By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
18 June 2019
Strangely, I find Islamic scholars struggling to
give the meaning of Taqwa although; the Quran gives the meaning directly as
ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
(2:2) This is the Book; in it is guidance sure,
without doubt, to the Muttaqin.
The above verses says that the Quran is
a Book of certain guidance for the Muttaqin and the verse below says that
whoever listens to the Word or command of Allah, and then follows the command
in the best possible manner, are the ones whom Allah has guided, or in other
words these people are the Muttaqin.
الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ ۚ
أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو
(39:18) Those who listen to the Word,
and follow the best thereof: those are the ones whom Allah has guided, and
those are the ones endued with understanding.
Taqwa is therefore to follow the
commands of Allah in the best possible manner. The Quran also makes clear how
to obey the important commands of Allah in the best possible manner.
Taqwa in Salat
For example, if it is Salat, then, it
is performed facing Kabaa (2:149 and 150), celebrating “Allah´s praises in the
manner Allah has taught you, which ye knew not before” (2:239). The obligatory
Salat must be performed in Jamaat or congregation “bow down with those who bow
down in worship” (2:43, 3:43).
Obligatory prayers are to be performed at stated time (4:103). Wudhu
or Tayammum need to be performed before Salat in the manner described in
verse 5:6 or in 4:43 respectively. Most
importantly, one must stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind) while
performing Salat (2:238) and never miss performing an obligatory Salat even
when traveling or even while fighting in a war (4:101 to 103) and 2:239.
Taqwa in Zakat
Give zakat freely what is in excess of
one’s needs to the needy (2:215), without miserliness or niggardliness (4:37),
with a kind word and without injury or insult, and without making it a show to
be seen of men, seeking nothing but the countenance of Allah (2:262 to 264).
Taqwa in the Treatment of One’s Parents
Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents.
Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word
of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. (Quran 17:23) And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say:
"My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in
childhood." (Quran 17:24)
commandments for the Islamic way of life describe vividly the best way to
follow the commands. The command describes the body language that is
appropriate (lower the wings of humility) – once such a posture is assumed, can
a person misbehave? The command says that even the expression of impatience
such as saying uff (just a sound emitted which means the equivalent of
“Oh No!”)is to be avoided at the mistakes the elderly often make. It says that
only words of honour are to be used with parents such as “beloved
father/mother”. And how beautiful is the prayer that is
taught! "My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me
in childhood". The prayer reminds us of how our parents cherished us in
our childhood which primes us or puts us in the frame of mind to behave towards
them in the same kindly manner overlooking their infirmities, follies,
forgetfulness, repetitiveness, sensitivity and many other afflictions of old
age that require our constant attention, love, care and patience.
Following a command but without Taqwa
(2:27) Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of
Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to Allah): It was accepted from
one, but not from the other. Said the latter: "Be sure I will slay
thee." "Surely," said the former, "Allah doth accept of the
sacrifice of those who are Muttaqin.
Here it means those who sacrifice willingly and in the best
possible manner and not in the manner described below:
(2:67) And remember Moses
said to his people: "Allah commands that ye sacrifice a heifer." They
said: "Makest thou a laughing-stock of us?" He said: "Allah save
me from being an ignorant (fool)!"
(68) They said:
"Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us what (heifer) it
is!" He said; "He says: The heifer should be neither too old nor too
young, but of middling age. Now do what ye are commanded!"
(69) They said:
"Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us Her colour." He
said: "He says: A fawn-coloured heifer, pure and rich in tone, the admiration
(70) They said:
"Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us what she is: To us are
all heifers alike: We wish indeed for guidance, if Allah wills."
(71) He said: "He says: A heifer not trained to till the soil
or water the fields; sound and without blemish." They said: "Now hast
thou brought the truth." Then they offered her in sacrifice, but not with
The number of questions asked itself is an indicator of
unwillingness to obey the command under the pretext of lack of clarity. Notice
that with each question, their task becomes more difficult. If they had Taqwa,
or desire to obey the command of Allah, they would have sacrificed willingly
without asking any question, and could have sacrificed any heifer and not one answering
to the exacting specifications.
The Meaning of Taqwa As the Quran Teaches Us
Let us go back to the verse:
From the discussion above, we know that Muttaqin in this verse
means that the Quran is a guidance without doubt, to those who read/listen to
the Quran in the best possible manner. What is reading/listening in the best
possible manner? It is reading/listening paying full attention to every word
and its meaning. Even if an enemy of Islam does that, the Quran becomes a
guidance to such a person. For example, Hazrat Umar was one such enemy of Islam
for whom listening to a few Ayats of the Quran became guidance to accept Islam.
The Story of Umar’s Conversion
Hazrat Umar (RA) before his acceptance of Islam was a cruel and
prominent persecutor of Muslims and a bitter enemy of Islam and Muhammad
(pbuh). When the faith kept growing despite the persecution, the leaders among
the persecutors decided to assassinate Muhammad. Umar volunteered to do the
The story of Umar’s conversion is recounted in Ibn Ishaq's Sīrah.
On his way to murder Muhammad, Umar met his friend Nua'im bin Abdullah who had
secretly converted to Islam. When Umar informed him that he had set out to kill
Muhammad, Nua'im said, “why don't you return to your own house and at least set
Nuaimal Hakim told him to inquire about his own house where his
sister and her husband had converted to Islam without Umar’s knowledge. Upon
arriving at her house, Umar found his sister and brother-in-law Saeed bin Zaid
(Umar's cousin) reciting the verses of the Quran from sura Ta-Ha. He pounced on
his brother-in-law and began beating him. When his sister came to rescue her
husband, he also hit her. They kept on saying "you may kill us but we will
not give up Islam". Upon hearing these words, Umar slapped his sister so
hard that she fell to the ground bleeding from her mouth. When he saw what he
did to his sister, he calmed down and asked his sister to give him what she was
reciting. His sister refused saying "You are unclean, and no unclean
person can touch the Scripture." He insisted, but his sister refused and
asked him to first purify himself by bathing. Umar did so and then began to
read the verses that were: Verily, I am Allah: there is no God but Me; so serve
Me (only), and establish regular prayer for My remembrance (Quran 20:14). He
wept and declared, "Surely this is the word of Allah.” He then went to
Muhammad (pbuh) and accepted Islam.
How did the reading of a
few verses from the Quran become a source of guidance for the violent Umar who
was till recently a bitter opponent of the Prophet and Islam? Did he read the
verses with the fear of Allah in his heart? No, he simply read it out of
bewildered curiosity and the need to know what had transformed his sister. He
wanted to better understand so that he could better oppose it. He did not read
with the intention of becoming a Muslim. He was however in a heedful state as
he very much wanted to understand its appeal to the people who would not give
it up even when persecuted. When he read the verses, he was not in a state of
fear or awe. After the reading and the reading turning into guidance, he was
filled with awe and subsequently fear of Allah when he reflected on his past
and the dark deeds he had done in his ignorance of the Deen of Allah.
The Quran is a guidance to
every heedful reader/listener who pays careful attention to its meaning. Who
can deny it? It is not a source of guidance for the heedless. Who can deny
this? One may read the Quran a thousand times in a heedless state. It will not
benefit the reader. A person may like a single verse so much, that he may spend
all night reading the verse again and again in a heedful state filled with awe,
wonder, humility and gratitude. Such a reading will transform the reader.
The Prophet (pbuh) spent all night reading:
إِن تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ ۖ وَإِن تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
(5:118) "If Thou dost
punish them (the Christians who venerated Jesus as son of God and Mary as
Mother of god), they are Thy servant: If Thou dost forgive them, Thou art the
Exalted in power, the Wise."
The verse contains the intercession of Jesus (pbuh) for his Ummat.
In the verses that follow, Allah does not reject the intercession. How subtly
Allah informs us that even such Christians, who worshiped Jesus and Mary, can
also hope for His forgiveness! The Prophet wept all night reading this verse
again and again because this single verse reflects several of Allah's
attributes such as Al Lateef, Al Rahim, Al Rehman, Al Rauf, Al Karim, Al
Ghaffar, Al Qaabidh, Al Halim, Al Hakam, Al Ad'l, Al Ali, Al Kabir, Al Qadeer,
Al Muqtadir, Al Hasib, Al Jalil, Al Mujib, Al Hakim, Al Wadud, Al Majeed, Ash
Shaheed, Al Wakil, Al Wali, Al Muhsi and Al Hamidu. This is the most
beautiful verse of the Quran. However, this verse is beyond the understanding
of our Ulema, who consider the Christians as Kafir destined for Hell. They are
heedless of the Quran and heedful of the secondary sources which clouds their
minds preventing them from understanding.
To obey a command of Allah in the best possible manner, what is
required is to pay heed/attention to every requirement and detail. For example,
while offering Salat, paying attention to every detail and requirement
The word heedfulness contains all the
other meanings given to the word Taqwa and its derivatives besides also meaning
‘in the best possible manner’ or ‘most sincerely’. One can be heedful from:
1. Sheer curiosity to acquire correct
knowledge as Hazrat Umar did when he first listened to a recitation of the
2. Fear of Allah
3. Reverence of Allah
4. The desire to please Allah
5. Love of Allah
6. The desire to see the countenance of
Allah in the Hereafter
The desire to excel
8. The urge to gain piety
9. The urge to gain righteousness
10 To gain nearness to Allah
11 To gain the Inam of Allah.
The methodology that I have followed to
derive the meaning of Taqwa was to let the Quran teach me its meaning. This is
the methodology that I follow for all my articles. To the best of my knowledge
and belief, no other person has derived the same meaning of Taqwa, because no
one else follows the same methodology with the same Taqwa or intensity. They
follow it loosely, or without adequate Taqwa, which is why their meanings do
not fit well the usage of the word in the Quran. For example, this is how Yusuf
Ali and many others translate verse 2:2
(2:2) This is the Book; in it is
guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah;
To fear Allah, one must believe in
Allah and know His attributes which means that one must already be on true
guidance. The verse then becomes a tautology –The Quran is a guidance without
doubt to those who are on true guidance! This is clearly nonsensical. The word
and its derivatives have been used 239 times in the Quran and a mistranslation
plays havoc with the correct understanding of the Quran. While piety or
righteousness are not incorrect translations of Taqwa in other verses, these
words are less meaningful and effective than heedfulness. We can understand the
requirement to be painstakingly heedful of every detail, but what does it mean
to be pious or righteous?
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate
from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both
the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades.
He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and
The message of the Quran is simple and clear. (3:138)” Here is a plain statement to men, a
guidance and instruction to the mindful!” What comes out clearly from the Quran is:
Faith or belief does not merely mean belief in God and the
Hereafter and Muhammad as the messenger of Allah, but complete faith in Allah
as the giver of the perfect religion to be followed in the best possible
manner. The kafaru are those who do not accept that Allah’s guidance is the
only guidance and therefore do not enter into Islam whole-heartedly. They
follow their own whims. The degree of kufr varies from a half-hearted acceptance
of Allah’s deen to total rejection.
(6:71) Say “Allah´s
guidance is the (only) guidance, and we have been directed to submit ourselves
to the Lord of the worlds;”
(2:208) O ye who
believe! Enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the
evil one; for he is to you an avowed enemy.
(7:30) Some He hath
guided: Others have (by their choice) deserved the loss of their way; in that
they took the evil ones, in preference to Allah, for their friends and
protectors, and think that they receive guidance.
(26:221) Shall I
inform you, (O people!), on whom it is that the evil ones descend?(222) They
descend on every lying, wicked person,(223) (Into whose ears) they pour hearsay
vanities, and most of them are liars.
also) the ´Ad and the Thamud (people): clearly will appear to you from (the
traces) of their buildings (their fate): the Evil One made their deeds alluring
to them, and kept them back from the Path, though they were gifted with
intelligence and skill.
(47:25) Those who turn back as apostates after
Guidance was clearly shown to them,- the Evil One has instigated them and
busied them up with false hopes.(26) This, because they said to those who hate
what Allah has revealed, "We will obey you in part of (this) matter";
but Allah knows their (inner) secrets.(27) But how (will it be) when the angels
take their souls at death, and smite their faces and their backs?(28) This
because they followed that which called forth the Wrath of Allah, and they
hated Allah´s good pleasure; so He made their deeds of no effect.
(2:257) Allah is the Protector of those who
have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. The patrons of the Kafaru are the evil ones: from light they will
lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the
fire, to dwell therein (For ever).
Taqwa is therefore important to ensure that we do not stray
from the straight path. It is only people of Taqwa who will be assuredly admitted
to Heaven because it is only these who are at all times mindful of the good pleasure
the Fig and the Olive,
the Mount of Sinai,
this City of security,-
have indeed created man in the best of moulds,
do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,-
Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward
what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgment (to come)?
not Allah the wisest of judges?
swears by the message brought by the prophets through the ages that there are
two types of people - those who abase themselves to become the lowest of the
low and those who rise above every other creation doing justice to their
creation in the best of moulds.
of Allah is born with instincts, desires and lusts. The only creation of Allah that
can free itself from its instincts, desires and lusts to become a moral agent is
man. This requires belief in Allah and following what Allah’s shows us as
those who remain slaves of their own lusts, desires and instincts, are the ones
who abase themselves below every other creation since man is capable of
excesses that no other creation is capable of. Those who free themselves from
their desires and lusts and even their instincts to become righteous and espouse
a higher purpose, do justice to the mould in which Allah created them. Should
Allah then not judge people by what they choose to espouse? Do we still doubt
the judgment to come?
Now who is really free and who is a slave?
righteous choose to become the slave of Allah by following every command of
Allah and this frees them from their desires, lusts and instincts. They are
driven by what is right and not what they desire.
The rest who
remain slaves of their own instincts, desires and lusts lack the freedom to practice
Man is the
only creation which can free itself from its instincts and desires to make
moral choices which is why Allah says that He has created man in the best of
moulds. Man is therefore the only creation which is provided guidance by Allah
on righteous conduct and will be judged by Allah on how we act on the guidance
The Quran presents evidence and arguments to support:
1. 1. Belief in Allah with all His attributes as the
Creator, Sustainer, Controller, etc.
2. 2. Negation of any other god besides the One and
3. 3. His divine plan for the guidance of mankind
through the ages and how this has unfolded
4. 4. His unfailing practice to reward the believers who
do good deeds and punish the rejecters of Allah’s deen who practice injustice
5. 5. His absolute control on all creation and
granting of limited autonomy to man making him a moral agent capable of making
moral choices freely.
Having made the path of Truth clear from the path of Error,
Allah also forbids compulsion in religion. Man is asked to freely choose to
follow the deen of Allah. While he is free to follow/not follow or follow
selectively, for the supreme success in this life and the Hereafter, Allah
informs us that Taqwa is required. Who is a Muttaqi? A Muttaqi is one who
chooses to follow all of Allah’s commands in the best possible manner, and scrupulously
avoid what Allah forbids. He is a person who has freely, without compulsion,
having understood the reality of Allah and His attributes, decided to repose
complete faith in Allah and His word in the Quran.
It has always been beyond man’s capacity to fully understand
all of Allah’s commands. Over the thousands of years of practicing Allah’s
commands, we know why the things that Allah commands are good and why what Allah
forbids are bad but not everything is clear nor does the Quran even attempt to
explain every command. For example, the Quran does not explain why eating of pork
is forbidden or why marrying into certain persons related by blood is forbidden
but not others and why marrying foster mother/siblings is also forbidden but
not marrying first cousins. If we can
figure out good reasons for these based on the biological sciences and/or the
social sciences well and good, and even if we cannot, we must still obey the
The meaning of Islam is submission and a Muslim is one who
submits completely to Allah without reservation like a slave. The triliteral
root ʿayn bā dāl (ب د ع) from which we get words such as abid, mean both
worshipper and slave and are used to mean both in the Quran. For example, in
verse 2:178, the word clearly means slave “ O ye who believe! the law of
equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the
slave (wal-ʿabdu) for the slave (bil-ʿabdi), .......” There are numerous verses in which
the Quran uses the same word for the worshippers of Allah. For example verse
2:186 “And when My slaves (ibādī) ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed
I am near........”. A Muslim is therefore one who submits to Allah and is a
dutiful slave of Allah.
The invitation of the Quran is therefore to use your
intellect and power of reasoning to accept/reject:
1. 1. Whether the Allah of the Quran exists
2. 2. Whether the Quran is the word of Allah
If the answer to the above two questions is yes, then decide
whether you want to be a Muslim which
means a slave of Allah willing to obey all of Allah’s commands in the best
possible manner and scrupulously avoid all that He has forbidden.
Between a Muttaqi Muslim at one end, and an open kafir at
the other end, we have in between those who are weak in practice but strong in
their convictions and admitting their weakness. These are also Muslims. And then
there are the hypocrites who are disdainful of the good Muslims.
The Quran makes clear what it takes to be considered a
Muttaqi. It is the Muttaqi who is guided
by Allah’s light and the others are in varying degrees of darkness. He has done
his thinking and decided to become a Muttaqi. Unlike the hypocrite, he does not have to
think each time whether to tell the truth or to lie. He chooses to speak the truth
every time and having done so, he no longer needs to re-think on the subject. The
hypocrites are reluctant Muslims who need to constantly think whether to act as
a Muslim or not. The kafir, the apostates and the hypocrites can only be expected
to take digs at the very meaning of Taqwa.
The following is a beautiful Surah contrasting a person with
Taqwa with another without.
A Muttaqi, by being heedful and devoted to Allah, shows complete
faith/trust in Allah. The one without
Taqwa on the other hand considers himself self-sufficient and therefore remains
heedless of Allah. Allah guides those with taqwa and they will be the ones who attain
complete satisfaction or all that they desire.
Surah 92 Al-Lail / The Night
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَىٰ
(1) By the Night as it conceals (the light);
وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا تَجَلَّىٰ
(2) By the Day as it appears in glory;
وَمَا خَلَقَ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَىٰ
(3) By (the mystery of) the creation of male and female;-
إِنَّ سَعْيَكُمْ لَشَتَّىٰ
(4) Verily, (the ends) ye strive for are diverse.
فَأَمَّا مَنْ أَعْطَىٰ وَاتَّقَىٰ
(5) So he who gives (in charity) and seeks (Allah) (wa-ittaqā),
(6) And (in all sincerity) testifies to the best,-
(7) We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss.
وَأَمَّا مَن بَخِلَ وَاسْتَغْنَىٰ
(8) But he who is a greedy miser and thinks himself
(9) And gives the lie to the best,-
(10) We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Misery;
وَمَا يُغْنِي عَنْهُ مَالُهُ إِذَا تَرَدَّىٰ
(11) Nor will his wealth profit him when he falls headlong
(into the Pit).
إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا لَلْهُدَىٰ
(12) Verily We take upon Ourselves to guide,
وَإِنَّ لَنَا لَلْآخِرَةَ وَالْأُولَىٰ
(13) And verily unto Us (belong) the End and the Beginning.
فَأَنذَرْتُكُمْ نَارًا تَلَظَّىٰ
(14) Therefore do I warn you of a Fire blazing fiercely;
لَا يَصْلَاهَا إِلَّا الْأَشْقَى
(15) None shall reach it but those most unfortunate ones
الَّذِي كَذَّبَ وَتَوَلَّىٰ
(16) Who give the lie to Truth and turn their backs.
(17) But those most
devoted to Allah (l-atqā) shall be removed far from it,-
الَّذِي يُؤْتِي مَالَهُ يَتَزَكَّىٰ
(18) Those who spend their wealth for increase in
وَمَا لِأَحَدٍ عِندَهُ مِن نِّعْمَةٍ تُجْزَىٰ
(19) And have in their minds no favour from anyone for which
a reward is expected in return,
إِلَّا ابْتِغَاءَ وَجْهِ رَبِّهِ الْأَعْلَىٰ
(20) But only the desire to seek for the Countenance of
their Lord Most High;
(21) And soon will they attain (complete) satisfaction.