Four: Guidance for the Concerned Muslim: Attaining Taqwa
by Shaykh Salih al-Ghursi
The following article presents the fourth set out of four counsels. These were recorded by the esteemed Shaykh Salih al-Ghursi for SeekersGuidance. They have been translated and transcribed with subtitles.
Shaykh Salih al-Ghursi is a senior theologian and scholar of the rational sciences based in Konya, Turkey. He delivers a class for Dar al Fuqaha Seminary in Istanbul.
In the Name of Allah, the Encompassingly Merciful, the Particularly Merciful. All praise belongs to Allah. May the best of blessings and most perfect of peace be upon our master Muhammad ibn Abdullah, and upon his followers, his companions, and all guided by his teachings.
Allah’s Counsel to Believers
Allah Most High has counseled all believers in His Noble Book, by His saying: “Surely the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the one most mindful of Him” (Quran, 49:13). The most important thing for the Muslim to embody whilst counseling fellow believers is mindfulness (taqwa) and to pay close attention to it, then to devote one’s concern to the means of taqwa.
Allah Most High emphasized taqwa by His saying “Surely the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the one most mindful of Him.” He made it the scale to evaluate a person’s having honor in the sight of Allah. This is because taqwa refers to protecting oneself from God’s punishment and wrath. This is achieved by full adherence to His commands and staying away completely from His prohibitions.
When a person has children, who will be the most honored in their sight? It will be the most obedient and deferential of the children. But here we are talking not about a parent, but about the Creator—the Creator and Provider of everything one has. And the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the one with the most taqwa.
Taqwa—and the Means to Attaining It
Allah Most High says, “Provide well for yourselves: the best provision is to be mindful of God (taqwa)” (Quran, 2:197). He follows this with a command—and when Allah Most High gives a command, particularly when it is of great importance, He usually clarifies the means to fulfill it. Thus, Allah says, “You who believe, be mindful of God, and seek ways to come closer to Him.”
The pronoun can refer to God: “seek ways to come closer to Him.” Or it could be read as referring to having mindfulness of God: “seek ways to come closer to it.” Meaning that one is to be mindful of God, but also to seek the means to taqwa in order to attain it. This is a general command, in which Allah Most High ordered us to seek ways to come closer to taqwa in order for us to become realized and characterized with taqwa.
Be with the People of Taqwa
Allah Most High also says, showing one of the means of taqwa, “You who believe, be mindful of Allah and be with those who are true” (Quran, 9:119). In this verse, Allah Most High commands us to have mindfulness or taqwa—that is, to protect ourselves from Allah’s wrath and punishment. He also highlights one of the most important ways to come closer to taqwa, which is to constantly be with the people of taqwa: being with those who are true with Allah, who are true to themselves, who are true to the believers and to all people. “Be with those who are true.” So if we are with those who are true, and constantly adhere to them, we shall attain taqwa.
Of course, this topic is one to be discussed in a matter of minutes, nor of hours, nor of days. It is a topic discussed in lengthy works and volumes. It is the subject of The Revival of the Religious Sciences and other works. But we will summarize this discussion with the utmost brevity.
- Keeping good company
In the most concise of hadiths, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “A person will be with the one whom they love.” He also said, in another hadith which is of the most concise statements on the topic, “A person is upon the way of their close companion. So let each of you look carefully as to whose close company you keep.”
The scholars of spirituality have explained that the first way to attain taqwa, the vigilance of Allah, and constant awareness of His presence is by keeping the company of people with these character traits, or of a scholar with these traits.
Allah Most High also says in His Great Book, “You who believe! Be mindful of Allah, and let every soul consider carefully what it sends ahead for tomorrow” (Quran, 59:18). In this verse, Allah Most High commanded us to be mindful, then showed one of the means to taqwa. What is this means? It is self-accounting (muhasaba). Self-accounting is one of the most important means to taqwa. “Let every soul consider carefully what it sends ahead for tomorrow”: this is referring to self-accounting.
Allah then follows this by saying, “Be mindful of Allah.” Here, He commands to have taqwa, and hence shows the means to attain it, and shows the result of that means. And the result of self-accounting is having mindfulness of Allah.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The smart person is the one who takes themself to account, and then acts for that which comes after death. And the incapacitated one is the one who allows their self to follow its desires.” This is the second of the primary means to attain taqwa.
- Remembrance of Allah (Dhikr)
The third way is giving attention to the remembrance of Allah. Allah Most High has emphasized having attention for His remembrance in a number of verses. Of the most concise of them is His saying, “Truly, it is by the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest” (Quran, 13.28). This weighty statement begins with “Truly,” then “It is by the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest.”
Allah says, “Whoever turns away from the remembrance of the Lord of Mercy, We assign a devil as a comrade who deters people from the right path, even though they may think they are well guided.” (Quran, 43:36). Allah is our refuge! One who inclines away from the remembrance of Allah will constantly be with the Devil and on his way. They will not be aware of this nor refrain and imagine they are well guided.
The Prophet (Allah Most High bless him and give him peace) says in a concise statement from among his comprehensive words, “The difference between the one who remembers Allah and the one who does not remember Him is like the difference between the living and the dead.”
- Reciting the Quran with reflection
The fourth of the most important means to taqwa is to recite the Book of Allah Most High, with reflection, so that one may take reminder. As Allah Most High says, “This is a blessed Scripture which We sent down to you, for people to contemplate its verses and for those with understanding to take heed” (Quran, 38:29). This is because the Book of Allah is a healing for what is in the hearts, and guidance and mercy.
The most important of the means of taqwa, the most important means to fulfill God’s command to have taqwa, is that we give attention to these four matters, which are the most important ways to seek taqwa.
May Allah make us and you among those who carry out Allah’s commands, those who are realized in their meanings, those who seek ways to come closer to Allah and to become mindful of Him.
And peace be upon you, and Allah’s mercy and blessings.
Shaykh Salih al-Ghursi and Dar al Fuqaha
It is an honor to have Shaykh Salih teach within the Dar al Fuqaha seminary in Istanbul. Read about him here.