Thursday, December 20, 2007

Taqwa : Between Love and Fear

Taqwa : Between Love and Fear

Dr. Jamal Badawi

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-‘ālameen. There is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wasallam, is His Messenger.

“Taqwa” is a central concept that has been frequently mentioned in the Qur’an, especially in verses that deal with individual behavior in social relations. Some of the common English translations of the word taqwa are “piety” and “heed” or “God-fearing.” Each of these translations gives only a partial understanding of the word’s true meaning because it is an attitude that combines many feelings, such as “fear of God”, “heeding”, and above all being “God-conscious”. 

Allāh Subhānahu wata‘ala Says: 

“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious - see Al-Baqarah, 2:2). Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”

[Al-Hujurat 49:13]

Abu Dharr Jundub bin Junadah and Abu Abdul Rahman Mu’adz bin Jabal, (radiyallāhu’anhuma), reported that the Messenger of Allāh, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), said:

“Fear Allāh wherever you may be; follows up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe (the former) out, and behave good-naturedly towards people.”

[Al-Tirmidzi relates it, saying: It is a good (hasan) Tradition. In some copies he says: It is a good and genuine (hasan and sahih) Hadith.]

Is Taqwa Simply Fear ?

The term “fear”, when used to refer to “God-consciousness” in the Islamic context, does not mean being scared of God because being scared excludes any feeling of love or respect.

The “Fear of Allah” means to “fear His disobedience and punishment, on the Day of Judgment”, and “to fear forgetting Him and losing His blessings”.

Another partial meaning of fear, which is nobler, is the “fear of displeasing Allah, the One Whom you love”. As an example, when two people love each other, you find each of them trying their best to please the other and to avoid even forgetting their anniversaries or birthdays. If this is the attitude of humans towards each other, then it is more appropriate that people “fear Allah’s displeasure”. People should love Allah most because they owe everything to Him: their lives, property, and, above all, His guidance to know and worship Him.

So, “fear of Allah” is not founded on a vengeful concept of hate and fear of Allah. It is actually based on “love”, which leads to a “feeling of fear of Allah’s displeasure”.


The meaning of taqwa was clarified in a statement made by ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (radiyallāhu’anhu), the second caliph after Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). ‘Umar compared being God-conscious to a person going through a narrow path with thorns while he is trying to snatch his clothes in order to protect himself from any harm. In Arabic, clothing is used as a metaphor for a person’s character and the thorns are a metaphor for the temptations in life, such as greed and wanting to get money from any source whether legitimate or illegitimate, or temptation towards illicit relationships. This similitude means that the person goes through life trying to protect his moral and pure character, which was endowed on him by Allah, from all other diversions, deviations, or temptations that surround him.

“God-consciousness” is the core of taqwa because it acknowledging, feeling, and realizing Allah’s presence at all times, and knowing that He is looking after you and knows what you are doing and even what your soul whispers to you. This feeling results in trying to go through life according to Allah’s orders and being ashamed of doing wrong in His presence, which is at all times.

So a person who has taqwa tries to avoid both: things that displease Allah and things that may harm himself or others. This is explained beautifully in a story that took place during the reign of `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (radiyallāhu’anhu): A simple teenage girl had a mother who sold milk and in order to increase the amount of milk and earn money easily her mother added water to it. On seeing her mother, the girl advised her not to cheat but the mother said that they are alone and caliph ‘Umar cannot see them, so the girl told her that ‘Umar cannot see them but the God of ‘Umar can see them.

This story shows the degrees of God-consciousness and that reaching a high degree of God-consciousness is not necessarily measured by how often a person feels it on going to places of worship, but by a person tries to be conscious of Allah’s presence at all times.

Taqwa and Divine Love

For centuries, philosophers and writers have tried to explore divine love but found that there are some feelings that just cannot be translated into words, especially when a person moves to higher degrees of divine love.

Divine love in Islam is not a type of superficial love but it is considered a mutual genuine feeling between Allah and man, which is referred to in the Qur’an: “Then Allah will bring a people, He shall love them and they shall love Him” [Al-Ma’idah, 5:54].

The Qur’an connects divine love to taqwa in a verse that says what means: “For lo! Allah loveth those who ward off (evil)” [Ali-‘Imran 3:76]. This shows that divine love is not only manifested in pure acts of worship like prayers, but it is also reflected in different aspects of life. That is why following the path of Allah is the real test for the genuineness of divine love.

This is beautifully expressed in the Qur’an, while addressing Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam):  “Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” [Ali-‘Imran, 3:31].

Following this path that Allah has established for man results in a sense of dependence upon Allah and a sense of gratefulness to Allah for all His bounties.

Divine love requires commitment and steadfastness so a person can be prepared to face the different trials and tribulations in life. It also requires responsibility and sacrifice of some of the person’s time, property, desires, and even a person’s own life if necessary. The Qur’an indicates that to have this true love, one must put Allah’s love above all other types of love: But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for Allah” [Al-Baqarah, 2:165].

Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) also mentioned that one of the things that a person must achieve in order to feel the sweet taste of faith in his heart, is to love Allah and His Messenger more than anything else.

This divine love is also the foundation of love for other creatures in the universe because the deep and profound love for humans and other creatures would not be felt by someone who does not truly love Allah.

Translating Love into Good Deeds

Various verses in the Qur’an explain the characteristics that a person should have in order to receive Allah’s love.

One of those traits is taqwa or God-consciousness, which is referred to in the Qur’an:  “For lo! Allah loveth those who ward off (evil)” [Ali-`Imran 3:76].

Also, people who constantly repent to Allah deserve His love:  “For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean”  [Al-Baqarah, 2:222], which means that the door for repentance is open if a person sins, and not only does Allah accept those who repent, but He also loves them.

A third characteristic is constant self-purification. The Qur’an says: “And Allah loves those who purify themselves[At-Tawbah, 9:108].

People who do good deeds were also mentioned in several verses:  “Surely Allah loves the doers of good” [Al-Baqarah, 2:195].

Allah also loves those who have trust in Him. He says: “For Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)” [Ali-`Imran, 3:159].

Those who are steadfast and persevering also deserve divine love:   “And Allah loves the patient” [Ali-`Imran 3:146].

People who are just or judge in equity are also mentioned in the Qur’an as receiving Allah’s love:  “Surely Allah loves those who judge equitably” [Al-Ma’idah, 5:42].

Endangering Divine Love

There are also characteristics that Allah does not love, such as aggression or transgression. He says: “Lo! Allah loveth not transgressors” [Al-Ma’idah 5:87]

Corruption on earth or doing mischief is another bad characteristic: “And Allah loveth not mischief” [Al-Baqarah, 2:205].

In addition, being ungrateful is something that Allah does not love: “…and Allah does not love any ungrateful sinner.” [Al-Baqarah, 2:276]

Those who reject faith are also endangering divine love: “Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger. But if they turn away, lo! Allah loveth not the disbelievers (in His guidance)” [Ali- `Imran 3:32]. In the Qur’an, Allah mentions oppression, where He says: “And Allah does not love the unjust’ [Ali- `Imran 3:57].

Betrayal and treachery are also bad traits that Allah does not love:  “Surely Allah does not love the treacherous” [Al-Anfal, 8:58].

Those who waste and misuse things are mentioned by Allah as people who endanger divine love:  “Surely He does not love the extravagant” [Al-A`raf 7:31].

There are also a number of verses that show that Allah dislikes vanity and arrogance, where He says:   “Surely Allah does not love him who is proud, boastful” [An-Nisa,’ 4:36].

The Fruits of Taqwa

There are several benefits derived from the moral quality of being God-conscious. First, the Qur’an is in itself guidance for those who are God-conscious: “This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, guidance unto those who ward off (evil)” [Al-Baqarah, 2:2]. This is why many people do not really benefit from reading scriptures of holy books, because their hearts are not really receptive to them.

Another benefit is that taqwa helps people to have proper vision, knowledge, and wisdom. Referring to this we find a beautiful verse in the Qur’an saying: “O ye who believe! If ye fear Allah, He will grant you a criterion (to judge between right and wrong), remove from you (all) evil (that may afflict) you, and forgive you: for Allah is the Lord of grace unbounded” [Al-Anfal, 8:29]. Another verse that relates taqwa to knowledge and vision says: “Observe your duty to Allah. Allah is teaching you. And Allah is knower of all things” [Al-Baqarah, 2:282].

Taqwa is also a cause for receiving the blessings of Allah and finding a way out of problems and tribulations that may be found in life. For example, the Qur’an says: “And whoever is careful of (his duty to) Allah, He will make easy for him his affair” [At-Talaq, 65:4].

The Qur’an refers to taqwa as a perquisite for the forgiveness of sins. It says in one verse:  “And whoso keepeth his duty to Allah, He will remit from him his evil deeds and magnify reward for him” [At-Talaq, 65:5].

Taqwa is also a precondition for receiving Allah’s mercy, which is indicated in a moving verse that says: “That (mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practice regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs’ [Al-A`raf 7:156].

Ultimate victory and taqwa are also relatedLo! The sequel is for those who ward off (evil)” [Hud 11:49].

Ultimate bliss is also reached by God-consciousness, and not only is this bliss in life on earth but also in the eternal life of the hereafter. The Qur’an refers to this by saying: “Behold! Verily on the friends of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve” [Yunus, 10:62].

Qur’an constantly mentions taqwa as an essential quality: that one should submit to Allah’s will and take taqwa as provision for the travel from this life on earth to the eternal life in the hereafter. The Qur’an refers to this by saying: “For the best provision is to ward off evil. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding” [Al-Baqarah, 2:197]. Having this quality of taqwa would result in a feeling of inner peace, and eternal tranquility would spread among people.

Allāh Subhānahu wata‘ala, also says: "Verily, the Abrar (pious and righteous) will be in Delight (Jannah). And verily, the Fujjar (the wicked, disbelievers, sinners and evildoers) will be in the blazing Fire (Hell)." [Al-Infitar ,82:13,14]

Having good character

It is incumbent upon every Muslim to have a good character because it is a characteristic of Taqwa. Hence every Muslim should treat others in a good manner. Ibn Rajab (rahimahullāh) says in his commentary: “Having good character is a characteristic of Taqwa. Taqwa cannot be complete without it. It was mentioned here by itself due to the need for explicitly explaining that point. Many people think that Taqwa implies fulfilling the rights of Allāh without fulfilling the rights of humans. Therefore, the Prophet, (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam), explicitly stated that he or she must deal with people in a kind manner.” This ruling is stressed in many other hadiths, of which the following are some.

Prophet, (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) says: “Piety and Righteousness is being of good character.” [Recorded by Imam Muslim]; In another narration: “The believer with the most complete Imān (faith) is the one with the best behavior.” [Recorded by Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawud]

Prophet, (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) also says: “There is nothing heavier in the scales than good character.” [Recorded by Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawud]

In another hadith the Prophet, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) made Iman (faith) and good character as the main basic criterion whether or not to accept a man for marriage.

Allāh the Almighty says:"O believers! Embrace Taqwa of Allāh as is His right to have Taqwa. And die not except while you are Muslims"[Surah Al-‘Imran, 3: 102]

'Abdullah bin Mas'ud (radiyallahu ‘anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) used to say: "Allahumma inni as'alukal-huda wat-tuqa wal-'afafa wal-ghina (O Allah! I ask You for guidance, piety, chastity and self-sufficiency)".[Recorded by Muslim].

This Hadith contains four words, the meanings and implications of which constitute its essence. These words are guidance, piety (fear of Allah), chastity and sufficiency. Guidance here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Fear of Allah is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Chastity is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Self-sufficiency is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the prayer of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.

Seeking Allah's Forgiveness and Mercy

‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu) said: We counted Messenger's saying a hundred times during one single sitting: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb ‘alayya innaka antat-tawwābul-rahīm’ (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Accepter of Repentance, Most Merciful). According to another report: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb ‘alayya Innaka antat-tawābul-ghafūr” (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Acceptor of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving).  [Recorded by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidzi].

Commentary: This Hadith tells us about the etiquette of praying to Allāh. We should use the Names of Allāh befitting our prayers, i.e., the Names of Allāh signifying those Attributes of Allāh which have a special concern with the subject of our particular prayer, i.e., while seeking forgiveness, His Names concerning His Attributes of forgiveness and kindness should be used. On the other hand, while praying for worldly matters, we should mention His Qualities of charity and bestowing gifts etc.

Al-Agharr bin Yasar Al-Muzani (radiyallāhu’anhu) narrated that: The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: Turn you people in repentance to Allah and beg pardon of Him. I turn to Him in repentance a hundred times a day”. [Recorded by Muslim]

 In the narration from Ibn 'Abbas (radiyallāhu‘anhu), who said that Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allāh), Allāh will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.”[Recorded by Abu Dawud]

Ibn Mas’ud (radiyallāhu‘anhu) said: Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “He who says: 'Astaghfir ullah-alladzi la ilaha illa Huwal-Haiyul-Qayyumu, wa atubu ilaih (I seek the forgiveness of Allāh, there is no true god except Allāh, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting, and I turn to Him in repentance),' his sins will be forgiven even if he should have run away from the battlefield (while he was engaged in fighting for the Cause of Allāh).” [Recorded by Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidzi and Al-Hakim (on conditions of Al-Bukhari and Muslim for accepting Hadith)].

Shaddad bin Aus (radiyallāhu‘anhu) said: Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “The best supplication for seeking forgiveness (Sayyid-ul-Istighfar) is to say: ‘Allāhumma Anta Rabbi, la ilaha illa Anta, khalaqtani wa ana 'abduka, wa ana 'ala 'ahdika wa wa'dika mastata'tu, a'udhu bika min sharri ma sana'tu, abu'u laka bini'matika 'alayya, wa abu'u bidhanbi faghfir li, fa innahu la yaghfirudh-dzunuba illa Anta. (O Allāh! You are my Rabb. There is no true god except You. You have created me, and I am Your slave, and I hold to Your Covenant as far as I can. I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done. I acknowledge the favours that You have bestowed upon me, and I confess my sins. Pardon me, for none but You has the power to pardon).' He who supplicates in these terms during the day with firm belief in it and dies on the same day (before the evening), he will be one of the dwellers of Jannah; and if anyone supplicates in these terms during the night with firm belief in it and dies before the morning, he will be one of the dwellers of Jannah.”  [Recorded by Al-Bukhari].

‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud (radiyallāhu‘anhu) reported: The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) used to supplicate: “Allāhumma inni as ‘alukal-Huda, Wat-Tuqa, Wal-‘Afafa, Wal-Ghina (O Allāh! I beseech You for Guidance, Piety, Chastity and Contentment).” [Muslim]. This du’a contains four words, the meanings and implications of which constitute its essence. These words are guidance, piety (fear of Allah), chastity and sufficiency. Guidance here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Fear of Allah is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Chastity is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Self-sufficiency is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the prayer of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.

Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir recorded that Umm Salamah (radiyallāhu`anha), said that the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) used to supplicate: ‘Ya muqallibal-qulubi, thabbit qalbi `ala dinika (O Controller of the hearts make my heart steadfast in Your religion).” Rasulullah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) then recited: Rabbana la tuzia’qulubana ba’ daiz hadaitana wahab Lana min laduñ karahmah; Iñnaka an tal wahhāb. (Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after Thou have guided us, and grant us mercy from Thou. Truly, Thou are the Bestower.) (Al-’Imran, 3:8) [This is recorded by Muslim and At-Tirmidzi] 

Allāh Subhānahu wata‘ala, says: “Verily, the Abrar (pious and righteous) will be in Delight (Jannah). And verily, the Fujjar (the wicked, disbelievers, sinners and evildoers) will be in the blazing Fire (Hell).” [Al-Infitar ,82:13,14]

It was narrated that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said to a man (one of the Sahabah): “What do you say when you prayer (Du’a after the Tashahhud)?” He said: “I recite the Tashahhud, then I say:  “Allāhumma inni as alukal-Jannah wa a‘udzu bika Minan-nār” (O Allāh, I ask You for Paradise and seek refuge in You from the Fire).I cannot murmur like you and like Mu‘adz.” Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “It is about them that we were murmuring.” [Narrated by Abu Dawud, 792: sahih] 

Anas Ibn Mālik (radiyallāhu’anhu) who said: “The supplication most often recited by Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam): Rabbana-ātina-fid-dunya hasanah, Wa fil-ākhirati-hasanah, Wa-qina-‘ādzabānnār (O Lord! Bestow upon us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the punishment of the Fire).’” (Al-Baqārah 2:201) [This is recorded by Al-Bukhāri, Muslim, and Tarmidzi]. Tarmidzi (rahimullāh) said: “Hasanah is very comprehensive and includes in all kinds of good and benefits of this world and of the Hereafter. Good health, wealth and satisfaction of the world and good status in Jannah, forgiveness from sins and Allāh’s bounties and favours in both worlds are included in this duā’” [ Jāmi’ At-Tarmidzi] 

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.

Dr. Jamal Badawi is a professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, where he currently teaches in the areas of management and religious studies. He is the author of several works on various aspects of Islam.

[Via Islamonline]

Please See:The Reality of Humbleness

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