• Text of the speech (with modifications) given by me in Unity Public school, Chennai after Ramadan 2012 CE • Inspired by the works of Imam GHazali, Imam ibn Qayyim and Imam ibn Rajab Hanbali, may Allah (سبحانه وتعلى) have mercy upon them all. • All translations of the aayat of Qur'an have been taken from 'The Noble Qur'an' by Dr Taqi ud din Hilali and Dr Muhsin Khan
The root of the word ‘Taqwa’ gives us the meaning of ‘protecting and preserving’ and can be literally used with reference to someone as ‘he protected himself from harm’. However when the translators of the meanings of the Qur’an began their translations they translated this word as ‘God-consciousness’, as done by Muhammad Asad, sometimes as ‘self-restrain’, as done by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and sometimes as ‘warding off evil’ as done by Pickthall giving a fair glimpse of the Islamic connotations of this word. Nevertheless, in Islam, this word covers an ocean of meanings and its dimensions are diverse, so much so that huge volumes have been written just to convey what this single word implies.
In addition to changing the belief system, social system, psychology and philosophy of human beings Islam also gave many words frequently uttered by people superfluous meanings. These words Sawm, hadith, Sunnah, Qur’an, zakat, marfu’, mawquf etc have new implications now. These were not present before Allah perfected His religion and chose it for the whole of mankind till the Day of Judgment. And same is the case for the word ‘Taqwa’.
It appears that the point at which Jibrael descended with the first revelation to Muhammad bin Abdullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was a crucial point at which the whole world along with whatever is in it physical and non physical both was undergoing filtration, whatever pure came out, which was insignificantly less than what was left behind was then build up strong with many additions and a complete code and set of life was formulated- Islam. And thus Islamic concept is not to have a ‘radical change’- whereby whatever exists in society is rejected from top to bottom, which unfortunately has caught up our minds, rather Islam believes in ‘reformation’; whatever good is in society Islam confirms and applauds it and whatever evil is there, Islam removes it and substitutes it by good.
This also, in itself is a miracle of our Leader and beloved Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) for no individual can influence so many fields in one life time. Leonardado da vinci is celebrated as a philosopher, engineer, artist, scientist and mathematician yet his sphere of influence is limited and that of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is unlimited. At the top of that in every field he is the best of all, from social leader to military general, amazing teacher, impressive ruler, great psychologist, a downright economist, distinguished organizer, unspeakably tolerant, profoundly generous, go on, a person whose way of living, standing, sitting, sleeping, eating, drinking, talking, travelling, buying, selling, praying, fasting, has been constantly imitated letter-perfect by millions of Muslims since ages. To his Prophet-hood we attest and we bear witness to what he brought with him, la ilaha illallah Muhammadur rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم). His sphere of influence didn’t even spare the Arabic words and thus he was (صلى الله عليه وسلم) a unique person in the history of mankind.
It is he (upon him be peace and blessings of Allah) who taught his companions what Taqwa is and imbibed in them its implications and thus we find them speaking about this subject in an astonishing fashion. Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam describes Taqwa as a combination of four things, he says, “Taqwa is to fear Allah the Almighty, to act upon revelation, to be content with little and to prepare for the day of travel (that is the day of judgement)”. Abu Darda (رضى الله عنه), another companion of Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) who was appointed as a preacher in Damuscus by Umar bin Khattab (رضى الله عنه) said, “The complete form of Taqwa is to fear Allah so much that one begins to fear Him from the potential sin in a mustard seed and until one leaves what might be halal (permitted) in the fear that it could be haram (prohibited). This is substantiated by the aayah,
فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ() وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ
“Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it.” (Al Qur’an 99:7-8)
So do not undermine any goodness and act upon goodness. Like,wise do not underestimate any evil and protect yourself from it.”While in Damascus he found the people immersed in luxury and soft living. This appalled him. He called the people to the masjid and spoke to them: "O people of Damascus! You are my brethren in religion, neighbors who live together and helpers one to another against enemies. "O people of Damascus! What is it that prevents you from being affectionate towards me and responding to my advice while I do not seek anything from you. Is it right that I see your learned ones departing (from this world) while the ignorant among you are not learning. I see that you incline towards such things which Allah has made you answerable for and you abandon what He has commanded you to do. "Is it reasonable that I see you gathering and hoarding what you do not eat, and erecting buildings in which you do not live, and holding out hopes for things you cannot attain.”Peoples before you have amassed wealth, made great plans and had high hopes. But it was not long before what they had amassed was destroyed, their hopes dashed and their houses turned into graves. Such were the people of Aad, O people of Damascus. They filled the earth with possessions and children. "Who is there who will purchase from me today the entire legacy of Aad for two dirhams?" Such was the effect of his short speech that people started to cry and their sobs could be heard from outside the masjid. A noble companion of Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), may Allah (سبحانه وتعلى) have mercy upon him who would live by what he would preach.
Abdullah ibn Abbas (رضى الله عنه) said: “The ones with Taqwa are those believers who prevent themselves from Shirk.” This is from the great understanding of the deen this great sahabi had. Allah (سبحانه وتعلى) says in the Glorious Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allâh), Who created you and those who were before you so that you may become Al-Muttaqûn” (2:21)
Thus those who are Al Muttaqun (The people of Taqwa) they don’t associate anyone with Allah in worship, rather they are satisfied in worshiping Him Alone and seek aid from Him alone. Ibn Abbas (رضى الله عنه) further says, “They (The people of Taqwa) are the ones who fear Allah’s punishment for failing to follow what they know to be guidance and hope for His mercy with regard to that which they believe came from Him”.
When Abu Hurairah (رضى الله عنه) was asked about Taqwa, he asked the questioner whether he had trodden a thorn-infested path. The man said “yes”. Abu Hurairah (رضى الله عنه) asked him how he walked on it. “When I saw a thorn, I took great care, lest I would be pricked by it”, replied the man. Abu Hurairah (رضى الله عنه) said, “that is exactly what Taqwa is”.
Indeed it is this ‘Taqwa’ by the virtue of which Allah (سبحانه وتعلى) takes allies from the humans. He (سبحانه وتعلى) says:
أَلَا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاءَ اللَّهِ لَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ() الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ
“No doubt! Verily, the Auliyâ' of Allâh [i.e. those who believe in the Oneness of Allâh and fear Allâh much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which he has forbidden), and love Allâh much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)], no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve. Those who believed (in the Oneness of Allâh – Islâmic Monotheism), and used to fear Allâh much (used to have Taqwa).” (10:62-63)
It is an irony that today people with clumsy hair and running nose, those who haven’t taken bath from years are taken as the Awliya of Allah. Rather, a person without upper garment is deemed as ‘half wali’ and that one who doesn’t even wear his lower garment is deemed as ‘full wali’! No, verily the Awliya of Allah are those who believe in Allah and fulfil the conditions of Islamic belief and have Taqwa. This is what is being said in the above aayah.
It is Taqwa towards which our salaf would exhort each other. When Abu Bakr (رضى الله عنه) was on his death bed he advised Umar (رضى الله عنه) to have Taqwa. Umar (رضى الله عنه), in turn advised people towards Taqwa in his sermon after he became the khalifah and reminded his son of the same. When Ali (رضى الله عنه) returned from a battle, he passed a graveyard outside kufa and said:
“O you who live in houses that create loneliness and in deserted places! You live in darkening graves! O people of dust and alienation! O people of isolation and loneliness! You are for us scouts and we are for you, followers. The houses (meaning your houses); well they have become inhabited again. The wives (meaning, your wives); they have remarried. The wealth (meaning, your wealth); it has been distributed. This is the news we have for you. What news do you have for us?” Then he turned towards his army and said. “If they were permitted to speak, they would inform you that the best provision is Taqwa”.
It is this Taqwa, my brothers, my sisters that Allah (سبحانه وتعلى) commands us to have. While conveying to the people who are going for hajj that they should take good provisions with them, lest they run out of it and face difficulties on their travel, He (سبحانه وتعلى) informs them.
وَتَزَوَّدُوا فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَىٰ ۚ وَاتَّقُونِ يَا أُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ.....
“…And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is At-Taqwa (piety, righteousness). So fear Me, O men of understanding!” (2:197)
For Verily, if you run out of provisions of this world, at most you will lose your life, but if you lose taqwa and die on a state of disbelief then you have lost life of this world as well as the life of hereafter. Thus indeed the best of provisions is At- Taqwa, but none understands it except for the men of understanding. May Allah grant us understanding and bless us with Taqwa and complete Eeman. O Allah (سبحانه وتعلى) we ask you by your beautiful names, you are Ar Rahman, Al Kareem, Al Raheem, Al Fatah, O Allah we ask you in a state where we have wronged ourselves, we ask you O our Lord that you forgive our sins, that you make this reminder beneficial for all of us and that You shower upon us Your Mercy and Blessings.
And our final call is; all praises are due to Allah the Lord of all that exists.