Taqwa and its Purpose

“Verily, the muttaqun will be in the midst of Gardens and Rivers (Paradise). In a great seat of truth (i. e., Paradise), near the Omnipotent King (Allah, the One, the Blessed, the Most-High, the Owner of Majesty and Honor)”. [Surah Al-Qamar 54:54-55]

What is Taqwa

The root word of taqwa is “Q-W-U” which means “protection” from something harmful, as expressed in the following verse,

“O you who believe! Save (or protect) yourself and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stone…” [Surah al-Tahrim 66:6]

The Arabic word taqwa has been widely translated to mean “piety or righteousness”, “fear of Allah”, “obedience to Allah”, “self-restraint,” and “refraining from sinful act(s)”. But a more comprehensive word like “God-consciousness” or “God-mindfulness”, will encompass all these abstract virtues. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said,

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“The best of provision is taqwa (God-consciousness).”

That is, the right conduct:

“And whatever good you do, (be sure) Allah knows it. And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is taqwa (piety). So fear Me, O men of understanding!” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:197]

God-consciousness leads a person to be righteous, God-fearing, self-restraining, and self-refraining from sinful act(s). That is the spiritual taqwa that protects oneself from all harms that comes his way, both physically and spiritually:

“…and as an adornment; and the raiment of taqwa, that is better.” [Surah al-A’raf, 7:26]

Abu Salih reported that a man said to Abu Hurayrah, “What is taqwa (God-fearing mindfulness)?” Abu Hurayrah said, “Have you ever taken a thorny path?” The man said, “Yes.” Abu Hurayrah said, “What did you do?” The man said, “If I saw thorns, I would avoid them, pass over them, or stop short of them.” Abu Hurayrah said, “That is taqwa (God-fearing mindfulness).” (al-Zuhd al-Kabir 963)

Ubay said to Umar, “Have you ever taken a thorny path?” Umar replied, “Yes I have.” Ubay then asked, “So how did you travel along this thorny path?” Umar replied, “I rolled up my garment and was cautious as to where I would tread, to avoid being pricked by the thorns.” So, Ubay responded and said, “This is taqwa.” [1]

Place in the Holy Qur’an

The word taqwa has been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an 60 (sixty) times. Beside the use of taqwa, its variant derivates have been used 190 (one hundred ninety) times. The subjective pronoun of the word taqwa is muttaqun.

The word muttaqun has an important place in human history. It was first used by Habil (Abel), the second son of Adam, the younger brother of Qabil (Cain), in his defense against the accusation of his older brother. Allah says,

Recite to them the story of the two sons of Adam in truth: when each offered a sacrifice, it was accepted from the one and not from the other. The latter said to the former, “I will surely kill you.” The former said, “Verily, Allah accepts only from those who are al-muttaqun.” [Surah al-Maidah, 5:27]

Taqwa, a Spiritual Call

Prophets and Messengers were sent to proclaim tawhid (monotheism) to humanity, to call them to the Right Path and to teach them the Divine Message. The essence of the message was universal, which was to proclaim the tawhid of Allah and shun disbelief and polytheism”. Taqwa was thus a part of the call to tawhid, which offered people hope for salvation and fear from punishment, and this has been the call of all the prophets.

Prophet Nuh appealed to his people,

“My people! I am to you a warner, clear and open: that you should worship Allah, have taqwa, and obey me. He will forgive you of your sins and respite you to an appointed time…” [Surah Nuh, 71:2-3]

Prophet Hud, was sent to the people of ‘Ad, to whom he said,

“O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other God but Him. Will you not have taqwa.” [Surah al-A’raf, 7:65]

Moses said to his people,

“Seek help in Allah and be patient. Verily, the earth is Allah’s. He gives it as a heritage to whom He wills of His servants; and the blessed end is for the muttaqun.” [Surah al-A’raf, 7:128]

Concerning Prophet Isa, Allah says,

And when Isa (Jesus) came with clear proofs, he said, “I have come to you with wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of that which you differ. Therefore, fear Allah and obey me.” [Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:63]

Thus, Qur’an, the Final Revelation, reveals that our beloved Prophet came as a guide for the muttaqun,

“This is the Book wherein there is no doubt; guidance unto those who are muttaqun.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:1-3]

Taqwa and Birr

We have mentioned that a derivative of taqwa is muttaqun, which refers to those who have taqwa.  As for muttaqun, it is an embodiment of the virtues that dictate the qualities of al-birr (righteousness), and so birr can be equated with taqwa. A person with taqwa, must build within his character the virtues that collectively define righteousness, as is seen in people with al-birr; the virtues that are far more comprehensive, and not limited by simply standing in prayer:

“It is not birr that you turn your faces towards the east and west [in prayer]; but birr is [the quality of] the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, and the Prophets, and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, to the poor, to the wayfarer, to those who ask, and to set slaves free; [who] performs prayers, gives the prescribed charity, who fulfills their covenant when they make it, and who are patient in extreme poverty, ailment, and at the time of fighting. Such are the people of the truth and they are muttqun.” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:177]

In the final analysis of the meaning of the words taqwa and muttaqun, it appears that a muttaqun must have taqwa that embraces two distinct aspects of life: One aspect includes a set of beliefs in the unseen, which equates to the Articles of Faith (Islamic aqidah). The other aspect includes multiple actions, including, but not limited to, the Five Pillars of Islam. In other words, it is a combination of faith and actions. This is probably the reason why the status of taqwa is very high in the Sight of Allah. The level of faith in the heart of an individual guides him in his actions, and constant consciousness of Allah in the mind serves as a source of spiritual nourishment for faith. The Holy Qur’an is the guidance for the believers and the muttaqun. Allah says,

“This is the Book in which there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are muttaqun, who believe in the unseen, perform the prayer, spend out of what We have provided for them, who believe in what has been sent down to you [Muhammad] and in that which was sent down before you, and they believe with certainty in the hereafter.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:1-4]

Taqwa, the Outcome of Worship

The worship of Allah leads to the development of taqwa or God-consciousness. Allah says,

“O mankind! Worship your Lord, Who created you and those who were created before you, so that you become God-conscious.” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:21]

In fact, one of the prime purposes of worship, obligatory or voluntary, is to achieve taqwa. Sincere worship of Allah makes the worshipper conscious of Him; and as the worshipper submerges himself in the remembrance of Allah, he gets closer and closer to Him, while moving farther and farther away from the worldly matters.

Engaging in worship that takes one away from the worldly matters is a necessary condition to developing taqwa, since dealing with the worldly matters opens the door to waswas, the whispering to the soul, and Satan. In as much as this life is a preparatory platform for the hereafter, wealth and children, in this worldly life, make this life attractive, which is then magnified by our desires (of the nafs) and Satan, making it difficult to move away from.

Thus, being aware of our predicament, and having love and compassion, Allah mandates worship for us, on a daily, weekly, yearly, and life-time schedule, in order to protect us from the influence of our self (nafs al-ammarah) and Satan. Every good deed amounts to worship. Allah says,

“I have created not the jinn and humanity except that they should worship Me alone.” [Surah al-Dhariyat, 51:56]

The Components of Taqwa

Taqwa comprises of fear and love of Allah, hope in and dependence on Allah, worship of and devotion to Allah, and, most importantly, the awareness that Allah is Ever-watchful of His servants and He knows everything about them, is closer to them than we are to themselves, and is the final source of reward or punishment. Allah says,

“Their sides forsake their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend out of what We have bestowed on them.” [Surah al-Sajdah, 32:16]

The best place, and the only place, to turn to worship and to ask for forgiveness from Allah during the solitude of the night. Fear of punishment should not take one away from the hope in Allah’s mercy, since Allah’s mercy subdues His anger. In fact, after committing a sin, a believer should immediately call upon Allah for forgiveness, expressing fear for His punishment and hope in His forgiveness. Allah’s mercy encompasses the muttaqun. He says,

“He said, ‘My punishment, I afflict therewith whom I will, and My mercy encompasses all things, which I shall ordain for those who are the muttaqun.” [Surah al-A’raf 7:156]

Taqwa, the Measuring Unit

The origin of humanity is derived from a single pair of human beings (Adam and Hawwah). Allah has divided humanity into nations and tribes, so that they can know one another in the matters pertaining to this world. As for the spiritual world, then these divisions make no differences. On the Day of Judgment, the measuring unit to determine the level of honor that a person will attain will be measured by the unit of taqwa.  Allah will only honor those who have taqwa, who are conscious of Him, who refrain from doing wrong for fear of His punishment, and who perform righteous deeds for hope of His rewards. For Allah, taqwa is the ultimate measuring unit to determine a person’s spiritual standard. He says,

“People, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is the one who has taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [Surah Hujurat, 49:13]

[1] [https://onepathnetwork.com/what-is-taqwa/]
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Mohammed Siraj Uddin

Mohammed S. Uddin graduated from medical school in 1968 and completed his training in internal medicine and gastroenterology in New York. He taught in medical school and practiced gastroenterology for nearly four decades. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. He is a fellow of the Americal College of Gastroenterology and the American College of Physicians.Full BIO

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