A LIFE OF TRIAL
From among the many millions of living creatures that exist, it was man that Allah chose as the representation of beauty and perfection. He created a being of great honor in the best form (ahsan taqwîm), adorning him with many qualities, including intelligence, reasoning and understanding, and blessing him with many abilities. Allah then sent man to earth as a trial for a time. Thus from the time of the first man, Adam, to this very moment, the reason why this perfect creature has been sent to this world is for trial. Every man that has come to this world has endured the same trial and has duly departed; now it is our turn and we are undergoing the very same trial as those who came before us. We should not forget that throughout history the nature of this trial has been the same: how man uses his mind, his intelligence and his understanding, all of which are inclined to both good and evil.
The first duty of man is to pass all of the tests which confront him in this cosmic examination hall that is the world and to become, through them, to become a worthy servant of Allah Almighty.
In this great exam, Allah the Merciful has never left us without guidance – He has sent revelations which contain the profoundest of words in order to guide us and help us to achieve success in this world. He has sent the Qur’ân, the most accurate guide to faith, as a blessing for mankind. He also sent the Prophets, the most outstanding teachers of mankind, as a sign of compassion, to convey the Divine message and explain it to them. He also bestowed upon us, in particular, the additional blessing of being members of the Prophet Muhammad’s community (Ummah).
Thus achieving success in this world of trials whilst giving praise to our Lord is of the utmost importance. Indeed, the only road to success is to choose to lead a life on the path set out in the final revelation of Allah, the Noble Qur’ân.
A LIFE OF TAQWÂ
The essence and meaning of life is found in taqwâ and living a life of taqwâ essentially means being a true friend of Allah, attaining Paradise and possessing a heart that can understand the deepest depths of Divine blessings. Thus, the truth of taqwâ is that one attains a soul that has been purified of all evil and one turns to their Creator with true faith; this is the only way one can reach Allah.
Taqwâ is such an important matter for our happiness in this life and the Hereafter that Allah mentions it in two hundred and fifty eight verses of the Qur’ân providing many directives on how to attain taqwâ. In short, Allah wants us to have taqwâ at every stage of our lives, in our worship, in our belief and actions, with every breath we take.
What is Taqwâ?
The companions of Allah have described taqwâ in many different ways. The lexical meaning of taqwâ means the avoidance, protection or safeguarding from every kind of evil. That is, taqwâ means the protection of Allah.
The term taqwâ means being under the protection of Allah by seeking refuge in Him, avoiding what has been forbidden and abiding by what has been commanded; it means fearing the punishment and the torment of the Glorious One and taking refuge in the shadow of His compassion. Therefore, destroying egoistical desires and developing spiritual aptitude is essential. In other words, taqwâ is returning to the glory of the orders of the Qur’ân and Sunnah, and is the means of eternal bliss in the family, in business and in social life—in short, bliss in every aspect of our lives.
Taqwâ may be described as the execution of the commands of Islam with enthusiasm, reverence and contentment. It means conforming completely with the orders and prohibitions of Allah and avoiding sins at all cost.
Taqwâ is the act of disciplining the soul with the mystery of “He will prosper who purifies himself” (Â‘lâ, 87: 14) It is when we have done this that our hearts will attain contentment in faith, worship, and deeds which Allah approves of.
Taqwâ is the believer’s spiritual union with Allah; it is his manifestation of attributes such as compassion, kindness, forgiveness, mildness and perfection of the heart, as well as the seeking of Allah’s acceptance for every deed, every situation and every breath.
Taqwâ is the sincere repentance of the person who is continuously seeking forgiveness with both tongue and heart.
Taqwâ is the heart being full of affection and the fear of Allah’s Divine punishment.
Taqwâ is the preservation of the heart from evil thoughts.
Putting knowledge into practice increases a person’s wisdom, and the true virtue in protecting the heart is taqwâ. This is why the true meaning of faith does not lie in words or rational thought: it is the declaration of the heart’s acknowledgement, of applying knowledge in our way of life in such a way as to obtain the approval of Allah. This is only feasible with a soul that is full of the greatest taqwâ.
In some way, taqwâ is the protection of the heart from anything that distances it from Allah while also being affectionately near anything that will bring it closer to Allah.
Taqwâ means to adhere to the imperative of Allah and His Prophet (pbuh) with great love and affection, observing the whole of creation with the compassion and kindness of the Creator, and, being repulsed by anything that is contrary to this, distancing oneself from any situation or action that could damage the soul.
Taqwâ is the manifestation of hatred towards anything that distances the soul from Allah. Therefore, taqwâ is destroying egoistical desires and developing the spiritual abilities that Allah has endowed man with.
Taqwâ is a heart that has been assiduously purified; and for those who are successful in such purification, their heart becomes a treasure with the best temperament.
A HEART OF GREAT TEMPERAMENT!
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) exemplified the nice character traits of the friends of God. Sometimes he would ask his Companions questions that would make the congregation pay greater attention, and in order to elaborate on certain matters. During one of these sessions, the Prophet (pbuh) asked the Companions: “Is any one among you capable of being like Abû Damdam?” The Companions said: “Who is Abû Damdam?” The Prophet (pbuh) replied: “He was a member of a tribe prior to your time, and he would say, ‘I have forgiven all those who have insulted and backbitten me.’” (Abû Dâwud, Adab 36: 4887).
This is an example of taqwâ: a heart of great temperament!
Hallâj-i Mansûr held his hands up to pray for those who were stoning him, taking refuge in Allah. He pleaded: “O Allah! They are unaware. Before you forgive me, forgive those who stone me!”
Taqwâ is such a great virtue that it brought the Companions close to the Prophet. Anas (r.a) reported that a person asked the Prophet Muhammad: “Who is the family of Muhammad?” and the Prophet replied: “Every pious person is one of my family.” Thus we see that a believer who reaches perfection in taqwâ is held in such esteem that they are considered to be a member of the Prophet’s family.
TAQWÂ CONSISTS OF THREE STAGES:
1 –Avoiding the forbidden.
2 –Aiding by commands. This is a condition to be followed by all believers and is the basic level of taqwâ.
3 –Having the feeling of being in the presence of Allah at all times. This is the highest level, the true test of knowledge and taqwâ.
In the Qur’ân Allah revealed that He is “Nearer to [man] than his jugular vein” (Qâf, 50; 16) and with us as at all times: “He is with you wheresoever ye may be” (Hadîd, 57: 4) This unity means that one is adorned with Allah’s attributes and is aware of His presence at all times. The soul that is adorned with the garment of taqwâ will begin to receive inspiration that direct towards the truth and warn against falsehood and evil; they will realise the real value and meaning of worldly objects. The Qur’ân is a Divine work of art that helps man to resolve every problem he may face. Through the Qur’ân and the Sunnah we can gain peace and contentment.
The Qur’ân is the explanation of a person’s life. A human’s essence is found in the Qur’ân and the Qur’ân is the essence of the whole of humanity; the universe is an endorsement of the Qur’ân.
When a person approaches the pinnacle of taqwâ, their perception of the Qur’ân and apprehension of the universe deepens and they become familiar with the wisdom and mystery of the universe. With the singing of the nightingales, the quivering of the rose buds and the steady flow of the streams which bestow the sound of peace, we can gain appreciation of the adornments and blessings of the universe. We begin to understand the spirit of Yûnus Emre when he spoke with the yellow flower, about the interpretation of his own mysteries.
True taqwâ is the sign of having reached Allah. Ibn Atâ’illâh al-Iskandarî stated that a believer who has a sound heart says upon attaining taqwâ: “O Allah, what have those who have reached You lost; and what have those who have lost You found?” The rule that all believers should follow is to;
HAVE TAQWÂ IN EVERY MATTER
Life passes, with all of its peaks and troughs. Sometimes in hardship and poverty; sometimes in wealth and ease; sometimes with anguish and sorrow; and sometimes our lives are overwhelmed with peace and happiness. During the peaks and troughs of our lives the attitude of a true believer should be that declared by the Prophet: “Be pious in hardship and in ease.” The Prophet (pbuh) told us that we should not just be believers in certain situations, but rather we should be pious in all matters.
Rûmî says, “Do not be deceived by happiness or affliction, because your soul is just a resting place, and affliction and happiness are only passing guests.”
During times of difficulty it is necessary to have patience and seek refuge in Allah without losing one’s sense of direction. During times of wealth and abundance one needs to increase thanks for the blessings of Allah without overindulging or boasting to others. We should not destroy our lives by heeding our desires during times of abundance and pleasure. When we are faced with difficulty we should praise and glorify Allah without complaint! Constantly giving praise and gratitude for prosperity and blessings from Allah and submitting to Allah at times of difficulty with patience is a duty of every man. We need to say: “This is what Allah has seen as beneficial for me.” This is the test of taqwâ.
After winning the great battle of Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) reminded the Companions that this was a blessing from Allah and instructed them to give praise and glorify Allah. He reminded them that “true life is the life in Paradise.” And again, with the difficulties and trials they faced before the victory at the Battle of the Trench (Khandaq), the Prophet Muhammad called on the Companions to have patience saying, “True life is the life in Paradise.” The Qur’ân expresses the ways for us to attain a life of taqwâ that is expected from us by Allah in many verses. Indeed, the Qur’ân is;
A GUIDE FOR THOSE WITH TAQWÂ
Without a doubt, the Qur’ân is a great blessing, a source of spiritual abundance and prosperity for mankind.
“The Most Gracious! It is He who has taught the Qur’ân. He has created man: He has taught him an intelligent speech.”(Rahmân, 55: 1-4)
With this revelation Allah states that religion and the Qur’ân are the essence of life for mankind, that they are the reason for creation. Allah the Almighty makes clear that the contents of the glorified Qur’ân, saying: “This is the Book; in it is guidance without doubt, to those who fear Allah.” (Baqarah, 2: 2) We must scrutinise our actions in accordance with this verse and evaluate our lives by asking ourselves how will we be questioned in the grave and what will our eternal life in the Hereafter be like? What will our condition be on the Day of Judgment when the universe has been destroyed and where will we be on that day of great power? How should we live in this world in order to survive those moments of horror and the Day of Judgment safely?
What lessons can we gain from the words of ‘Umar bin ‘Abdulazîz, “Prepare for the Afterlife in accord with how you hope it to be”?
The Qur’ân is our guide in all these questions on the eternal journey; it is the guidance to the questions and their answers, it is the guideline for taqwâ. The paths from the heart that lead to the depths of the Qur’ân begin to widen in relation to the level of taqwâ reached by a believer. The emotions of a person become refined and delicate and they drift away from egoistical desires, and in so doing become closer to Allah. Allah becomes their “eyes with which they see, their ears with which they hear and their hearts of purity”. By doing this, contemplation deepens and becomes conversant with the language of the blooming flowers, the singing birds and the fruit trees. By reflecting this grace, dignity and kindness in their spiritual lives, people are granted souls of goodness.
These are the pious ones who are praised in the Qur’ân. They resemble the flowing rivers that have given life over the years to thousands of living creatures, to humans, trees, roses and flowers of every kind. Their destination is reunion with Allah in the ocean of eternity. Therefore, in essence taqwâ is the first step of closeness to Allah. The Qur’ân tells people of taqwâ that they should:
SEEK THE MEANS OF APPROACHING HIM
Allah says in the Qur’ân: “O ye who believe! Do your duty to Allah, seek the means of approach unto Him, and strive (with might and main) in His cause that ye may prosper.” (Mâ’idah, 5: 35)
What are the true ways to come closer to Allah? The purification of the ego, refinement of the soul, obedience, worship, love for the Divine in the heart, the increase of love and fear before His Divine Supremacy.
Allah the Almighty wants us to investigate these means. He has revealed to us that the real goal we should give importance to and concentrate on—our true future—is the Hereafter. This present world is only a tiny drop in the ocean in comparison to eternity. The Qur’ân tells us that on the Day of Judgment we will be asked how we lived our lives. We will answer that we only lived for a day, or half a day. We are required by Allah Almighty to exert ourselves in life to gain even the smallest drop of taqwâ that may facilitate for us the attainment of the Ocean of Paradise. But what is the extent of this exertion?
The level of taqwâ expected from us is that amount which suffices us to stand before Allah’s magnificence in honor and with some worth; that is:
IN REVERENCE TO ALLAH
Allah says in the Qur’ân, “O ye who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared” (Âl ‘Imrân, 3: 102) This requires us to “use all our means and efforts to draw close to Allah with our faith, worship and behaviour”. Since it is impossible for us to know the appropriate degree of effort needed to stand honourably before the Divine magnificence of Allah, we cannot underestimate the significance of even the smallest deed. Connected to this is the following command: “And die not except in a state of Islam.” We can only reach certain places and positions in this world via finite means, and though these positions may be permanent for the duration of our lives, there are no such guarantees in our spiritual lives. The Qur’ân tells us about those who fell into misguidance at the exhalation of their final breath, such people as Bal‘am bin Bawra and Qârûn.
Qârûn, a contemporary of Prophet Mûsâ, was the pre-eminent interpreter of the Torah in his time. Allah sent him wealth as a trial. He subsequently became so dependent on that wealth that he arrogantly said to Mûsâ, “Everything is mine. I myself have earned them.” So Allah destroyed him and buried him together with his wealth that he had loved and depended on so much. His wealth was of no avail to him within the darkness of the earth.
Bal‘am bin Bawra, after having attained various spiritual stations in his lifetime, finally died in a state of misguidane and deviation because he had followed his caprice and ambition and abused his knowledge. As with Qârûn who was destroyed for the abuse of wealth, Bal‘am was destroyed for his abuse of knowledge.
Allah commands us to protect ourselves with taqwâ when He says “Serve thy Lord until there come unto thee the Hour that is Certain,” (Hijr, 15: 99) just as He warns us that protecting the heart with taqwâ is a necessity of life.
O Allah! Grant us the ability to abandon everything and stand before you with the true value of taqwâ! Prolong our servitude until we take our last breath! And give us the honor of standing before you as members of the community of Muslims!
(From the book of; IKHLÂS AND TAQWÂ SINCERITY AND PIETY)