By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
14 September 2017
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
The preceding article probed an early passage of the Qur’an (91:1-10) to evolve the Qur’anic notion of Taqwa as the restraining impulse of man’s inner self, a watchdog against man’s base instincts or gross temptations.
As the Qur’an is virtually a crusade against the base instincts of man, it raises the notion of Taqwa in its opening passage (Surah al-Baqara, 2:2-5) that appears after a short opening prayer (Surah al-Fatiha):
“This is the Divine Writ, in which nothing is doubtful: it has guidance for the morally upright (Muttaqin) (2:2) - who believe in the unseen, perform the prayers, spend out of what God provided for them”(2:3), who believe in the divinity of revelations given to you (O Muhammad) and before you and are certain of the Hereafter (2:4).It is those (Muttaqin) that are on true guidance from their Lord; and it is they (the Muttaqin) who will succeed (attain Falah) (2:5).”
The opening verse 2:2 above clearly implies that only those who are ‘Muttaqi’ – imbued with Taqwa and are not slaves to their base instincts will receive guidance from the Qur’an.
The succeeding verses 2:3-4 recount some virtues of the Muttaqin (plural form of Muttaqi): they will perform prayer and spend in God’s way (2:3) in addition to believing in the divinity of revelations and ultimate accountability to God (2:4).
Ironically, most Muslims argue that those who are regular in prayer and spend in charity (2:3) are the Muttaqin and will receive the guidance of the Qur’an (2:2). Such an interpretation shifts emphasis from Taqwa to prayer and charity and transforms the din of Islam from one that is designed to promote Taqwa to one that is devoted to prayer and charity (2:4). The Qur’an clarifies the primary role of Taqwa in the concluding verse of the passage (2:5):“the Muttaqin are on true guidance from God.” Across it text, the Qur’an repeatedly declares: it is “guidance and counsel for the Muttaqin” (3:138); it is “counsel for the Muttaqin” (24:34).
Taqwa as a Level Playing Field in Spirituality for All Humanity
As Taqwa is intrinsic to the inner self (Nafs) of all mankind as demonstrated in the preceding Reflection, people of any religion can become ‘Muttaqi. Thus in the context of the revelation the Qur’an acknowledges that some among the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) were Muttaqi.
“They are not the same: among the People of the Book is an upright community: they recite God’s messages through the hours of night as they bow down before Him (3:113). They believe in God and the Last Day; enjoin the good, and forbid the evil and hasten to good deeds - it is they who are among the righteous (114). Any good they do, they will not be denied it as God knows the heedful (Muttaqin)” (3:115)
The Qur’an also privileges Taqwa over the symbolism of hajj and fasting rituals and declares.
“Neither the flesh of sacrificial animal nor their blood reaches God, but your Taqwa does indeed reach Him…” (22:37).
“…And take provisions (for hajj), but the best provision is Taqwa…” (2:197).
“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you acquire Taqwa (2:183).
As Taqwa is the precursor to good and righteous deeds (concluding statement in the preceding Reflection), the Qur’an pairs Taqwa with good deeds to create a spiritual trump card – so to say, for divine approval even in the face of dietary lapses:
“Those who believe and do good deeds shall not be blamed for what they may eat (or drink) so long as they are heedful of Taqwa and believe, and do good deeds; so long as they are heedful of Taqwa, and believe; so long as they are heedful of Taqwa, and do good.(Remember,) God loves the compassionate ” (5:93). [Rendition based on Essential Message of Islam, Ch. 26.2]
From the foregoing illustrations it follows that like good deeds (Reflection 6), Taqwa stands out as the level playing field of spirituality for all believing humanity. Accordingly, the Qur’an declares:
“O People! We have created you as male and female, and made you into races and communities for you to get to know each other. The noblest among you near God are those of you who are the most heedful of Taqwa. Indeed God is All-Knowing and informed” (49:13).
How God will judge the non-believer (atheists, polytheists) activists of divinely ingrained Taqwa (91:1-10, Reflection 7) – who curb their lowly desires and do good deeds– God alone knows.
Finally, to avoid any confusion in religious thoughts a clear distinction must be made between the self (Nafs) dictated moral imperative – Taqwa and Cardinal spiritual obligation of Salat (prayer). We will take it up in our next reflection.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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