Taqwa is one of the most profound concepts in Islam. It is an avenue by which Muslims relate to one another in society and a means to channel actions for the pleasure of Allah. Possessors of Taqwa are called Al-Muttaqun or Muttaqeen. (Usually translated God fearing/contious, righteous, devout, pious etc)
If Allah mentions a concept just once in the Quran, this indicates that we should give it much thought and give it importance. Then what do we say when we know the word Taqwa has been mentioned 151 times in the Noble Quran.
The word TAQWA is usually translated as ‘Fear’ but this is not correct. The word for fear inis KHOWF. Linguistically Taqwa comes from the verb WAQAYA (WIQAAYAH) and has the meaning of protection & taking precaution. Allah says about those people of Paradise…
وَوَقَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ عَذَابَ الْجَحِيمِ
and their Lord protected them from the punishment of Hellfire. [Tur:18] Also Allah says about those who feed the poor only seeking His Face (reward)…
فَوَقَاهُمُ اللَّهُ شَرَّ
So Allah will protect them from the evil of that Day. [Insaan:11]
So Taqwa is to place a barrier/shield/protection between you and the punishment/anger of Allah by fulfilling His commands and abstaining from His prohibitions, avoiding the doubtful, fulfilling the recommended, and not doing the disliked.
Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) says, “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. Perfect Taqwa requires that one performs all voluntary and recommended acts as well as refraining from all reprehensible and dubious acts. This is the ultimate form of Taqwa.” Jamiul Ulum wal Hikam 190/191)
To make it clear, as we shall soon see there is an element of KHOWF in TAQWA but is certainly TAQWA is not limited to KHOWF. So when people usually say ITAQILLAH’ they usually translate it as ‘Fear Allah’ but what it really means is ‘Protect yourself from the punishment of Allah!’ (by fulfilling an obligations or abstain from that particular prohibition).
There are so many ways the Salaf and khalaf have defined/described Taqwa. We will restrict ourselves only three here and mention many more at the end.
- The Salaf described Taqwa to be like a bird flying to Allāh Subhanahu-wa-Ta’ala. The body of the bird is ‘ilm, the head is love, the wings are hope and fear. Taqwa, therefore, consist of four fundamental elements: 1) knowledge, 2) love, 3) hope and 4) fear.
The similitude of the heart in its travel to Allah is like a bird. Love is its head, and khawf (fear) and rajaa’ (hope) are the wings. When the head and both wings are sound, the bird is capable and skilled in flying. However, when the head is cut off, the bird will die. When the bird loses a wing, it then becomes a target for every hunter and predator. [Ibn Qiyyim]
As these fundamental elements are so important to understand and are in and of themselves huge topics we will study them separately.
LOVE: Click HERE HOPE:Click HERE FEAR:Click HERE
- Talq Ibn Habeed (a tabi’e) said: “Taqwa is that you act (do a deed) in obedience to Allah, and hope in His Mercy, upon a light (knowledge) from Him; and Taqwa is leaving acts of disobedience to Allah out of fear of Him (His punishment), upon a light from Him.” [(Saheeh) by Shaikh al-Albanee.Related by Ibn Abee Shaybah in Kitaabul-Emaan (no: 99)]
- Ibn Abi Haatim recorded that `Abdullaah bin Mas`ood commented on the Ayah, ‘Have Taqwa of Allaah as is His due’ [Imraan: 102]… Ibn Mas’ud (RA) said, “Taqwa is to obey Allah (SWT), so that He is not disobeyed, to remember Allah (SWT), so that He is not forgotten, and to thank Allah (SWT), so that no ingratitude is shown to Him” [Tafseer of Ibn Abee Hatim (3:102)]
The home of Taqwa
While Taqwa is manifested on the outer it resides in the inner. As the Messenger of Allah said “Taqwa is here” indicating to his heart. Though Taqwa is a state of the heart, we cannot judge the Taqwa of others, but many aspects of Taqwa will have a reflection in their character and behavior.
This leand on to our next point. We cannot claim Taqwa for ourselves let alone others. The Quran prohibits anyone from claims of self-purity. Allah says:
فَلَا تُزَكُّوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ ۖ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اتَّقَىٰ
“Hold not yourself purified. Allah knows best who has Taqwa” [Najm:32]
The most honored
The most honored in the sight of Allah is the believer with the most Taqwa.
The Glorious Quran illustrates this in Surah 49 Al Hujurat Verse 13:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you (Muttaqi). And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
It is not ones gender, color, country, tribe, linage, social status etc that mean anything in the sight of Allah (has any importance) But with Allah it is Taqwa.
Statements regarding Taqwa
It was reported that Umar bin al-Khattaab (RA) asked Ubay ibn Ka`ab (RA) about Taqwa. Ubay said: “Have you ever walked on a path that has thorns on it?” Umar said: “Yes.” Ubay said: “What did you do then?” He said: “I rolled up (my garment) and struggled (through the path).” Ubay said: “That is Taqwa.”
Anas (RA) said: “The servant will not have Taqwa of Allaah as is His due until he keeps his tongue idle.”
Ibn Mua’taz (the poet) rephrases this: Leave sin big and small, this is taqwa. Be like the one walking on thorns, dreading what he sees. Don’t underestimate the minute (small), for mountains are made of small stones (Qurtubi and ibn Kathir says that this was composed by ibn Mu’taz)
Hasan Basri (rahimahullah) says, “The ones who have Taqwa protect themselves from what Allah has prohibited and act upon what He has mandated. Taqwa remains with them until they forsake many halal things fearing that they could be haram”
Sufyan ath-Thawri (rahimahullah) said, “They have been called, ‘The Mutaqoon’, because they fear what is not usually feared.”
Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz (rahimahullah) 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”
Ali (RA) says, “Protect yourselves with your actions and protect your families by advising them”
Ibn Qayyim (rahimahullah) says, “That this proceeding verse shows that necessity of taking an account of ones action” (Ighathatul Lahfan 1/101)
“O you who believe! Fear Allah as He is supposed to be feared an die not unless you are in the state of complete submission” [Imraan: 102] Ibn Abbas (RA) says, “ ‘As He is supposed to be feared’, Means that they strive in His path as they should: they do not care abut any one criticizing them and they establish justice even against their own kith and kin. The phrase ‘and die not…’ means they preserve Islam in both health and sickness so that they are able to die in the state of it”
Ali (RA) says, “Taqwa is to fear the All Mighty; to act upon the Revelation; to be content with little and to prepare for the Day of Travel (A combination of all four qualities)
Abu Dada (RA) says, “The complete form of Taqwa is to fear Allah so much that one begins to fear Him from (the potential sin in) a mustard seed and until one leaves what might be halal in the fear that it could be haram. This is substantiated by the verse: ‘So whoever does an atom’s amount of good, he will see it; and whoever does an atom’s amount of evil, he will see it.’ So do not undermine any goodness an act upon goodness. Likewise, do not underestimate any evil and protect yourself from it”
Ibn Abbas (RA) says, “The ones with Taqwa are those believers who prevent themselves from shirk. He also said, “They are the ones who fear Allah’s punishment for failing to follow what they know to be guidance and hope for his Mercy with regard that which they believe came from Him.”
Muadh ibn Jabal (RA) says, “On the Day of Judgement, it will be announced: ‘Where are the ones who had Taqwa?’ So they (one ones with Taqwa) will stand up from under the Shelter of The Compassionate. Allah will not be invisible to them” People asked Muadh who are the ones with Taqwa. He replied, “Those who stay away from shirk and worshiping idols and then purify their religion for Allah”
Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله said in his book al-Fawaaid: Taqwa has three levels:
- One: protecting the heart and limbs against sin and forbidden actions.
- Two: protecting them against undesirable matters.
- Three: protection against curiosity and whatever is not one’s concern.
The first one will grant life to the servant, the second will grant him health and power, and the third will grant him happiness and joy.
Atiyah As-Sa`dee said that the Messenger of Allaah said:
«لَا يَبْلُغُ الْعَبْدُ أَنْ يَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ حَتَّى يَدَعَ مَالَا بَأْسَ بِهِ حَذَرًا مِمَّا بِهِ بَأْس»
“The servant will not acquire the status of the Muttaqeen until he abandons what is harmless out of fear of falling into that which is harmful.” [At-Tirmidhee (2451), Ibn Maajah (4215) and graded as “Dha`eef” by Shaikh al-Albaanee]
Taqwa has foundations, waajibaat and mustahabaat. When Allah mentions (haveing) Taqwa in the Quran, He means attaining the waajib level of Taqwa.
So Taqwa referrers to the precautions you take as a result of fear, the things you do because you are afraid. For example, you are afraid your house will get burgled so as a precaution/protection you lock your door. So TAQWA is to take precaution. It is a feeling that results in some kind of action.
From the morals and manners of the salaf was that they would strictly analyse their taqwa (piety) never claiming to be a possessor of such. Allah the Most High has said:
“Therefore do not declare yourselves as being purified. He knows best who has taqwa.” [Al-Qur’an 53:32]
The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him), said, “Taqwa is here,” and he pointed to his chest. [Muslim (16/120, 121) in al-Birr, at-Tirmidhi (8/115) in al-Birr and Ahmad (2/277)]
‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz, rahimahullah (may Allah have mercy upon him), used to say, “None can reach the station of taqwa until he possesses neither action nor words that can be exposed to his embarrassment either in this world or the Hereafter.” He was once asked, “When does the worshipper reach the peak of tawqa?” He replied, “If he put all his thoughts and desires in his heart on a plate and then wandered around in the market, he should not feel ashamed of anything there.” He would frequently say, “The sign of muttaqi (pious person) is to bridle oneself from speaking just like one in ihram bridles himself from speaking. The muttaqi needs to be a scholar (‘alim) of the shari’ah, all of it, otherwise he leaves taqwa without realising.”
Abu Darda, radiallahu ‘anhu (may Allah be pleased with him), said, “From the completion of taqwa is that the slaves fears from his Lord even with regards to things the weight of an atom.”
Abu Hurayrah, radiallahu ‘anhu, was asked about taqwa. He said, “It is a road full of thorns. One who walks it needs to have extreme patience.”
Sufyan ath-Thawri rahimahullah said, “We met a people who loved it when it was said to them – Fear Allah the Most High. Today you find that people only become annoyed at this.”
A person asked Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyad rahimahullah, “Which country would you like me to live in?” Fudhayl replied, “There is no connection between you and any nation. The best country for you is the country which helps you to acquire taqwa.”
In the general sense, whoever has dealt with Allāh with Tāqwa and obedience while in a state of ease, then Allah will deal with him with compassion and assist him in the circumstance of his experiencing hardship.
Al Hafidh Ibn Rajab Al Hanbali رحمه الله
[‘Al Jaam’I Al ‘Uloom wal Hikm’, pg. 424]
Three Levels of Taqwaa (Ibn Al-Qayyim)
“Taqwaa has three levels:
The first: Protecting the heart and limbs from sins and all forbidden matters.
The second: Protecting the heart and limbs form disliked matters [Makrooh].
The third: Protecting oneself from the fudool [curiosity] and what does not concern him.
The first gives the servant his life, the second gives him health and strength and the third enables him to gain happiness, contentment and light.”
[Ibn al Qayyim; Al Fawaa-id 45]