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Islamic Character With the Divine

The Reality of Taqwa, its Scope and 10 of its Causes

An Abridgment of Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Mayara’s Writings

Its Definition

Taqwa means to abandon religious prohibitions and observe religious injunctions. It is defined by Shari’ah as, “A person’s protection from what will harm him in the Hereafter.”

Its Scope

Abandoning the prohibitions and observing the injunctions implies an inner and outer reality. Thus, its application falls under four types:

1. Abandoning the outer prohibitions (like leaving prayers or smoking weed)
2. Abandoning the inner prohibitions (like envy or despairing His mercy)
3. Observing the outer injunctions (like prayer and being good to one’s neighbors)
4. Observing the inner injunctions (like the love of God and fearing Him)

Gaining Balance

Based on what was mentioned previously, it could be said of a person who observes religious acts, but harbors arrogance in his heart, that his taqwa is unbalanced. The same could also apply to a person who has no malice in his heart towards others, but fails to observe certain ritual acts.

It is also possible that a person’s heart is balanced, but his outer worship is not. For example, he attends rally after rally, meeting after meeting and class after class, but fails to observe the dawn prayer regularly. This common disease is a sign of an imbalance in a person’s taqwa. The same could also apply to a person who observes the ritual acts of worship, but fails to take part in his share of community work. Ponder this, because its possibilities are mind boggling.

The Causes of Taqwa are 10:

1.  Fear of worldly punishment
2.  Fear of punishment in the Hereafter
3.  Hope for rewards in this life
4.  Hope for rewards in the Hereafter
5.  Fear of being audited in the Hereafter
6.  Realization that God sees you
7.  Being thankful for His blessings with obedience
8.  Knowledge
9.  Extolling His magnificence
10.  Sincerely loving Him

We ask Allah to make us from the people of taqwa.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

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  • This list of 10 causes reminds me of verses from the bible, such as “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and “Perfect love casts out fear,” which suggest that these causes are a continuum of stages in the growth of believers, with the last stage being that of love, such as that of Rabia al Basri:

    “O Allah! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
    and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
    But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
    grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

    • brother/sister,

      I humbly believe that this quote by rabia is not correct and does not represent the teachings of Islam. The sahaba worshipped Allah out of fear of Hell and Desire of Paradise. The believer’s attitude is that he worships Allah out of love hope and fear, not just love or hope or fear.

      May Allah bless you

      • It’s brother.

        Thank you for your comments that made me re-read the quote by Rabia. I’m not sure I used it in its proper context. She doesn’t say anything about love or fear of Allah, only about detaching herself from love or fear of heaven and hell, which seems to be similar to what Sister Yasmin said in her article “Attachments: Emptying the Vessel” at http://www.virtualmosque.com/islam-studies/personaldvlpt/attachments-emptying-the-vessel/ As she wrote,

        “This struggle to free one’s heart from all false attachments, the struggle to empty the vessel of the heart, is the greatest struggle of earthly life. That struggle is the essence of tawheed (true monotheism).”

        Even so, I wonder how one maintains both love and fear toward the same entity and what is the exact meaning of love and fear with respect to Allah. When I think of coming home after work and my daughter racing toward me, hugging me, and saying, “I love you, daddy,” there is no fear, only love. Fear arises only when she has done something seriously wrong and some consequence may be forthcoming. And hope comes after fear, that is, hope of being accepted again into a relationship of love.

        I’m not sure that love of family is the same type of love that one should have for Allah as being a Muslim means complete submission and obedience to Allah. And perhaps it’s a different type of fear, too. Perhaps someone else can go into this into more detail.

        • assalamu alaykum,
          Fear and love for Allah subhana wa ta’ala go hand in hand. We fear that Allah may justly punish us because we know that He (SWT) has the power to do so and this makes us work harder to escape from Allah’s punishment. Similarly, we love Allah SWT because He has created us and given us all the blessings that we have and we know that if fulfill the purpose of our creation by worshipping Him SWT to the best of our ability, then He SWT will reward us beyond imagination out of His SWT’s infinite Mercy and Compassion.
          At least that is how I understand it.
          Allahu A’lam

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