I counsel all of you, while I counsel myself, to observe Taqwa (God-wariness), for indeed it is the fundamental key to human salvation both in this world and the Hereafter. The Holy Qur’an distinctly mentions several advantages of Taqwa. Some of these are as follows:
We who not only aspire for conceptual knowledge (al-‘ilm al-husuli), but also eagerly yearn for presential knowledge (al-‘ilm al-hudhuri) must understand that the key to its door is Taqwa (God-wariness). Conceptual knowledge is that of the mind, whereas presential knowledge is that of the heart. God-wariness (taqwa) and self-protection from all what Allah forbids and dislikes open the door of inner vision (shuhud) which is both penetrating (hadid) and accurate.
The Holy Qur’an says: “…Be wary of Allah (wattaqulLah), and Allah shall teach you, and Allah has knowledge of all things.” (2:282) This kind of teaching and education, exegetes tell us, alludes to instilling presential knowledge in the receptive heart. Here the direct teacher is Allah. This education is like placing the Qur’an in heart of a Muhammadan receptacle. The Holy Qur’an says: “The All-Beneficent, taught the Qur’an.” (55:1-2) Is this teaching through the transfer of conceptual information, or is it to instill the realities of Qur’an in the heart, which is spacious enough to contain this all-embracing Book?
Obviously, the process of teaching is not always that which we commonly perceive and know. When we read, “And Allah taught Adam all the Names” (2:31), does it mean that He taught him the mere mental concepts of His sublime attributes, or did He fashion and sculpt him to existentially manifest all His attributes? The insightful scholars believe that it is not the question of the transfer of concepts, but the molding of the Adamic reality. The Holy Qur’an mentions a very important personality who was blessed with esoteric knowledge: Prophet Khidhr (peace be upon him). He is mentioned as having been taught directly by Allah: “So they found one of Our servants, on whom We had bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our own Presence.” (18:65) The Holy Prophet and his immaculate progeny (peace be upon them), as so many traditions clearly indicate, were also blessed with such inner knowledge and vision. An example worthy of mention is that of the noble sister of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), Lady Zainab, to whom Imam Zainul Abideen (peace be upon him) addresses as, “You are, praise be to Allah, learned, without having been taught [‘aalima ghayr mu’allama]…” This alludes to Lady Zainab’s lofty station of being Divinely inspired and taught.
The Holy Qur’an also tells us that whosoever observes taqwa will be able to sift between good and bad and right and wrong: “O you who have faith! If you are wary of Allah, He shall appoint a criterion for you, and absolve you of your misdeeds, and forgive you, for Allah is dispenser of a great grace.” (8:29) The word furqan in the verse means “distinction”. In other words, one who observes piety would be bestowed with a discerning spirit. And whosoever enjoys such a spirit will always be safe and never falter in situations when others would not be able to perceive what is right and wrong. There is a tradition that tells us that the sirat (path to Allah) is “thinner than the hair” and “sharper than the sword”. According to exegetes of the tradition, “thinner than the hair” refers to the theoretical dimension of the path which is brim with subtleties. In order, therefore, for one to be able to distinguish the fine threads of the reality of the path to Allah, one needs to have furqan. Hence let us struggle for taqwa in order to be availed with furqan.
Outlet from Calamities
Another advantage of taqwa which the Holy Qur’an explicitly mentions is to be availed with an outlet from the trouble or problem one has been entangled in: a serious family problem, financial difficulties, social problems, etc. can constrain one’s life and make it miserable. The key to the outlet, the Holy Qur’an says, is one word: taqwa. “And whoever is wary of Allah, He shall make a way out for him (65:2)”
Sustenance from an Unknown Source
The Holy Qur’an says: “And whoever is wary of Allah, He shall make a way out for him and provide for him from whence he does not reckon.” (65:2-3) Those who are after independence in life, and hate to take loans or beg, are availed with a key: taqwa. Almighty Allah says that one who observes taqwa will get sustenance from whence he does not know. Sustenance, however, we must understand, are of two kinds: (1) physical and (2) spiritual. One may try to ask why some of the affluent enjoy a lot of wealth, despite their constant sinning. Does that not contradict this verse of the Holy Qur’an? Obviously not; this is because rizq is not only physical, but also spiritual.
In the famous supplication taught to us by our Twelfth Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance), we say: “O Allah, avail us the succor to obey.” (Allahumma arzuqna tawfiqa at-taa’a.) Notice we have employed the phrase arzuqna, which comes from the word rizq. If we look at the other verses of this radiant supplication, we come to realize that sustenance is not limited to the realm of matter but also includes the realm of the spirit. When commenting on the verse “and they spend out of what We have given”, Imam as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) is reported to have said “and they disseminate out of what We have taught them.” This verse also speaks of the characteristics of the people of taqwa. The subtle aspect here is that Imam as-Sadiq informs us that it is Allah who teaches the pious and God-wary.
One’s Affairs Become Easy
In order for one to achieve success in life, constant struggle is required. The human being in the course of his struggle faces very difficult circumstances, and he prays for ease and relief. The key towards ease, we are taught by Allah in the Holy Qur’an, is to observe taqwa. Ease in seeking knowledge, ease in working, ease in assisting others, ease in guiding the community, ease in all those things that are incumbent on the human being to perform. Obviously ease should not be mistaken for laxity and luxury. The Holy Qur’an says: “And whoever is wary of Allah, He shall grant him ease in his affairs.” (65:4)
One’s Minor Sins Are Forgiven
According to one classification, sins are divided into two: (1) Minor sins, and (2) Major sins. The major sins (al-kaba’ir) are those that are explicitly mentioned as being so in the traditions. There are sins, however, which rank lower from the minor sins. These, because of observing piety, are erased by Almighty Allah (65:5).
The Holy Qur’an says: “And whoever is wary of Allah, He shall absolve him of his misdeeds and give him a great reward.” (65:5) Despite the fact that taqwa in itself is a gift from the All-Beneficent, He tells us that whosoever observes it would get a great reward. Therefore, we should struggle and acquire and maintain the spirit of taqwa, so that we can enjoy all the aforesaid advantages.
Shaykh Muhammad Khalfan is the author of several books and articles on spiritual wayfaring. He lives and studies in the holy city of Qom. This article originally appeared on his blog Universal Realization.