At-Taqwa: A valuable possession

"O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed upon those before you in order that you may attain taqwaa." (Q2[Baqarah]: 183).

Praise be to Allaah who has made you witness this year's Ramadan. May Allaah count you among those who will witness many more Ramadan and may He accept your acts of worship and keep you steadfast upon your gains.

In a time when faith in Allaah is increasingly considered a weakness, where the relationship between the individual and his Creator is often seen as negotiable, sustaining Faith may seem more like a fantasy or even a mirage. The line between right and wrong is increasingly blurred, redrawn and blurred again. Talq ibn Habeeb (RAH) said: "When fitnah (trial and tribulation) appears then extinguish it-with taqwaa." So he was asked as to what taqwaa was, he replied: "Taqwaa is to act in obedience to Allaah, upon a light (i.e. eemaan, faith) from Allaah, hoping in the Mercy of Allaah. And taqwaa is leaving acts of disobedience to Allaah, upon a light from Allaah, due to the fear of Allaah." (Kitaabuz-Zuhd)

Perhaps you have felt a spiritual rejuvenation after all your efforts at fasting, sadaqah, Taraweeh and other acts of worship during the month of the Ramadan. This is an indication that the strength of our faith, is a consequence of our deeds.

Allaah is not unjust to anyone, that the reason behind a person's deviations is one's own self. Deeds, by heart or limb, result in steadfastness or perversion. They are linked together in the same fashion a consequence is linked to its cause and an effect to its influence. And sometimes Allaah plots for you  a course of hills, valleys and straightaways that will ultimately make the legs of your deen - your emaan - lean and well muscled.

 Shore up your Character

Allaah guides those who perform good deeds. And the more we do the more guidance we receive: Likewise, deviation feeds on evil deeds. Ibn-ul-Qayyim said,

''This is because Allaah likes good deeds and rewards on them, and abhors evil deeds, and punishes for them."

Scholars have taken this truth and crafted the rule: "Recompense is according to deeds."

Allaah says:

"So when they turned away (from the path of Allaah), Allaah turned their hearts away (from the right path)." (Q61[Saff]:5)

He also says:

“shall turn away from My signs those who behave arrogantly on the earth in a wrongful manner. If they see all the signs they will not believe in them. And if they see the way of righteousness. they will not adopt that way." (Q7[A'raf]: 146).

Also, Allaah says:

"And recite to them (Oh, Mohammed) the story of the one to whom We gave our verses (signs), but he turned them away, so Shaytan followed him up, and he became of those who went astray. Had he willed We would surely have elevated him therewith but he clung to the earth and followed  his own vain desires. So his description is that of a dog; ifyou drive him away, he lolls his tongue out, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls his tongue out." (Q7[A'raf]: 175-176).

The last verse tells us that some even have knowledge, but instead of applying it, they choose to follow their whims and worldly desires. In the end, they lose their blessing and stray from Allaah.

Deviation from the right path and lack of the degradation of eemaan are a result of one's own deeds and a reflection of one's own behavior and character. We must always be aware of that. We should expect that we will face challenges sometimes and be ready to protect ourselves and to heal and to grow. The first step towards achieving that is to know why and how does it happen. Most times it isn't the big wars that defeat a people, it is the little internal skirmishes which go unmet that eat away at character long before a clear enemy comes knocking on a half opened door.

When We Slip

 Eeman is the core of all actions. It is the motivation necessary for us as Muslims to accomplish whatever is needed to lead a good life. Depending on the strength of your eemaan, you may or may not be able to abandon sinning, strive against your own desire and compel your soul to take heed.

The strength of taqwa - the objective of your, month long fasting - does not only show itself in the apparent deeds; true taqwa actually fills and saturates the heart. Allaah's Messenger (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam) pointed out "three (factors),

whoever has them will find the sweetness of faith: that Allaah and  His Messenger are more beloved to him than anything else, that he loves a person solely for the sake of Allaah and that he hates to revert to disbelief, as he hates being thrown into Hellfire." (Bukhari and Muslim)

In another hadeeth, Allaah's Messenger (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

"(He has) experienced the taste of eemaan, who is contented that Allaah as his Lord (Rabb), Islaam as his religion and Muhammed as a Prophet." (Muslim).

We have to be certain that our eemaan is deeply rooted into our hearts. A person may repent to Allaah, following the path of righteousness, yet eemaan may not have entered his heart. So, at the first sign of destructive desires, doubts set in and convictions dissipate. Signs that this disease has entered the heart include rigidity of our hearts, courage in committing sins and laziness toward good deeds.

Balance eemaan with Islamic knowledge

 Just as a person needs eeman for motivation, action and strength in the heart, he, likewise, needs knowledge, to do what is right, rectify his worship and purify his turning to Allaah alone. When eemaan and Islamic knowledge are deeply rooted into a person's heart, there remains no possibility for him to turn away from the path of righteousness.

Ibn-Taymiyyah (RAH) said, "For it is known that a person may be bequeathed with eemaan even though he lacks knowledge. An eemaan like this one could be snatched from his heart - like the eemaan of Bani-Israel after they saw the calf. As for the one bequeathed with both, knowledge and eemaan, is never seized from his breast and such a person never reverts from Islaam.

''Conversely, if one is bequeathed with Qur'an alone or eemaan alone,  eemaan can be seized and this is the reality. We have seen it often that the most to revert from Islam are those who recite the Qur'an, without understanding or eemaan, or those who possess eemaan without knowledge and Qur'an. But as for the one who has acquired Qur'an and eemaan, and hence obtained knowledge, for this one, eemaan is never seized from his heart and Allah knows best." (Majmoo aI-Fatawa 18/305).

The mere memorization of the Qur'an and concepts does not mean one has acquired knowledge, especially since the Qur'an is read by the munaafiq (hypocrite), the mu'min (believer) and the illiterate. AI-Hasan al-Basri said, "Knowledge is of two types; knowledge in the heart and knowledge on the tongue." So knowledge in the heart is the useful one while knowledge on the tongue is Allaah's argument against His servants."

Seeking Islamic knowledge saves thoughts from wandering into desires and sins because there is no spare time, and because those things pale in the face of the sweetness of faith. He will be so engrossed in the pleasure of acquiring knowledge such that the chance of him looking for activities that may weaken his eemaan or cause him to deviate will be minimal.

 Cast off the yoke of sin

Allah says.

"You counted it a little thing while it was very great in the sight of Allah." (Q24[Nur]:15)

Some companions said. as reported by Anas,

"You are doing deeds which you view to be finer than a hair, but we, in the days of the Prophet used to consider them as major sins." (Bukhari).

 Viewing sins as little things has adverse effects:

The sins multiply in the sight of Allaah.

The path of repentance becomes distant. since he does not anymore feel a need for it. It is the one w'io realizes its severity, adheres to making istighfaar (asking for forgiveness) and regretfully seeks repentance from Allaah who has his sin erased. He is drawn to individuals similarly engrossed: This alone is among the major factors behind a person's deviation. Moreover,  it results in him avoiding the gatherings where Allaah is remembered. As a result, opportunities that would otherwise help him remain steadfast on good deeds are missed.

The sin becomes a hard habit to break. Even if the sins are minor, they gather around a person leading him to devastation, as Allaah's Messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) warned. Abdullah bin Mas'ud (RA) said:

"Beware of viewing the sins as little for they gather upon a person till he is devastated and Allaah's Messenger has coined a similitude for it as a group of people stopped in a desert and the cook among them arrived. So a person would go and bring one stick, and another one would go and bring one stick till they gathered many of them, lit a fire and brought to ripeness all that they have thrown in it." (Authentic, Ahmad)

Tackle Tarbiyah with Joy

After a person has turned to Allaah in repentance during the month of Ramadan, he leaves behind an enormous amount of evil ideas, perceptions and habits. It is not possible to get rid of all the past by a mere repentance to Allaah. A personal training effort (Tarbiyah) is required to erase all the effects. An effort that ingrains the right eemaan and sufficient Islamic knowledge to further pave the road with a firm foundation.

Taking a quick look at the apostasy events that occurred in the days of the Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam) much evidence supports this fact. Was there any among the Muhajireen or Ansaar who defected? Were there any defectors among those who witnessed the battle of Badr? Or the Ridwaan Pledge? Or those who accepted Islam in its initial phase? The answer is negative!

Mere repentance and an apparent change that have occurred to us during the month of Ramadan are neither the first step nor the last. In fact, it is only one step in the right direction, which is followed by putting in an effort to sustain eemaan and taqwa.

Predominance of desires

Deviation from the right path is caused by one of the two factors - either doubt which has mixed with clarity and truth, or desires which predominated a person's heart and hence, deviated and obstructed him from the truth and obeying Allaah, a factor clearly noticed in our days.

The ones who repent and turn to Allaah are just as human as anyone else - they desire as others do. The problem of lustful desires begins primarily with an evil look or idea and ends with flooded actions or an erupted volcano - leading a person to perversion.

You find a person following the path which pleases Allaah but once he sights something forbidden (e.g., a beautiful woman), a struggle in his heart begins; the light of eemaan is kindled within him calling him to repent and turn to Allaah. Eventually, the pitch of this call is reduced and the call of the desire rises. In this way, an immense struggle within begins. At one stage, the call of eemaan might predominate and he overcomes this hurdle, even if the dust of the sin might have touched him, which he immediately washes off with repentance and good deeds.

On the other hand, he might respond due to a weakness in eemaan and the light of desire rises and predominates, ensnaring his heart and obstructing any chances of turning to Allaah. As a result, he falls victim to the sin and cannot turn to Allaah in repentance, which would raise him from this downfall. At this moment, he would say to himself, "You have already been affected by the dirt of sin, so you might as well keep on going. So many times you have tried to repent, but to no avail. You are weak, there remains no hope for you to repent, and your way is different from that of the pious!"

 Be Steadfast ...

…On the Path to Righteousness

Change can happen sometimes in the blink of an adjusted perspective. For many Muslims, it is simply the realization that it is just as hard to live in a self-styled prison of ego and desire as it is to strive toward the right path. Freedom of choice and religion only develops and grows when it is exercised.

There is no doubt that the diagnosis of the causes behind an individual's deviation is a primary step towards treatment. But what is the cure? Concentrate on tarbiyah (constant self-development) particularly from the spiritual aspect. See everyday challenges as an opportunity to exercise truth, patience, good deed's, courage and constancy. A1laah encourages us to nurture our eemaan by performing righteous deeds as Allaah says:

 "O you who believe, believe in Allaah and His Messenger ... " (Q4[Nisaa]: 136)

Usually, eemaan is present in the hearts of people but still, they are encouraged to nurture and increase it.

…by being sincere and truthful to Allaah.

Ikhlaas (sincerity) is a privileged characteristic for those who seek Allaah’s pleasure. It’s absence displaces a person’s deeds, and it is a requirement by everyone as Allaah says:

 “And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allaah, making their religion sincere for him and offer salaahs perfectly and give zakaah and that is the right religion.” (Q98[Bayyinah]:5)

Ibn-AI-Qayyim (RAH) further clarifies the effect of Ikhlaas and truthfulness on a person’s perseverance on the path of Islam. He said:

"A person experiences difficulty in abandoning (bad) habits and customs only if he does so for the sake of other than Allaah. As for he who abandons them truthfully and sincerely with his heart, he does not experience any difficulty except in the first attempt, to be tested whether he was truthful or not. So if he remains a little patient during that difficulty, desire would not last any longer."

 …by being fearful of an evil death

 A sincere believer must be overwhelmed with the fear of dying in a state that would displease Allaah. This was the condition of our righteous predecessors - due to a constant fear of an evil death while in a state of Islam since, if a person falls victim to a sin, a state of negligence and transgression, it overpowers his heart and mind. A state in which his light is extinguished, and his vision blocked – a moment when no reminder would benefit – here, death might surprise him. He would die in a state that would attain the wrath of Allaah. Allaah’s Messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

“Verily, the (results of) deeds done, depend upon the last actions.” (Bukhari)

Therefore, one must always be fearful of an evil death and hence, use every moment in a manner that pleases Allaah.

Duaa (supplication).

Supplication is a Muslim's fortress and resort when he is encountered with hardship in this world. One must always turn to Allah and seek His assistance. Allaah's Messenger used to supplicate, "O Turner of the heart. make my heart steadfast on your religion." (Tirmidhi) And he also used to say:

 “O Allaah, increase my knowledge and do not let my heart deviate (from the truth) after you have guided me and grant me mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower." (Q3[Aal-Imran]:8)

These and many other forms and occasions of supplication makes one realize his need to invoke Allaah for guidance searching for its causes and abstaining from all that blocks a person's urge to obtain it.

Persistence in doing good

The best of deeds and the most beloved of it are those which a person does constantly as Allah's Messenger said:

 "And the most beloved of deeds to Allah are those which are regularlydone even if they were little." (Bukhari & Muslim)

Regular persistence in doing good deeds eventually becomes a habit and a part of one's daily life after an initial struggle to practice it. This persistence in good deeds (salaat, charity, siyaam, and Dhikr...) Will make one live in the light of steadfastness and righteousness, and far away from deviation and its causes.

Participating in the dawah work

 There are many fruits obtained from doing dawah or supporting one. One who strives in seeking guidance for people is certainly guided by Allaah. The one, who calls people to do good deeds, will in turn be motivated to perform the deeds he is asking people to do. Being involved in dawah keeps one from acts that might result in deviation. There is a sweetness of eemaan a person feels when he observes people turning to Allaah instead of observing things forbidden by Him.

After spending some time pondering over this problem and its causes and remedies it is clear that taqwa is a blessing for which we each must strive and a bounty which we must keep after Ramadan.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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