The Definition of Taqwa – Birgivi’s Manual 01

Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart. This article series—based upon Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explainedprovides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves when seeking the attainment of taqwa.

We live in a time where people claim to be religious but are unconcerned about the sunna of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and about cultivating taqwa. Religion has been stripped down to a set of ritual actions, empty in form, and devoid of life. Almost as if our devotional acts are just a chore that we have to check off in order for us to claim to be “religious”. 

As Muslims, we have all heard about the term “taqwa” and how we must be mindful, aware and conscious of Allah at all times. Yet what is taqwa precisely? And when you know what it is, how can you go about cultivating it? 

Religion has two distinguishing fruits:

  1. The realization of faith (having iman)
  2. The active actualization of taqwa (mindfulness of Allah)

It is the second that will be focused on in this article series. Taqwa is the foundational theme of the Qur’an and is the key to unlocking its highest aim: realizing and attaining closeness to Allah Most High. The actualization of taqwa will fill our otherwise meaningless ritual acts with life and essence. 

Defining Taqwa

Taqwa linguistically means to shield or carefully guard something. But it is not a passive sort of watchfulness, but rather a full, complete, careful and comprehensive guarding of a thing.

In religious matters generally, taqwa means to carefully guard oneself and to avoid everything that harms one in the hereafter. The bare minimum amount of taqwa that one could have is to keep away from associating partners with Allah Most High. On the other hand, the highest level of taqwa is when one guards their innermost against being distracted by other than Allah. It is to be devoted to Allah with your absolute entirety. It is to be utterly in love with Allah Most High, for love is to give your entirety to something such that nothing of it remains for you. It is a love that renders the lover thoroughly heedless of the world around them, focused wholly upon their Lord, Creator and Sustainer. This is the type of mindfulness that Allah means when He commands us to have mindfulness of Him as He deserves. 

In religious matters specifically, taqwa means to carefully guard oneself—in action and speech—against anything that makes one deserving of punishment in the hereafter. The bare minimum of which is to avoid committing major sins, while the maximum is to avoid coming even remotely close to the “grey area” in matters of religion. 

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear. And between them are unclear matters that most people are unaware of. Whoever is wary of these unclear matters has safeguarded their religion and honor. And whoever indulges in them has indulged in haram.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Ideal taqwa is to heed these words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Being wary and avoiding acts that may not necessarily be haram, yet can potentially lead you to haram. A person of taqwa will seek clarity when facing these unclear matters. And only the light of knowledge can overcome the darkness of ignorance—so continue seeking knowledge and expanding your insight.