Moral Teachings of Islam- Moral Virtues: Taqwa

Summary of 6.20 “Prohibition to Safeguard Property”
The first six programs that we had in this series covered the theory of ethics, the main conceptual framework of understanding the whole question of ethics and morality.’ We covered the main problems in ethics, the difference between secular and religious morality and the specific unique characteristics of the Islamic approach to morality.’ We covered questions like the position of the individual in the universe and how a person relates to the universe and how he sees it.’ We also covered issues like the stability and comprehensiveness of the Islamic moral code.

The remaining fourteen programs constituted the second portion of the issue of moral teachings.’ We focused mainly on issues that relate to the lawful and unlawful.’ The main criteria for what is lawful and unlawful are set in order to achieve the main objective of Islamic law which is to safeguard faith, live, mind, honor and property.’ Under each of these points we discussed a variety of topics. Under the topic of faith we talked about shirk, associating others with God, sorcery and tyranny.’ Under the topic of the preservation of life we discussed killing, suicide, euthanasia, abortion, social injustice and we spent a good amount of time discussing the question of diet.’ Under the topic of safeguarding the mind we talked about prohibition of wine, alcohol and intoxicants.’ Under the topic of safeguarding honor we talked bout the prohibition of adultery, fornication, and slander.’ And the last program dealt with the safeguarding of property which covered issues such as theft, cheating, usury and related issues.

The third portion that we are going to get into now, will emphasizes the fact that in order to achieve moral excellence it is not enough to appeal to the intellect or to what is lawful or unlawful in an elaborate legal system but above all there is a moral spiritual appeal to the individual to follow what is prescribed by God.

6.21′ Moral Virtues- Taqwa

Host:’ Can you explain the meaning of the word taqwa?

Taqwa is a central concept that we find running through the passages of the Quran especially in the verses that deal with individual behavior and social relations.’ Some of the common translations of taqwa in English are piety, heeding or being God fearing.’ Each of these only gives a partial meaning for taqwa. I would like to define it is as an attitude which combines elements of caution, God fearing and above all being God conscious.

Host:’ Could you analyze some of these elements that you have included in your definition?’ What does the element of fear mean?

Jamal Badawi:

When the word fear is used in an Islamic context as it refers to taqwa or being God conscious we are not talking about being scared because one can be scared without any feeling of love or respect.’ People could be scared of a monster but not have any affinity or love for the monster which is not the kind of fear we are talking about.’ When one is God fearing, this feeling includes the fear of His punishment on the Day of Judgment.’ When were refer to fear of punishment it is for those who are ungrateful enough so as to disregard, forget and disobey God.’ If it wasn’t for fear as a part of a person’s responsibility and accountability people would go around doing whatever they wish to do.’ This may also include the fear of losing the blessings of God in our earthly life.’ Many times when we follow laws, systems or philosophies that are against the will of God we suffer part of the consequences in this life.’ To be deprived of the blessing of God is another fear that induces the individual to follow His path.

In addition to this there is another meaning to fear which is quite different from the first two meanings.’ It is a more noble fear than the first two types and it is the fear of displeasing the one we love.’ An example of this would be two people who are truly deeply in love, each of them would try their best to please the other and to avoid actions that would avoid any action that might endanger their love or may displease the loved one.’ Many times people get upset because they forgot an anniversary or a birthday and are afraid of forgetting them even though they are not doing anything wrong.’ If we apply this relationship with humans (I am not making an analogy between humans and God) and our loved ones then it is more appropriate for us (if we are true believers) to really fear displeasing the One we love most, and that is God.’ Displeasing God is an act of ungratefulness and an act of forgetting what God has provided us with because we owe everything to Him (life, property and guidance to worship Him).’ This kind of fear is not founded on hate or a vengeful concept of God who is seen to be cruel and punishing but it is actually based on love which drives people not to want to displease God.

Host:’ What do you mean by ‘heeding’ and ‘God conscious?’

Jamal Badawi:

There was a statement made by Omar Ibn Khatab (the second Kalef after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)) when he made a similitude of taqwa being God conscious or heeding as a person who is going through a narrow path with all kinds of thorns around him trying to snatch his clothing while trying to protect himself and his clothing from this.’ In this saying clothing is used as a metaphor describing an individual’s character and how an individual needs to protect it from all divergences and deviations that surround him in his path.’ The thorns represent temptations that could be greed, acquiring money form any source, elicit relationships, pride and vanity.’ A person who has taqwa tries to heed or avoid anything that displease God and may be harmful to himself or others.

To be conscious of the presence of God all the time is the core of taqwa.’ To know, feel and realize that God is with us and looking after us at all times and that He knows what we are doing and what our souls whisper results in an attitude which feels a sense of shame to do something wrong in God’s presence.’ This was explained beautifully in a story that took place during the reign of Omar.’ There was a teenage girl whose mother used to sell milk but in order to make a fast buck she mixed water with milk.’ Once, the girl saw her mother doing this and said ‘Mother!’ Don’t cheat.” The mother replied ‘We are in our home.’ Omar (everyone feared the ruler because he was very strong and whenever something was wrong he wanted to straiten it out) is not here.” But the girl illiterate, simple but with her pure faith said ‘Yes, mother Omar is not here but the God of Omar is here.” This is a beautiful and simple expression that shows that there are degrees of being God conscious.’ The higher the degree of God consciousness the more one is conscious of the presence of God in one’s life.’ Islam doesn’t separate between secular, religious, economic or spiritual activities because one has to conduct his behavior with the feeling that God is present.

Host:’ What is the Muslim understanding of divine love?

Jamal Badawi:

There are verses in the Quran that connect between divine love and taqwa (being God conscious).’ In the Quran in (3:76) ‘verily Allah loves those who are (mutakeen) act aright.” When we talk about divine love in Islam we are not talking about a kind of slogan that is repeated and to which lip service is paid.’ We are not talking of vague emotions because the term love is used.’ When we talk about divine love or the love of God we are talking about a sense of dependence upon God and the realization on the part of the human that mankind is not self sufficient and that man depends on and needs God.

Divine love is also a sense of gratefulness to God for all His bounty which helps us realize that whatever we do as humans is nothing but an effort to use what God has given us.’ This love is not only an intellectual cognition or understanding but is also a love that manifests in all aspects life.’ The hardest test of the genuineness of this love is to follow the path of God.’ There is a beautiful expression that addresses Prophet Muhammad in the Quran in (3:31) ‘Say: ‘If ye do love Allah, Follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” This love must really be manifested in an actual commitment to the path established by God.’ This love is steadfast and doesn’t waiver because of various trials and tribulation.’ One has to sacrifice for this love from desire, property, time and if need be life for the sake of God.’ This love is the foundation for every other type of love.’ This is the foundation of the love for mankind or other creators that God has created.

Love in Islam is not a slogan but rather something practical that requires commitment and responsibility.’ The Quran indicates that to have this true love one has to put the love of God above all other types of love.’ An example is found in (2:165) ‘But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for Allah.” In a saying by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) he says there are three things if a Muslim achieves he will find the sweet taste of faith in his heart.’ The first one is that a person loves God and his Messenger more than he loves anything else.’ Divine love is a mutual affair.’ The Quran says in (5:54)’Soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him.’

Host:’ Are there specific acts in Islam which will nourish such divine love?

Jamal Badawi:

There are seven acts that can help with this.’ In order to earn the love of God one has to first have taqwa or to be God conscious.’ Second, one has to constantly repent to God as we find in (2:22) where it says that if someone does something wrong it does not mean that there is eternal damnation as the door for repentance is always open.’ God says that he loves those who repent.’ Thirdly, God loves those who constantly purify themselves.’ Fourthly, those who do good are mentioned in the Quran in several verses.’ Fifthly, God loves those who have trust in Him which is found in chapter 3.’ Sixth, God loves those who are steadfast and who persevere.’ Seventh, God loves those who are just or judge in equity.

Host:’ What are acts that can jeopardize divine love?

Jamal Badawi:

The Quran doesn’t say hate but it says that ‘God does not love’ and it enumerates several acts.’ One, thing that the Quran mentions that God does not love is aggression or transgression.’ Secondly, God does not love corruption on earth or mischief found in (2:205).’ Third, God does not love those who are ungrateful and do not acknowledge the bounties of God.’ Fourth, God does not love those who reject faith.’ Fifth, God does not love oppression as mentioned in chapter three.’ Sixth, some verses mention that God does not love betrayal and the act of treachery.’ Seventh, God does not love waist.’ Finally there are a number of verses that show that God does not love vanity, arrogance and pride.’ On example of this is found in (4:35) in the Quran.

Host:’ What are the manifestations of taqwa?

Jamal Badawi:

The first benefit of having the moral quality of being God conscious (having taqwa) is guidance.’ In the second chapter of the Quran it says that the Quran is guidance for those who are God conscious.’ Many people read Holly Scriptures but do not benefit form them because their hearts are not receptive and they are not God conscious.

Secondly, the Quran mentions God consciousness as something that helps us have proper vision, wisdom and knowledge.’ An example of this is found in a beautiful verse in the Quran (8:29) ‘O ye who believe! if ye fear Allah, He will grant you a criterion (to judge between right and wrong), remove from you (all) evil (that may afflict) you, and forgive you: for Allah is the Lord of grace unbounded.” Similarly, the Quran mentions that knowledge and vision is related to taqwa ‘Be God conscious and God will increase your knowledge wisdom.’

Third, the Quran mentions piety as one of the preconditions for the blessing of ease and a way out of problems and tribulations in life in (65:4) ‘or those who fear Allah, He will make their path easy.” Then in the following verse it also says ‘If any one fears Allah, He will remove his ills, from him, and will enlarge his reward.’

Fourthly, God consciousness is mentioned in the Quran as a prerequisite for forgiveness of our sins.’ For example the Quran says ‘Whoever is God conscious God will forgive his sins and give him/her an abundant reward.’

Fifth, God consciousness is a precondition for receiving mercy in the Quran ‘My mercy includes everything so I will grant it to those who are God conscious.” It is also related to ultimate victory in chapter 7 in the Quran ‘The ultimate destiny is for those who are God conscious.’

Finally, taqwa is related to ultimate bliss not only in this life but in the hereafter.’ An example from the Quran ‘Truly those who are close to God there is no fear on them and they should not greave, including those who believe and practice God consciousness.’ To them is the good tiding in this life and hereafter.” There is no wonder that the Quran constantly mentions the quality of God consciousness as something which is very essential and that one should not die without being in the state of submission to the will of God as this is something that one should take as a provision for the eternal journey (mentioned in chapter 2).’ If this quality spread among people there would be perfect peace.

Note: Verses that are quoted but are not sited with a chapter and verse number were translated by Jamal Badawi.

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