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Taqwā: The Forgotten Jewel of Ramaḍān

 

O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous –

[Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.

The month of Ramaḍān [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’ān, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allāh intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allāh for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.[1]

O servants of Allāh, and O children of Ādam. Indeed all praises belong to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) Who said:

“Indeed Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is with the people of Taqwā, and with those who do good”.[2]

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We praise Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), we seek His Assistance, and we seek His Guidance. And we seek refuge in Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) from the evils of ourselves and the adverse consequences of our deeds.

It is said that the first khutbah that Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) completed upon his arrival to Madinah was a khutbah dedicated to the topic of Taqwā. This is befitting when we consider that having Taqwā was the advice that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) gave to previous nations before us, as well as to the Ummah of Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) advised previous nations – the Jews and the Christians – towards Taqwā and gaining this quality in their lives. He also advised the Ummah of Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) towards adopting this quality of Taqwa in their lives. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says,

“And We have instructed those who were given the Scripture before you to have Taqwā. And We have advised you, as well, towards Taqwā.”[3]

Taqwā is a tremendous quality and a lofty station to achieve. It forms the foundation of our religion and without it, one cannot say that they live a real life. This is due to the fact that the abode and home of Taqwā is the heart, and we are more hearts and souls than we are bodies. This becomes even clearer when we visit someone that we knew or someone that we befriended after they pass away. When we visit them, their body’s with all its various parts are in front of us, however, nothing is working because Allāh the All-Powerful has removed the force that caused the bodily functions to work. This means that when we visit one another, we are actually visiting one another’s hearts and souls rather than visiting only bodies.

Without Taqwā, there can be neither prosperity for us in this life nor the next because the fruits of Taqwā encompass the life of this world and the next. In Taqwā, we find precious gems, we find wealth and we find success – both in this world and the Hereafter.

Taqwā is a term that, along with its derivatives, has been mentioned in the Qur’ān approximately 240 times. When Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) makes mention of a particular word that denotes a particular quality, numerous times, it teaches us how important that quality is to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). It is no secret that this quality of Taqwā is synonymous with the month of Ramaḍān.

Whilst the term ‘Taqwā’ is not foreign to the majority of us, the reality is that the actual meanings of Taqwā are foreign to many of us. According to many Muslims, because of the various English translations available, Taqwā means the fear of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), piety, righteousness, or – and perhaps this is the best explanation, given the richness of the Arabic language and the inabilities of the English language – Taqwā refers to being God-conscious.

In reality, these translations, definitions or explanations only deal with a portion of the meanings for Taqwā. When we look at the Qur’ānic narrative we find a plethora of meanings intended when the word Taqwā is used by Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) depending on the context.

Linguistic Perspective

To look at the meaning of Taqwā from a linguistic perspective is to consider its meaning before the advent of Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). Our scholars (rahimahum Allahu) say that Taqwā, linguistically, referred to the method by which someone repels a particular harm, or the tool used to repel a particular harm. That is why the Arabs would say “waqahu Allāh su’a wiqayatan” – Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) protected him from harm or He shielded him from harm.

Islamic Perspective

As for the definition of Taqwā after the advent of Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), the ‘Ulama (rahimahum Allahu) discuss Taqwā using different explanations, nonetheless, the meanings of their explanations are similar. The reason for these different explanations is due to the various usages of the term Taqwā by Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), in His Book.

An example of this is when alcohol became prohibited. The companions of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) expressed their concerns over the fate of their brothers who had passed away before this commandment had been revealed. In response to their question, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) revealed:

“On those who believe and do good there is no blame for what they eat, when they are careful [of their duty] and believe and do good deeds, then they are careful [of their duty] and believe, then they are careful [of their duty] and do good [to others], and Allāh loves those who do good [to others].”[4]

Taqwā has been mentioned three times in this Āyah. Our Scholars say that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) intended independent meanings of the same word. Thus, when Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) used Taqwā the first time in the verse, He referred to avoiding Shirk and perfecting Tawhīd; when Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) used it the second time, He used it to warn us against Bidʿah and to command us towards protecting the Sunnah, and when Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) used it for the third time in this ayah, He used it to denote the importance of obedience and remaining steadfast.

This teaches us that in our quest of acquiring Taqwā we must endeavour to:

1. Protect our Tawhīd and shun Shirk.

2. Revive the Sunnah and eradicate Bidʿah.

3. Adopt piety and righteousness and stay away from all causes of evil.

In other instances, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) intends by the term Taqwā to fear something like in the following verse:

“And fear the day in which you shall be returned to Allāh…”[5]

Here the verse refers to fearing the day you die and fearing the Day of Judgement.

Sometimes Taqwā is used in the Qur’ān in the context of a commandment. In many a translation, we find it translated as ‘fear Allāh’, however, the term fear here should not be understood to mean staying away from Him, losing hope in Him and feeling incapable of turning back to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). Rather, it refers to fearing the punishment of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). Thus, to grow in your Taqwā this Ramaḍān, grow in your fear of the Day of Judgement and grow your fear of the punishments of the grave and the hellfire.

In other verses, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) uses the word Taqwā in the context of veneration and reverence of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā).

For Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says, “…and Allāh makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself….”[6] The scholars say here Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) commands us to exalt Him, glorify Him, and hold Him in high regard. Therefore, we should strive to ensure that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is the purpose, reason and focus behind our every thought and action.

For example, when we begin our Ṣalāh we say Allahu Akbar (Allāh is Greater). What is Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) greater than?

Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is Greater than everything outside of the Ṣalāh. When saying Allāhu Akbar, everything outside of the Ṣalāh is irrelevant and thus, only Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) matters as He is greater than everything else.

Legal Perspective

From amongst the definitions we have is that Taqwā is to place a barrier between oneself and the punishment of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) by remaining upon the commandments of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and staying away from the prohibitions.[7]

Ali (radiy Allahu ‘anhu) defined Taqwā as fearing the Majestic (meaning Allāh) and acting upon revelation (following the Qur’ān and Sunnah), being satisfied with a little, being a person of contentment and preparing yourself for the day when you return to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā).

‘Umar b. Al-Khattab (radiy Allahu ‘anhu) once turned to Ubay b. Ka’b (radiy Allahu ‘anhu) and asked him, “O Ubayy, what is your understanding of Taqwā?”

His reply was “O Commander of the Faithful, have you ever walked a thorny path?”

So ‘Umar said, “Yes I have.”

“What did you do when you walked that path?”

‘Umar said, “I rolled up my garments up to my shin, so I could see the ground and see my feet. And I would put one foot forward and another back, out of fear of being pricked by a thorn.”

Ubayy then said, “O Commander of the Faithful, that is Taqwā.”

Taqwā is to roll up one’s garments, to work in obedience to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), to watch out for halal and haram, and to be cautious not to commit errors out of the fear of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā).

Ibn al-Mu’taz said: “Shun all sins, be they small or large, for that is Taqwā. And be like the one walking on a thorny path, wary of what he sees. And do not make light of small sins, because mountains are made of many pebbles”

Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahu Allahu) says that Taqwā is to act in the obedience of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) out of faith and desire for reward, in respect to both commandments and prohibitions. For when you do something, you do it because you believe in Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), expecting Him to reward you. And when you leave something, you leave it because Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) warned you against it, and you leave it expecting rewards form Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). This is Taqwā. That is why the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said the one who stands during the night of Ramaḍān and fasts during the day of Ramaḍān because he knows that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has commanded him to do it, and he believes in Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and he does it with the belief that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) will reward him, his previous sins will be forgiven.

Talq b. Habib said “When tribulation befalls you, extinguish it with Taqwā.”

So they asked him, “What is Taqwā?”

And he said, “Taqwā is to act in obedience to Allāh, on a light from Allāh, hoping for Allāh’s reward. It is to leave disobedience to Allāh, on a light from Allāh, fearing the punishment of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā)”.

Analysis

If we analyse these different definitions and usages of the word Taqwā in the Book of Allāh we can say that Taqwā refers to a few things:

1. Tawhīd and everything that leads toward strengthening it and leaving shirk, and adopting all those processes that will protect you from falling into shirk.

2. Leaving all that which will cause punishment in the Hellfire, even for a short while. To seek repentance, to practice good deeds, to be charitable, to revive the Sunnah, and to leave bid’ah.

3. Shunning those matters which, despite being halal and permissible, obstruct us from acquiring a greater portion of the Hereafter. Sometimes we engage in something permissible which causes us to become desensitised to the extent that we start practising that which is disliked until we become even further desensitised. Eventually, our iman decreases to the point when doing haram becomes an option.

Food for thought

One may reflect as to why we witness people on the day of Eid engaged in numerous sins after fasting an entire month of Ramadan. If fasting brings about Taqwā why is it so easy to fall into sin on the day of Eid and onwards? This happens because of a deficiency in the entire fasting process that prevents the attainment of Taqwā. This deficiency is in the form of Ramadan being experienced with only the body and not with the heart and soul. The body fasts whilst the heart, soul and tongue are immersed in disobedience. That is why the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

“Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is not in need of his leaving his food and drink”.[8]

Thus, when fasting this Ramaḍān, pay acute attention to the fasting of the entire self; when the body starts fasting, the heart, soul, mind and tongue should start fasting as well. In this way our fasting is holistic and acquiring the true benefits of this blessed month becomes a true possibility.

Do I know if I am from the people of Taqwā after Ramaḍān?

If you find that after Ramaḍān there were certain sins that overcame you and now you are proactively abstaining from these sins, and seeking sincere forgiveness from Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) in the event of falling into them, then that is from the signs of Taqwā being present in you, In Shā’ Allāh.

Conclusion

Last year, we witnessed the World Cup fever. A great lesson that we can derive from these sporting events is the rigorous training the athletes undergo before they start the event. The Olympian is running and training four years prior to that one big marathon run. The footballers are training and practising in preparation for their big stage.

Let us learn from this and prepare now. If you want to be diligent in fasting and Tahajjud prepare yourself to continue these acts after Ramaḍān. If we want to be diligent with Ṣalāh al-Duḥa, let’s start Ṣalāh al-Duḥa now. Do not be deceived by Shayṭān into thinking that you have time. Do not lose Ramaḍān. Respect it; it is a gift from Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā).

I promise to make an effort to remember every reader of this article during this month of Ramaḍān and request that you all too remember me and my family in your Ramaḍān supplications. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) grant us life to witness another Ramaḍān and make us from the family of Taqwā.

Death is a door that everyone will walk through. Many people we spent Ramaḍān with last year have since departed, and in the past week alone we have heard of the passing of many Muslim families.

Inna lillāhi wa inna ilayhi rāji’oon.

Their death comes as a shock and should be a lesson for us all. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) have mercy on them and grant them graves which are gardens from Jannah. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) preserve us all in His obedience and bless us with sound health and strength to complete this Ramaḍān with excellence, and many more Ramaḍāns thereafter. Āmīn.

May Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) make us diligent before, during and after Ramaḍān. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) protect us from the curse of Jibrīl (ʿalayhi al-Salām) upon the person who witnesses Ramaḍān and Ramaḍān leaves them without them being forgiven. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) protect us, accept our deeds and grant us the highest paradise. Āmīn.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] Al-Qur’ān, 2:182-185

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 16:128

[3] Al-Qur’ān, 4:131

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 5:93

[5] Al-Qur’ān, 2:281

[6] Al-Qur’ān, 3:28

[7] Al-Hāfidh Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalāni (raḥimahu Allāhu) in his book Fath al-Bāri

[8] Saḥiḥ al-Bukhārī 1903

About Shaykh Sajid Umar

Sheikh Sajid Ahmed Umar initially pursued a degree in IT, graduating with a first class result. He went on to successfully open an IT business. Alongside his contemporary studies, Sheikh Sajid completed the memorization of the Qur'an at the age of 18. Subsequently, he turned his attention towards Islamic Studies. He completed a 3-year University Diploma in Arabic language and Islamic Sciences at Imaam Muhammed bin Saud Islamic University, he later attained a Bachelors degree in Sharī'ah and thereafter a Masters degree in Judiciary (Qadha), with a first class honours, from the Higher Institute for Judiciary Studies (Ma'had al-'āli li'l-Qa'dhā). He trained as a judge and successfully completed a thesis on the topic of Liquidity Management using the famous Repurchase Agreement (REPO) contract, as well as its rulings and permitted alternatives. He is now pursuing his PhD in the Higher Institute of Judiciary at Al-Imam University. Sheikh Sajid has played an integral part in Islamic academic development worldwide he has authored several articles and dissertations in both Arabic and English pertaining to the Islamic Sciences; lectures at Knowledge International University; is Director of Islamic Development for Mercy Mission World; lectures at AlKauthar Institute and is Chief Islamic Editor for a magazine among various other commendable endeavours.

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