A person once asked the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam), "O Messenger of Allah! Give me some advice." The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) replied, "I advise you to fear Allah because it is the head of everything."
This is taqwa--having fear of the Majestic, the All-Mighty, Most High, Most Exalted, the One Creator, the Supreme Power.
Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "Have fear of Allah, it is the head of everything." But to have fear of Allah, we must attain God-consciousness, the awareness that Allah is deeply involved in every aspect of our lives, in our every action, in our every thought, in every spoken word. He sees what we do hidden and what we do openly. He sees all that we do, whether it's intentional or unintentional, whether it's an evil, sinful act or a good, rewardful act. He hears all we say, whether we say it to someone's face, to ourselves, behind someone's back, or in our innermost thoughts. He is the Alive, the Eternal and He is closer to us than the vein in our neck (Suratul Qaaf 50:16).
The likeness of one who has the awareness of the reality of Allah's existence in every single act, every single decision, every single word, every single 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 or her life had been lacking without this devotion, without this urge to serve. And with it they strive for the pleasure of their Lord, finding fulfillment and happiness.
Taqwa--fear of Allah. There was a time when this actually meant something. There was a time when Umar bin al-Khattaab (radiyallahu anhu) merely said a two-word khutbah. He said, "Ittaqullah!" Fear Allah! And with that he started the Jumu'ah prayer. But today, we are in a situation in which these two words alone will hold no weight as it did at the time of the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) and his companions (radiyallahu anhum). There was a time when fearing Allah, the One, the True, was a type of advice in which people did take heed, but today its 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 eyesight or our hearing or our ability to feel, but gives us thousands 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 out with our friends, even our relatives, to make them happy and to fit in. We go to the movies, we go out partying at clubs and pubs committing sins and earning the displeasure of Allah and earning the pleasure of Shaytaan (Satan) for their sake. "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 thrown into the Hellfire or welcomed into Paradise, we obey the disbelievers and the hypocrites (Muslims only by name):
"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 inspired 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." (Suratul Ahzaab 33:1-3)
"How do you disbelieve in Allah when He gave you life when you were dead, then He will give you death, then life again, then unto Him you will return?" (Suratul Baqarah 2:28)
Instead of fearing the one who gave us life after we were dead, 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 not to worship that One, Powerful Lord at our prescribed times. We fear them?!?!? Them, who Allah, Himself created--created them as He created us, the believers, out of the dust of the earth?!? Yet, we fear them, who themselves will have no protects, no friends, no helpers, nor any interceders against Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Imagine, we make the choice not to worship the Lord of Kindness. And, in reality, we fear everything, but we fear not Allah, the Source of all Goodness.
"It is only Shaytaan that suggests to you the fear of his friends and supporters (disbelievers) so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are true believers." (Suratul 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." (Suratul Nahl 16:128)
"Whoever fears Allah, Allah will grant him a way out of hardship; and whoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will forgive his sins from him and will enlarge his reward." (Suratut-Talaq 65:2, 5)
"Verily, those who are fearful of Allah are the people who, when an evil thought from Shaytaan comes to them, they remember Allah, and indeed they then see aright." (Suratul A'raaf 7:20)
Once the fear and awareness of Allah dawns on a person, life is never the same. When a person's heart opens up to Allah, it cannot be. The way we view life, how we see life, our ambitions in life, our expectations in life, our goals in life, all change. After this, every aspect of life is seen with a spiritual and Islamic dimension. There is a reason, an aim, a goal to it all, a sense of justice and fulfillment, and a sense of a relationship with one's Creator, the Creator who is deeply involved with every action and thought of our lives.
"It is Allah Who gives life and death and Allah sees well all that you do." (Suratul Ali Imran 3:156)
"Truly my Lord casts (a mantle) of Truth (over His servants), He that has full knowledge of (all) that is hiddenIf I am astray it is only at the loss of my own soul; but if I receive guidance, it is because of the inspirations of my Lord to me; it is He Who hears all things and is ever near." (Suratus-Saba 34:48, 50)
This is why it is also important to realize that Islam is a way of life. It is not just a ritual of prayers, fasting, and feasting. Islam is the true deen, the Deen of Allah, a complete system of life and this life, the Islamic life, is to be lived the way Allah has prescribed it. And it starts with taqwa. Now, taqwa is more than just having fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.
Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (radiyallahu anhu) narrated: "Taqwa is not fasting during the day and it is not praying during the night and it is not the mixing of the two of them, but taqwa is leaving what Allah has made haram (forbidden) and by doing what Allah has made fard. After one has done this, Allah will provide good things for that person."
Al Hasan (radiyallahu anhu) reported: "The people who have taqwa (called al-muttaqeen) are the people who avoided whatever Allah prohibited and had done whatever Allah ordained."
And this, doing what is permitted and refraining from what is prohibited comes from the fear and awareness of Allah's presence. The means of obtaining taqwa is in our grasp and our ability; it is in our very homes, and it is what our arwah (souls) crave. The means of gaining taqwa, the fear of Allah, which leads to a more nourished and healthy ruh, which leads to a more obedient Muslim, which leads to refraining from all haram, which leads to striving to gain Allah's pleasure, which helps lead us to success, which will lead us to Jannah (Insha Allah) is the remembrance of Allah azzowajal, His dhikr, and it is the recitation of the Holy Qur'an, His very words. This is why the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "Fear Allahit is the head of everything."
It is so easy to remember Allah and to glorify and praise Him, especially once we've reached this step. For example, when we are standing in line at the grocery store with all our goods--breads, cereals, drinks, sweets, nourishments, we should do tasbih--Subhannallah, Alhumdulillah, Allahu Abkar, and just speak to Allah in your heart and thank Him for His blessings. Simple. Remember Allah, praise Him, wherever you are, whatever you are doing.
Another means of gaining taqwa is the guidance of the Qur'an. Its greatness and its power, is only known to those who experience it and receive its guidance. Its words have the dynamic power that no other words could ever possess. It contains the very words of Allah. Imagine: holding the very sacred, holy, divine words of the only Supreme Being, the Only One worthy of being worshipped. What a blessing! We must keep a habit of reciting the Qur'an, even if it is just a few verses before heading to work or school, or if we cannot even do that, even listening to the tilawah, the recitation, of the Holy Book in the car is, itself, a beautiful experience. The words of the Qur'an are so powerful, it could make every hair on our bodies stand to the fear of Allah.
"Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest." (Suratur-Ra'd 13:28)
The observance of salah, the one most important act of worship, in the eyes of Allah, is another means of gaining taqwa and closeness to Allah, if offered properly and regularly. It is the first thing we will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement. It is also one of the good deeds that will protect one from the torment of the grave. Salah is the heart of Islam and it is the heart of faith (iman). It saves us from evil and helps us lead a pure life. It expresses our gratitude to Allah for His mercy and His kindness. By our salah, we not only glorify and worship the Creator of all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, but we seek His forgiveness through it. It is blessed and we are blessed to receive a type of worship that has the power to absolve us of our sins if offered regularly, properly, and sincerely.
To be included among the muttaqeen, those who have taqwa, we must refrain from all forbidden acts, all forbidden words, thoughts, feelings, and emotions, all forbidden celebrations and gatherings, which are places of fitna; we must refrain from those who practice and do what is forbidden and displeased by Allah and stick with the pious and righteous, who will help us make a habit of doing what is good and pleasing to Allah and help us refrain from what is sinful and displeasing to Allah.
In conclusion, from what Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) has outlined for us, we can see that a person who possesses taqwa is not one who lives an isolated life, only praying and fasting and maintaining good character alone. Instead, the muttaqeen are those who fear Allah and look to what Allah has ordained in the carrying out of his actions to avoid His displeasure and anger. These are they who are involved with the strengthening of the Ummah, active in his or her life concerned with the affairs of the Muslims while, at the same time, keeping their duty to their Lord--praying, fasting, spending in Allah's cause, having good morals, behaviors, and characteristics. This is why the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said fearing Allah is the head of everything. Without this, life is just life, the daily grind, a gradual process from life to death, but with the blessing of Islam, we could make our lives more than just life, more than just the daily grind, more than just a gradual process from life to death, by the guidance of the Most Glorious Book, the Holy Qur'an and by the Sunnah, the sayings and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam).
The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) 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!" In his last khutbah, the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam) said, "I ask you to fear Him, listen to Him, and obey."
"Truly, the muttaqeen will be amidst Gardens and water springs (Paradise)."
(Suratul Hijr 15:45)
May the Turner of hearts, turn our hearts towards His obedience. May He give us the towfique to change in order to fear and obey Him. Our Lord! Make us submissive to You and of our seed a nation submissive to You and show us our ways of worship and relent towards us, Lo! You, only You are the Relenting the Merciful (2:128). Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to go astray after You have guided us and bestow upon us mercy from Your presence. Lo! You, only You, are the Bestower. Our Lord! It is You, Who gathers mankind together on a Day in which there is no doubt (3:8-9). Our Lord! Lo! We believe; so forgive us our sins and guard us from the punishment of the fire (3:16)! Ameen. Alhumdulillahi Rabbil Alameen.