Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Indeed, Ramadan is among the holiest periods in Islamic Calendar. It is a time of revitalization of faith and commitment to spiritual cleansing. Also, Muslims are expected to showcase their sense of deep reflection and humanitarianism in the Holy Month of Ramadan. It is, therefore, appropriate for the leadership of the Ghana National Mosque to create a platform for a discourse on the revival of TAQWA in the sanctified month of Ramadan. The fundamental objective of this presentation is to establish the centrality of TAQWA to fasting and the need to revive TAQWA in the month of fasting. What is, then, TAQWA? An answer to this question takes us to the definition of TAQWA.
Definition of TAQWA
For better appreciation of the word under review, it is significant to examine it from two perspectives: linguistically and technically. Linguistically, the Arabic word TAQWA means fear of, or abstinence from, or protection (of self) from. This implies that TAQWA, in simple language, means fear of anything or act that carries negative consequences. As a terminology of technical connotation, however, TAQWA refers to fear of Allah characterized by obedience to all that pleases Him and avoidance of all that displeases Him. In one word, TAQWA means PIETY. An abstract word, TAQWA has been subjected to various interpretations by various scholars. In the words of Imam Ali, for instance, “TAQWA is fear of Almighty Allah, compliance with the Holy Quran, contentment with the little one has, and preparation for the journey to eternity.” Similarly, Tolq Bin Habib defines TAQWA as “acting according to the will of Allah in anticipation of His reward and avoiding any offence to Allah for fear of His punishment.”
The noun TAQWA appears 17 times in various chapters and verses of the Holy Quran. Also, the word appears in multiple times in multiple lexical forms in the Revealed Texts: as verbs, adjectives, and gerunds. Besides, Prophet Mohammed – Peace Be Upon Him – is reported to have pointed to the heart as the container of TAQWA. This Hadith, reported in Buhari and Muslim, may suggest the crucial role of the human heart in taking decisions related to piety: compliance with divine orders.
Symbiosis between TAQWA and Fasting in the Month of Ramadan
From the above semantic analysis of TAQWA, it becomes obvious that there is a healthy relationship between TAQWA and Fasting in the Holy Month of Ramadan. Almighty Allah says: “Oh you who have faith in Allah! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become God-fearing.” (Quran 2: 183) This verse is enough to justify the symbiosis between TAQWA and Fasting in the month of Ramadan. It is significant to state that the verse contains two spiritual values: FAITH and TAQWA in the context of FASTING. By the structure of the verse, it stands to reason that FAITH is the requirement of FASTING, and TAQWA becomes the reward of FASTING. In other words to qualify for FASTING, you must have FAITH in Allah. And when you accomplish the FASTING, you will attain the divine blessing of piety. Expectedly, therefore, Muslims have every responsibility to ensure an effective revival of their sense of piety in the month of Ramadan. Furthermore, they have a burden to convince the world that any revitalized TAQWA acquired in the Month of Ramadan leads to spiritual and behavioral enhancement at all times.
Criterion of TAQWA
It is true that TAQWA is abstract in theory. But based on its semantic properties, the practice of TAQWA could be determined by the concept of Commanding Good and Forbidding Bad. This concept itself is well grounded in Quran Chapter 59 Verse 7 in which Allah says:
- “…And whatever good the Messenger has instructed you to do, comply with it, and whatever he has forbidden you, refrain from it. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment.”
One may ask why Prophet Mohammed and not Allah Himself in this context? The answer is simply stated in Quran Chapter 53 Verses 3-4:
- “He (the Prophet) does not speak from his own wishes; whatever he says is a revelation from Almighty Allah.”
It is pertinent to state that scholars of diverse doctrinal orientations have offered copious explanations on Prophet Mohammed as the epitome of Commanding Good and Forbidding Bad. Among these scholars are Ibn Taimiyah, Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jailaani, Shaikh Ahmed Tijjani, Shaikh Naqshabandi, and Shaikh Ibrahim Anyass. This reminds me of the words of Shaikh Ibrahim Anyasss in his book “Addawaaween Assittu:”
- “When the Best in humankind walks, I follow him, and on the day he stops, I too stop.”
The implied meaning of these words of the Grand Qutub is that whatever the noble Prophet commands is acceptable, and whatever he forbids is rejectable.
Benefits of TAQWA
There is no doubt that application of TAQWA carries enormous benefits. In this presentation, I mention the benefits from two perspectives: religious or spiritual and secular or societal. Below are some of the spiritual benefits of TAQWA:
- Ease in matters
“And whoever fears Allah, He will make for him ease in his matter.” (Quran 65:4)
- A way out of difficulties
“And whoever fears Allah, He will make for him a way out.” (Quran 65:2)
TAQWA serves as a divine guard against trials of this world as well as the difficulties of the hereafter. Muhammad ibn al Munkadir (rahimahullah) says: “It is because of the piety and righteousness of a servant that Allah protects his children and the children of his children and his family and even the homes built around his home.” (Tafsir Mazhari)
- Unexpected sustenance
“And He will provide for him from sources he could never imagine.” (Quran 65:3)
The divine promise is that the God-fearing will be sustained from sources they would never perceive to receive sustenance from. The Noble Quran reiterates this in another verse: “And if the people of the towns believed and had TAQWA, certainly We should open for them blessings from the heavens and the earth.” (Quran 7:96)
- Ability to distinguish truth from falsehood
“O you who believe! If you fear Allah, He will grant you a criterion (of separating truth from falsehood)” (Quran 8:29)
“It is He (Allah) who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers.” (Quran 48:4)
“For those who have TAQWA, there is Triumph (Paradise).” (Quran 78:31)
Since TAQWA results in the purification of human soul and behavior, the concept is certainly a tool of social order and national development. In fact, TAQWA is a means to societal values such as love, unity, reconciliation, forgiveness, justice, and discipline. Undoubtedly, national development and global stability are impossible without these values.
In addition, contemporary society is threatened by a multiplicity of social vices. Corruption in politics and governance is on ascendancy. Sexually transmitted grades are prevalent in a section of academia. Cyber fraud in the Ghanaian society is carried out with alacrity. Insults are traded in the media with impunity. TAQWA is a panacea to all these moral, social, and political abnormalities.
Conclusively, it is instructive to emphasize the need for Muslims to revitalize their commitment to TAQWA, especially in the Month of Ramadan. If the concept of TAWHEED is the soul of Islam, TAQWA becomes the oxygen that nourishes the soul. Yes! TAQWA provides the impetus that revitalizes our belief in the Sovereignty of Allah. Beyond the realm of religion, TAQWA still has a role to play in the progress of humanity. In its evolution, humanity has suffered a lot of evil which could have been avoided if the perpetrators had considered an iota of TAQWA. For instance, if the so-called civilized nations of today had seen any wisdom in TAQWA, humanity would have been spared the ugly history of Slavery and Racism, Colonialism and Imperialism, Fascism and Nazism. Ironically, those, who today trumpet monopoly over human civilization, are the very people, who, only yesterday, drove humanity to a semblance of Animal Kingdom. Certainly, they succeeded in executing the barbaric acts because they threw to the dogs the theory and practice of TAQWA.
By all standards, the Holy Quran is the best source of TAQWA, as it contains all that is needed to actualize TAQWA. Moreover, the Quran was revealed in the Month of Ramadan. Therefore, the following four-dimensional approach to the Holy Book is recommended:
- Learning: It is significant for all Muslims to learn the Quran. This could be done in any language through any medium at any place.
- Understanding: More important than learning the Quran is understanding its contents. In this context, one could devote some time to seek explanation from experts.
- Complying: It becomes more meaningful, if Muslims comply – as much as they can – with the contents of the Quran. This is to ensure that the beautiful words of the Holy Book do not remain on paper, but reflect in the behavior of the Muslim fraternity.
- Propagating: Once Muslims comply with what has been learnt and understood in the Holy Quran, they should assume the moral right and responsibility to propagate the divine words. This way, Muslims may convince a considerable number of non-Muslims to accept Islam and to champion TAQWA in the supreme interest of humanity.
As citizens of a multi-religious, democratic state, Ghanaian Muslims should also be law-abiding. Yes, they must obey the civil and criminal laws of the country to prove that the TAQWA in them manifests in their secular lives and enhances their sense of patriotism. This way, Ghanaian Muslims would justify the healthy relationship between religion and secularism as tools of social order and national development.
Permit me to end on a note of caution: no form of TAQWA is meaningful to the human society unless it reflects the capacity to save humanity from the shackles of ignorance, from the dangers of immorality, from the flames of extremism, from the confines of timidity. Brothers and sisters in Islam, these are the challenges we must ponder over in our efforts at the Revival of TAQWA in the Holy Month of Ramadan.
By DR ABUBAKAR MOHAMMED MARZUQ AZINDOO
The writer is a lecturer, University of Applied Management, and Special Assistant to National Chief Imam