On Taqwa (Piety)

When we think of Taqwa (piety), we think of abstinence, or self-denial and withdrawal from the world around us. Hence, one comes to understand that the more you practice abstinence the greater your taqwa will be.

But this is not the logic in Islam. Taqwa, according to Imam Ali (‘a), is a spiritual state of immunity, achieved through exercising the soul. Instead of going into seclusion and isolating oneself from society, this state of piety, if cultivated inside the soul, keeps the person clean and uncorrupted.

I guarantee the truth of my words and I am responsible for what I say. He to whom experiences have clearly shown the past exemplary punishments is prevent by piety from falling into doubts. You should know that the same troubles have returned to you which existed when the Prophet (s’aw) was first sent.’ (Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 16; delivered when allegiance was sworn to him at Medina)

From this sermon we can deduce the following:

a) that the essence of taqwa lies in having a spiritual personality with the will power to control the carnal self with its desires and lusts.

b) that taqwa automatically leads to abstention from unlawful deeds and instils His fear into the hearts, giving strength to human personality, making man the master of his own self.

c) that it is freedom from slavery to lusts and passions. It liberates man from the bonds of envy and anger, money and power, comfort and glory, plaguing human society.

d) and most importantly, the effects of taqwa firstly, develops insight and clarity of vision; and secondly the capacity to solve problems and to weather difficulties and crises.


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