Tariqa Muhammadiyya Article Four: The Pathways of Taqwa

In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.

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 Explained” provides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves when seeking the attainment of taqwa.

The Pathways of Taqwa

Taqwa—to have mindfulness of Allah Most High in all moments and stages in life is very difficult to achieve. It linguistically means to shield oneself from the displeasure of Allah and punishment in the hereafter. Know that taqwa is only attained by leaving prohibited acts and doing what has been commanded and made obligatory.

When thinking of taqwa, the first thing that comes to mind is that we must guard ourselves against sins. But if taqwa means to guard ourselves, what exactly do we need to shield in order to uphold it? In one sense, you must protect yourself against disobedience, and in another sense, you must safeguard your obedience to Allah.

There are eight pathways of taqwa:

  1. The heart
  2. The ears
  3. The eyes
  4. The tongue
  5. The hands
  6. The stomach
  7. The private parts (desires)
  8. The feet/legs

(There is a ninth category that is not specific to any limb)

Each of these limbs is an avenue to uphold taqwa. If you wish to pursue the path of Allah, then you must carefully guard every limb against every sin.

The Heart

The rectification of the heart is more important than anything else because it is the control center of the entire body. It is like a king who rules over the people of his city. Where his goodness leads to law and order, and his corruption leads to anarchy and chaos. The body’s limbs are the servants of the heart, obeying and following all that it commands.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Truly in the body is a morsel of flesh, if rectified, the entire body is rectified. If corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Truly it is the heart.” [Bukhari; Muslim]

Good Character

Rectifying the heart is to rid it of blameworthy character and adorn it with praiseworthy character.

However, this begs two critical questions: What is good character? And where does it arise?

Generally, character is the capacity by which human actions occur with ease—without requiring deep thought or effort. For example, a generous person’s natural inclination is to give, while a caring person inclines to be empathetic. Simply put, it is how you are. And everyone has different capacities and temperaments that can be tweaked, changed and improved for the better.

Capacities of Human Heart

There are three fundamental capacities of the human heart:

  1. The capacity to reason;
  2. The capacity for anger;
  3. The capacity for desire.

A person can use (or misuse) these three capacities by either being excessive, remiss or virtuously balanced in them.

  • The capacity to reason—also known as the rational capacity—is the vizier of the heart. Its purpose is to employ anger and desire appropriately and restrain their negative tendencies. Excessiveness of this capacity entails using the intellect in harmful ways, such as pondering what the mind cannot possibly fathom. An example of this is a person who, using intellect alone, seeks to understand the true reality of Allah. Remissness in this capacity is when someone is not using their intellect enough; essentially being a fool. The virtuous balance of the capacity to reason results in wisdom: the ability to distinguish beneficial outcomes from harmful outcomes and act in a way that pleases Allah Most High.
  • The anger capacity is the movement of the self to ward off what a person dislikes, immediately or long-term. It is not in and of itself bad—in fact, it has many benefits when employed with wisdom and balance. Excessiveness of this capacity is to direct oneself to unbecoming things, like when someone flies off the rails in a fit of rage and loses control over meaningless things. Remissness in this capacity results in cowardice: the deep tendency to hold back from what ought to be done.
    The virtuous balance, on the other hand, is courage. It allows the person to direct themselves to goodness in the face of fear in a controlled and intentional manner. The virtuous balance of anger must be strived for on the path of self-rectification because one needs courage to change. One must have enmity towards their lower-self and bad character to behoove themselves to improve. Courage is required to face one’s fears and to have the strength and control to change.
  • The capacity for desire is the movement of the self that inclines towards the things that one finds pleasing. Excessiveness in this capacity is a corrupted avidness by which one pursues their desires without restraint. It’s precisely the excessiveness in this capacity that has led to hyper-sexualized, food-indulged societies around the world. Remissness in this capacity is an unfulfillment that causes harm in other facets of one’s life, like when a person starves themselves and barely has enough energy to go about their day.
    The virtuous balance of this capacity is a dignified restraint, where one pursues desired matters within the limits of divine guidance. It is the perfect balance of emotional needs, sexual desires, the need for intellectual stimulation, and the fulfillment of hunger and thirst. It allows individuals to function optimally in society without being enslaved by their desires and the material nature of the world.

The virtuous balance of the capacities of the heart (wisdom, courage, dignified restraint) is attained by the first capacity (reason) directing the other two capacities (anger and desire). It happens when we rationally understand when to employ enough anger to ward off harm and exercise enough restraint to not succumb to our human desires.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The smart person is the one who restrains themselves and is, therefore, able to act for what comes after death. And the incapable person is the one who allows his self to follow its whims, and then has false hopes with Allah.”

And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

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The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.