By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
14 September 2017
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah
Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
The preceding article probed an early
passage of the Qur’an (91:1-10) to evolve the Qur’anic notion of Taqwa as the
restraining impulse of man’s inner self, a watchdog against man’s base
instincts or gross temptations.
As the Qur’an is virtually a crusade
against the base instincts of man, it raises the notion of Taqwa in its opening
passage (Surah al-Baqara, 2:2-5) that appears after a short opening prayer
“This is the
Divine Writ, in which nothing is doubtful: it has guidance for the morally
upright (Muttaqin) (2:2) - who believe in the unseen, perform the prayers,
spend out of what God provided for them”(2:3), who believe in the divinity of
revelations given to you (O Muhammad) and before you and are certain of the
Hereafter (2:4).It is those (Muttaqin) that are on true guidance from their
Lord; and it is they (the Muttaqin) who will succeed (attain Falah) (2:5).”
The opening verse 2:2 above clearly implies
that only those who are ‘Muttaqi’ – imbued with Taqwa and are not slaves
to their base instincts will receive guidance from the Qur’an.
The succeeding verses 2:3-4 recount some
virtues of the Muttaqin (plural form of Muttaqi): they will perform prayer and
spend in God’s way (2:3) in addition to believing in the divinity of
revelations and ultimate accountability to God (2:4).
Ironically, most Muslims argue that those
who are regular in prayer and spend in charity (2:3) are the Muttaqin and will
receive the guidance of the Qur’an (2:2). Such an interpretation shifts
emphasis from Taqwa to prayer and charity and transforms the din of Islam from
one that is designed to promote Taqwa to one that is devoted to prayer and
charity (2:4). The Qur’an clarifies the primary role of Taqwa in the concluding
verse of the passage (2:5):“the Muttaqin are on true guidance from God.” Across
it text, the Qur’an repeatedly declares: it is “guidance and counsel for the Muttaqin”
(3:138); it is “counsel for the Muttaqin” (24:34).
Taqwa as a Level Playing Field in
Spirituality for All Humanity
As Taqwa is intrinsic to the inner
self (Nafs) of all mankind as demonstrated in the preceding Reflection,
people of any religion can become ‘Muttaqi. Thus in the context of the
revelation the Qur’an acknowledges that some among the People of the Book
(Christians and Jews) were Muttaqi.
“They are not
the same: among the People of the Book is an upright community: they recite
God’s messages through the hours of night as they bow down before Him (3:113).
They believe in God and the Last Day; enjoin the good, and forbid the evil and
hasten to good deeds - it is they who are among the righteous (114). Any good
they do, they will not be denied it as God knows the heedful (Muttaqin)”
The Qur’an also privileges Taqwa over the
symbolism of hajj and fasting rituals and declares.
flesh of sacrificial animal nor their blood reaches God, but your Taqwa does
indeed reach Him…” (22:37).
provisions (for hajj), but the best provision is Taqwa…” (2:197).
believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before
you, so that you acquire Taqwa (2:183).
As Taqwa is the precursor to good and
righteous deeds (concluding statement in the preceding Reflection), the Qur’an
pairs Taqwa with good deeds to create a spiritual trump card – so to say, for
divine approval even in the face of dietary lapses:
believe and do good deeds shall not be blamed for what they may eat (or drink)
so long as they are heedful of Taqwa and believe, and do good deeds; so long as
they are heedful of Taqwa, and believe; so long as they are heedful of Taqwa,
and do good.(Remember,) God loves the compassionate ” (5:93). [Rendition based
on Essential Message of Islam, Ch. 26.2]
From the foregoing illustrations it follows
that like good deeds (Reflection 6), Taqwa stands out as the level playing
field of spirituality for all believing humanity. Accordingly, the Qur’an
“O People! We
have created you as male and female, and made you into races and communities
for you to get to know each other. The noblest among you near God are those of
you who are the most heedful of Taqwa. Indeed God is All-Knowing and informed”
How God will judge the non-believer
(atheists, polytheists) activists of divinely ingrained Taqwa (91:1-10,
Reflection 7) – who curb their lowly desires and do good deeds– God alone
Finally, to avoid any confusion in
religious thoughts a clear distinction must be made between the self (Nafs)
dictated moral imperative – Taqwa and Cardinal spiritual obligation of Salat
(prayer). We will take it up in our next reflection.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of
Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth
study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has
co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar
al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was
endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by
Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
on Qur'anic Message – Part – 7: Polarity of Goodness and Evil in Human
URL of Part 7: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-spiritualism/muhammad-yunus,-new-age-islam/reflections-on-qur-anic-message-–-part-–-7--polarity-of-goodness-and-evil-in-human-conscience/d/112427
Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic
Muslim News, Arab
World News, South
Asia News, Indian
Muslim News, World
Muslim News, Women
in Islam, Islamic
In Arab, Islamophobia
in America, Muslim
Women in West, Islam
Women and Feminism
(5:42) (They are fond of) listening
to falsehood, of devouring anything forbidden [akaluna lissuht].
Sahih International: [They
are] avid listeners to falsehood, devourers of [what is] unlawful […
for the sake of falsehood! Greedy for illicit gain!
Yusuf Ali: (They are fond of)
listening to falsehood, of devouring anything forbidden…
are) listeners of a lie, devourers of what is forbidden;
Muhammad Sarwar: They
deliberately listen to lies (for deceitful purposes) and live on usury. ..
Mohsin Khan: (They
like to) listen to falsehood, to devour anything forbidden….
listen to falsehood, and consume the unlawful…
(5:62) Many of them dost thou see, racing
each other in sin and rancour, and their eating [uklehum] of things forbidden [suhut]. Evil indeed
are the things that they do.
Sahih International: And you see many of them hastening
into sin and aggression and the devouring
of [what is] unlawful. How wretched is what they have been doing.
Pickthall: And thou seest many of
them vying one with another in sin and transgression and their devouring of illicit gain.
Verily evil is what they do.
Yusuf Ali: Many of them dost thou see, racing each
other in sin and rancour, and their eating
of things forbidden. Evil indeed are the things that they do.
Shakir: And you will see many of
them striving with one another to hasten in sin and exceeding the limits, and
their eating of what is unlawfully
acquired; certainly evil is that which they do.
Muhammad Sarwar: You can see many of them
competing with each other in sin, hostility, and in taking usury. What they had been doing is certainly evil.
Mohsin Khan: And you see many of them
(Jews) hurrying for sin and transgression, and eating illegal things [as
bribes and Riba (usury), etc.]. Evil indeed is that which they have been
Arberry: Thou seest many of them
vying in sin and enmity, and how they consume the unlawful; evil is the
thing they have been doing.
(5:63) Why do not the rabbis and the doctors
of Law forbid them from their (habit of) uttering sinful words and eating
things forbidden? [uklehum
us suht]Evil indeed are their works.
Sahih International: Why do the rabbis and
religious scholars not forbid them from saying what is sinful and devouring
what is unlawful? ..
Pickthall: Why do not the rabbis and
the priests forbid their evil-speaking and their devouring of illicit gain?
Yusuf Ali: Why do not the rabbis and the doctors of Law
forbid them from their (habit of) uttering sinful words and eating things
Shakir: Why do not the learned men
and the doctors of law prohibit them from their speaking of what is sinful and
their eating of what is unlawfully acquired? ..
Muhammad Sarwar: Why did the men of God and
rabbis not forbid them from following their sinful words and their consuming
of unlawful gains…
Mohsin Khan: Why do not the rabbis and
the religious learned men forbid them from uttering sinful words and from eating
illegal things. Evil indeed is that which they have been performing.
Arberry: Why do the masters and the
rabbis not forbid them to utter sin, and consume the unlawful? Evil is
the thing they have been working.
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden (la yuharremuna)
which hath been forbidden by Allah (ma harramallahu) and
His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the
People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel
(62:5) The similitude of those who were charged with the
(obligations of the) Mosaic Law, but who subsequently failed in those
(obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands
them not). Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the Signs of Allah: and
Allah guides not people who do wrong.
What is that these people are
(5:42) (They are fond of) listening to falsehood,
of devouring anything forbidden.
(5:62) Many of them dost thou see, racing each
other in sin and rancour, and their eating
of things forbidden. Evil indeed are the things that they do.
(5:63) Why do not the rabbis and the doctors of Law
forbid them from their (habit of) uttering sinful words and eating things forbidden? Evil indeed
are their works.
Also the final verdict on the People of the Book
who were the direct addressees of the Prophet:
(9:29) Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the
Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by
Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even
if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing
submission, and feel themselves subdued.
What then is the similitude of
those who say that “Those who believe
and do good deeds shall not be blamed for what they may eat (or drink)” except
the same as in 62:5 “that of a donkey which carries huge tomes
(but understands them not)”?
quote my statement: “The Qur’an affirms that all past
(sins) are forgiven when the disbelievers embrace Islam. Thus, there can be no
question of the Qur’an making the forgiveness of past sins…” Then you state: “The
Quran affirms nothing of the sort.”
I am afraid, you need to hone your
exegetic knowledge. This is what the Qur’an says (translation by Yusuf Ali) supporting
my statement that you quoted:
I also do not agree with your concluding remark: “Please do
not mislead people. Saying Allah knows best does not absolve you. It is an insult to Allah who has made
everything clear in his Book to make everything unclear and muddy and then say Allah knows best!”
You have again misquoted me as saying “Allah knows best” with
a innuendo that I used this expression to absolve myself of any blame for
committing and error. Your problem verges on cognitive dissonance as I am
increasingly noticing. I only said “God alone knows How
God will judge the non-believer (atheists, polytheists) activists of divinely
ingrained taqwa (91:1-10, Reflection 7)
– who curb their lowly desires and do good deeds.” I did not make any clear
statement muddy and put this defensive statement. It only comes up in the
context of the verse 49:13.
You say to me: “you appear to be confusing Taqwa with nafs.
While nafs plays a role in determining our behavior, taqwa is simply doing what
pleases Allah out of reverence for Him irrespective of the promptings of the
All I can say about my definition is that my definition is
draws on the concluding part of the following passage of the Qur’an (yellow highlight)
as expounded in Reflection 7. to show that taqwa is ingrained in human nafs as a restraining impulse against ‘furujah (what draws man to all that is
evil and reprehensible – his base temptation)
sun and its brilliance; ….and by the man’s inner self (ingrained instincts),
and He Who has fashioned it; and Who has inspired it with the temptation of what is evil (fujura) and a restraining impulse
against evil (taqwa) - He
indeed succeeds who purifies it (his inner self); and he fails who corrupts it (91:1-10).
The impulses for good and evil are
in our nafs discussed in detail in my article:
Islam and Mysticism: Is ‘Nafs’ Soul? (Part - 1)
You appear to be confusing Taqwa with nafs. While nafs plays
a role in determining our behavior, taqwa is simply doing what pleases Allah
out of reverence for Him irrespective of the promptings of the nafs. Over a
period, a person may train himself and eliminate all evil impulses and have
only the good impulses where doing anything that pleases Allah only brings him
great elation. Would such a person become not a Muttaqi simply because he has
no evil impulses left to restrain?
Yunus sb says: “I do not agree with you at all that I have misrepresented the
Qur'anic notion of taqwa as restraining impulse of man’s inner self, a watchdog against man’s
base instincts or gross temptations.”
You are imagining things. So far I have not
commented on the meaning you give to taqwa except saying that:
The muttaqi in verse 2:2 is described in verses 2:3,4.
This point is beyond debate.
Now since you have raised the question of your
definition of taqwa, I disagree with it. It clearly means acting out of “reverence
for Allah” or as some people say “fear of Allah” but since reverence has the
element of love as well as fear of offending a loved one, I prefer reverence.
This acting out of reverence for Allah’s commands will necessarily involve
among other things “restraining evil impulses” but that is not the meaning of
taqwa. The description of the Muttaqi in 2:2 in verses 2:3,4 is one who
believes in the Unseen God, believes in the scriptures, establishes regular
prayers, spends in charity and has an assurance of the Hereafter. I don’t think
any of these 5 things involve “restraining evil impulses”. Also consider the
It is prescribed, when death approaches any of you, if he leave any goods that
he make a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable usage;
this is due from the Muttaqin.
What evil impulse has to be restrained for a dying
man to make a bequest to parents and next of kin?
Why have you come up with an arbitrary and
contradictory definition when everyone else takes the correct meaning which
fits all verses that describe taqwa including those in which one is required to
“restrain evil impulses”? Why do you
want to restrict yourself to only those items of taqwa that require “restraining
evil impulses” and leave out the rest?
You say” The Qur’an affirms that all past (sins) are
forgiven when the disbelievers embrace Islam. Thus, there can be no question of
the Qur’an making the forgiveness of past sins contingent to the doing of good
deeds after embracing faith, as the additional qualifying bracket implies.”
The Quran affirms nothing of the sort. As far as automatic
forgiveness of all past sins on becoming Muslim is concerned, there is no such
assurance in the Quran unless “they guard themselves from evil, and believe and
do deeds of righteousness” in their remaining life and repent or make amends if
possible for the self-evident sins like killing, cheating, devouring the
property of others wrongfully etc. One could at best expect that past behavior
in accordance with the norms of the society to which they belonged earlier
which is prohibited in Islam may alone be automatically forgiven on the
condition that their future life is free from it.
You ignore the fact that the Arabic word used for dietary
prohibitions is حُرِّمَتْ
the same word that is used that prohibits marriage to blood relatives etc. By
analogy why should not everything described as
become equally acceptable?
You also ignore verses from the same Surah 5:3, and the
verses that frown on the People of the Book for devouring what is prohibited in
the same surah 5:42, 62 and 63 and verse 9:29 from Surah Taubah that punishes
them for the same reason. Why do you think Allah has come down heavily on the
people of the Book for devouring what is prohibited and given the Muslims a
free ride? What make you think that Allah is whimsical and inconsistent? Are
you not projecting your own inconsistency and whimsicality onto the Quran?
The following applies to those who mislead (men) by their
appetites unchecked by knowledge. Thy Lord knoweth best those who transgress.
(6:117) Thy Lord
knoweth best who strayeth from His way: He knoweth best who they are that
receive His guidance. (118) So eat of (meats) on which Allah´s name hath been
pronounced, if ye have faith in His signs. (119) Why should ye not eat of
(meats) on which Allah´s name hath been pronounced, when He hath explained to
you in detail what is forbidden to you - except under compulsion of necessity?
But many do mislead (men) by their appetites unchecked by knowledge. Thy Lord
knoweth best those who transgress. (120) Eschew all sin, open or secret: those
who earn sin will get due recompense for their "earnings." (121) Eat
not of (meats) on which Allah´s name hath not been pronounced: That would be
impiety. But the evil ones ever inspire their friends to contend with you if ye
were to obey them, ye would indeed be Polytheists.
Please do not mislead people. Saying Allah knows best does
not absolve you. It is an insult to Allah who has made everything clear in his
Book to make everything unclear and muddy and then say Allah knows best!
I have tabled the Qur'anic verses for Reflection. I do not agree with you at
all that I have misrepresented the Qur'anic notion of taqwa as restraining impulse of man’s inner self, a
watchdog against man’s base instincts or gross temptations. Please reflect
on the verses and also read my comments against yours for your further
Commentators have connoted taqwa somewhat divergently as fearing God, heeding God/His guidance,
being conscious of God (God consciousness) etc. but in each case what is
implicit is to to keep a close watch on one’s base instincts and abstain from
all that is evil and reprehensible to avoid incurring divine displeasure.
may read my preceding Reflection referenced below for further clarification re
the universal notion of taqwa:
Reflections on Qur'anic message -
Part-7. Polarity of goodness and evil in human conscience
Thanks for your comments re the expectation from a muttaqi .
You have said “What is expected of a Muttaqi is
different things depending upon the context.” You are absolutely correct. As
expounded in the article, a muttaqi is one who is guided by ” the restraining
impulse of man’s inner self.” Accordingly his response will depend upon the
situation. You have cited a few examples. Let me cite you the following
additional example of who all are mentioned as muttaqin in the Qur’an:
“who deal justly even
with those they may hate” (5:8).
“(men) who are impartial with their wives if more than one”
“(women) who are not drawn into greed by seeking divorce
from their husbands they suspect of adultery or desertion and mutually
settle (the matter) amicably” (4:128).
“(men) who give half the contracted dower if they terminate
the marriage before consummation” (2:237).
“(women) who forgo the contracted dower if they terminate
the marriage before consummation” (2:237).
“who are generous and enjoin what is good” (92:5).
“who give from their wealth to become pure (92:18) seeking nothing in return (92:19), seeking only the
acceptance of their Lord, the Most High” (92:20).
“who eschew arrogance and do not commit excesses and do not
obstruct others from worshipping in their own way (96:6-14).
noted case the muttaqi is expected to act against his base temptations to be
able to conform to listed pattern of behavior. Thus while the muttaqin may be
of different categories, each of them is observant of taqwa.
In the context of Allah’s commands for performing hajj by those
who can afford the expense, the performance of the hajj and the rituals of hajj
is showing taqwa. Those who do not perform hajj and its rituals without good reason,
are lacking in taqwa or reverence for Allah’s commands. Taqwa is not independent
of our deeds, misdeeds and omission to do what is commanded to be done.
The Quran says in several verses that the evil that you do harms
only yourself and the good that you do benefits only yourself. It does not
harm/benefit Allah. This is not a license for doing evil or avoiding what is
commanded to be done or doing what is prohibited.
Apart from the good or the harm that we do to the society by our
acts, we attract either the Grace or Wrath of Allah based on what we do. Our
redemption is in practicing taqwa which means showing reverence for all of
Allah’s commands. The benefits of prayer to oneself will not be apparent to one who is neglectful of his prayers.
Fasting by itself is showing Taqwa besides helping us perform
other acts of taqwa which any fasting person does meticulously like observing
his daily prayers, reading the Quran, performing Taravi prayers, controlling
his anger, giving charity, being truthful and just etc. Without doubt fasting itself is
taqwa which helps us do more acts of taqwa and acquire the qualities of a
Muttaqi. So, is performing hajj. It teaches us the virtues of sacrifice, patience, and becoming one with all the Muslims of the world in an act of reverence for Allah.
I am afraid that Yunus Sb has misunderstood the subject completely right from the description of the people who are on true guidance which is the beginning of Surah Baqarah. These are Muhkamat verses of precise and clear meaning to be taken literally. These are not to be interpreted. Those who interpret, unnecessarily put their spin on what Allah has made clear and mislead themselves and others.