The concept of taqwaa is always linked to ibaadah in the Qu'raan. 'Ibaadah can be defined as: to do what Allah has commanded and to avoid what He has prohibited. 'Ibaadah has also been defined as a concept that includes all actions that Allah loves and approves of, whether they are actions of the heart, the tongue or the limbs. So taqwaa is linked with doing what is correct and avoiding that which is wrong. Taqwaa is the fruit of doing the actions of 'Ibaadah. In other words, if one does what Allah has commanded him to do, and abstains from that which he has been forbidden, he will achieve taqwaa. Allah mentions in His Book ( that means ):
" O you who believe ! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become muttaqoon ( those who have taqwaa or piety )." [ Al-Baqarah 2:183 ].
In this aayah and in many others, Allah has shown us that taqwaa is the result or fruit of doing actions of ibaadah.
The meaning of Taqwaa
Now that we have clarified how to achieve taqwaa, we define what the concept of taqwaa means. Taqwaa means: to cleanse or purify the heart and the soul. This fact is proven by some ayaat in Suorat ush-Shams in which Allah (T) says (what means)
" By the sun and its brightness, by the moon as it follows it, by the day as it shows its brightness, by the night as it conceals it, by the heaven and its wondrous make, by the earth and all its expanse, and by the soul and He Who perfected it in proportion, then He showed it what is wrong for it and what is right for it - indeed he succeeds who purifies it, and he fails who corrupts it." [ Ash-Shams 91:1-10 ].
Allah begins this soorah by taking seven oaths. Whenever Allah begins a soorah or an ayaah with an oath, He (T) does so to bear witness to the fact that whatever follows this oath is very important and essential for us to understand. Therefore, we should pay very close attention to what is being said, and reflect upon its meanings. To cleans one's heart and to purify the soul, one must perform righteous actions that Allah has enjoined upon us, and our destruction lies in doing the actions that Allah has forbidden. As Allah is the Guardian and Protector of the Soul, we should do every good deed hoping for Allah's Mercy and fearing His Punishment, having full reliance and trust in Him (T).
Purification of the Soul
Among the missions of the Prophet. Allah sent him with the command to purify the souls of the Muslims in particular, and of mankind in general. Allah (T) says (what means)
" He it is who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger from among themselves, reciting to them His ayaat, purifying them, and teaching them the Book and the Hikmah, while before they had been in error." [ Al-Jumu'ah 62:2 ].
In this ayaah the word Hikmah is often translated as wisdom. Imaam ash-Shafi', one of the greatest scholars of Islaam, said that when Allah mentions Hikmah in the Qur'aan it refers to the Sunnah of the Prophet. In addition to this ayaah, we see that the Prophet, was sent with three tasks:
1) To teach the Qur'aan.
2) To teach the Sunnah.
3) To show the means of purifying the soul.
This purification is obtained by doing the proper acts of 'ibaadah and by avoiding sins and disobedience.
Conditions for Attaining Taqwaa
How does a person know that his acts of 'ibaadah are helping him to achieve taqwaa ? To develop taqwaa, one must fulfill the following conditions:-
1) Ikhlaas, sincere intention that the act is performed purely for the pleasure of Allah, out of love for Him, while hoping for His reward and mercy, as well as fearing His anger and punishment if He is disobeyed.
2) To do the deed in accordance with the authentic Sunnah. To have the necessary knowledge of the 'ibaadah that is being performed. To know how the Prophet. ..performed the action and proper times for the performance of that action.
Concerning Ikhlaas (sincerity), it must be present both before and after performing the deed, with no riyaa (showing off) or sum'ah (doing things to be seen or heard by people). For instance, after doing a good deed, someone tells others, " Look at all the good I have been doing ", or " I'm such a marvelous person because I do such and such".
This formula, if used to achieve taqwaa, is scientific, in that if you follow it, while fulfilling all of its conditions and their rights, you will achieve taqwaa Insha Allah.
The Effect of Taqwa
A person once asked the Prophet SAW, "O Messenger of Allah! Give me some advice!" He replied, "I advise you to fear Allah because it is the head of everything."
The likeness of one who has the awareness of the reality of Allah's existence in every single act, in every single decision, in every single word and thought is the likeness of a dry, curled up desert plant that receives a drop of moisture, which will make it spread out its leaves and sink its roots and flourish and blossom. Similarly, one who feels Allah in their heart at every breath they take and in every aspect of their lives and in everything they do, from the important and profound to the everyday, simple tasks becomes aware of the great thirst, the Great Dependence, and the great joy his/her life had been lacking without this devotion, without this urge to serve (the Creator). And with it, they strive for the pleasure of their Lord, finding fulfillment and happiness in this world and the next.
Taqwa--fear of Allah. There was a time when this actually meant something. There was a time when Umar bin al-Khattab merely said a two-word khutba. He said, "Ittaqullah!" Fear Allah! And with that, he led the Friday Jum'ah prayer. But today, we are in a situation in which these two words alone hold no weight as it did at the time of the Prophet SAW and his companions. There was a time when fearing Allah, the One, the True, was a type of advise in which people did take heed, but today it means absolutely nothing to us.
Instead of having fear of He whose hands hold our very lives, instead of having fear of He Who holds our destinies, instead of having fear of He who takes not our sight nor our hearing nor our ability to feel, but gives us hundreds of chances daily to turn to Him, who do we fear? We fear our friends, our 'peer' group. We fear them so much that we disobey that same God who loves us so much that He forgives all our sins if only one tear falls from our eyes onto our cheeks. One tear! We go our with our friends, even our relatives, to make them happy and to 'fit in.' We go to the movies, we go out partying, miggling with the opposite sex as if it were no sin, no danger, earning the pleasure of Satan and the displeasure of the Creator. "Here just have a sip of this. It's not gonna do nothing," or, "Smoke a joint, man, what's wrong with you, mama's boy?!" or, "Come on baby, just once if you really love me." These phrases might sound familiar to some of us. Instead of realizing that one day, on a day in which there is no doubt, we will be called up one by one to answer for every deed we committed and then either be thrown into the raging fires of Hell or welcomed into Paradise, we obey the disbelievers (kuffar) and the hypocrites (Muslims by name only):
"O Prophet! Keep your duty to Allah and obey not the disbelievers and the hypocrites. Verily Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. And follow that which is inspire to you from your Lord. Verily, Allah is well aquainted with what you do. And put your trust in Allah and Sufficient is Allah as Trustee." (Surah al-Ahzaab 33:1-3)
Instead of fearing the One who have us life, the One who provides and takes care of us, the One who bestows upon us food to keep our stomachs full, clothes to keep us warm, and houses to protect us, who do we fear? We fear our employers and our teachers. And because of fear of them, we choose to commit the sin of the kaafir, we choose not to worship that One, Powerful Lord. We fear them!?!? Them, who, Allah, Himself, created--created them as He created us, the believers, out of the dust of this earth?!! Yet, we fear them, who, themselves, will have no protectors nor friends, nor helpers, nor any interceders against Allah on the Day of Resurrection. And, in reality, we fear everything, but Allah, Allah, Allah. Do we even know who Allah is?
"It is only Shaytaan that suggests to you the fear to his friends and supporters, so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are, in truth, believers." (Surah Ali Imran 3:175)
"Truly, Allah is with those who fear Him, keep their duty to Him, and those who are doers of good for the sake of Allah only." (Surah an-Nahl 16:128)
Once taqwa settles into the heart of a believer, life is not seen in the same light again. Life becomes more than the daily grind, the gradual process from life to death. One's life is seen with having a special goal: the pleasure of the Lord in eternal Paradise. A person with taqwa strives for goodness, which will lead him to happiness in this world and the Hereafter, Insha Allah. The Prophet SAW said that taqwa is the head of everything. This is because taqwa encourages good and refrains one from committing sin.
The Noble Prophet SAW said:
The most common reason for people to enter Jannah is taqwa and good manners and the most common reason for people to enter the Hellfire is the mouth and the private part!
"Truly, the muttaqoon (those with taqwa) will be amidst Gardens and water springs (in Paradise)." (Surah al-Hijr 15:45)
May Allah turn our hearts towards taqwa and towards His obedience. Ameen.