Taqwa is the attitude and approach of a Muslim towards the affairs of life that distinguishes him from a non-Muslim. It is a mental disposition resulting from a continual awareness, remembrance and consciousness of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala brought about by true faith in Allaah (Eemaan) and His remembrance (Dzikr). It is the fundamental paradigm shift that takes place when someone truly and consciously adopts Islamic faith.
It is an attitude that is comprised of Allaah-consciousness, dutifulness to Him, fear of displeasing Him and being conscious, cautious and vigilant in the following manner:
Being willing, eager and careful that one’s duties to Allaah are fulfilled in every aspect of life.
Being conscious of Allaah’s presence and our accountability to Him and conducting ourselves being mindful that He is well aware of all our actions, intentions, thoughts and behaviours.
Being cautious not to get involved in anything that is prohibited or leads to something that is prohibited by Allaah.
Being particular about maintaining a lifestyle that will avoid incurring the displeasure or punishment of Allaah.
As per the paraphrased discussion between Ubayy Bin Ka’ab and Umar (radhiallahu `anhum) Taqwa is: Living one’s life as carefully as one who, while passing through a dense jungle of thorny bushes on a windy day, holds his clothes close to his body in order to protect them from being caught in the thorns. Thus, Taqwa is an extremely cautious way of living in this world, saving oneself from its temptations, incitements, pressures and challenges, and thus saving one self from the damages of disobedience or sin. The focus is on avoiding disobedience to Allaah, avoiding sin, avoiding displeasure of Allaah, and thus avoiding the Fire and punishment.
To capture all the aspects of Taqwa in translation is difficult. Hence, different scholars have translated Taqwa as being God-conscious, keeping one’s duty to Allaah, or fearing Allaah. In fact, Taqwa is all these things.
Scrupulous care and caution is an extremely important aspect of Taqwa. A person with Taqwa avoids delving into even doubtful things so that there is no risk of slipping into something that is wrong.
The Messenger of Allaah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “A person cannot be counted among those who have Taqwa until he gives up something that may be acceptable, as a precautionary measure for avoiding something that is bad.”
In case of doubt, the conscience of a Muttaqi believer is the best judge for deciding what to do and what to avoid:
He also said, “Abandon what is doubtful in favour of something beyond doubt. The criterion is that truth imparts peace to the conscience while falsehood causes anxiety.”
When asked about good behaviour (Birr) and sins (Ithm), the Messenger, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Ask yourself, ask your heart, (three times). Birr is any action about which you feel peace in your conscience. Sin (Ithm) is what pricks your conscience and about which you are double minded, even if others have given Fatwa in its favour.”
However, this is a healthy precaution applying to a situation where the nature of an action or matter is not clear in determining whether it is allowed or not allowed. It applies to grey areas where, either due to a new development or a strong difference of opinion, ordinary people cannot decide which way to go. In those situations, it is better to be cautious:
“Ĥalaal is clear and Ĥaraam is clear, however, between the two there are some unclear areas about which most people do not have definite knowledge. Whoever avoids such doubtful matters, he saves his Deen and his honour. But whoever indulges in such matters, he falls into Ĥaraam. His example is like a shepherd who grazes his cattle close to prohibited area, risking that his cattle may enter the prohibited area. Beware that every king has a prohibited area and beware that Allaah’s prohibited area constitutes His prohibitions.”
Such avoidance must not be merely on suspicion or cynicism. Avoiding things on mere suspicion may lead to extremism and a monastic mentality where withdrawal from the Ĥalaal things of the world is considered a virtue. That will neither be Taqwa nor Islam:
A person asked the Messenger of Allaah, “I feel worried about some of the foods (such as food from Christians)”. He, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam replied, “Do not let it trouble you to the extent that you start abandoning things like Christian monks.”
People with Taqwa are very conscious of their accountability to Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala and of the purpose of their sojourn on this earth. They carefully perform all obligations and necessary duties of slavery to Allaah SWT. Their actions are not haphazard or purposeless; rather everything they do is consciously evaluated from an accountability perspective and deliberately considered from the perspective of achieving Islamic objectives. Thus, they spend their time and energies only on those matters that fulfill their obligations to Allaah, to people and themselves and those actions that will achieve Islamic objectives. And while fulfilling their worldly obligations, they are fair and equitable in their dealings with people and faithful in performing their duties.
The importance of Taqwa and its relationship with Allaah’s remembrance and one’s concern for accountability is indicated by the following verse:
O Believers! Adopt Taqwa of Allaah; watch what each of you provides for Tomorrow (Hereafter); and again, maintain Taqwa of Allaah. Indeed, Allaah is aware of what you do. And do not be like those who forgot Allaah, and as a consequence, He caused them to forget themselves (their own well-being and their own end).
Taqwa is a natural corollary of faith. As mentioned earlier, it is the fundamental paradigm shift that takes place when Islamic faith is understood and consciously adopted. Without this shift of the attitude and outlook to Taqwa, faith is not valid and reciting Shahaadah is utterance of a false oath. The attitude of Taqwa has to be ingrained in a believer’s psyche so much that it governs a believer’s affairs in keeping with the Majesty and rights of Allaah as our Master:
O Believers! Adopt Taqwa of Allaah as much as it is His right, and do not die except as Muslims (in a state of obedience).
Thus, it is Allaah’s right on us that we have His Taqwa to an extent that is fitting with the Majesty of the Lord of universe. It is not something that can be taken lightly or neglected. Having Taqwa is essential to be Muslim. A person without Taqwa will not die as a Muslim. Any one claiming to be Muslim without Taqwa is a hypocrite and is considered a disbeliever:
We advised those who were given the Book before you as well as you that you must have Taqwa of Allaah. But if you disbelieve, then know that whatever is in the heavens and earth belongs to Allaah.
That is why the Qur-aan ties Falaaĥ with Taqwa and repeatedly emphasizes that only the people with Taqwa shall be the successful ones. It also makes Fowz conditional on having Taqwa. There are too many verses to list that describe Jannah as reward for Muttaqeen. In other places, Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala has clarified that Jannah is for those who believe and do good deeds. In that way, Taqwa represents the combination of faith and good behaviour because it emanates from faith and results in good behaviour. The Qur-aan also indicates that faith and Taqwa are integral and both must be maintained in tandem for attaining reward from Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala:
Had they believed and adopted Taqwa, the reward from Allaah would have been really good.
If only the People of the Book had believed and maintained Taqwa, We would certainly have remitted their evil deeds and We would certainly have made them enter gardens of bliss.
The reward of the hereafter is much better for those who believe and maintain Taqwa.
Therefore, believe in Allaah and His Messenger, and if you believe and maintain Taqwa, there will be a tremendous reward for you.
The life of this world is only play and amusement, but if you believe and maintain Taqwa, He will give you your rewards and will not ask you of your possessions.
That is also the reason that when prophets and messengers called people to faith, they highlighted Taqwa of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala and obedience to messengers as integral parts of faith:
Eesa `alayhissalaam is quoted:
I have come to you with a clear sign from your Lord, so adopt Taqwa of Allaah and obey me.
And when your Lord called Moosa that go to the unjust people, the people of Pharaoh — are they not going to adopt Taqwa?
The people of Nooh rejected the messengers, when their brother, Nooh, said to them, “Are you not going to adopt Taqwa? I am a trustworthy messenger for you, so adopt Taqwa of Allaah and obey me! And I do not ask you any reward for it; my reward is only with the Lord of the universe. So adopt Taqwa of Allaah and obey me!”
The similar dialogue has been reported for people of Hood, Ŝaaliĥ, Loot and Shu’ayb (`alayhimussalaam) and the same invitation (So adopt Taqwa of Allaah and obey me!) has been repeated twice for each of them.
And indeed Ilyaas was one of the messengers. Remember when he said to his people, “Are you not going to adopt Taqwa?”
Because Taqwa is the natural result of consciously remembering (Dzikr) of the appropriate attributes of Allaah and accountability to Him, the Qur-aan reminds people of these matters at appropriate occasions while mentioning Taqwa:
In Soorah Nisaa, after commanding people to adopt Taqwa of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala, it reminds:
Surely Allaah is ever a Watcher over you.
Maintain Taqwa of Allaah and know that to His audience you are going to be gathered.
Maintain Taqwa of Allaah and know that you are going to meet Him; and give good news to the believers.
If you deal in the best manner and maintain Taqwa, then keep in mind that Allaah is fully aware of what you do.
Maintain Taqwa of Allaah; certainly Allaah is severe in punishing.
Maintain Taqwa of Allaah; surely Allaah is fast in reckoning.
 A believer who has Taqwa
 2:2; 2:189; 3:130, 200; 5:100; 24:52; 10:63-64; 85:11
 For example: 3:15, 198; 4:77; 6:32; 7:35, 169; 10:63; 12:57, 109; 19:72; 26:90; 43:35; 45:45; 51:15; 52:17; 54:54; 68:34; 77:41; 78:31
 Those who have Taqwa.
 More examples can be seen at: 2:231, 233; 5:7, 8, 96; 49:1; 58:9; 59:18
(Reported by Tirmidzi from ‘Atiyyah As-Sa’di)
(Reported by Tirmidzi from Ĥasan Bin ‘Ali).
(Reported by Ahmad Bin Hanbal from Waabisah Bin Ma’bad)
(Reported by Muslim from Nu’maan Bin Basheer)
(Aboo Dawood and Tirmidzi from Qabeeŝah Bin Halb)
(Al Maaidah 5:2)