Taqwa is the guiding light for a person’s action and is the ultimate measuring unit to determine his spiritual standard. Therefore, Allah admonishes humanity in general, and the believers in specific, to be aware of this virtue and to enrich themselves with it in order to attain spiritual salvation. In Islamic tradition, we see that the Friday sermon (khutbah) comprises of an opening call for the congregation to attain taqwa, and it is repeated in four different verses in four different contexts: an admonition to die in state of faith (Q, 3:102), a call for humanity to acknowledge that it is a unit of a single family, a single unit of brotherhood (Q, 4:1), to always speak the truth (Q, 33:70), and to remember the severity of trials on the Day of the Hour (Q, 22:1).
Humanity is called to maintain consciousness of the fact that we all came from a single source, which was the first human, Adam. Hawwa (Eve) was then created from Adam to make the first human family. Therefore, humanity is an expanded family of Adam and Hawwa; a family of brotherhood that deals with each other like brothers and sisters, respect each other’s right, is kind and merciful, and is compassionate and benevolent. Allah says,
“People, be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him He created his wife (Hawwa), and from them both, He created many men and women; and fear Allah through Whom you demand [your mutual rights], and [do not cut the relations of] the wombs. Surely Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.” [Surah al-Nisa, 4:1]
Our heritage of Adam and Hawwa is established upon human genealogy, and that it is the same genetics and genomic material that runs through the human race. The apparent diversity that Allah has permitted within our genome in regard to appearances is only related for the purpose of the affairs of this material world, and it has no impact on the spiritual level of the individual; rather, that is determined by the level of one’s taqwa. Allah 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-Wise.” [Surah al-Hujurat 49:13]
Therefore, genomic differences should not be used to treat someone else differently, such as his or her appearance, color, or ethnicity, but he or she should be honored, based on their level of piety and righteousness. It is also the level of taqwa that should be the basis of friendship in this world, since, on the Day of Accountability, companionship will be based on the level of iman and taqwa. Allah says,
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“Friends on that Day will be foes, one to another, except the righteous.” [Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:67]
Also, ‘A’ishah relates that the Prophet said,
“On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will raise them according to their intention.” (Muslim)
Call to the Believers (in Particular)
During every Friday sermon, the believers are reminded and admonished to attain taqwa, to be aware of Allah and His watchfulness, to revere Him as He deserves, and to not die except in a state of belief in Islam. Thus, Islam, which is the complete submission to Allah, is the final hope for the salvation of the soul. Allah says,
“O you who believe, fear Allah as He should be feared, and do not die except in the state of Islam.” [Surah Ali-‘Imran 3:102]
The fear of Allah resides in the heart, which is then expressed by words uttered by our tongues that are formulated by our brains. During such processing, a person must choose the right words of expression that will figuratively represent the object without exaggeration or understatement, which may be misleading. Having fear of Allah and the choosing the right words help in eliminating any plausible mistakes in having the doors to Allah’s forgiveness opened. Allah says,
“O you who believe, be careful of your duty to Allah and speak the right word. He will put your deeds into a right state for you and will forgive you your faults. Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed achieved a mighty success.” [Surah al-Ahzab, 33:70-71]
This character of speaking the truth, was most vivid in the conduct of our beloved Prophet, who was a person of few words that contained deep meaning and direct approach. That was a divine teaching, which was necessary to preach and teach the Qur’an, the words of Allah, and to present the exact meaning without addition, deletion, or exaggeration. This was also the characteristics of all the Prophets and Messengers, who preached the Truth, and the Truth is always clear and direct, as opposed to falsehood. Allah says,
“Such is Allah, your real Cherisher and Sustainer. Apart from Truth, what is there but error? How then are you turned away? [Surah Yunus, 10:32]
“And unto Allah leads straight the way, but there are ways that turn aside. If Allah had willed, He could have guided all of you.” [Surah al-Nahl, 16:9]
The believers are asked to refrain from doing wrong to others, and to not return evil for evil. The hatred of wicked does not justify hostility on the part of a true believer; rather, it should be dealt with patience and admonition in truth, admonition toward birr and taqwa, which is why Allah say,
“Help you one another in righteousness (birr) and piety (taqwa).” [Surah al-Maida, 5:2]
This will turn the hostility and hatred into friendship and brotherhood, as Allah says,
“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel [the evil] with one that is better. Then verily he, between whom and you, there was enmity, [will become] as though he was a close friend.” [Surah Fussilat, 41:34]
It was indeed these virtues of the Prophet that turned the life of the tribal and feudal Arabs into the best of the best. Allah is Just, but at the same time He is the Most Merciful and Most Forgiving. It is by these and other virtues inherent in His beautiful Names―by which Allah governs His creation and by which He will justify our deeds on the Day of Accountability―that no one will be dealt with unjustly. Allah says,
“This is because of that which your hands have sent before you, and certainly, Allah is never unjust to His servants.” [Surah al-‘Imran, 3:182]
The believers are called upon to stand firmly for justice that is administered through Qur’anic injunctions, the practice of the Prophet and the righteous followers, and to stand against any injustice. Our stand for justice and against injustice amounts to taqwa, and will be a witness on our behalf before Allah. He says,
“O you who believe, stand firmly for Allah as just witnesses. Do not let the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just, that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-acquainted with what you do.” [Surah al-Maidah, 5:8]
Taqwa, the Light of Ascension
Way Up the Ladder
The purpose of taqwa is ascension to the Proximity to Allah. It is fifty thousand year journey, in human reckoning, traveled by the angels and the Ruh [i.e., Jibril] in one day. It is a spiritual ascension of the believer. Allah says,
“From Allah, the Lord of the ways of ascent. The angels and the Ruh [i.e., Jibril] ascend to Him in a Day, the measure whereof is fifty thousand years.” [Surah al-Ma’arij, 70:4]
Ascension to the Proximity to Allah in Paradise is achievable through patience and steadfastness in His worship. Those who worship none but Allah, and who perform all that is ordained by Him and abstain from all that He has forbidden, will receive the good news of Paradise.
“O you who believe, endure and be steadfast, guard your territory, and fear Allah, so that you may be successful.” [Surah Ali-‘Imran, 3:200]
“Verily, those who say, “Our Lord is Allah,” and they stand firm, on them the angels will descend [saying], “Fear not, and do not grieve, but receive the glad tidings of Paradise, which you have been promised.” [Surah Fussilat, 41:30]
Worship, the Source of Light
“Verily, those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, their Lord will guide them through their Faith. Under them will flow rivers in the Garden of Delight.” [Surah Yunus, 10:9]
The five Pillars of Islam are: the shahada (the testimony that “none is to be worshipped except Allah, alone, and that Muhammad is the Prophet and Messenger of Allah”), five daily prayers, fasting the month of Ramadan, paying the zakat, performance of the hajj, and hihad.
The shahada (the doctrine of Islamic Monotheism or Tawhid) is the crown of all the pillars, and once declared, it must be supported by the other pillars of worship, in the form of submission to Allah’s various forms of command. It is through submission that the worshipper becomes mindful of Allah, and by which he is able to attain closeness to Him. The Prophet said,
“My Lord says, ‘If My slave comes nearer to me by a span, I go nearer to him by a cubit. If he comes nearer to Me by a cubit, I go nearer to him by arm’s length. If he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.’” (al-Bukhari 7536)
Standing in prayer five times a day in regularity and punctuality, brings the worshipper closer to Allah. By declaring the takbir al-tahrima (the opening glorification that enters a worshipper into the prayer) the worshipper enters the spiritual world, and begins his spiritual ascension. It brings him to a state of “as if he is seeing Allah”, the quality of prayer that can only be defined by the word ihsan, and if he cannot see Allah, then he needs to know that Allah, the Almighty, is surely seeing him. That is taqwa.
Allah’s Messenger has related that Allah said,
“Whosoever shows hostility to someone devoted to Me, I will be at war with him. My servant draws closer to Me, more than by anything loved by Me, by the religious duties I have enjoined upon him. And My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory deeds, so that I shall love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hands with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant. He hates death, and I hate hurting him.” (Bukhari no 25, 40)
Fasting is an obligation, and it is a command from Allah that is applicable to all the believers that have attained the age of maturity. Thus, whoever fasts, then it is a sign of his obedience to that command.
“O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become muttqun.” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:183]
Abu Hurayrah has related that the Prophet said,
“Fasting is a shield.” (al-Nasa’i, 2229)
To develop that shield, one must be God-conscious, which will restraint him from committing any sins and offer him protection from the Hellfire.
Fasting comprises of two obligatory components: the intention to fast, and abstaining from the nullifiers of the fast, such as eating, drinking, and sexual relationship. The fasting person is also admonished to avoid any sinful act that will jeopardize the quality of his or her fast.
In spite of being hungry, he will not eat, and in spite of being thirsty, he will not drink. All this is because he is conscious that Allah is watching him, and that if he breaks the fast, then he will be breaking his promise of intention that he has made. That very sense of being watched and breaking the promise, are the virtues of God-conscious, or righteousness. Additionally, he refrains from doing anything harmful that may affect the quality of his fast, such as when another seeks to quarrel with him, he says, “I am fasting.” Thus, he avoids any quarrels, whether they are verbal or physical.
Thus, fasting, like the coat of mail of a soldier, protects a person from performing anything that is wrong, and so he is able to protect himself from any punishment in this life or in the hereafter. [The punishment for an intentional breaking an obligatory fast before its due time is severe, where the kaffarah (expiation) for it would be to fast two consecutive lunar months without break or be hanged by the feet in the Day of Judgment.] 
In hajj, particularly being in the state of ihram, the person is aware of Allah’s command and follows the steps mandated for acceptance of this unique worship. The best provision for hajj is not physical nourishment, but it is taqwa or God-consciousness, which is needed for the nourishment of the soul. Allah says,
“The hajj is in the well-known months…and a take provision for the journey, but the best provision is taqwa. So, fear Me, people of understanding!” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:197]
Thus, he remains far away from sexual relationship, committing sins, and disputing unjustly during hajj.
The Zakah and Jihad
One offers zakah and charity as a means for purification of his earnings and to aid the needy, and he fights and sacrifices his life in jihad for the religion of Allah. If the purpose is to show others one’s generosity, and to be called a martyr for sacrificing his life, then all these good works will amount to sanctimoniousness; they will amount to nothing before Allah, an no reward is ever assigned to deeds that are done for the purpose of showing-off. Allah says,
“Those who are miserly and enjoin miserliness on others and hide what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounties…And those who spend of their sustenance to be seen by people, and believe not in Allah and the Last Day…” [Surah al-Nisa, 4:37-38]