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.
Introductory Article (Definition 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?
This article series is based on Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course “The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explained.” It will focus on the third section of Imam Birgivi’s book “The Path of Muhammad”, where he focuses on attaining piety and mindfulness of Allah Most High.
Religion has two distinguishing fruits:
- The realization of faith (having iman);
- 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.
Definition of 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; 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!
Imam Birgivi divided this section into three parts:
- The Virtues of Taqwa;
- The Reality of Taqwa;
- The Expressions of Taqwa.
- The outer limit of the private property;
- Don’t do things that may not be sinful themselves, but may lead you there;
- “Carefully guarding” entails keeping away from haram and the unclear matters.
- General: to carefully guard oneself and to avoid everything that harms one in the hereafter.
- Minimum: keep away from shirk
- Guarding one’s innermost from being busied by other than Allah. To be devoted to allah with ones absolute entirety
- This is what it is meant when allah says to have mindfulness of him as he deserves.
- That’s why taqwa is love.
- What is love? Giving your entirety to something such that nothing of it remains for you.
- Specific: carefully guard oneself of anything that makes one deserving of punishment in the hereafter of actions and words.
- Avoiding enormities is required;
- Avoiding small sins;
- Against: small sins are expiated by leaving large sins. Don’t become ultimately deserving of punishment by committing small sins;
- For: don’t know the difference sometimes between major and minor sins.
- Khilaf if 7, 70, 700 major sins;
- Hadith: ibn maja + hakim. The servant does not reach the station of being with the mindful servants of allah until they leave all that does not have harm out of caution with respect to the things that do have harm.
- Leave things where there is no explicit harm out of fear of it leading to harm down the line;
- Small, habitual sins, can eventually become big. If you don’t try to leave them, you’re not of the people of taqwa.
- The message of islam revolves around this hadith
- Halal bayyin
- Min husni islami
Hadith of Nu’man ibn Bashir
- Then lawful is clear and the unlawful is clear. Between them are unclear matters that most are unaware of.
- Some people ARE aware of it. So seek knowledge to gain clarity
- So whoever avoids the unclear has safeguarded their religion and their honour.
- Hima: the outer limit of the private property
- Don’t do things that may not be sinful themselves, but may lead you there
- “Carefully guarding” entails keeping away from haram and the unclear matters
In general the obedience to be expected is according to capacity.
It becomes incumbent to leave everything haram and prohibitively disliked in attaining taqwa.
Unclear things: acting with knowledge.
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.