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 Taqwa: Its Definition and its Benefits

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PostSubject: Taqwa: Its Definition and its Benefits   Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:55 am




Abdal Wahid Ibn 'Ashir defines taqwa by saying: "The summation of taqwa is avoiding prohibitions and fulfilling injunctions both inwardly and outwardly. By that it is achieved."

Imam al-Jurjani in his book of definitions defines it accordingly: "Linguistically it means ward off. In other words, it is to take precaution. According to the scholars of truth it is to protect oneself from the punishment of Allah by obedience to Him. It is to guard the self from Allah's punishment due to either omission of a right action or commission of a wrong action. What is intended in one's obedience is sincerity." Ibn Ashir then says: "Thus its aspects are four in number, and these for the wayfarer are the pathways of benefit."

What he means is that the four pathways of benefit are:


- Fulfilling obligations outwardly
- Fulfilling obligations inwardly
- Avoiding prohibitions outwardly
- Avoiding prohibitions inwardly

Thus, the wayfarer on the path to purification and success is someone committed to struggling with the four matters, which involve eight things: the heart and the seven inroads to the heart possessed by the vast majority of humanity:

Tongue
Eyes
Ears
Stomach
Genitals
Hands
Feet

A human being is responsible for all of them, and if he or she is vigilant about them and struggles to guard them then he or she is on a path to achieving taqwa.

There are five stations according to Imam Ibn Juzzay al-Kalbi:

- Taqwa of disbelief
- Taqwa of enormities
- Taqwa of lesser wrongs
- Taqwa of permitted matters
- Taqwa of other than Allah

Thus, every believer is at the first stage of taqwa, but the protection of Allah is strengthened by rising up in the stations. Because the vast majority of the Ummah is only at the first or the second level, we are all suffering. By having a large number of believers to commit to moving to the third and fourth levels, we will see the benefits of taqwa promised in the Qur'an.

The Benefits of Taqwa

The benefits of taqwa are innumerable and many are obviously hidden to humanity. Allah knows better all of the benefits. But many are mentioned in the Qur'an and the most salient ones are listed below:

The rectification of one's offspring. Allah says, "As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city. There was beneath it a buried treasure belonging to them. And their father had been a righteous man. So your Lord desired that they should attain their age of full strength and bring out their treasure as a mercy from their Lord." In another verse, according to one interpretation, "Let those who fear in disposing of an estate as they would fear for their own if they left behind a weak family; let them fear Allah and speak correctly."

Blessings coming from above and below. Allah says, "Had only the people of the cities believed and had taqwa, We would have opened up for them blessings from the heaven and the earth."

Provision from Allah and a way out from our straightened circumstances. Allah says, "And whoever has taqwa, We will make for him a way out and provide for him from where he was not expecting."
Safety. Allay says, "And We saved those who believed in Us and had been people of taqwa."

The divine presence of Allah's protection. "Surely Allah is with those who have taqwa and beautify with excellence.

Victory. Allah says, "Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger and knowingly has awe and has taqwa of Allah, those they are the victors."

A goodly seal to his life (meaning he dies with belief in a good state). Allah says, "Surely for the people of taqwa is a beautiful end."

Paradise itself. Allah says, "That is the Garden and We give to whoever of Our servants had taqwa."

These above-mentioned benefits should suffice for any believer to be desirous of becoming someone of taqwa.

How Taqwa Is Achieved

What then is the way to achieve taqwa? There is only one way to do it: struggle (mujaahada).

Struggle is not something that suddenly comes into your life like magic. It is a move of the heart that begins to affect the limbs and it results in sincere tawba, or turning to Allah and seeking a removal of past wrongs and committing to a future that does not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Allah has commanded us as an Ummah to turn to Him together, sincerely, and this is what we must do. "O you who believe turn to Allah all of you together with sincerity in order for you to have success." With sincere commitment, we can accomplish this greatest of human tasks, and in the final analysis our sole purpose for being alive.

Allah's first command in His book is "O humanity, worship your Lord Who created you and those who went before you in order that you might realize taqwa." This is our purpose for being here. We must simply start, not tomorrow or the day after, but today, right now, in this moment.

The heart must make a firm commitment and never look back. The rewards are immense. The pleasure of conquering the self is second only to the subtle knowledge and pleasure of intimacy with Allah that is a result of the conquest.

Exercises for Attaining Taqwa

This is a series of exercises designed to help you achieve practical taqwa through protective vigilance of the seven inroads (thughra) of darkness to the heart.

The use of this technique was inspired by Imam Zaid Shakir, may Allah reward him, who provided the first exercise which was slightly altered.

The number of days is forty based on the verse in the Qur'an in which Allah promised to "meet" Musa, upon him be peace, after forty days. Imam Sawi in his commentary said that this was because the complete service of the servant toward his Lord and the gifts that result from his Lord are completed in forty days based on the hadith, "The completion of vigilance on the borders (ribaat) is forty days."

These inroads are the borders of the heart and this technique has been proven effective for many people and if done for the sake of Allah it will benefit the one who uses it to achieve taqwa.

Exercise 1: Guarding the Tongue

Qadi Abu Bakr says, "Guard your tongue and protect it from lying, and realize that it expresses your inward state. It expresses for you your knowledge and your practice."

The tongue has only one noble quality and that is truthfulness. One the other hand, it has over twenty destructive qualities, but their source lies in only four:

-Lying
- Backbiting
- Argumentation
- Engaging in what does not concern you

If you are able to overcome these four then the others are removed with ease.

In order for us to remove these qualities that take people to destruction, we must exert great effort and struggle (mujaahada).

The following is an exercise designed to help eliminate these qualities which have become daily habits for the majority of Muslims and in fact, are enormities with Allah. "Truly a man utters words to which he attaches no importance, and by them he falls into the fire of Jahannam." This practice uses the three pillars of change.

The first thing is to commit every day, for forty days, to leave these four habits. Each morning make a vow with Allah, "O Allah, I will not lie, backbite, argue or speak in matters of no concern to me for this entire day." This is mushaarata or the condition phase.

Throughout the day be vigilant in your observation and note the times when you do not fulfill the condition. This is muraabata or guarding the condition.

At the end of the day do your accounting, which is muhaasaba. If you have succeeded then say, "O Allah, I can honestly say I did not commit any of these offenses today," and place a mark to indicate this in the box which corresponds to the day in the chart you create. If on the other hand, you did not fulfill your vow, then go back to day one and start over. Ask for forgiveness and strength in fulfilling it the next day and give some charity, fast, or do some other type of punitive measure to discipline your soul.

Remember, your eternal life is largely dependent upon whether your tongue is in submission to the commands of Allah and thus, you should take this seriously. Do this practice with your brothers and sisters that you spend time with and encourage each other to guard the tongue.

This practice takes much discipline and effort, but keep in mind Allah's words, "Those who struggle to fulfill Our rights, surely We guide them to the many paths that lead to Our pleasure, and Allah is with the people of excellence."35 This practice can change your life and your outlook, and can contribute to the unity of this Ummah as most of our trouble, if not all, comes from the harvest of our tongues.

Once you have completed forty consecutive days, you have habituated yourself to uprightness and Allah promises two things for your efforts:

He will rectify your affairs in this world.

He will forgive your transgressions in the next.

"O you who believe, be conscious of your Lord and speak with uprightness; He will rectify your actions, and He will forgive your wrongs."

If you have completed this exercise successfully, then what remains is vigilant observance (muraaqaba) in order to prevent you from falling back into the previous bad habits.

Be firm with others that you do not want to listen to these things either. If it means losing a friend who is not willing to change with you for the better, then so be it.

Finally, remember that writing falls into these categories and the internet is filled with lying, backbiting, argumentation and engaging in matters of no concern. Include writing also in your vow.

Exercise 2: Guarding the Eyes

Allah, Subhanhu, says in the Glorious Qur'an, "Tell the believing men to lower their gaze… and tell the believing women to lower their gaze."

The scholars differ on this verse but generally what is prohibited to look at is anything that is deemed nakedness in sacred law though not all of them agree on what constitutes nakedness.

For the majority of scholars, this includes the entire body of a woman with the exception of her face and hands and what is between a man's navel and knees.

However, the scholars consider anything from which sensual pleasure occurs to be prohibited to look at. For this reason, the body of a man is prohibited for a woman to look at and his face if she is attracted to it and for a man the face and hands of a woman who is young or still desired by men. The first glance is not written against a person. However if it is maintained and not averted or if a second glance occurs it is considered a venial wrong.

Ibn al-Qattaan said, "There is a consensus that the eye is not connected to any enormity, but it is the quickest inroad to the destruction of the heart."

Of the things one should be careful of are sensory images that have a corrupting influences on the heart. Much of what is on television and around us in terms of billboards and images is actually detrimental to our hearts.

The exercise for the eyes is to make a commitment with Allah every morning for forty continuous days not to look at anything haraam.

During the day be vigilant and keep in mind that averting the glance is an essential element in the practice of protecting the eyes and therefore the heart. In other words, you will see things that are haraam, but count the day as successful if you averted your glance from the prohibited.

Mark each day and go back to day one if you fail. Use some punitive measure to discipline yourself.

Exercise 3: Guarding the Ears

Allah says, "Surely the hearing the sight and the heart, all of those man is responsible for." "And when they hear empty talk they turn away from it."In the tradition, "The one listening is one of the backbiters."

The ears, unlike the eyes, are difficult to guard because there is no natural plug for the ears similar to the lids of the eyes. Moreover you cannot avert your hearing with ease like you can with your eyes.

Imam Malik said, "Do not give your ear to someone whose heart is deviant because you do not know what will become attached to it." It is a direct inroad to the heart and through it meanings enter into the understanding.

As in the other exercises, one should commit to breaking the bad habits of the ears:

Commit to not hear anything prohibited.

Turn away from vain talk as this is an attribute of the believers in the Qur'an.

Do not listen to lies, slander, calumny, backbiting, mockery or any other prohibited deed of the tongue.

If someone begins to speak ill of someone, change the subject and if they refuse, explain to them what you are trying to do and that it is probably backbiting.

Again, do the exercise for forty consecutive and successful days. If you fail to fulfill your commitment, start back to day one until you have accomplished forty straight days.

In all of these exercises, eliminate the haraam first and foremost. Things that are makruh or mubah can be worked on later. There is no punishment with the makruh or the mubah. Once you have eliminated successfully the haraam, then work on the makruh and then if you have high spiritual aspiration, work on the permissible.

Include avoiding listening to music in your commitment. Utilize your free time for listening to Qur'an or talks that are useful or permissible anaashid. There are some environments where music is piped in. Attempt to avoid such places and if they are unavoidable, then don't count it as a breech of your commitment. Necessities permit the impermissible.

Exercise 4: Guarding the Stomach

This is perhaps the most important and some may even want to begin with this exercise, particularly if they are eating foods that are clearly prohibited or they have unlawful income.

It is an obligation according to the Book, the Sunnah and the consensus of the scholars to guard that goes into our stomachs.

Allah says, "O you who believe, eat from the earth what is permissible and pure." Again He said, "O you who believe, eat from the pure things what We provided for you." Again, "O Messengers, eat from the pure things and do righteous deeds."

The commentators say there is a direct relation to doing righteous works as a result of eating pure foods. Purity here means the contents are pure and the source from whence they came is pure.

Ibn Abbaas said, "Allah has commanded the believers to do the same thing that He has commanded the Messengers here. He has commanded them to perform righteous deeds after commanding them to eat pure foods as a reminder that one does not derive benefit from actions until one has rectified one's livelihood and position."

Sidi Ahmad Zarruq said, "Eat what you will but know that you will act accordingly." The hadith states, "Flesh that has been nourished with the prohibited is more worthy of the Fire."

The exercise should focus on removing haraam from one's food sources.

As for meat of the people of the Book, it is permissible by consensus, although there is no doubt that there are many doubtful aspects to meat production today and its purity from contamination should be a serious concern. Indeed, one should avoid many of the sources of meat today.

Eating less is also an important part of this exercise. Begin by avoiding excess as this is prohibited on a regular basis, "O you who believe, eat and drink but not to excess. Surely Allah loves not the excessive." Learning to control the appetite is one of the most powerful means of controlling the self and achieving taqwa which is why Allah says about fasting, "O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you just as it was for the people before you in order to achieve taqwa."

Fasting is an excellent discipline and attempting at least three days a month during the full moon is a prophetic practice.

Finally, the greatest rule here is the one provided by the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, "Leave what gives you doubt for what does not give you doubt." Do the same for this exercise as for the previous ones.

Note: There is no special consideration for the stomach in terms of guarding it from the prohibited. The skin also must be protected in that you only wear what is permissible and pure. The vehicle you transport your body with must also be permissible and pure.

Exercise 5: Guarding the Private Parts

Allah says, "And those who protect their private parts except with their spouses..." Allah also says, "Do not even draw near to fornication or perversion for it is a foul thing and leads to a bad path."

The Qur'anic view concerning this is preventative. One should never under any circumstances be alone with someone of the opposite sex unless there is legal relations between them, i.e., wife, husband or direct relative. Guarding the private parts means simply avoiding places of temptation and harm.

For the believer, this should be the easiest of the seven if he or she follows the simple rule of never being alone with someone who is unrelated to him or her. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Whoever guards for me his tongue and private parts I can guarantee a place in the Garden."

As for homosexuality and lesbian acts, these are condemned by sacred law and are considered enormities that demand tawba. If Muslims are suffering from such impulses they must struggle with themselves and avoid being in situations where they can compromise themselves.

As for self-stimulation, the dominant opinion is prohibition. One should commit to stopping this also. If someone is single and has overwhelming impulses that are obstructing his or her mental health, they should marry. If they are unable to do that, and fear committing fornication, then masturbation is much less harmful than fornication and the position of Imam Ahmad is that it is like cupping, i.e., removing harmful fluids but with the condition there is no fantasizing about another person.55

One should also guard one's nakedness and avoid any displays of what is prohibited for others to see. This means a strong commitment on the part of Muslim women to cover themselves accordingly and also men.

Tight clothing for both men and women should be avoided.

Again, do this exercise like the others and maintain vigilance as this is one of Shaytan's greatest weapons, i.e., sexual appetite. If someone has committed a grave wrong, he needs to make sincere tawba and commit to never doing it again.

Exercise 6: Guarding the Hands

The blessed Messenger of Allah said, "The Muslim is one who other Muslims are safe from his tongue and his hand."56 This means protecting the hands from stealing from or harming any of the creation of Allah without just right.

According to the Qur'an, the hands will bear witness against the sons of Adam. They are one of the greatest gifts of Allah and distinguish us from other animals including apes as they do not have an opposable thumb.

We should never raise our hand to any Muslim unless it is in self-defense. Nor should we do so to any non-Muslim unless in self-defense or a legitimate struggle for the defense of homeland or a jihad under legitimate authority of the Khalifah.

We should not use our hands to sow any corruption in the earth.

Exercise 7: Guarding the Feet

This is the same as the hands and you should include in this driving to any prohibited place. Any endeavor you wish to do has a ruling.

For the most part, things are permissible. Allah has prohibited very few things. Learn them and avoid them.

When you set out to a place, say the prayer of the Prophet, peace be upon him, "O Allah, I seek refuge in You that I should go astray or lead others astray; that I should trip or trip others; that I should oppress or be oppressed or that I should show ignorance or be the brunt of ignorance."

Reflect on why you are going somewhere and remember the hadith, "Avoid places that will bring suspicion from others down on you."

Summary

If these seven inroads to wrong actions are guarded, you are actually guarding your heart as it is the city and these are its borders.

There is a war being waged for it between light and darkness, and just as night turns into day and day turns into night, our war with our enemies is one with alternate success (sijaal).

Do not despair when you lapse and show weakness. This is to keep us humble before our Lord and others.

Do not give up this struggle as there is no other as worthy of our efforts. Take this seriously and remember that taqwa is the key to every good in this life and the next and it is a reality that can be achieved.

Finally, some of our scholars have said that all of Islam revolves around four hadiths. If we take them seriously and practice them we will be people of taqwa, insha'Allah.

"The permissible is clear and the prohibited is clear and between them are gray areas; not many people know what they are. So whoever protects himself from them, has kept his Din innocent and free of blemish. However, whoever falls into them has fallen into the prohibited. His likeness is that of a shepherd who takes his flock to graze near a king's sanctuary and due to his proximity to it, he inevitably falls into it. Surely every king has a sanctuary and surely the sanctuary of Allah in His earth is those things He hjas prohibited. Surely there is a lump of flesh in the body, if it is sound the whole body is sound and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart."

"Abandon the world and Allah will love you and abandon what people have and they will love you."

"From the excellence of a person's Islam, is that he or she leaves what does not concern them."

"Surely actions are by intentions and everyone has what he intended."
If we simply took those four hadiths to heart and based our lives upon them, we would indeed have success.

May Allah forgive us for words without deeds and not make our Din a proof against us on the Day the debts fall due.

Prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah as long as those who remember, remember, and those who forget, forget.

Make a commitment to guard all seven, but take the tongue as your first exercise that you will commit to mastering every day for forty consecutive days. The reason for limiting it to one exercise at a time is the hadith "This Din is easy, and no one will attempt to master all of it except that it overwhelms him,"

Be serious about it and announce to your friends that you are committing to this path and you need their help. Allah says, "Help one another with righteousness and taqwa; and don't help one another do wrongs and aggression." Take it seriously and don't make light of it. Express to them your deep desire to better yourself and if they are good believers they will want to join you.

Initially, you may be shocked to find that it is very difficult to break bad habits of many years, but rest assured you can. Allah does not give tasks to us that we are unable to bear. We can conquer these bad habits and destructive tendencies, and there are many great men and women of the past and even some alive today who have done so or are on the path to doing so from whom we should derive strength and courage.

Once you have truly mastered the first exercise, then be vigilant in maintaining it, and move on to the next most troublesome inroad. It may be, for instance, the eyes or for some the ears. Follow the exercise until you are ready to commit to the next.

In no way should you ignore the other six while focusing on one. We are commanded by Allah to guard all of our limbs at all times, but in order for you not to be overwhelmed, focus on one exercise at a time. You will find that by focusing on one it will actually make you more vigilant of the others also because much of what we do wrong is from our own heedlessness and each exercise is meant to make us more conscious of our actions through focusing on one at a time.

You will see the results immediately but don’t get too excited by your progress. You must be aware that Shaytan is now moving into serious counter-attack formation. He will work on the heart. He will try and instill pride in you for your efforts. He will attempt to make you think you are better than others for struggling with yourself.

Do not fall for these whisperings and you will hear them! See everyone as better than you. Do not raise yourself above anyone in the creation. If you do this, then Shaytan will then attempt to make you feel pleased with being humble. Still, don't listen. This is a path that has many pitfalls. Shaytan swore on oath and his oath is this, "I shall lurk in ambush for them on Your straight path. Then I shall come upon them from before them and from behind them and from their right sides and from their left sides, and You will not find most of them grateful."24 He does not say he will attack us from above or from below and the secret of that is that revelation and truth come from above; and through humility and staying low and keeping our heads on the ground we open our hearts to the guidance from above. Allah has not given Shaytan authority over the Messenger's guidance or His humbled servants who follow that guidance.

You are now on the hero's journey, and success is by Allah, not through anything you do. You must see it as spiritual success (tawfiq) from Allah and this means you must increase your gratitude. It cannot be done without your effort but it is not your effort through which it is done. Recognize that paradox25 and submit to it. Keep your eye on the path and feel death's presence and know that you are of the people your path is leading to even if you die before reaching them. This is why we pray, "And cause me to reach the righteous."

May Allah give us the success to be people of taqwa. May He unite the hearts of this Ummah in love of Him and His beloved Messenger, peace be upon him. May He guide us to the path of taqwa and give of the courage and the success of being among its people. May He raise from among us people who enjoin right and forbid evil out of love and not hate, out of desire for people to draw near to their Lord and not from anger in their hearts. May He remove rancor and enmity from the hearts of the believers. And our last prayer is Praise be to the Lord of all the worlds.

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