There’s been this talk all month long about taqwa this and taqwa that. But what is taqwa? I mean, what does it mean to be God-conscious or pious? Looking at the arabic language leads us to better understanding it. The root word of taqwa means to save oneself, to protect oneself. It also leads to the word for a shield – something we use to protect ourselves from harm.
‘Umar ibn AlKhattab, radhiaAllahu ‘anhu once asked Ibn Ka’ab, radhiaAllahu ‘anhu, the definition of taqwa. In reply Ibn Ka’ab asked, “Have you ever had to traverse a thorny path?” ‘Umar replied in the affirmative and ibn Ka’ab continued, “How do you do so?” ‘Umar said that he would carefully walk through after first having collected all loose and flowing clothing in his hands so nothing gets caught in the thorns hence injuring him. Ibn Ka’ab said, “This is the definition of taqwa, to protect oneself from sin through life’s dangerous journey so that one can successfully complete the journey unscathed by sin.”
So when fasting was commanded to us for the purpose of attaining taqwa, what does it mean? It’s for us remember Allah swt in every moment. When we feel that pang of hunger, we won’t eat because we are doing this for the sake of Allah. When someone angers us, we won’t snap back because the empty stomach is reminding us of our purpose – taqwa – and we’ll bite our tongue.
We’re taught in Ramadan that we can stay away from the halal – food and drink – while fasting for the sake of Allah. We’ve developed taqwa, God-consciousness, in regards to those two things. But how about outside of Ramadan, with the things which aren’t halal? How about the sins we commit on a daily basis? The nasty comments we say to those around us? The laziness when it comes to praying on time? Where’s the taqwa there? If we can stay away from the halal, what’s stopping us from the haram?
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “The most common thing which leads people to Paradise is taqwa of Allah and good conduct, and the most common thing which leads people to the Hell Fire is the mouth and the private parts.” [Tirmidhi]
See, the purpose of Ramadan isn’t to go through a 30 day ‘cleanse’ and then go back to your regularly scheduled programming. Ramadan is supposed to instill in us such a sense of taqwa that it will carry into the whole year, in every aspect of our lives. When we’re with people. When we’re alone. Because in every single situation of our lives, Allah swt is fully aware of what we’re doing.
As Ramadan comes to an end, we’ll be going back to our ‘regular’ lives and sometimes thinking it’s not as easy to stay away from the things we said we would. This month should have reminded us that Allah swt is always available and He would never give us something we can’t bear. Ramadan gives us the best tool we could ever receive – the shield of taqwa. With it, we can take on anything this year brings us, bi’idhnillah.