in this world and in the Hereafter.' In a narration from Ibn Abbas, he said: "It means, 'Salvation' and in another narration from him 'being helped.' Muhammad Ishaaq said that it means: 'A criterion to judge between truth and falsehood.' This explanation from Ibn Ishaaq is the most general of what has proceeded and it is a necessary consequence of it. Since whoever has Taqwa of Allah (SWT) by obeying His commands and abandoning what He has prohibited, will be given the ability to recognize truth from falsehood.
This will be the cause for his salvation, his being helped; and the cause for his worldly affairs being made easier and his happiness on the Day of Judgment. It will be the cause for his sins to be expiated by Allah (SWT), and his being granted forgiveness and Allah (SWT) shielding him from the people. It will likewise be the cause of him being the recipient of a great reward from Allah (SWT), as He the Most High says: "O you who believe! Have Taqwa (fear) of Allah (SWT) and believe in His Messenger; and He will provide you with a light by which you will walk." [Soorah al-Hdeed (57): 28]
How to achieve Taqwa?
Allah (SWT) says: "O mankind! Worship your Lord, Who created you and those who were before you so that you may become al-Muttaqoon." [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 21]
Thus, Taqwa is the fruit of Ibadah (worship) and and can only be achieved by performing acts of Ibadah. Therefore we often find Allah (SWT) mentioning Taqwa with Ibadah, he said regarding the fasts of Ramadaan: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become muttaqoon (those who posses Taqwa)." [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 183]
Who is the most righteous?
Allah (SWT) says: "And whosoever honors the symbols of Allah (SWT), then it is truly from the piety of the heart." [Soorah al-Hajj (22): 32]
Thus, Taqwa inhabits the heart and it is only within the capability of Allah (SWT) to know what the hearts conceal. Therefore, judging people's righteousness and spirituality is beyond the ability of the slave, Allah (SWT) pointed out to this fact when he said: "There is among people, he whose speech will dazzle you in this life and he will claim that Allah (SWT) is witness (to the sincerity of) what is in his heart, yet he will be among the most vicious enemies (of mankind)." [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 204]
It is mentioned in the Qur'aan that Allah (SWT) chooses His Awliya (singular 'wali' ling. meaning Friend) from His slaves based upon their righteousness.
Allah (SWT) mentioned the characteristics of His Wali saying: "Verily, Awliya of Allah (SWT) are those who are not overcome by fear of grief; they are those who believe and have Taqwa." [Soorah Yoonus (10): 62-63]
and: "Verily, His close friends (Awliya) are only those with Taqwa but most of them do not realize it." [Soorah al-Anfaal (: 34] Thus, a Wali of Allah (SWT) is he, who has Iman, Taqwa and fear of Allah (SWT).
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