Understanding the meaning of Taqwa Part 1

Developing Just Leadership

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Ramadan 03, 1431 2010-08-13

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

This is the month of Ramadhan. A month that is dedicated to one quality/characteristic with all of the other qualities falling/lagging/trailing behind. That one feature/characteristic is At Taqwa. Allah says

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

Fasting has been assigned to you as it has been assigned to those who came before you so that you may acquire this taqwa or become muttaqeen (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)

We tried our best to collect the meanings of at taqwa in a few words. Your human brother could place the meanings in three English words. We hope that the next time you hear the word taqwa or it’s derivatives you will remember these three words. It’s not going to strain your memory or tax you. The first word is precaution. One of the definitions of taqwa is to be pre-cautioned. Another meaning of taqwa is prevention and another meaning of at taqwa is protection. These three words that once they are combined together deliver the gist of what taqwa means and how we are supposed to understand it- precaution, prevention and protection. So when Allah says

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

Fasting has been assigned to you as it has been assigned to those who came before you so that you may gain the meanings of precaution, prevention and protection. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)

That is at taqwa. That is why we are fasting. But then we shall ask “precaution, prevention and protection from who? You’re taking precautions from who? What for are you taking prevention? And you’re protecting yourself from what?” And the simple answer to that is Allah. That’s as simple as it gets and that’s why we are fasting. In the interim, if you just understand this first ayah and the last word in this first ayah which is the key word in the month of Ramadhan and then you listen to the other ayaat and ahadith, then they will begin to acquire more meaning. We have in previous Ramadhans and khutbahs tried to explain, (as much as we could), the meanings of Ramadhan by primarily referring to the ayaat in the Qur’an with the feature of taqwa on our mind. Now, we are going to refer to some hadiths of Allah’s Prophet. Remember, the ayaat and the ahadith that are meant for the month of Ramadhan are to be understood when we have a public consciousness of taqwa. It’s not enough for you as a singular person to understand taqwa. This understanding has to become a public feature just like, (as an example), everyone understands that if you don’t pay your taxes something’s going to happen. That’s in the public mind. What should also be in the public mind is if we don’t have this taqwa something is going to happen. It’s a social law. Most of the disturbing chapters of history, whether they are natural catastrophes or wars in societies, occurred because this taqwa no longer was a public feature of society. There was no longer a public mind that sustained this meaning of taqwa. So don’t think it’s enough that you understand this meaning by yourself. It’s not going to work.. If it was going to work, Allah would have said it in the singular. He wouldn’t have said it addressing Alladhina Aamanu. So if we take a look at some of these hadiths, please try and understand them when at taqwa is prevalent in your mind.

The Prophet of Allah at the beginning of the month of Ramadhan used to say the following, (and this is a quote from him. We can’t stop at every word, but we will stop as much as possible to help you out). We just said at taqwa is a social feature and because we understand it as such, we are not surprised when the Prophet of Allah says Yaa Ayyuha An Naas because he’s speaking to everyone in society- whether they are Muslims or non- Muslims but of course, by inference it is understood that the gist of his words are understood in particular by those who observe the month of Ramadhan but it’s not limited to them. O People, you are now in the shades of a month that is extra-ordinary, a month of blessing, a significant month. A month in which there is one night that is better than a thousand months. Allah has made the fasting of this month an obligation and Allah has made also staying up during the night a voluntary act. Whoever approaches Allah with a moral quality in this month, it’s as if he has done a fareedah. Meaning don’t under-estimate any moral quality in this month however little it is, in Allah’s view it’s as if you have done something that is mandatory/obligatory. Whoever performs one fareedah in this month, it equates to seventy fareedahs in other months of the year. It is the month of patience. And the reward for patience is Al Jannah. This is a month in which you feel for/with others. It is a month in which Allah increases the sustenance of a committed Muslim. Whoever provides the iftaar/nourishment for a person who is observing the fast and who needs it is equivalent to erasing your sins and mistakes in life and is also equivalent to freeing yourself from the fire in the life to come. From the people listening to him, one person said to him o matter how small it may be. It’s not that everyone of us can find something to give i.e. some food/water/nourishment. Not everyone can afford that. And the Prophet of Allah says don’t think if you have to provide for a person who is fasting something on which they have to break their fast on you have to give them a feast. If you even give them one date, a little water or a taste of milk- even that little amount counts. Now, brothers and sisters- we are not here quoting ahadith just for the fun of it. We’re not trying to quote ahadith here in the traditional way. You hear many ahadith and ayaat but most of the times those ahadith and ayaat are not in context. Listen to what the Prophet is saying about Muslims who are observing their fast and the reward that awaits them if they only provide provisions/sustenance, food and water to those who are observing Ramadhan. If we wanted to take this hadith into today’s world- how many Muslims are fasting in today’s world? We dare say in the physical requirements of fasting maybe eighty to ninety percent of the Muslims are fasting. From our experience (and) what we know, this ball-park figure is applicable. So if eighty to ninety percent of the Muslims are fasting, how many of them are hungry Muslims? You see, this is the area. When Allah speaks about taqwa- precaution, prevention, protection- how do we protect ourselves from Allah and His course of justice? How do we protect ourselves when we have hungry Muslims in the world who are not even provided some dates, water or the taste of milk, (this is what the hadith is saying), by those who have more than enough. What do you say? How do we comment on this discrepancy? Do we have Muslims who are observing the social justice content of Ramadhan? You answer that question.

At the beginning of the month of Ramadhan, (this is another hadith from Allah’s Prophet), he said the following: the month of Ramadhan has come to you. A month of amplitude and blessings. Allah overwhelms you during this month and He brings down His mercy and He puts down your mistakes and error and He responds in this month to du’a/pleading/beseeching Allah. Allah will take notice of your competition in this month. Competition concerning what? Competition concerning doing what is good/right/virtuous. Doing! Not saying/dreaming about/pontificating with words. This is what Allah wants to see. And He takes pride because of you in front of His Malaa’ikah. Of course, this is a form of speech (explaining) what it means to Allah for us to fast and not only fasting in the mechanical/cultural way but fasting in the ideological/practical way. Allah’s Prophet is telling you and Islamic societies- the one that he was in at that time and the last one that will breathe on planet Earth- show Allah from yourselves the khayr that will please Him. A miserable person is the one who has been denied Allah’s mercy during this month.

The Prophet of Allah says in another hadith my Ummah has been given during the month of Ramadhan five things. No other Prophet before me was given these five things. For one, when it becomes the first night of Ramadhan Allah looks at them i.e. the people of his Ummah and whoever Allah looks to/at/for/with… (Did) you get that? He’s not just simply glancing over people. … whoever Allah considers in this way will never be subjected to adhaab/torment or any kind. As for the second, the negative odour/halitosis of a fasting person as far as Allah is concerned is better than the smell/fragrance of perfume. As for the third, the angels ask for forgiveness for these fasting people who belong to the Ummah of Muhammad night and day. Remember, brothers and sisters, the first sentence/paragraph of the khutbah- all of these are to be understood when there is a live feature of taqwa in society. But what happens when you don’t have this live feature of taqwa in society? The hadith becomes irrelevant. As for the fourth, Allah orders His paradise saying to it “prepare/adorn yourself for My subjects. They are just about to relieve themselves of ad dunya to come to My abode and dignity. As for the fifth, when the last night comes, Allah forgives all of them. Then, we notice the Prophet was speaking to people who were listening and who would, if something came to their minds, express it to him. They would not have something inside and say “Oh but that’s Allah’s Prophet. Maybe I didn’t understand something. I’ll go later and think about it.” No. (If) they had a question they expressed it. So a person listening to this had a question. He expressed it. He said is this night at the end that you’re speaking about laylat al qadr? The Prophet of Allah answered No. It is like people who have a project. When they finish their project they get paid, so in a way/sense you can consider Ramadhan like a project. When you finish the fasting in the month of Ramadhan you get rewarded for it.

Another hadith from Allah’s Prophet: there are three, when they approach Allah with a da’wah He will not turn them down. A person who’s observing and maintaining the fast until he breaks the fast and a just leader and a plea coming from a person who’s been offended/dealt injustice/maligned/oppressed. Allah will raise this da’wah above the clouds and because of it He will cause the gates of the heavens to open and the Sustainer says “By My majesty/pride/honour” Allah is saying this to these three individuals that we just mentioned. Allah says “By My honour/majesty I will come and help/support you even if that happens after a while.” Because we, having the human nature that we have, express a du’a and then we want instantaneous results. We want to see Allah responding to us even before we finish our du’a! Allah is teaching us. He’s saying look- “I’m listening. I hear you and I will come to your aid/help but it may be after some time.” We chose these hadiths, (and obviously we can quote (all because) that are volumes of hadiths), to express to you the significance and the meanings of Ramadhan under the social cognitive umbrella of taqwa. Brothers and sisters- we have an obituary notice and that is the absence of a social taqwa. We don’t have it. And if we don’t have it, we don’t know whether these hadiths will gain the range of meanings that they have when the basic/central/pivotal/founding requirement of Ramadhan is not there. At taqwa is not there! Another ayah in the Qur’an brings you closer to what you have to do to have this taqwa. The ayaat of the Qur’an explain other ayaat in the Qur’an. Allah says

فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ

You have this taqwa as much as you can… (Surah At Taghabun verse 16)

Different individuals have different capacities; so Allah expects us within our own God-given capacity to try to acquire as much taqwa as we can. Allah want us to have this taqwa in Ramadhan but in the process He doesn’t want us to break our backs in obtaining/acquiring this taqwa. Understand that brothers and sisters.

In another ayah that is of supportive meaning Allah says

اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ

…do justice because it is a forthcoming of taqwa, is near to taqwa or is the closest in proximity to taqwa... (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 8)

Some people ask “so how are we going to bring about this social norm/public cognisance of taqwa? How do you bring this about? We are struggling just as individuals to understand it, how does it spread? How is it entrenched?” You are responsible for justice. (If) you do what is just, taqwa will come about. Brothers and sisters- because many Muslims don’t think and we gobble these words together, we have to draw your attention to two words in the divine book. One of them is adl and the other one is qist. Qist is institutionalised or aggregate justice. Adl is the justice that we are capable of as individuals, families, communities, neighbourhoods and whatever grass-roots there is for qist is called adl. So Allah is telling us that adl is possible even if we don’t have a full fledged Islamic order/State/society. Even if we don’t have that, we are still capable of taqwa because we are capable of adl.

Muslims in Ramadhan, committed Muslims with taqwa or as much of it as is possible…

When we mention the ayaat in the Qur’an and the ahadith from the Prophet we remind you that these meanings have to be understood in the world that we are living in. Allah is not going to ask you/me about a world of 1,000 years ago- we weren’t living there! Allah’s not going to ask you/me about a world 1,000 years from now because we’re not there! Allah’s going to ask us about our own world- what’s happening in your world. “I gave you My guidance. I educated you or I provided you with the material for your education/well-being and what did you do with it?” If we listen to ayaat like this from Allah and then look at our ownselves- the Muslims in this world who are supposed to be during this month of Ramadhan tuned in- we realise that there are many of us who have, (what can we say), the possessions of Qarun, i.e. wealth and abundance that tintillates the imagination! Why? When we have such abundance we look around and there are also people who don’t have means of transportation?! They don’t have enough food at the time of iftaar! We’re not speaking about a few individuals here-and-there, we’re speaking about hundreds-of-millions of Muslims! Ramadhan comes and Ramadhan goes and nothing changes! How do you feel when we have something like that? Just in the past week or two we have a news article that comes our way that says the multi-billionaires/millionaires who are not Muslims i.e. Warren Buffet, Bill gates and that type of crowd said “they’re setting aside half of their wealth for good courses or charity or philanthropy” or whatever they want to call it. These are not Muslims. They don’t listen to these ayaat and they don’t have these ahadith, (none of this), but they are doing what comes with common sense or al ma’ruf i.e. what is self evident in as far as its good nature. You would begin to say “are we condemned to have the Qur’an and Sunnah?! Would these people who don’t have the Qur’an and the Sunnah be better off and act like Gates, Buffet and their crowd and give to those who are in need?!” And a news item in just the past twenty-four hours (about) an apartment- not a mansion or castle- in Hyde Park, (one of the plush/exclusive areas in London, England), was bought by an anonymous person, (they want to keep the person anonymous maybe to protect him), was bought for 140-million-pounds. That’s almost like $200-million for, (we think) a two bedroom apartment with all the amenities that come with it. This is the month of Ramadhan. Couldn’t he have found another time of the year to do something like that?! When most of us in Asia and Africa are hungry. (Take) a look at what’s happening in Pakistan- the floods. This is a human tragedy. Word of truth is that the magnitude of this is truly a human tragedy and these people who say that they are fasting, what are they going to do? They’re going to send some petty cash/nickel and dimes to these people who no longer have any homes or lively hood?! We’re supposed to have this Islam of justice- remember adl!?

اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ

…do justice because it is a forthcoming of taqwa, is near to taqwa or is the closest in proximity to taqwa... (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 8)

This taqwa that we’re supposed to recapture in this month of Ramadhan. A few weeks ago, (we kid you not), the Defense Minister in the family Kingdom called Saudi Arabia sends the Palestinians in Lebanon What do you think the Palestinians in Lebanon need? They need protection, shelter, human rights/the dignity of human beings. Legally speaking- Palestinians in Lebanon are not allowed to have a grave, (is part) of the miserable conditions that they are in. The Defense Minister, not the Minister of Agriculture or Health, the father of the previous Ambassador in Washington, (who himself is suffering from some terminal illness and is being treated for cancer here-and-there), sends fifteen tons of dates to the Palestinians of Lebanon!? This is Ramadhan, this is a time of taqwa. The time of justice and what does this funny Kingdom do? This also is in the news these past couple of days. It tells the Muslims young women from Morocco we’re not going to give you visas to go to the Umrah. Their Consulate in Morocco says “we’re not going to issue visas to young women from Morocco to go to the Umrah even though they’re going with their family, parents or relatives.” They’re not going on their own. They’re not going to apply for a visa “I want to go to the Umrah by myself.” They’re going with a maharim and they tell them “no. We’re not going to give you visas.” Ask them “this is the month of Ramadhan!” (Don’t) you know the month of Ramadhan is the most popular month for Umrah in the Muslim world. The numbers that go there sometimes are synonymous with the numbers that go to Hajj, especially during the last ten days of Ramadhan. What’s their excuse? Well, this is what they say “we had instances in which some of these girls were left behind in Arabia. They didn’t come back to Morocco.” That type of excuse is worse than the crime! Makkah and Al Madinah should be open to all Muslims from anywhere in the world. No force on Earth- the Saudis or their masters in Washington- should tell any Muslim “you cannot stay in Makkah or Al Madinah.” But that’s the excuse they offer us and when there’s no social taqwa and thinking minds out there they get away with it. But Allah is here with us between these madhlums and Allah there’s no barrier.

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