What is taqwa?

Allah(SWT) tell us “Oh you who have believed, fasting is decreed upon as it was decreed upon those before you that you may gain taqwa

The Arabic word Taqwa is based on the word wiqaaya which means taking precaution, protecting and preparing yourself from something. In contemporary language, it is well suited to being mindful of Allah(SWT). But what does this mean practically?

To give a common example, imagine you are cruising on the motorway at speed, and you come round a bend and see a speed camera in immediate sight. What do you do? Slam the brakes to slow down to an acceptable speed. Your response was taqwa – seeking precaution against a risk. This precaution and conscious awareness is what we should be gaining through our fast, when applied to our relationship to Allah(SWT).

lbn Rajab (rh) said: ‘The essence of taqwa is to make a shield (which guards) against Allah’s anger and punishment. That shield is to obey His commands and abstain from His prohibitions.”
Omar ibn Abdul-Aziz (rh) says: ‘Taqwa is not fasting by day and standing for prayers at night. Rather it is to refrain from what Allah has prohibited and act upon what He has mandated. Whoever is granted anything beyond (this level of obedience), he has been given goodness upon goodness.’

Desires make slaves out of kings and patience makes kings out of slaves

Whoever does not restrain themselves from shameless talk and shameless deeds (while fasting), Allah(SWT) does not need him to refrain from eating and drinking (Bukhari)

Many are the ones who fast, attaining nothing by such fasting except for hunger and many are the ones performing salaah by night attaining nothing except for the discomfort of staying awake at night (Ibn Majah). Scholars have explained that:

  • The person opens his fast with haraam food
  • The person didn’t protect his tongue and spoke ill and slandered people
  • The person didn’t abstain from sin

How do we gain taqwa?

Hanzalah Al-Usayyidi (RA) who was one of the scribes of Messenger of Allah (SAW) and he related: I met Abu Bakr (RA) on an occasion and he asked how I was. I replied, “Hanzalah has become a hypocrite”. He said, “Far removed is Allah from every imperfection, what are you saying?”

I explained, “When I am in the company of Messenger of Allah (SAWS) and he reminds us of Hell-fire and Jannah, I feel as if I am seeing them with our very eyes, and when I am away from Messenger of Allah (SAW), I attend to my wives, children and business and most of this reminder (pertaining to life hereafter) slips out of my minds.”

Abu Bakr (RA) on listening said, “By Allah, I also experience the same thing”. So Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) and I both went to Messenger of Allah (SAW) to seek a cure. I presented our state saying, “O Messenger of Allah, when we are in your company, and are reminded of Hell-fire and Jannah, we feel as if we are seeing them with our own eyes, but when we go away from you and attend to our wives, children and business, much of these things go out of our minds.”

Thereupon Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “By Him in Whose Hand is my life if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your roads; but Hanzalah, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time should be devoted (to prayer)”. He (the Prophet (SAW)) said this thrice. (Muslim, 2750).

One of my teachers asked me what the hadith literally says and I was unsure. He explained it says Saa’a wa Saa’a  – One hour and an hour. And he went on to explain that for every hour we give to the Dunya, we should give an hour to the Hereafter. The lesson from this is that we need to make quality time to develop a relationship with Allah(SWT) using this time to reflect on His blessings to us, talk sincerely to Him through dua and listen to His guidance in the Qur’an.

lbn Qayyim (rh) said: ‘The sign of taqwa is to engage in worship and the sign of worship is to refrain from doubtful issues. The sign of hope is to obey and the sign of forbearance to shorten false hopes.”

Ramadan Reminder 2018 series – the Taqwa toolbox

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