What does taqwa mean?


Taqwa does not simply mean fear. It comes from wiqayah (وِقاية), which means protection. Ittiqa (إِتِّقاء) or taqwa means to protect yourself. Like on the day of judgment everything is flat, you can’t hide anywhere. (Allah says, وَإِذَا الْأَرْضُ مُدَّتْ http://quran.com/84/3.)

He also says,
فَكَيْفَ تَتَّقُونَ إِن كَفَرْتُمْ يَوْمًا يَجْعَلُ الْوِلْدَانَ شِيبًا
And how are you going to protect yourselves if you disbelieve the day on which even babies their hair will turn gray. [73:17]

So to have taqwa of Allah means to protect yourself from displeasing Allah, from making Him angry. Allah doesn’t just say have taqwa of him, but also have taqwa of the fire, so protect yourselves from the fire.

كَمَثَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِذْ قَالَ لِلْإِنسَانِ اكْفُرْ فَلَمَّا كَفَرَ قَالَ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِّنكَ إِنِّي أَخَافُ اللَّهَ رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ
Another reason it does not mean just fear is the Shaitan tells the human being, disbelieve, and when he does believe he says, I have nothing to do with you. I’m afraid of Allah. [59:16] He uses the word khawf, fear. So even Shaitan fears Allah.

Taqwa includes fear and what you do as a result of that fear. The criminal is afraid, too, when the cops are running after him, but he didn’t protect himself.

Source: Parting Advice for Ramadan by Nouman Ali Khan


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