|“O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam. “|
Piety is an indispensable provision for the Muslim Jama’ah. Our Jihad and striving to establish the religion of Allah on this earth will undoubtedly fail without piety and all our work will be turned down by Him. The two sons of Adam ﷺ each offered a sacrifice to Allah, who accepted one and rejected the other. The reason was that:
|“Verily, Allah accepts only from al-muttaqoon (the pious).|
Piety made one of the two sacrifices worthy of Allah’s pleasure and acceptance, while the other which was devoid of piety, was returned to its offerer unaccepted. The efforts of so many people, striving with words and deeds, are rejected because they do not emanate from the lamp of Taqwa.
Furthermore, piety is a precondition for the success of our endeavours in this world and in the world to come. Moses (AS) told his people, as the Qur’an says about him (which means),
|“Pray for help from Allah, and be patient. Verily, the earth is Allah’s. He gives it as a heritage to whom He will of His servants, and the [blessed] end is for al-muttaqoon. “|
Victory and power in the land cannot be attained without Taqwa,
|“Surely, the [good] end is for al-muttaqoon. “|
‘Umar bin Al-Khattab wrote to Sa’d bin Abee Waqqas, the commander of the Muslim armies during the campaign against the Persians,
|“I command you and your soldiers to observe Taqwa which is the best preparation against the enemy and the strongest weapon of war. I command you and your soldiers to be more on guard against sins than against the enemy, for the sins of [your] army should be feared more than their enemy. Indeed, Muslims only triumph by the sinning of their enemy against Allah, for otherwise we would not have the strength and advantage over them. Our numbers are not like their numbers, nor is our preparation like their preparation. If we equal them in sins, they will prevail over us through their physical strength. If we cannot defeat them through our piety, we will not defeat them through our strength.”|
Allah’s support for His servants and His assistance to them with the angels is conditional upon piety:
|“Yes, if you hold on to patience and piety, and the enemy comes rushing at you, your Lord will help you with five thousand angels having marks [of distinction]. “|
How true was ‘Abdullah bin Rawaahah who said on the day of the Battle of Mu’tah,
|“By Allah, we do not fight the people with the number of soldiers and preparation, but we fight them with this religion with which Allah has honoured us.”|
There is a huge gulf between us and our enemies in terms of numbers, equipment and the various means of power, but Allah (SWT) has given us something with which to bridge this gap and prevail over them, despite our small number and meagre capabilities. He provides us with the means to achieve the greater triumph,
|“O you who believe! If you obey Allah and fear Him, He will grant you a Furqan (criterion [to judge between right and wrong]). “|
Muhammad bin Ishaq said,
|“Furqan is distinction between the truth and falsehood, with which we recognise truth from falsehood, with which we act with the truth and avoid falsehood, and with which we support the truth and overcome falsehood.”|
Ibn Kathir said,
|“Whoever fears Allah by carrying out what He commands and abandoning what He forbids, Allah will help him distinguish between the truth and falsehood. This knowledge will induce his victory, safety and relief from the difficulties of this world and will also ensure his happiness and forgiveness of his sins on the Day of Judgement.”|
Piety is the key to our salvation from the state of weakness, backwardness and humiliation in which our Ummah lives. It is the means by which, if we adopt faithfully, all the tools of success and victory will readily be at our disposal, and the causes of defeat and humiliation will vanish. It is piety which takes us by the hand, leads us to the Truth and makes us love it, succumb to it, work by it and for it, in sincere devotion to Allah. It guards us against deviation and guarantees us victory over enemies who are mightier than us in strength and greater than us in number.
It is piety which rescues us, by the Will of Allah, from every difficulty and distress. Indeed, Muslims experience many difficulties and hardships today when our enemies are against us!
|“And whoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out [from every difficulty]. “|
|“And whoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him. “|
It is piety which makes us adhere to the commands of Allah and His Messenger, though they might be arduous to obey. It is also piety which makes us committed to our Jama’ah, listening to and obeying our leaders in all good things.
For all the above, as well as other reasons, Allah ﷺ has commanded us to observe piety and make it our best provision:
|“And take provision [with you] for the journey, but the best provision is Taqwa. So fear Me, O men of understanding. “|
While every journey requires a particular provision, the journey towards Allah requires piety which, alone, is suitable for the journey. For “the best provision is Taqwa. “ Indeed, if we lose this provision, we will not be able to carry on our journey and we will certainly stop and meet with disappointment. How excellent was the saying of the Prophet ﷺ to one of his companions who was embarking on a journey, “May Allah provide you with piety.” He was, in other words, reminding him that Taqwa is a Muslim’s provision for ever journey and endeavour in this life. Imam ‘Ali once described Taqwa as follows,
|“Taqwa means fearing Allah the Almighty, acting in accordance with the Qur’an, contentment with whatever little we have, and preparing for the day of departure (death).”|
Al-‘Irbadh bin Sariyah once said,
|“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ gave us a sermon by which our hearts were filled with fear and tears came to our eyes. We said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, it is as though this is a farewell sermon.’ He said, I counsel you to fear Allah (have Taqwa) and to give absolute obedience, even if a slave becomes your leader. Verily, he amongst you who lives [long] will see great controversy, so you must keep to my Sunnah and to the Sunnah of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs. Cling to them stubbornly. Beware of newly invented matters, for ever invented matter is an innovation (bid’ah), and every bid’ah is a going astray, and every going astray in the Hell-Fire.”|
Abu Saeed Al-Khudree said, “I asked the Messenger of Allah to counsel me and he said, ‘Observe Taqwa, for it is the peak of every matter. ‘
It was the Prophet’s ﷺ custom that, whenever he commissioned someone to lead a platoon of fighters, he would instruct him to observe Taqwa himself and with regards to the Muslims with him. It is also because of the paramount importance of piety that our meritorious predecessors used to exhort one another to it. Abu Bakr, prior to his demise, entrusted ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab with the Caliphate and gave him an all-inclusive counsel which started with the words, “O ‘Umar! Fear Allah. “
‘Umar bin Al-Khattab wrote to his son ‘Abdullah, saying,
|“I counsel you to fear Allah, who protects those who fear Him, rewards those who lend unto Him, a goodly loan and gives more to those who are grateful. Direct your attention towards Taqwa, and make it the elucidation of your heart.”|
But who exactly are the pious and what are their attributes?
Mu’adh bin Jabal said, “On the Day of Judgement, it will be called out: ‘Where are al-muttaqoon (the pious) ?’ The pious will then rise under the cover of Ar-Rahman who will not conceal Himself from them.” Mu’adh was then asked, “And who are the pious?” He replied, “They are those who avoid shirk and the worship of idols.”
Hassan Al-Basri said, “The pious are those who avoid what Allah has forbidden them and carry out what He has commanded them.”
Abu-Dardaa’ said, “Perfect piety is when the servant fears Allah so much that he eschews evil even, if it is an atom’s weight, for fear of Him, and abandons some of the things he thinks are Halal for fear that they might be Haram.”
Sufyan Ath-Thawree said, “Al-muttaqoon are called as such because they have avoided that which is not avoided (by others).”
Maimoon bin Mahran said, “A pious person is more severe in bringing himself to account than a miser is with his partner [in business].”
Indeed, the pious are those who possess all the attributes of goodness and righteousness. The Prophet ﷺ rightly said, “Fear Allah, for piety brings together all good.”
The Prophet ﷺ also said, “Piety is right here, ” and he pointed to his breast three times.
So how can we acquire this important provision and how can we feed our hearts with it?
‘Umar bin ‘Abdul-Aziz once wrote to a man,
|“I counsel you to observe Taqwa, for Allah (SWT) accepts nothing but Taqwa, shows mercy only on those who observe it and rewards only for it. This is so because those who preach it are many and those who observe it are few. ”|
So how could we possibly observe it? It is really a hard task to attain piety, but easy for those who go towards Allah with open hearts. The first step in this direction is to cleanse the heart of any falsehood, of anything other than Allah, so that nothing remains therein except Allah, obedience to Him, remembrance of Him, gratitude to Him, love for Him, fear of Him, and reliance upon Him. For the heart is like a vessel. Once filled with something it accepts nothing else until it is emptied of the first. By the same token, if man serves anything or anyone other than Allah, there will be no place for Allah in his life until they are rooted out and his heart is purged. Those hearts that are filled with love for the life of the world are far away from Allah. Distant from Allah are also the hearts of those hearts which are filled with desires, those which associate others with Allah in worship and those that are sick with love for others than Allah. So, whoever wants that Allah be his Lord and Master and that his heart be filled with love, hope, fear and reliance directed towards Allah, must first cleanse his heart of any false gods and distance himself from all his desires and passions.
Some might ask, “But how can we achieve this?” The answer is through the ‘awakening’ mentioned in the verse (which means):
|“Say [unto them, 0 Muhammad]: I exhort you unto one thing only: that you awake, for Allah’s sake, by twos and singly, and then reflect. “|
This devotion to Allah is made possible by the heart awakening to Him and contemplating His signs in the Qur’an and in the universe and all that is in it. By doing so the heart would find the verses of the Qur’an informing it that there is no god worthy of worship but Allah and proving to it that any deity other than Allah is false. For these deities:
|“…possess neither hurt nor profit for themselves, and possess neither death nor life, nor power to raise the dead, “|
It will also find the entire universe testifying that the Creator is One and that He is All-Wise, All-Aware, All-Knowing, Most Kind and All-Mighty.
Only then does the heart learn that there is no god worthy of worship but Allah and that He alone is worthy of total obedience, constant remembrance and gratitude.
But is this knowledge enough for the heart to devote itself to Allah so completely? Surely it is enough for the sound heart. But those hearts which have strayed and worshipped other than Allah for too long will learn that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah but will, at the same time, continue their devotion to their false gods, knowing full well that these are of no avail to them. So what is the medicine for these diseased hearts? The cure is that the servant should stop and reflect. He should think that the life of this world is ephemeral and that the Hereafter is everlasting. He should then ask himself which one is more deserving of his efforts and devotion. He must think of his remaining alone in his grave with nothing but his deeds for company. The Prophet ﷺ said,
| “Three things follow the dead person to his grave, two of which return and one of which remains with him. His family, money and deeds accompany him [to the grave], then his family and wealth return, and his deeds stay with him. “|
He should think about his standing all alone before his Lord,
|“And truly you come to Us alone (without wealth, companions or anything else) as We created you the first time. You have left behind you all that which We had bestowed on you. We see not with you your intercessors whom you claimed to be partners with Allah. Now all relations between you and them have been cut off and all that you used to claim has vanished from you.”|
|“There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes to Most Gracious [Allah] as a slave. “|
He should think about leaving the presence of his Lord either to the Hell-Fire forever, or to a Paradise which is as wide as the heavens and the earth and which no eye has seen, no ear has heard of and no-one has thought of.
When Allah wills good for His servant, He assists and guides him to this awakening which will cause the servant’s heart to quickly surrender and return to its Creator. The servant prostrates in total submission to Him and never raises from this prostration until he meets his Lord, who will then reward him for the most excellent of his deeds and forgive his worst sins.
This is the way to purify the hearts. Only those hearts that are devoted purely to Allah are truly pious. It is a mistake to think that achieving piety and maintaining it is a job for the heart alone and that the body can by no means do that. In fact, our bodies have the greatest effect on the heart and must be prevented from committing acts of disobedience even though the self might incline to do so.
Furthermore, they should be encouraged to carry out acts of obedience even when they are disliked by the self. By engaging in a mujahidah (struggle) , the situation changes: Allah endears obedience to His servant and makes disobedience hateful to him,
|“And those who wage Jihad in Our [Cause], We will certainly guide them to Our Paths (Islam). And verily, Allah is with those who do right.)”|
1 Surah Ale-Imran (3), Ayah 102.
2 Surah Al-Ma’idah (5), Ayah 27.
3 Surah Al-A’raaf (7), Ayah 128.
4 Surah Hud (11), Ayah 49.
5 Surah Ale-Imran (3), Ayah 125.
6 Surah Al-Anfal (8), Ayah 29.
7 Surah At-Talaq (65), Ayah 2.
8 Surah At-Talaq (65), Ayah 4.
9 Surah Al-Baqarah (2), Ayah 197.
11 Tirmidhi and Ad-Darimi.
12 Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi, who said that it was a Hasan Sahih Hadeeth.
13 Bukhari and Muslim.
14 Surah Saba (34), Ayah 46.
15 Surah Al-Furqan (25), Ayah 3.
16 Bukhari and Muslim.
17 Surah Al-An’am (6), Ayah 94.
18 Surah Maryam (19), Ayah 93.
19 Surah Al-‘Ankabut (29), Ayah 69.