What is Taqwa (Piety) in Islam

Taqwa (piety) has been mentioned in the holy Quran in more than 60 locations, and the derivatives, have been mentioned in more than 190 locations. We hear it mentioned all the time at the beginning of every Jummah (Friday Prayer). So the question that often arises, “What is Taqwa?” and “How can I attain Taqwa?”

What is the meaning of Taqwa?

There are many meanings and understandings of the word Taqwa. Often, it is translated as “Fear of God”, and while fearing Allah is part of Taqwa, its meaning is deeper than this. The linguistic meaning of Taqwa is “a shield, or protective barrier”. It is to protect oneself from what angers Allah. Some scholars define Taqwa as placing a protective barrier between yourself and Allah’s punishment. Taqwa also means doing that which Allah has enjoined and avoiding that which He has forbidden. An incredible example that demonstrates this, is when Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) asked Ubay Ibn Ka’ab (may Allah be pleased with him) about Taqwa.
Ubay said “Have you ever taken a thorny path?” Umar replied, “Yes I have.” Ubay then asked, “So how did you travel along this thorny path?” Umar replied, “I rolled up my garment and was cautious as to where I would tread to avoid being pricked by the thorns.” So Ubay responded and said, “This is Taqwa.”
This example explains the meaning of Taqwa. It illustrates how a person of Taqwa is cautious and careful with where they tread, not out of fear of stepping on a thorn, but out of fear of stepping into what Allah SWT has prohibited. They are aware of Allah SWT with every action and step they take.

The virtues and benefits of having Taqwa

Taqwa is one of the most virtuous characteristics a Muslim can have. Allah says:
“Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” Quran 49:13. “Indeed, Allah loves the Muttaqeen.” Quran 3:76
Through these verses, we understand that the believers most honored by Allah are those that have Taqwa. If we want to please Allah and earn Allah’s pleasure, we should strive to have Taqwa.
Abu Sa`id Al Khudri narrated that the Messenger of Allah  was asked, “Which of the people are most virtuous?” He said, “A man who takes part in Jihad in Allah’s cause.” They said, “Then whom?” He said, “Then a believer who stays in one of the mountains path out of Taqwa for his Lord, leaving the people secure from his evil.” Al Tirmidhi.
Taqwa leads to guidance from Allah:
“This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for the Muttaqeen” Quran 2:2
Taqwa grants us the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood:
“O you who have believed, if you have Taqwa of Allah, He will grant you a criterion and will remove from you your misdeeds and forgive you.” Quran 8:29
When facing difficulties, those who have Taqwa will be granted a way out by Allah SWT and will be granted ease in their affairs:
“And whoever has Taqwa of Allah – He will make for him a way out and will provide for him from where he does not expect.” Quran 65:2-3 “And whoever has Taqwa of Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease.” Quran 65:4

How is Taqwa and Ramadan related?

The purpose of fasting is to attain Taqwa, as Allah SWT says:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may attain Taqwa.” Quran 2:183
Fasting is an exercise of Taqwa. As we fast throughout the day, our body urges us to eat and drink. Our hearts, however, resists these temptations, out of love and obedience to Allah. By abstaining from food and drink, which is Halal and also a necessity for our bodies, we build the strength we need to abstain from the Haram. Through abstaining from that which is halal and being wary of Haram during Ramadan, we are able to attain this God consciousness. Watch this video to understand the purpose of fasting in more detail.
Taqwa (Piety) in Islam

Ways to work on Taqwa?

  1. Fast outside Ramadan: when we fast, we are engaged in the very exercise that builds Taqwa. We are more conscious of what we say, see and do. Train yourself to continue this after you finish fasting.
  2. Let go of the Haram: part of Taqwa is to avoid the Haram. By being aware of Allah SWT and knowing that He watches everything we do, we will avoid the prohibitions.
  3. Increase your worship:
    • Read Quran daily
    • Pray at night and during your free time
    • Give Sadaqah (charity) more often instead of just on the day Jummah
    • Make more Du’a during the day, prayer and before and after prayer. Allah loves those who make Du’a. You have nothing to lose, you are asking from the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He can grant you whatever you want.
  4. Struggle against your Nafs (self jihad): struggling against one’s desires is one the greatest form of jihad we can do, as it is the hardest. Use the synergy of fasting alongside with struggling against your Nafs.

Examples of those that had Taqwa.

There have been many people with piety that we aspire to have and achieve in our life, and there are those that are alive today as well. We should look up to these people, so we can follow the foundations that they have created. One of the most God conscious person that we can aspire to be and follow after the Prophets, is Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, the first Caliph of Islam. One day his slave brings him some food, and Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq at that time was extremely hungry, he said Bismillah (in the name of God) and began to eat this food and he started to indulge in the food. His slave was astonished, because Abu Bakr would usually ask his slave where he would get the food from, but today he didn’t ask him. So the slave said, “Why didn’t you ask me where I got the food from today?” So Abu Bakr responded, “I am sorry. So where did you get your food from?”. The slave answered, “In the Jahiliyah (pre-Islam), I did some witchery, and the people liked it, and in return they gave me some food, and your eating it.”  When Abu Bakr realised that the source of this food came from Haram, making the food non Halal, and he did not know prior to that he went and vomited out the food he had just eaten, making sure there was no food left in his stomach. The people said, “Abu Bakr your going to kill yourself”, he said, “By Allah there is a little left, if it only comes out with my soul I do not mind.” This man was one of the ten guaranteed Jannah, but he had so much Taqwa in Allah that he did not want to displease Allah.         

What are practical applications in this day and age?

Taqwa in this day and age is difficult to attain, because of the accessibility of Haram and the difficulty in the halal, e.g. zina has become easier to do, while marriage has become very difficult. However, with the assistance of Allah it can become easier, it is Allah that can help you attain the state of piousness.
“Unquestionably, (for) the allies of Allah there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” Quran 10:62.
In order to gain Taqwa, we need to repent to Allah constantly, especially with sins that we repeatedly commit, and we need to fight our Nafs so we don’t go back to that sin. As well as, increasing our worship and consciousness in Allah.

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