This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.
In the last few months, we’ve been recording a series of reflections called “Journey of the Heart” and we’ve talked about different ways our hearts become closer to God Almighty (Allah).
Today, we’re going to talk about taqwa (piety or fear of the Lord) and how can our hearts increase in taqwa, in piety.
Let’s think just for a moment what this taqwa is, this piety, this fear of the Lord.
Fear of the Lord simply means “not living this world as though there were no tomorrow”, not living this world as though we just seize today and do whatever we can as though there is no future, or though there is no hereafter…
Fear of the Lord means living our lives with an eye to what God Almighty wants. It’s as simple as that. We don’t do bad things because we don’t want to displease Almighty God.
Similarly we don’t do bad things, we don’t want to be punished. We want to enter the Paradise, we don’t want to enter the Hellfire.
So fear of the Lord means living this life with an eye to Almighty God.
Let me put it in other context, you know, we can talk about fearing our father, now what does that mean? We’re not afraid of our father, but we do things that our father tells us to do something we do it because:
- We want to please him,
- We don’t want to displease him,
- We don’t want to earn his punishment or his anger.
So fearing our father doesn’t mean we don’t love him; we love him very much indeed, but we fear him precisely because we love him. We want to do what will make him happy, what will please him.
So when we fear Allah, when we fear the Lord, we behave in a way that we want to please Almighty God; we behave in a way that we don’t want to displease Almighty God, Allah.
So what can we do in our lives to increase this taqwa in our hearts?
How can our hearts become closer to Allah through piety?
How can we become more pious women and men?
In the Quran, Allah Almighty says:
We have made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another… and the greatest among you is the greatest in piety. (49:13)
So God Almighty is saying that people are not better in this world because they are black or white, or because they are fat or thin or tall or small, or clever or not clever… people are superior to one another only in piety.
So how can we become more pious?
How can we fear God more?
How can we become better people, more pious people?
Being pious doesn’t mean just doing religious things, being pious means doing good things, they may be religious as well, and the intention in our heart in doing them is to please God and not to displease Almighty Allah.
And it seems to me, there are five things as Muslims that we can do to increase this piety, this taqwa, this fear of Allah in our hearts:
The first one is through praying. You know the very image of a Muslim praying is when her/his forehead touches the ground. We submit ourselves to Allah; we say:”Allah Almighty we are nothing without You.”
So that in itself is a gesture of taqwa (piety) of Allah Almighty, of fearing God. Our foreheads touch the ground and we say: “Allah Almighty, there is nothing I can do without you” and we become better people our hearts increase in this piety the more we pray.
You know, I learned long ago, “you become holy by doing holy things,” we become good people by doing good things. So the first thing we can do if we want our hearts to fear Allah more is to pray more.
As Muslims, we are required to pray five times a day, and we don’t just go through the motions of praying, we really pray, our intention in praying is to speak to Allah, to listen to Allah, to worship Him, to praise and bless Him.
But outside the five daily prayers, we can also pray as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) encourages us to pray during the night to get up in the last third of the night when Allah Almighty wants to listen to us and to speak to Him in the quiet of the night.
So our hearts become more attuned, may be the best way of describing piety is saying our hearts become attuned to God, and everything we do, you know, we look to God to please Him. As one of the Psalms says “like the eyes of the handmaid on the hand of her mistress”, you know, we want to please God.
A servant looks to see what his master wants. He’s infinitely attentive to what his master wants. This is piety if we think of Almighty Allah. So the first thing to do is we pray.
2- Reciting the Quran
The second thing we can do is we can recite the Quran. We can read the Quran; we can listen to what Almighty God, Allah, wants of us, just as a servant can serve his master better by listening carefully to him knowing what his master wants. In the same way, we become more pious, we fear God more by listening to what He wants and then we do it.
So there are two way: praying and reciting Quran.
3- Remembering Allah
A third way is remembering Allah as much as we can. You know during the day, saying little prayers that would remind us of God, looking at a beautiful sunset and allowing it to remind us of God… these are things that make us pious because they remind us of the One who made all of these things.
4- Doing Good Deeds
The fourth way we become more pious in the heart is by doing good deeds. By doing good, we become good. So for example by helping in a soup kitchen, by giving up our seat to an old lady, by holding the door open for someone, by being polite, by smiling to people in the street… all of these are good actions, good deeds and by doing good things to please Allah, we become better people.
5- Giving Charity
The fifth one is charity. You know, someone in the street asks us for money may be. Now it could be that the person is tricking us completely, he doesn’t need the money at all, but we become pious people when we give to that person, not whether he’s telling the truth or not, but out of love for Allah Almighty.
Being charitable to others helps us to fear God. Why?
Well, there are two reasons: one is the intention of our heart is to please Allah; the other thing is it reminds us how lucky we are in life.
You know, we see someone who is less well-off that we are; and it reminds us how lucky we are, we see someone who can’t see for example, and it reminds us of the gift we have of sight. We see someone who can’t hear, we see someone who’s very poor, we see someone who can’t speak… and it reminds us all the time of how blessed we are as Muslims, as human beings by Almighty God.
So our lives will be better, we will be better Muslims by trying to increase those five things, by trying to pray more and to improve the quality of our prayer, by listening to Allah not just doing all the talking.
Remember we’ve got two ears and only one mouth, we should listen more to what Allah wants us to hear; we should read the Quran again and listen to Him:
“What do You want of me this day, Allah Almighty?”; we should do good deeds; we should remember Allah as much as we can during the day. It might be by using sibhah (beads) saying Subhanallah, Alhamudlillah, Allahu Akbar… it could be many different things because remember the Quran tells us:
We will find happiness and peace in our lives by remembering God. They are the things that will bring us happiness; and then finally, charity by being kind to others as well as good deeds, doing good things by being kind and charitable to those who need our help, we become better people.
We become pious, we’re doing it because we’re doing it to please Almighty God, we’re doing it for no other reason and Islam tells us our hearts will find happiness if we live for Allah alone.
So Inshallah, the message of these words today is we become better people, we become better Muslims by trying to please Almighty God, by fearing Him and becoming more pious Inshallah.
Assalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.