If we were to narrow down all the major differences between a believer and a non-believer, it would probably arrive at one predominant factor, i.e. taqwa. The Arabic word taqwa is derived from the root word 'wa-qa-ya', which means a shield or a protective barrier. However, according to various scholars, it has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Therefore, taqwa can be understood as:
- Being Conscious of Allah - This accounts for fulfilling the acts of obedience towards Allah and the notion of being held accountable in front of Him. This develops the feeling of consciousness in the heart, which makes the believer seek Divine protection against committing any sins or doing any acts that may displease Allah.
- Being fearful of Allah - This connotates to preserving or guarding one's self from earning the displeasure of Allah. It is rather comprehensible in terms of being wary/watchful of something which can be harmful in the long run. Examples in this category would include engaging in acts of disobedience that may result in the removal of Allah's mercy and blessings, leading the person to go further astray from the path of righteousness and inflicting upon oneself the punishment, as a natural consequence following acts of disobedience and ignorance.
- Being wary or watchful - This means abstaining from prohibitions and creating a barrier between you and the punishment earned through displeasure. Only when we are fearful of something can we restrain from it. For example, a person would avoid deliberately touching fire to save himself from getting burnt, or in other words, owing to the fear of getting burnt, the person holds himself back. So in case of a believer, he guards himself against the sins and becomes more diligent in observing good deeds.
"O you who have believed, fear Allāh as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him]."
(Surah Al Imran, 3:102)
Taqwa is essentially the foundation of our faith, without which even our obligatory worship rituals would be merely mechanical. Perhaps, this is the reason why the Quran stresses so much on the attainment of taqwa and mentions it in several chapters, with reference to seeking Divine guidance and ultimately earning Allah’s pleasure.
It is worthwhile mentioning here that for Muslims, the way to seeking Allah’s mercy and blessings is not restricted to obligatory worship alone. In fact, as part of our daily life and interactions with others, there are several instances that are reflective of God-consciousness. And, so we can say:
- It is Taqwa that makes us guard our tongues.
- It is Taqwa that makes us choose our battles wisely between right and wrong and be patient.
- It is Taqwa that helps us to spread kindness.
- It is Taqwa that motivates us to discipline ourselves against natural urges while fasting or staying away from haraam or unlawful things.
- It is Taqwa that makes us conscious of teaching our children the values and principles of Islam.
Without having that consciousness in our hearts, and without having that sense of accountability toward Allah of making others aware and fulfilling our purpose of being, it would be impossible to practice the deen and put an effort into its spread. And what would serve better than starting from the family.
Teaching our Children About Allah
Teaching children something new, especially new concepts can be very challenging. Add to that the challenge of teaching them about Allah and how to be conscious of Him (without being able to see Him). For most parents, this would seem daunting enough, but the good news is that it is achievable through dua and efforts. Here are just some ways we can bring our children to be more aware of our Creator.
1. Through the names and attributes of Allah.
Talking about Allah in our daily lives can really help children perceive Him as real. Additionally, bringing their attention to the names and attributes of Allah can be greatly beneficial, too, in terms of helping them gain a deeper understanding. Parents need to be careful and focus more on the positive attributes, particularly for younger children. Some fun ways of going about this could be:
- Searching for the names of Allah in the Quranic text - this exercise can be simplified based on the child’s age.
- Narrating different stories which are suggestive of the attributes of Allah.
- Helping children memorize the names of Allah along with their meanings.
2. Contemplating on the attributes.
This can be done by adopting a more practical approach, instead of talking (as that might get boring). For instance,
- Going out on nature walks and inspiring curiosity.
- Observing phenomena such as day/night, seasons, etc.
- Paying attention to the changes in the weather.
3. Counting the blessings of Allah.
This can and should be done on a daily basis to nurture God-consciousness in children. Counting blessings and making it a habit to do so at bed-time can do wonders.
- Thanking Allah for our health.
- Being thankful for family and friends,.
- Being grateful for toys, access to good education.
4. Instilling the love for Jannah in their hearts. H3 Header
Cultivating and inspiring them through knowledge and facts about Jannah can help them yearn for it.
- Talk about signs (things) which have been made known to us, such as the fruits in Jannah (pomegranate, fig, olives, etc.).
- Provoke them to ask questions and let their imagination flourish in terms of what they would want in Jannah. That can inspire them to work towards the goal.
5. Through our own actions.
Children are naturally very observant. They absorb and make sense of things on their own, hence, it is always important to model behaviors that we want them to adopt. Showing them things through our own interactions can help them develop a sense of taqwa or consciousness. For instance:
- Feeling bad when you tell a lie
- Feeling guilty for not helping a friend in need (not answering a friend’s call maybe)
- Delaying salah and then rushing to it last minute
- Not feeling happy when you hurt someone’s feelings
As parents, we need to be careful not to instill a feeling of fear toward Allah, and instead focus on His virtuous characteristics such as those portraying ‘love’ and ‘mercy’.
Attaining Taqwa and Its Benefits
There is no denying that when a person strives to seek guidance and helps guide others along the way, Allah, The Most Exalted, helps the person in unimaginable ways and opens all doors to support him. Similarly, when the person performs good deeds and invites or inspires others to do good, too, Allah helps him to stay motivated in enjoining good. Therefore, one can say that by engaging in acts of dawah, a believer attains a higher level of taqwa which brings him manifold rewards and blessings from the Creator.
Here are ome of these benefits tied to the attainment of taqwa.
1. It helps a believer earn Allah's mercy.
Allah's love equates to His mercy. So, when a person lets go off his selfish desires for the sake of Allah and carries out good deeds, he earns a special closeness to Allah and His blessings in return. It is important to remember here that the intention of the person to do good and abstain from evil is purely for the sake of earning Allah's unconditional love and mercy and to avoid earning His distrust or displeasure.
"Nay, but (the chosen of Allah is) he who fulfilleth his pledge and wardeth off (evil); for lo! Allah loveth those who ward off (evil)."
(Surah Al Imran, 3:76)
2. It acts as a guarantee for success.
Allah, The All-Knowing, is aware of our intentions. Therefore, even when faced with trials and difficulties, when a person surrenders to the will of Allah and remains steadfast in his faith, it serves as a reassurance for him. As mentioned in the Quran:
"So be mindful of Allah to the best of your ability, hear and obey, and spend in charity—that will be best for you. And whoever is saved from the selfishness of their own souls, it is they who are ˹truly˺ successful."
(Surah At-Taghabun, 64:16)
3. It protects one from sinning.
Naturally, when the person is conscious of pleasing Allah, he makes utmost effort to stay away from frivolous acts and vain things. Hence, he is shielded from committing sins and doing wrong.
"O believers! Be mindful of Allah, and say what is right. He will bless your deeds for you, and forgive your sins. And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, has truly achieved a great triumph."
(Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:70-71)
4. It prepares one for the Hereafter.
The believers who work toward strengthening their faith, in an effort to draw themselves closer to Allah and seek protection from earning His displeasure are conscious of their ultimate abode, i.e. the life Hereafter. Therefore, by all means, they try to rectify their acts and stay connected with Allah.
"˹They are˺ those who are faithful and are mindful ˹of Him˺. For them is good news in this worldly life and the Hereafter. There is no change in the promise of Allah. That is ˹truly˺ the ultimate triumph."
(Surah Yunus, 10:63-64)
5. It instills a sense of accountability.
Taqwa calls for a person to hold him/herself accountable, for the consequences following the nature of the act committed. As observed in many of the Quran references mentioned above, we are reminded time and again that each one of us is responsible and will be answerable for our own doings, and not that of others.
6. It keeps one at peace.
When a person deviates from sins and strives toward adopting the path of virtue, his heart naturally attains a level of peace and tranquility because he knows that Allah is with him and will support him through all challenges that come along the way.
"He is the One Who sent down serenity upon the hearts of the believers so that they may increase even more in their faith. To Allah ˹alone˺ belong the forces of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise."
(Surah Al-Fath, 48:4)
7. It helps to differentiate right from wrong.
When a believer places his trust in Allah and seeks to attain acceptance of his good deeds from Him, and refrains from forbidden things, then Allah grants such a person with the wisdom to differentiate between right and wrong. This blessing is granted to him as a result of his obedience and in lieu of Divine protection from Allah toward safeguarding him from evil.
“O, believers! If you are mindful of Allah, He will grant you a standard ˹to distinguish between right and wrong˺, absolve you of your sins, and forgive you. And Allah is the Lord of infinite bounty.”
(Surah Al-Anfal, 8:29)
8. It brings one honor and respect.
Referring back to the earlier statement relating to dawah and taqwa, it would only be fair to say that the person who observes taqwa will not only earn Allah's blessings and mercy, but also be regarded as honorable and virtuous for observing piety by those who benefit from his knowledge and kindness.
“O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may ˹get to˺ know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.”
(Surah Al-Hujuraat, 49:13)
As parents and the legal guardians of our children, we need to rightfully practice acquiring knowledge of our deen and learn to be conscious role models for our children. This is imperative to earning taqwa, inshaAllah, and helping to preserve the future generations through the Divine guidance of our Lord. In addition to the consistency of our actions, it is also important for us to make duaa. Here is a beautiful prayer for attaining taqwah.
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَالْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ وَالْهَرَمِ وَعَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ اللَّهُمَّ آتِ نَفْسِي تَقْوَاهَا وَزَكِّهَا أَنْتَ خَيْرُ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا أَنْتَ وَلِيُّهَا وَمَوْلاَهَا اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عِلْمٍ لاَ يَنْفَعُ وَمِنْ قَلْبٍ لاَ يَخْشَعُ وَمِنْ نَفْسٍ لاَ تَشْبَعُ وَمِنْ دَعْوَةٍ لاَ يُسْتَجَابُ لَهَا
Allahumma inni a’udhu bika minal-‘ajzi wal-kasali, wal jubni wal-bukhli wal-harami wa ‘adhabil-qabri. Allahumma ati nafsi taqwaha, wa zakkiha anta khairu man zakkaha, Anta waliyyuha wa maulaha. Allahumma inni a’udhu bika min ‘ilmin la yanfau’, wa min qalbin la yakhsha’u, wa min nafsin la tashba’u, wa min da’watin la yustajabu laha’
O Allah! Verily, I seek refuge in You from ‘Ajz (inability), Kasal (laziness), Jubn (cowardice), Bukhl (stinginess), and Haram (old age/senility); and I seek refuge in You from the punishment of the grave. O Allah! Grant my soul its Taqwa (piety), and purify it. You are the best of those who purify it. You are its Walee (Supporter) and its Mawla (Guardian/Patron). O Allah! I seek refuge in You from Ilm (knowledge) which does not benefit, from a Qalb (heart) which does not fear (You), from a Nafs (soul) which is never satisfied, and from a Da’wah (supplication) which is not answered.
[Sahih Muslim 2722, Ahmad 4/371, at-Tirmidhi 3572 -in abridged form, and by an-Nasai 5458]
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.