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Taqwa

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Taqwā (Arabic: التقوى, God-wariness) is a moral term meaning "to keep away from sins and to obey God's orders". The Qur'an considers taqwā a requirement for surviving the hellfire and for acceptance of one's deeds which brings about blessings to the person and relieves him of afflictions in the world. The frequent repetition of this word in the Qur'an and hadiths shows its significant position.

In addition to the many hadiths discussing this issue, Imam 'Ali's (a) sermon 193 in Nahj al-balagha known as al-Muttaqin Sermon (the Pious sermon) is dedicated to qualities of the God-wary.

Taqwā has different levels and the criteria for how close people are to God are these levels: Keeping away from sins, keeping away from doubtful deeds, keeping away from unnecessary permissible actions and occupation of heart by God.

Literal Meaning

The word "taqwā" is derived from the root of "W-Q-Y" (و-ق-ی) meaning "to preserve and protect from harm and evil". It is said that this word has been originally "waqwa" (وقوی) the first "Wa" of which has changed to "ta'". The subjective nouns derived from it are "taqī" (تَقي) and "muttaqī" (مُتقّي) meaning "God-wary".

Position of Taqwā in the Qur'an

In the glorious Qur'an, the word "taqwā" has been mentioned 17 times and its derivations have been mentioned more than 200 times. The Qur'an only considers the actions of the God-wary accepted and actions whose base is not taqwā will be disregarded[Note 1].

While the Qur'an mentions some rulings of hajj, it enjoins to good deeds and mentions taqwā as the best provision[Note 2]. Also in another verse, people's level in taqwā has been introduced as the criterion for the value of human beings before God[Note 3].

Four Usages

Reviewing usages of this word shows that in the Qur'an, taqwā has been used with different meanings:

  • Literal Meaning: expressions such as "garments that protect you from heat" (Qur'an 16:81) and "the garment of Godwariness" (Qur'an 7:26) refer to this meaning.
  • Fear from God, or in better words, fear from His wrath or punishment
  • Observing orders and prohibitions of God, or in other words, obeying God and abandoning the sins. Beside taqwā as God-wariness, this meaning is the clearest meaning of taqwā in the Qur'an.
  • The fourth meaning of taqwā refers to a state of heart and a spiritual quality.

Fruits and Requirements of Taqwā in the Qur'an

  • Faith: is among the concepts related and at the same level with taqwā in the Qur'an. Collocation of these two concepts in many verses suggests a mutual entailment between the two concepts and shows that taqwā is among requirements of faith. Some commentators of the Qur'an have considered faith as one of the meanings of taqwā in the Qur'an.
  • Forgiveness of sins, surviving hellfire, fear and distress are among the fruits of God-wariness in the hereafter. Also, the promise of salvation for the God-wary has been mentioned in the Qur'an many times.
  • Being guided: One of the most important fruits of taqwā in this world is being guided.

Some other fruits of taqwā in this world are: rescuing divine punishment, gaining insight against Satan's temptations and thus avoiding sins, gaining the power of discernment and distinguishing the truth from the falsehood, solving problems in one's life, receiving daily sustenance when it is not expected and alleviating issues.

Allama Tabataba'i has considered taqwā a requirement of good thinking and believes that one's opportunity in receiving true teachings and beneficial knowledge requires taqwā.

"O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah with the wariness due to Him"

Qur'an 3:102

Advising to taqwā has been repeated in many verses of the Qur'an, but two verses are especially important regarding emphasis, extension and coverage of the ruling: verse 102 of chapter Qur'an 3 which has advised believers to God-wariness as He deserves and verse 16 of chapter Qur'an 64 has ordered believers to be God–wary the best they can.

"O mankind! Indeed We created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God wary among you. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all-aware.

Qur'an 49:13

Generally, the concept of taqwā is very important in the Qur'an. In verse 13 of chapter Qur'an 49, it is mentioned that "the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-wary among you." And thus taqwā is the criterion of one's superiority over another before God. God loves the God-wary and helps them. The Prophets have always asked people two things: having God-wariness and obeying God's messenger.

Taqwā in Narrations

The Moral aspect of taqwā is clear in hadiths and traditions. In the words of Imam 'Ali (a), taqwā is introduced at the top of good manners. Patience and forbearance, observing relative bonds, trust-keeping, avoiding envy, truthfulness even if disadvantaging the speaker, justice, keeping the promise, keeping away from stinginess and ostentation, being kind to the weak, generosity and seeking a knowledge which helps drawing near to God are mentioned among the qualities of the God-wary.

The God-wary benefit the least from this world and bring the most benefits to others. Self-assessment is among other attributes of the Go-wary which has been emphasized in hadiths.

About the fruits of taqwā, Imam al-Sadiq (a) has mentioned, "If one fears God, everyone will fear him; and if he does not fear God, he will fear anything." Next in this hadith, it has been mentioned that anyone God takes up from the lowliness of sins to honor of taqwā, He will make him rich without any wealth, will make him honorable without any family and relatives and will bring him out of the fear of loneliness without having a partner or friend. It is narrated from Imam Ali (a) that taqwā is the right of God upon human beings and observing it will result in their right upon God. To acquire taqwā, one needs to ask God and take refuge to taqwā against the wrath of God.

Al-Muttaqin Sermon

Main article: Al-Muttaqin Sermon

Among narrations about taqwā, sermon 193 of Nahj al-balagha is known as al-Muttaqin Sermon is prominent regarding eloquence, comprehensiveness and accuracy of religious and moral merits of the God-wary. In this sermon, one of the companions of Imam (a), Hammam, asked him to describe the God-wary for him; and then, Imam (a) described the qualities of the God-wary.

Three Levels of Taqwā

In a hadith, Imam al-Sadiq (a) has mentioned three levels of taqwā, the first of which is abandoning the forbidden actions out of fear from punishment then is abandoning doubtful actions too and then the highest level[Note 4] is abandoning (some unnecessary) permissible actions.

Abandoning Some Permissible Actions

In both Shi'a and Sunni sources, it has been narrated from the Prophet (s) that no servant will be counted among the God-wary unless he abandons an action which has no problem, fearing that it would have a problem. The same message is seen in the sayings of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) as "avoiding the doubtful". It seems that the range of meanings of taqwā mentioned in the Qur'an as "performing obligations and abandoning prohibitions" has been expanded in hadiths and has included "abandoning the doubtful" as well.

Taqwā in the Words of Mystics

In mysticism, taqwā is considered among essential prerequisites of spiritual journey and the wayfarer is the person who does not engage even in permissible issues much and in all times, prefers engaging in actions which have no doubt in them over doubtful actions.

In Sharh al-ta'arruf, it has been mentioned that the truth of taqwā is fearing and avoiding. Ghazzali says, "taqwā is keeping away from anything harmful for one's religion, such as when a sick person avoids having any harmful drinks or foods." The same example has also been mentioned by Khwajih Nasir al-Din al-Tusi.

Levels of Taqwā in Mysticism

To Ibn 'Arabi, levels of taqwā are corresponding with its meaning in his view approach his proposed conceptual mystical framework: general taqwā is avoiding the forbidden and the makruh (reprehensible); and special taqwā is that the wayfarer does not take his good actions as his, and the more special taqwā is that he does not speak of and see others in the presence of God.

Also, it has been mentioned that taqwā has some type:

  • Taqwā of the tongue which engages in remembrance of God and leaves praising others
  • Taqwā of the limbs which refers to engagement of the limbs to obedience of God and leaving the obedience of all the mortal;
  • Taqwā of the heart which is to grasp the love of God and not having any attachment to anything perishable.

In the view of the mystics, taqwā in the highest level means avoiding (Ittiqa) anything other than God and keeping away from anything which distances the wayfarer from God, meaning that the person's heart would not be happy or calm with anything other than God.

Accordingly, in the commentary attributed to Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a), it is mentioned that the abode of anyone, who observes taqwā from sins, will be the tranquil paradise full of blessings and for anyone who is God-wary, all the veils and obscurities will be removed and will see the Truth in all states. Also, it is said that taqwā means to avoid this world and the next and anything other than God.

Notes

  1. اِنَّما یتَقَبَّلُ اللّهُ مِنَ المُتَّقین Qur'an 5:27
  2. تَزَوَّدوا فَاِنَّ خَیرَ الزّادِ التَّقوی واتَّقونِ یا أولِی الاَلباب Qur'an 2:197
  3. اِنَّ اَکرَمَکُم عِندَ اللّهِ اَتقاکُم اِنَّ اللّهَ عَلیمٌ خَبیر Qur'an 49:13
  4. special of the special خاص الخاص

References

  • The material for writing this article has been taken from تقوا in Farsi wikishia.