Taqwa is something that many Muslims strive for. It is often translated in English as piety. But the English word doesn’t cover all of taqwa’s implications and adds a few negative connotations. In English “piety” has a connotation of judgment and perfection.
We think of the Catholic saints as pious people and often we feel we will never be able to measure up to their perfection. And because of this, we can either judge ourselves harshly or feel judged.
Taqwa has nothing to do with judgment or perfection. We can leave these connotations out. Taqwa comes from the Arabic word “weqaya”, meaning protection. We protect ourselves, our physical and spiritual existence, through taqwa, through living an examined life, through being conscious of God.
Having or struggling to have taqwa is an act of selfishness that God asks from us. God tells us what will harm us and therefore to stay away from it. And God, having created us and knowing us better than we know ourselves, tells us what will benefit us and therefore to run to it.
The amazing thing about taqwa and this kind of selfish protection, living an examined and God conscious life, is that part of being selfish is being selfless. Because if we truly understood our own existence, we would also understand that we are inseparably linked to every human, every animal, every atom in existence because we all come from the same Source.
Taqwa not only means being aware of how your actions impact your own life, but it also means being aware of how they impact those around you. Everything in existence comes from and belongs to the same Source. And if we want to make it home to that Source, we have to be aware of that.
Having taqwa therefore means that you are protecting yourself by coming closer to God by doing good for yourself and the world around you.
That home of the Hereafter We assign to those who do not desire exaltedness upon the earth or corruption. And the [best] outcome is for [al mutaqeen- those who have taqwa]. (Quran 28:83)
In this way, taqwa means being woke. So … are you woke? Do you have taqwa?
Take the test to find out.
1- Do you fast? If so, when you fast, do you find yourself thinking of God in everything you do, living for the peace that coming closer to God brings, talking to Him, trusting in Him more, seeing God’s artistic skill in everyone and everything you encounter?
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may [gain taqwa]. (Quran 2:183)
2- Do you have patience? Do you find yourself in the middle of rough times thinking of the bigger picture of life and therefore are calm or at least comforted by the thought of trusting God’s plan and path for you?
Indeed, he who is conscious of God and is patient, then indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good. (Quran 12:90)
3- When you are presented with something haram that is made easy for you and seems exciting and beneficial, do you remember your Originator and remind yourself that the haram is haram only for your own protection? Do you remind yourself that The One who created time and gravity and everything in existence can easily make a halal way for you?
[…] And whoever is conscious of Allah – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent. (Quran 65:2-3)
4- When you commit a sin or do the haram, do you return to God asking for His limitless forgiveness? Do you use that slip up as an opportunity to grow closer to God and be better, more woke, have more taqwa?
[…] and whoever is conscious of God – He will remove for him his misdeeds and make great for him his reward. (Quran 65:5)
5- Do you find yourself wanting to know more about your Creator and more about His creation? Do you have a thirst for knowledge and actively seek it out?
It is those of His servants who have knowledge who stand in true awe of God. God is almighty, most forgiving. (Quran 35:28)
6- When you look back at your life, do you find that the times of hardship have made you closer to God?
They are those whose hearts Allah has tested for taqwa. (Quran 49:3)
If you answered yes to all or most of the questions, then congratulations! You have attended taqwa. What an amazing gift! But do not feel satisfied with the gains you have made in God consciousness. This life and attaining taqwa is not a destination, it is a path. Keep on the path of protection and keep striving to be beautifully woke.
If you answered yes and no in equal amounts, then congratulations! You are on you way and have your foot in the door. You will never attain perfection, but that is ok. No one is perfect (with one or two exceptions… like the prophets).
So don’t let that discourage you. Keep up the good deeds and your struggle to become closer to God. The more you do, the easier it will be to leave the bad in your life, the easier it will be to protect yourself. In this case if a little is good, more is better.
If you answered no to all or nearly all the questions, then congratulations! You are alive and reading this article right now, and that means you have options, opportunity, and ability to make changes that will be so unimaginably beneficial to you. Start small and build on each success. Don’t be discouraged by any backsliding or slip-ups.
God forgives as long as you ask for forgiveness. And His capacity to forgive is so much greater than any sin you can even imagine.
And always remember God’s promise:
Indeed, the [mutaqeen- those who have taqwa] will be among shades and springs. And fruits from whatever they desire, [Being told], “Eat and drink in satisfaction for what you used to do.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. (Quran 77:41-44)