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Taqwa refers to God-consciousness, piety, and fear of Allah. It is essential for everyone to have Taqwa. One cannot be a true believer without fearing Allah. Allah commands those who are true believers to fear him in Surah Ali ‘Imran. Furthermore, in Surah Al-Ma’idah, Allah says not to fear men but to fear Him. Taqwa involves fear of Allah and fear of His punishment.
Taqwa is practiced by fearing Allah and obeying and worshipping Him while abstaining from all evil deeds and prohibited matters that displease Him. This emphasis on fearing Allah and pleasing Him develops the fear of Allah in people’s hearts. Piety purifies hearts and builds a love of Allah and the urge to please Him. Moreover, it instills a fear of His anger, which is essential for all Muslims.
Fear of Allah should be at the correct level. It should suffice to keep one firm on the straight path and steadfast in abstinence from evil deeds. Taqwa should keep us from doing what Allah disallows, whether in public or in private. However, if the fear is inappropriately excessive and extreme, it can cause hopelessness and despair. Thus, Muslims should not cross the limits and cause themselves despair by transgressing in their fear of Allah.
In Surah Al-Anfal, Allah says that believers are those who experience fear in their hearts when He is mentioned. In a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (PBUH) said that among those who will be granted Allah’s shade on the Day of Resurrection is one who remembers Allah while he is alone and gets tears in his eyes. Hence, there are numerous virtues of piety, which is an essential component of every believer’s faith.
Taqwa is to fear Allah
Taqwa originates from a root word which means to protect or prevent. It involves people fearing Allah by striving to prevent themselves from being afflicted with His punishment by obeying Him. One seeks to protect himself from displeasing Allah by doing what He orders and avoiding all that He forbids.
In Surah An-Nisa, Allah tells us that He had also commanded those who were given revealed books in the past to fear Him. It is Allah’s right on us that we fear Him in the manner that we are supposed to. According to Ibn Mas’ud, the way in which we are supposed to fear Allah is that He should be obeyed, remembered, and thanked. One should not be disobedient or forget Allah, nor should one be ungrateful.
The Quran frequently informs us of the necessity of Taqwa. In Surah An-Nahl, we see that Allah is with those who fear Him. In Surah Al-A’raf, we learn that Allah’s mercy is all-encompassing. He shall decree it for the ones who fear Him. Allah tells us in Surah At-Talaq that He will forgive the sins of whoever fears Him. Moreover, he will grant him an immense reward.
Furthermore, in Surah Al-Qamar, we discover that those who fear Allah will be among gardens and rivers. Allah vows to provide for those who fear Him and ease their worldly hardships. In Surah At-Talaq, Allah says that He will make a way out for one who fears Him. In addition, Allah will provide for him from a source that he could not even fathom.
Therefore, Taqwa is also vital for those who are facing hardships in worldly matters. Whenever one goes through difficulties, he should not despair or turn to sin. Rather, he should focus on being God-fearing.
Three things that build piety
Firstly, one should be aware of each sin and how evil it is. Secondly, one should take the punishment prescribed for the sin seriously. Finally, one should keep in mind that he may not get the opportunity to repent for an evil deed for some reason.
Even the most pious of believers are imperfect beings, and it is in our nature to sin. However, it is our duty to strive to please Allah by abstaining from sins to the best of our ability. A person may be more inclined to commit a particular sin due to not realizing how evil it is. Hence, knowing when something is a sin and being aware of its harmfulness builds greater fear of Allah and makes one more likely to avoid that sin.
Similarly, if one does not reflect on the severity of the punishment Islam prescribes for a sin, he may take it lightly and disregard the grave consequences of his evil act. Thus, taking the punishment for a sin seriously and not downplaying it helps to build piety and increase one’s resistance to sin.
Moreover, one may think that because Allah is All-Forgiving, he can always repent later for his sin, so he may have a dangerous tendency to commit sins. However, one should keep in mind that he may not always get the opportunity to repent later. For example, it is possible that a person sins and then dies before having a chance to repent. Therefore, always remembering this possibility should increase one’s piety and further deter him from sinning.
The connection between knowledge and Taqwa
In Surah Fatir, Allah informs us that only those of his slaves who possess knowledge fear Him. One achieves Taqwa by attaining the correct knowledge of Allah and His attributes. One who knows that Allah is All-Powerful and All-Knowing is more likely to fear Him adequately. This knowledge helps instill Taqwa in people, as they know their Lord and thus fear Him. The more knowledgeable a person is about Allah, the greater his Taqwa will be. One who has authentic knowledge of who Allah is, and His names and attributes will be far more likely to instill Taqwa in his heart suitably.
Additionally, knowledge is key to observing piety and God-consciousness correctly. Taqwa necessitates obedience and submission. Piety requires believers to do what Allah says to do. Whether it is prayer, fasting, charity, or Hajj, we are required to perform these acts of worship as outlined in Islam.
Muslims are obligated to worship Allah alone without the association of any partners and to have firm faith that Allah will hold them accountable for all their deeds on the Day of Judgment. Without correct knowledge, it would not be possible to do all that Allah commands us to do in the right way.
Similarly, in seeking to avoid Allah’s wrath, we have to abstain from all acts that displease Him. Therefore, knowledge of what all Islam prohibits is a must for every believer. Without this essential knowledge, one would be unable to avoid displeasing Allah. Thus, knowledge is crucial in a Muslim’s quest to fear Allah appropriately. Although a believer who lacks knowledge can fear Allah, he would be unable to sufficiently act upon that fear due to his ignorance of what all it necessitates.
Good deeds wipe away sins
When Muslims sin, they should perform good deeds after their error. The Prophet (PBUH) informed the believers that doing a good deed after sinning erases the sin. In Surah Hud, Allah tells us to establish prayer and says that righteous deeds wipe away evil deeds.
There is also a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim in which a man told the Prophet (PBUH) that he had sinned. He said that he had committed the sin of having contact with a woman but not to the extent of fornication. The same man had just prayed the Fajr prayer with the Prophet (PBUH). When the Prophet (PBUH) asked if he had prayed the Fajr prayer with them, he confirmed that he had. Then, the Prophet (PBUH) recited the verse from Surah Hud about good deeds erasing evil ones.
Nevertheless, repentance is imperative when one sins. In Surah Ali ‘Imran, Allah says that His forgiveness and the reward of eternal Paradise is for those who remember Him after sinning, ask for His pardon, and do not purposefully continue committing that sin. Moreover, repentance should be sincere, and virtuous deeds should follow it. As Allah tells us in Surah Taha, He is Most Forgiving to those who repent, believe, perform good deeds, and remain steadfast upon guidance.
Furthermore, in Surah Al-Furqan, Allah tells us that in the case of those who repent, believe, and do noble deeds, He will transform their sins into good deeds. Particularly in the case of major sins, Muslims must never fail to repent, as sincere repentance is a condition of Allah’s promise of forgiveness. In a hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (PBUH) says that Allah will forgive a slave who accepts his wrongdoing and seeks forgiveness.