What is Taqwa?

Waqa [root: و ق ي ]

I waqahu وقاه to preserve ( ھsomething) [LL, HW, LQ]; to take good of ( ھsomething) [LQ, HW]; to be cautious of (something) [LL]; to safeguard, shield, shelter, preserve, protect, keep (ھ ه someone from); to guard (ھ ه someone against); to protect, offer or afford protection (ھ against); to prevent, obviate (ھ a danger) [HW]; to preserve (a thing) against any harm or injury or damage [R]

VIII ittaqa اتقى to preserve or guard oneself exceedingly or extraordinarily; to put a thing between oneself and another to preserve or guard oneself [LL]; to take as a shield [AM]

اتقى المطر  to seek shelter from rain [HW]

وقى waqy protection; safeguard [HW] 

وقاء waqa, wiqa protection; prevention [HW]

وقاية wiqaya(tun) a preservative [LL]

واق waaqin preserving; guarding; protecting; preventive; preservative; guardian; protector [13:34, 13:37, 40:21]

The meanings of the root wa-qaf-ya و ق ي is demonstrated in 16:81, where garments are mentioned as a means for protection from heat, and coats of armour for protection in fighting.

Protection from soo-al-azab is mentioned in 39:24

Protection from azab-al-jaheem is mentioned in 44:56, 52:18

Protection from azab-as-samoom is mentioned in 52:27

Protection from azab-an-naar is mentioned in 2:201, 3:16

Protection from evil (soo’) of the plots of people is mentioned in 40:45

Protection from evil (shar) of a stern, distressful day is mentioned in 76:11

Protection from niggardliness or being culpably and greedily desirous nafs is mentioned in 59:9, 64:16 [also see 4:128, 33:19 for niggardliness of nafs]

Protection from the possible harm from the disbelievers is mentioned in 3:28

Protection from fitna (affliction, tribulation) is mentioned in 8:25

Keeping form evil deeds is mentioned in 40:9

Guarding against the Day when all actions will encounter Absolute Justice and no person will avail another, and neither intercession, nor any compensation will be accepted. And no one will be helped (except by their own actions) [2:48, also see 2:123, 2:281]

[also see 36:45]

The verses in which the object of the verb form Ittiqa is An-naar [2:24, 3:131, 66:6]

The verses in which the object of the verb form ittiqa is Rabb (Allaha) [2:189, 2:194, 2:196, 2:203, 2:223, 2:231, 2:233, 2:278, 2:282, 3:50, 3:102, 3:123, 3:130, 3:200, 4:1, 4:9, 4:131, 5:2, 5:4, 5:7, 5:8, 5:11, 5:35, 5:57, 5:88, 5:96, 5:100, 5:108, 5:112, 6:72, 9:119, 33:70, 57:28, 58:9, 59:18, 8:29, 8:1, 11:78, 26:108, 26:110, 26:126, 26:131, 26:144, 26:150, 26:163, 26:179, 29:16, 30:31, 33:55, 43:63, 64:16, 65:10, 71:3] [3:198, 4:1, 22:1, 31:33, 39:10, 39:20, 39:73, 23:52]

Allah will protect Al-Muttaqeen from Azab-al-jaheem [44:56, 52:18][ Allah is the protector [40:7]; Al-Muttaqeen are the protected][52:27]

The phrase Ittaqoo-(A)llah cannot be rendered as ‘protect or guard yourself from Allah’, since Allah is not to be protected from but He is the Protector and the Guardian as 44:56, 52:18 indicate. The correct rendition may be as, ‘Take Allah as your Protector (or Guardian)’. Or it may be ‘Guard or protect yourself against the inevitable harmful consequences of violating Allah’s Commands (by carefully complying with His Guidance)’ .

Taqwa or the protection (from the harmful consequences of violating Allah’s Commands) may be achieved by:

Following the Right Guidance (i.e. the Guidance given in the Quran) [47:17, 39:28]

Following Sirat-e-Mutaqeem, as elucidated in the Quran [6:153]

Rendering Ibada to Allah (i.e. compliance with the Commands of Allah in all walks of life) [2:21]

[Also see,  2:63, 2:179, 2:183, 2:187,  2:237, 5:8, 6:51, 6:69, 7:164, 7:171]

The phrase Ittaqoo-(A)llah may also be rendered as:

‘Take Allah as a Protector (or Guardian) against the harms of this life and the hereafter [such harms as are mentioned in 39:24, 44:56, 52:18, 52:27, 2:201, 3:16, 40:45, 76:11, 59:9, 64:16, 3:28, 8:25, 2:48, 2:123, 2:281, 2:24, 3:131, 66:6] by complying with His Guidance with full care and attention [because the compliance results in taqwa (2:21, 47:17, 39:28, 6:153)]’

Or in short:

‘Take Allah as your Guardian against the harms of this life and the hereafter by complying with His Guidance with full care and attention’

The phrase Ittaqoo-(A)llah is better NOT rendered as ‘fear Allah’, since, ittiqa does not mean ‘fear’.

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In 19:85-86, the word Al-Muttaqeen has been used in contrast to Al-Mujrimeen. So Al-Muttaqeen are never Al-Mujrimeen (i.e. the criminals or, more specifically, the exploiters or those who wrongfully devour the fruits of other’s labour). The word Al-mujrimeen has also been used vs. Al-Muslimeen (i.e. those who submit to the Commands of Allah) [68:35]. Hence, Al-Muttaqeen are those who submit to the commands of Allah.

In 19:97, the word Al-Muttaqeen has been used vs. Qauman luddan (i.e. those people who are contentious, vehemently opposed, adversaries perverted to the Truth or deaf to the Truth).

In 38:28, the word Al-Muttaqeen has been used vs. Al-Fujjar (which means here those who disintegrate or lose cohesion with Allah’s Guidance). So Al-Muttaqeen are those who do not lose cohesion but cohere or adhere to or stick to Allah’s Guidance.

In 91:8, the word taqwa has been used vs. fujoor. Fujoor here means disintegration and decay while taqwa signifies preservation (of nafs against disintegration and decay)

In 13:35, the word Al-kafireen  has been used vs. those with ittiqa.

In 5:2, the word taqwa has been used vs. udwan (i.e. transgressing or exceeding beyond the Divine Limits). So taqwa is keeping within the Divine Limits.

In 26:90-91, the word Al-Muttaqeen is used vs. Al-Ghaveen [i.e. who deviate from the right way by withdrawing from the Revelations of Allah (7:175)]. So Al-Muttaqeen are those who do not withdraw but hold fast to the Revelations of Allah.

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Some of the characteristics of Muttaqeen/muttaqoon mentioned in the Quran are given below:

-Those who believe in Al-ghaib, establish salat, and keep open for the welfare for others what Allah has bestowed upon them [2:3]. Those who believe in Allah’s Revelations and Al-Akhira [2:4]

-Those who keep their wealth open for mankind in favourable as well as in adverse circumstances. They divert and sublimate their anger and potentially virulent emotions to creative energy, and become a source of tranquillity and comfort to people. They pardon people gracefully. Those who quickly correct any wrong or indecency that has occurred from them, they remember Allah, and protect themselves from trailing behind in dignity. They refrain from wilfully persisting in error. [3:133-135]

-Those who stand in awe of their Lord even in privacy, and fear the approaching Hour of accountability [21:48-49]

-Those who are the doers of the good; who rarely fall asleep at night (without reflection); who heartily seek to be guarded against their imperfections. Those in whose wealth is the Divine Right of the requester and the deprived [51:15-19]

-Those who keep on guard and when a visitation from Shaitan comes, they become mindful [7:201]

-Those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and struggle in the way of Allah with their lives and their wealth [9:44]

-Those who give away their wealth [92:17-18]

-Those who have conviction in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets, and give their wealth that they loves in reverence of Him, to:

Family and relatives
Orphans
Widows
Those left helpless in the society
Those whose hard-earned income fails to meet their basic needs
Those whose running businesses have stalled
The ones who have lost their jobs
Whose life has stalled for any reason
The disabled
The needy wayfarer, son of the street, the homeless, the one who travels to you for assistance
Those who ask for help, and
Those whose necks are burdened with any kind of bondage, oppression, crushing debts and extreme hardship of labor.

(‘Yatim’, ‘Miskin’, ‘Ibnis Sabeel’, ‘Fir-Riqab’ carry all the meanings given above).

-They (the truly righteous) strive to establish the Divine System, and set up the Just Economic Order. They are true to their promises whenever they make a promise. They remain steadfast in physical or emotional distress and in times of peril.

-Those who are in the pure and desirable state when malaika come to take their lives [16:31-32]

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In 2:2, 3:138 and 5:46, it has been stated that the Quran is huda(n)-lil-muttaqeen. This means that the Quran is guidance to the mode of life of those who preserve themselves from the perils [of this life and the Hereafter]. It may also be rendered as that Quran is the Guidance for those who wish to be preserved (and remain so) from the harms or perils of this life and the hereafter. As can be seen in 47:17, hidayat results in Taqwa (and NOT the vice versa). The verse 39:28 also makes clear that the purpose of the Quran is taqwa (of those who would follow it). So, the Quran is hidayat for becoming muttaqeen and also for remaining so. The similar rendition may also apply in 21:48, 24:34, 69:48. A paradisiacal life in this world and the hereafter is for those who become muttaqeen (by following Allah’s Guidance) [3:133, 19:63, 26:90, 43:35, 50:31, 68:34, ]

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References:

Al-Qur'an 

LL: Lane’s Lexicon by E. W. Lane

LA: Lisan-ul-Arab by Ibn-e-Manzoor

M: Mufradat fi Gharib-ul-Quran by Raghib

K: Kamoos-ul-Muheet by Muhammad bin Yaqoob Al-Feroz Abadi

LQ: Lughat-ul-Quran by G.A. Parvez

AM: Dictionary of the Quran by Abdul Mannan

HW: Hans-Wehrs dictionary of modern Arabic