اقترب للناس حسابهم و هم في غفلة معرضون
“The Reckoning is ever drawing closer to Mankind, yet they are woefully heedless of it, turning away.” [Q: 21: 1]
The Hour is upon us all. At least that is the way we Muslims should always be perceiving the Hour. None of us knows when it will arrive, be it the Final Hour or our own demise. The previous āyah, from suwrah al-Anbiyā’ demonstrates the sense of urgency that man should have but often doesn’t. This is mainly due to ghaflah, or heedlessness. Interesting to note as well: This āyah does not distinguish between Muslim/non-Muslim. In other words, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike can fall victim to heedlessness – we must be vigilant in watching against it.
In the English language we have a saying: “Strike while the iron is hot.” This aphorism can serve as a great reminder to us all in this day and age. We should not be wasting any time in vain pursuits but rather in perfecting our Islam, our character. For as the hadith says:
أثقل ما يوضع في الميزان يوم القيامة تقوى الله, و حسن الخلق
“The heaviest thing to be weighed on the Scale on the Day of Judgment will be taqwā of God and goodness of character.”
In relation to the above, which clearly articulates the importance of taqwā and good character, we must bring these two aspects of Muslim life and morality into being. And as for striking when opportunity knocks, this is in accordance with the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet [s], where he says this about opportunity/charity:
لأن يتصدق المرء في حياته بدرهام خير له من أن يتصدق بمائة عند موته
“It is better for a man to give a single dirhām in charity during his lifetime than to donate a hundred at his demise.”
No time to waste – strike while the iron is before the Fire is hot!
So now that we’ve heard about taqwā we have to ask, what is it? Let’s examine a couple of aspects:
The scholar, at-Tabrīzī gives us a good starting point:
ألإتقاء أن تجعل بينك و بين ما تخافه حاجزا يحفظك
“Taqwā is the idea that you [A] place something [C] between yourself and that which you fear could destroy you [B].”
Taqwā, in a sense, is a type of self-defense or self-preservation system or technique to ward off destruction by placing something between yourself and that impending doom. For us as Muslims, that pending doom is the ‘adhāb of Allah – the Divine Chastisement.
The word taqwā existed in the Jāhilī times. In the Mu’allaqah, Zuhayr boldly states:
سأقضي حاجتي ثم أتقي * عدوي بألفٍ من ورائِىَ ملجَمِ
“I will satisfy my vengeance [on my brother’s killer by taking his life!], then I will defend myself from their reprisal with a thousand horses, all bridled in support of my cause!”
This idea of guarding oneself coincides with the Qur’ān’s many uses of taqwā. One example from suwrah al-Baqarah:
و اتقوا يوما لا تجزي نفسٌ عن نفسٍ شيئا و لا يُقبَل منها شفاعة و لا يوخذ منها عدْل و لا هم ينصَرون
“Defend yourself against a day that will come where no soul shall be of assistance to another whatsoever – nor shall it put forth an intercessor in its place – no compensation will be taken from it – nor shall there be anyone to come to its aid.” [Q: 2:47]
To summarize, taqwā is a means of protecting and guarding oneself from Allah’s Divine Punishment.
Second part of the khutbah we’ll examine another aspect of the taqwā /akhlāq relationship and that’s wara’.
Taking Stock – Wara’
In order to affect change in ourselves we must first, turn to Allah and ask Him to change us, to make us better Muslims. To make sincere istigfār [asking for forgiveness] and tawbah [repentence]. The second is then to take stock of our mental, physical, and especially, spiritual selves, and seek means to rectify them. In the science of Tasawwuf, one of those means is termed wara’ [ورع]. Some helpful translations would be: scrupulousness, conscientious, critical thinking, fastidious, heedful, honest, meticulous, moral, particular, precise, rigorous, principled, and so forth. In the Arabic language, the dictionary meaning of wara’ itself means: to pause, give examination, or hesitate.
To help concretize what it means to do wara’ in our daily lives, and how it relates to taqwā, let’s look at our Intellectual Tradition:
Imam al-Ghazālī and Imam al-Haddād list several of these as steps to obtaining and practicing wara’:
In a sound hadīth, the Prophet [s] said:
من اتقى الشبهات فقد استبرأ لدينه و عرضه
“The one who guards [taqwā] himself from falling into dubious actions has protected his religion and his his honor.”
و من وقع في الشبهات وقع في الحرام
“And for the one who falls into dubious actions then he falls into the Harām.”
The use of the word taqwā in this hadīth shows again that taqwā is that self-defense mechanism – in this case, defending oneself from Allah’s Punishment by avoiding “grey areas”. That is the hājiz – the barrierو that at-Tabrīzī spoke of earlier, that can ward off the Chastisment of Allah. For the believer, wara’ becomes a habitual act of being scrupulous, or heedful, which negates ghaflah, or heedlessness.
So we should busy ourselves with what concerns us most – our own demises; our families; our children; our health; our wealth; our communities; our character. In one week alone, Allah showed us clear signs of the Hour, Big or Small: Michael Jackson. Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. Billy Mays. Celebrity is no guard from the Hour. Big or Small. Contemplate on it – prepare for it. Do not wait to give that single dirham on your deathbed – give it now, in sha’Allah.
May Allah make us the people of ‘irfān, the people who realize and actualize Lā ilāha illa Allah in their public and private lives. Amin.
We close now with a du’ah from the Prophet Muhammad [s] regarding the condition of the world we live in, asking Allah to protect us from its fitnah, so our souls may have salvation on the Day of Judgment:
اللهم إني أعوذ بك من قلب لا يخشع
و دعاء لا يسمع
و من نفس لا يشبع
و من علم لا ينفع
اللهم إني أعوذ بك من هؤلاء الأربع
“O’ Allah! I seek protection in you from a heart that has no humility,
And from a supplication that is not heard,
And from a soul that cannot be satiated,
And from knowledge that has no benefit.
O’ Allah!, I seek refuge in you from all four of these!