Taqwa is one of those unique words in the Arabic language that cannot simply be translated into a word or two in English.
As a result, many translators struggle to bring out the real meaning of the word taqwa.
Literally, taqwa means to protect and could be that one protects himself from the Wrath of Allah by protecting himself from indulging in things that Allah forbids.
In the Shariah, taqwa as used in the Quran repeatedly, signifies the obedience to the Rules of Islam while avoiding Haraam, and additionally abstaining from unsuitable things in life.
Taqwa in the Qur’an
Taqwa is mentioned in the Qur’an many times over and Allah has ordered each and every Muslim to have taqwa.A couple of verses that mention taqwa are presented below:
“It is not taqwa that you turn your faces toward East or West, but it is taqwa to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book and the Messengers, to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts you have made; to be firm and patient, in pain and adversity. Those are the truthful and those are the muttaqun.” [Qur’an 2:177]
“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 honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [Qur’an 49:13]
Taqwa in Ahadith
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “The most common thing which leads people to Paradise is taqwa of Allah and good conduct, and the most common thing which leads people to the Hell Fire is the mouth and the private parts.” [Tirmidhi]
Tafseer ibn Kathir mentions that Atiyah As-Sa’di said the Propeht (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “The servant will not acquire the status of those with taqwa until he abandons what is harmless out of fear of falling into that which is harmful.” [Ibn Majah, Tirmizi]
Ali (R.A) defined Taqwa as being the ‘fear of Jaleel (Allah), acting upon the tanzeel (Quran), being content with qaleel (little), and preparing for the day of raheel (journeying from this world).
Umar ibn Khattab (R.A) once asked Ibn Ka’ab (R.A) the definition of taqwa. In reply Hadrat Ibn Ka’ab asked, “Have you ever had to traverse a thorny path?” Hadrat Umar replied in the affirmative and Ka’ab continued, “How do you do so?”
Umar said that he would carefully walk through after first having collected all loose and flowing clothing in his hands so nothing gets caught in the thorns hence injuring him. Ka’ab said, “This is the definition of taqwa, to protect oneself from sin through life’s dangerous journey so that one can successfully complete the journey unscathed by sin.”
Hasan Basri said, “Taqwa is the basis of Deen. Desire and greed destroy this basis.”
Maulana Hafiz Ghulam Habib (r.a.) used to define taqwa as the shunning of everything and anything that causes a deficiency in one’s relationship with Allah.
May Allah give all the Muslimeen the ability to cultivate taqwa in our lives and grant us paradise, Ameen.
Taqwa – A State of Submission
by Abu Bakr Karoli
Taqwa is an Arabic word which is explained as a shield against wrongdoing and further expounded as to be “conscious of Allah” or to have “fear of Allah” or to be “cautiously aware of Allah”.
The origin of the word Taqwa is from the Arabic root letters wa’ ka’ ya (meaning shield) and its verb is from the word “Ittaki”. Ittaki means to be careful or to be protected or to be cautious. Taqwa is an internal compass on the path that leads towards Allah. The broader meaning and character of Taqwa is to develop one’s behavior, so as to be cautiously aware in the worship of Allah and attain nearness to Him and in so doing, perfect oneself.
This consciousness and fear of Allah is understood as a protection and a shield against wrongdoing. The abstention of evil through this fear, consciousness and establishing a cautious awareness of Allah, ultimately develops one’s love of Him.
The universal principle of submission to the Divine Will is beautifully expressed in the character of one who is a servant of Allah, known as an “Abd-Allah” which is an ideal state of Taqwa.
Abu Darda (R) said: “From the completion of Taqwa is that the servant fears from His Lord even with regards to things, the weight of an atom.” Abu Darda’s advice for servants who wish to accomplish a character of ‘taqwa’ should fear to commit the smallest of sins.
The messenger of Allah said in a Hadith, reported in the Sahih Muslim that, “Taqwa is here”, and he pointed to his chest.
Taqwa is profoundly explained in a discussion between ‘Umar and Ka’b who were companions of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
‘Umar asked Ka’b the meaning of ‘taqwa,’ as Ka’b was renowned for his deep understanding of the Qur’an Al Kareem.
Kaab (R) then inquired from Umar (R), whether he had walked through a thorny bush path with his cloak. Umar (R) replied that he had done so on numerous occasions. Kaab (R) asked Umar (R) to describe his movements through this thorny path. Umar (R) replied that he moved very cautiously, so as not to tear his clothing. Kaab (R) said that was the description and the meaning of Taqwa.
The path that inculcates and embraces a character of Taqwa is one that must be carefully and cautiously treaded. On this path one must be completely aware of oneself and one’s surroundings, to be disciplined with the correct action and behavior which will achieve one’s closeness to Allah.
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 Tawqa are called Al-Muttaqun or Muttaqeen.
The following verse of the Qur`an Surah 2 Al Bakarah, Verse 183 confirms that Taqwa is for everyone and not for a select group:
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa.”
This verse confirms two points. Firstly, that fasting is for everyone and secondly, that the development and attaining of Taqwa is an essential part for all who aspire for tranquility and a contented heart. To establish Taqwa is for the rich and the poor, the knowledgeable and the uneducated, the leader and the follower, the ruler and the ruled, the old and the young, the man and the women. All must develop and enhance Taqwa.
The most honored in the sight of Allah is the believer with the most Taqwa, i.e. the most conscious and aware of Him.
The Glorious Qur`an illustrates this in Surah 49 Al Hujurat (the Inner Apartments), Verse 13:
“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).”
The ideal Islamic society is a Taqwa conscious society, conferring its highest respect on those considered to be high in Taqwa.
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. The Qur`an though, prohibits anyone from claims of self-purity.
In Surah 53 An Najm (The Clans), Verse 32 reminds us that:
“Hold not yourself purified. Allah knows best who has Taqwa.”
“Hold not yourself purified. Allah knows best who has Taqwa.”
In Islam there is only one Shari’ah (Divine Law) and one scale of righteousness for everyone and that is measured through a character ofTaqwa.
The word Taqwa has been mentioned 151 times in the Noble Qur`an. Allah has taken us through the various aspects of His Guidance and Blessings in the Glorious Qur`an. The Qur`anic descriptions of Taqwa are so precise and distinct that it is an indication of the importance of the involvement of this concept in the life of Muslims. These numerous verses elaborate the different dynamics and dimensions of inner meanings of Taqwa that enables Muslims to be an ideal and a living example as a vicegerent of Allah.
The four verses in Surah 2 Al Bakarah Verse 2-5 summarizes the guiding principle in the Noble Qur`an for the people of Taqwa:
The Muttaqun are those that believe, fear Allah and look to what He has ordained in carrying out His actions to avoid His displeasure and sadness. These people are involved and active in his/her life with the Ummah (the Muslim community), concerned with the affairs of humanity, whilst at the same time praying , fasting, spending in Allah’s cause, having good morals, are forgiving and just. All these descriptions can be attributed to a person who has Taqwa and will be assured and successful in the Hereafter.
Hence, for the moral development and correct behavior of a good Muslim it necessary that he strictly analyze and establish his Taqwa, but never claims to be a possessor of it.
Nuradeen – JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA.