Extend your support to the needy. Do your part and donate for ibadah Qurban this Eid .                             Extend your support to the needy. Do your part and donate for ibadah Qurban this Eid .                             Extend your support to the needy. Do your part and donate for ibadah Qurban this Eid .                             Extend your support to the needy. Do your part and donate for ibadah Qurban this Eid .                             Extend your support to the needy. Do your part and donate for ibadah Qurban this Eid .

What is Taqwa and How to Build It

Naushin Abid
Preface
Have you ever been to an end of year sale where the brand has applied a considerable discount on your favourite plus they have introduced a deal in which you can buy two items or three items with the purchase of a single item as an additional deal ? Most of us wait for this end of year sale gala where we can obtain similar items which were earlier available at exuberant prices at a discounted cost plus extra gifts at no additional cost.
Content
Chapter 01

Introduction

Similarly a pious or muttaqi believer is one who attains not just the worldly benefits of taqwa at a very low cost or effort but in addition to that there are numerous unimaginable benefits of attaining taqwa in the hereafter starting from the pleasure and nearness of Allah the exalted to His innumerable blessings and rewards.
This article will guide a reader through the step by step process in a concise manner about the meaning of taqwa, its significance in the light of Quran and hadith, how to attain, the qualities of muttaqi and pious ones, its rewards and benefits, examples from the lives of pious predecessors, the regular dhikr one can do easily on regular basis, how taqwa is linked to ramadan and some short practical advices from our religious scholars to sustain it afterwards throughout the year as well.
Chapter 02

Definition of Taqwa:

Literal definition: What is Taqwa?
Taqwa meaning: (Arabic: تقوى‎ taqwā / taqwá) is an Islamic term for being conscious and cognizant of God, of truth, "piety, fear of God." This term is most often found in the Quran. Those who practice taqwa — in the words of Hazrat Ibn Abbas ( May Allah the Almighty be pleased with him), "believers who avoid Shirk with Allah The Almighty and who work in His obedience" — are called muttaqin (Arabic: لْ المُتَّقِين‎ al-muttaqin).
( Definition derived from wikipedia)
The word “Taqwã” is derived from the verb waqã, which literally means to preserve, protect, safeguard, shield, etc. The Arabic word taqwa means "forbearance, fear and abstinence.

Theological definition:

Some descriptions of the term Taqwa or piety from Islamic sources include:
  • "God consciousness ... piousness, fear of Allah The Almighty, love for AllahThe Glorious, and self restraint".
  • "God-consciousness or God-fearing piety", "virtue", "wariness"
  • Fear of Allah the Exalted, "being careful, knowing your place in the cosmos". "Proof" of Taqwa is the "experience of awe" of God, which "inspires a person to be on guard against wrong action" and eager to do the things which please Allah the Exalted.
  • literally "to protect". In general, to protect yourself "from the Wrath of Allah" by not "indulging in things that Allah the Almighty forbids".
  • "a high state of heart, which keeps one conscious of Allah's presence and His Knowledge." Taqwa motivates the person who possesses it "to perform righteous deeds" and avoid forbidden activities.
  • According to Erik Ohlander, in Quranic Arabic, taqwa refers to fear of God in terms of protecting oneself from displeasing God.
( For reference details for each of these definitions, please see the list of references below, reference number four).
In other words, the overall meaning of Taqwa and its interpretation can be based on two broad perspectives, mainly:
  • To have absolute fear of Allah the Exalted.
  • To abstain from sins, which in other words means, staying away from any and every form of disobedience of Allah the Exalted, whether it is a minor or major form of disobedience, it is all included in the context of the term “sin”.
  • As Allah the Almighty says in Quran in Surah Anam, Chapter 6: Verse 120)
وَذَرُوۡا ظَاهِرَ الۡاِثۡمِ وَبَاطِنَهٗ‌ؕ اِنَّ الَّذِيۡنَ یَکْسِبُوۡنَ الۡاِثۡمَ سَيُجۡزَوۡنَ بِمَا كَانُوۡا يَقۡتَرِفُوۡنَ‏
Avoid committing sin,whether openly or in secret, for those who commit sin will be repaid for what they do.
Hence we can conclude from this that taqwa is abstaining from sins and disobedience of Allah the Almighty through attaining the fear of Allah the Exalted in one’s heart.
 This fear can be in terms of the fear of punishment , fear of entering the hellfire, fear of displeasing Allah the Exalted. So once this fear is implanted inside a believer’s heart, mind, body and soul it will eventually protect and prevent him from doing any such act which might lead to the displeasure and disobedience of Allah the Glorious and result in punishment and penalty in this world and Hereafter.

Taqwa in the light of Quranic verses and Hadith:

  • According to Erik Ohlander, the word taqwa is used in the Qur'an over 100 times. 
  • According to the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, the word taqwa and its derivatives appear "more than 250 times" in the Qur'an.
  • According to religious scholars , the term Taqwa is the most emphasized command given to the believers in Quranic scripture as well as Hadith. In fact it is so commonly repeated that no other command comes with so much reinforcement and emphasis.
As for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , he often emphasized on the importance of being muttaqin, during his address to the believers. 
The imperative form of taqwa is found in the phrase Ittaqullah ("fear God" or "be aware of Allah"), is in a number of verses which comes to a total of 55. ( Source; wikipedia .org).
In the Quran Allah the Exalted has addressed the believers with the term taqwa at 13 instances.
Since there are so many verses which encompass this term taqwa hence it is not within the scope of this article to mention all of them, therefore, only a selected number of verses related to taqwa in Quran will be reviewed.
In surah Al-Baqarah, chapter 2: verse 2, in the beginning Allah the Almighty has mentioned that this Quran is a book or scripture in which there is no doubt and in it there is guidance for those who possess Taqwa.
ذٰلِكَ الۡڪِتٰبُ لَا رَيۡبَ ۛۚ ۖ فِيۡهِ ۛۚ هُدًى لِّلۡمُتَّقِيۡنَۙ
This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God,
Since there are so many verses which encompass this term taqwa hence it is not within the scope of this article to mention all of them, therefore, only a selected number of verses related to taqwa in Quran will be reviewed.
In Surah Aal e Imran, Chapter 3: Verse 200, Allah the Exalted is commanding the believers to instill HIS fear in themselves, hence in this manner they may gain ultimate success in the Hereafter.
يٰۤاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا اصۡبِرُوۡا وَصَابِرُوۡا وَرَابِطُوۡا وَاتَّقُوۡا اللّٰهَ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تُفۡلِحُوۡنَ‏
You who believe, be steadfast, more steadfast than others; be ready; always be mindful of God, so that you may prosper.
In Surah Al e Imran, Chapter 3:Verse 20, Allah The Almighty is commanding the believers to fear Him as it is HIS right to do so.
يٰۤاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا اتَّقُوۡا اللّٰهَ حَقَّ تُقٰتِهٖ وَلَا تَمُوۡتُنَّ اِلَّا وَاَنۡتُمۡ مُّسۡلِمُوۡنَ‏
You who believe, be mindful of God, as is His due, and make sure you devote yourselves to Him, to your dying moment.
In surah AshShuara, Chapter 26: Verse 131 and multiple other verses, there are various stories of different Prophets and at the end of each, every prophet is making a sincere effort to address his people and bring them to the path of taqwa and of belief in Allah the Almighty and righteousness.
فَاتَّقُوۡا اللّٰهَ وَاَطِيۡعُوۡنِ‌ۚ
“be mindful of God and obey me.’
In Surah Al-Nisaa , Chapter #4, verse # 131, Allah the Almighty is addressing the believers
وَلَـقَدۡ وَصَّيۡنَا الَّذِيۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡكِتٰبَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِكُمۡ وَاِيَّاكُمۡ اَنِ اتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ‌ؕ
We have commanded those who were given the Scripture before
you, and We command you, to be mindful of God. Even if you do
ignore Him, everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him,and He is self-sufficient, worthy of all praise.
In Surah Tauba, Chapter #9: Verse 119,
يٰۤـاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اتَّقُوۡا اللّٰهَ وَكُوۡنُوۡا مَعَ الصّٰدِقِيۡنَ
You who believe, be mindful of God: stand with those who are true.
In the light of the above verses , the significance of Taqwa is evident, since Allah the Exalted is commanding the believers at so many instances to attain and practice it.

Taqwa In the light of Hadith or Prophetic narrationsﷺ:

 The importance of Taqwa is equally significant in Hadith as well as seen from the narrations below :
  • The Prophet ﷺ used to begin most of his Khutbas or sermons to the believers by the words: أوصيكم الله, which is interpreted as “ I give you command to be wary and fearful of Allah the Exalted.
  • On the authority of Abu Huraira ( May Allah the exalted be pleased with him ), narrated from Prophet Muhammad ﷺ :: The survival or sustenance of a person’s religion is entirely based on taqwa. In other words it means that just like the heart is a means of survival for the human body, similarly taqwa is so essential and indispensable for the deen of a believer. 
  • Abu Hurairah( May Allah the Almighty be pleased with him), narrated that the Messenger of Allahﷺ was asked about that for which people are admitted into Paradise the most, so he said: “Taqwa of Allah, and good character.” And he was asked about that for which people are admitted into the Fire the most, and he said: “The mouth and the private parts.” (Tirmidhi)
  • Sulaim bin Amir narrated: “I heard Abu Umamah saying: I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ giving a Khutbah during the Farewell Hajj, and he said: ‘Have Taqwa of your Lord, and pray your five (prayers), and fast your month, and pay the Zakat on your wealth, and obey those who are in charge of you, you will enter the Paradise of your Lord.’” (Tirmidhi)
  • Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, ﷺ said, “Do you know what it is that makes most people enter the Fire?” “Allah and His Messenger know best,” they said. He said, “The two empty ones: the genitals and the mouth. Do you know what it is that makes most people enter the Garden? Taqwa of Allah the Almighty and good character.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)
  • Ibn ‘Umar (May Allah the Almighty be pleased with him)said, “Whoever has taqwa of his Lord and maintains ties of kinship, his term of life will be prolonged, his wealth will be abundant, and his family will love him.” (Al Adab al-Mufrad)
  • “The Messenger of Allahﷺ said to me: ‘Have Taqwa of Allah the Exalted wherever you are, and follow an evil deed with a good one to wipe it out, and treat the people with good behavior.” (Tirmidhi)
  • Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ gave a Khutbah to the people on the day of the conquest of Makkah, and he said: “O you people! Verily Allah has removed the slogans of Jahiliyyah from you, and its reverence of its forefathers. So, now there are two types of men: A man who is righteous, has Taqwa and honorable before Allah the Exalted, and a wicked man, who is miserable and insignificant to Allah the Almighty.” (Tirmidhi)

Advice before Istikhara Prayer

It is viewed as a decent practice to counsel somebody who has sufficient insight, experience and information with respect to a matter prior to doing Istikhara for it. Allah the Merciful notices in the Qur'an:
وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ
“Consult with them about matters.” (3:159)
Chapter 03

Taqwa From Islamic Scholars’ Perspective: ( Examples Of Taqwa)

The Levels of Taqwa:

There are three levels of taqwa or God consciousness as pointed out by various Muslim scholars and shariah experts on spiritual purification or tazkiyah.They are as below.

1. Highest Level of Taqwa: ( Characteristics of Muttaqin)

Ideally this is the level which every believer should strive and aim for. As this is indeed the level of the most pious predecessors who observed piety of the highest degree.
This highest level entails removal of all entities other than Allah the Almighty from the heart and negation of self as well. This is the level achieved by all Prophets ( May Allah the Almighty have mercy on them ), the Wali or spiritual shaykh, the truthful and sincere ones like the companions. These people removed everything which led to a love of ghair Ullah or other then Allah the Exalted from their lives. Their entire being revolved around the single entity of Allah the exalted and nobody else. Everything was molded around shariah and commandments of islam.
Moreover we get to know about the characteristics of these pious ones from the very first few verses of Surah Al Baqarah, Chapter 2: verses 2-5)
ذٰلِكَ الۡڪِتٰبُ لَا رَيۡبَ ۛۚ ۖ فِيۡهِ ۛۚ هُدًى لِّلۡمُتَّقِيۡنَۙ‏ ﴿۲﴾الَّذِيۡنَ يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِالۡغَيۡبِ وَ يُقِيۡمُوۡنَ الصَّلٰوةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقۡنٰهُمۡ يُنۡفِقُوۡنَۙ‏ ﴿۳﴾وَالَّذِيۡنَ يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِمَآ اُنۡزِلَ اِلَيۡكَ وَمَآ اُنۡزِلَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِكَۚ وَبِالۡاٰخِرَةِ هُمۡ يُوۡقِنُوۡنَؕ‏ ﴿۴﴾اُولٰٓٮِٕكَ عَلٰى هُدًى مِّنۡ رَّبِّهِمۡ‌ وَاُولٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ الۡمُفۡلِحُوۡنَ‏ ﴿۵﴾
This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt,b containing guidance for those who are mindful of God, 3 who believe in the unseen,keep up the prayer,a and give out of what We have provided for them; 4 those who believe in the revelation sent down to you[Muhammad], and in what was sent before you, those who have firm faith in the Hereafter. 5Such people are following their Lord’s guidance and it is they who will prosper.
As seen from these verses, there are five characteristics which are mentioned here for these muttaqin.
1. First characteristic is that they are on the righteous path from their Lord since they believe in the unseen, which is everything to do with islamic creed the angels, the prophets, the hereafter and Allah the Almighty.
2.  Second characteristic is that they establish salah or prayers.  
3.  Third is that they give charity in the path of Allah the Exalted from the wealth they have been blessed with.
4.  Fourth characteristic is that they believe on the scripture which is Quran revealed on the Prophet Muhammadﷺ  and all the prior scritptures revealed on prophets sent before him.
5. Fifth and final characteristic which is amongst the most significant ones is that they have complete yaqeen or belief in the Akhirah or hereafter.

2. Lowest Level of Taqwa:

This is the bare minimum level of taqwa.It is complete and absolute abstinence from shirk or polytheism. This is essential for every muslimto retain, if he or she wants to remain on Islamic aqeedah or islamic creed.

3. Moderate level of taqwa:

A believer should not go below this level. He should aim for this level and after attaining it sustain this level to the utmost degree. This level consists of staying away from every form of sin and disobedience of shariah commandments. This level has three further degrees from lowest to highest as illustrated in a chart form below.

1. Leaving haram, prohibited or unlawful acts:

This consists of leaving each and every type of unlawful act which has been prohibited by the shariah and legal rulings.

2. Leaving the disliked acts:

This is a degree lower than the haram or unlawful acts. However there should be a sustained degree of effort made towards leaving this category of sin as well.

3. Leaving the lawful but time wasteful acts:

These are a long list of deeds which are although allowed by the shariah however due to their time wasting and use less nature, it is recommended to abstain from them as well. There is a simple rule or principle for this category, which is no loss but no profit as well. Since a person is not getting sinful by indulging in these acts but on the other hand he is not earning any rewards as well. Especially if the benefit of Akhirah is considered then there are many such acts in our daily lives which we are constantly engaging in and wasting our time on a regular basis without even realizing it.
Chapter 04

The rewards and benefits of attaining Taqwa in Islam:

The entire Quran is filled with the rewards and benefits of Taqwa. Its virtues are innumerable out of which only few are being mentioned here briefly.
1. Love of Allah the Almighty.
2. Allah the Almighty grants His Qurb or nearness . As He says in the following verses that He is with the Muttaqin.
 This is mentioned in three places in the Quran.
In first place in Surah Al-Baqarah, chapter 2: verse 194, Allah the Almighty commands the believers to be fearful of exceeding the limits and boundaries of legal or shariah rulings,and be mindful of them as He is with the muttaqin or the ones who are mindful of Him.
الشَّهۡرُ الۡحَـرَامُ بِالشَّهۡرِ الۡحَـرَامِ وَالۡحُرُمٰتُ قِصَاصٌ‌ؕ فَمَنِ اعۡتَدٰى عَلَيۡكُمۡ فَاعۡتَدُوۡا عَلَيۡهِ بِمِثۡلِ مَا اعۡتَدٰى عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَاتَّقُوۡا اللّٰهَ وَاعۡلَمُوۡٓا اَنَّ اللّٰهَ مَعَ الۡمُتَّقِيۡنَ‏
God decrees that there are twelve months– ordained in God’sBook on the Day when He created the heavens and earth– four months of which are sacred:b this is the correct calculation.c Do not wrong your souls in these months– though you may fight the
idolaters at any time,d if they first fight you– remember that God is with those who are mindful of Him.
يٰۤـاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا قَاتِلُوۡا الَّذِيۡنَ يَلُوۡنَكُمۡ مِّنَ الۡكُفَّارِ وَلۡيَجِدُوۡا فِيۡكُمۡ غِلۡظَةً‌ ؕ وَاعۡلَمُوۡاۤ اَنَّ اللّٰهَ مَعَ الۡمُتَّقِيۡنَ
You who believe, fight the disbelievers near you and let them find you standing firm: be aware that God is with those who are mindful of Him.
These people are on the path to righteousness. They will attain ultimate success in the hereafter and anyone who wants to succeed and remain on the path of righteousness should follow the muttaqin.
To differentiate between the truth and the evil. This quality will be awarded to the muttaqin as well.
They will obtain forgiveness for their sins that they have committed. This ability will be granted to them. As Allah the Almighty mentioned in surah Anfal, Chapter 8: Verse 29,
يٰۤاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اِنۡ تَتَّقُوۡا اللّٰهَ يَجۡعَل لَّـكُمۡ فُرۡقَانًا وَّيُكَفِّرۡ عَنۡكُمۡ سَيِّاٰتِكُمۡ وَيَغۡفِرۡ لَـكُمۡ‌ؕ وَ اللّٰهُ ذُوۡ الۡفَضۡلِ الۡعَظِيۡمِ‏
Believers, if you remain mindful of God, He will give you a criterion [to tell right
from wrong] and wipe out your bad deeds, and forgive you: God’s favour is great indeed.
The muttaqin will get immense rewards which are unaccountable. As it is mentioned in Surah Mulk( Chapter 67: verse 12).
اِنَّ الَّذِيۡنَ يَخۡشَوۡنَ رَبَّهُمۡ بِالۡغَيۡبِ لَهُمۡ مَّغۡفِرَةٌ وَّاَجۡرٌ كَبِيۡرٌ
But there is forgiveness and a great reward for those who fear their Lord though they cannot see Him.
In another place in the7. Quran in Surah Talaq, ( Chapter 65:Verse 5).
ذٰلِكَ اَمۡرُ اللّٰهِ اَنۡزَلَهٗۤ اِلَيۡكُمۡ‌ؕ وَمَنۡ يَّتَّقِ اللّٰهَ يُكَفِّرۡ عَنۡهُ سَيِّاٰتِهٖ وَيُعۡظِمۡ لَهٗۤ اَجۡرًا‏ 
This is God’s command, which He has sent down to you. God will wipe out the sinful deeds and increase the rewards of anyone who is mindful of Him.
Allah the Almighty will grant him ease from every suffering and hardship ; those who are muttaqin and observe taqwa will be granted relief and sustenance from unimaginable sources. As Allah the Exalted mentions in surah Talaq, (Chapter 65:verses 2,3,4).
وَمَنۡ يَّتَّقِ اللّٰهَ يَجۡعَل لَّهٗ مَخۡرَجًاۙ‏
Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should heed this:
God will find a way out for those who are mindful of Him, 3 and will provide for them from an unexpected source; God will be enough for those who put their trust in Him. God achieves His purpose; God has set a due measure for everything.
Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should heed this:
God will find a way out for those who are mindful of Him, 3 and will provide for them from an unexpected source; God will be enough for those who put their trust in Him. God achieves His purpose; God has set a due measure for everything.
The muttaqin will enter paradise effortlessly and with comfort .
The doors of heaven and earth will open for them in terms of Barakah or multiplicity in their provisions. This is mentioned in Surah Al-A'raf ( Chapter7:Verse 96)
وَلَوۡ اَنَّ اَهۡلَ الۡقُرٰٓى اٰمَنُوۡا وَاتَّقَوۡا لَـفَتَحۡنَا عَلَيۡهِمۡ بَرَكٰتٍ مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ وَالۡاَرۡضِ وَلٰـكِنۡ كَذَّبُوۡا فَاَخَذۡنٰهُمۡ بِمَا كَانُوۡا يَكۡسِبُوۡنَ‏
If the people of those towns had believed and been mindful of God, We would have showered them with blessings from the heavens and earth, but they rejected the truth and so We punished them for their misdeeds.
It is the benchmark for the respect and importance or preference of a believer in the eyes of Allah the Exalted. As it was announced by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in his address to the companions at the Final Hajj Khutbah that verily in the eyes of Allah the Almighty the most preferred is the one who is the highest in piety in islam or the muttaqin. It comes in Surah Hujurat,( Chapter 49: verse 13),
 يٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اِنَّا خَلَقۡنٰكُمۡ مِّنۡ ذَكَرٍ وَّاُنۡثٰى وَجَعَلۡنٰكُمۡ شُعُوۡبًا وَّقَبَآٮِٕلَ لِتَعَارَفُوۡا‌ؕ اِنَّ اَكۡرَمَكُمۡ عِنۡدَ اللّٰهِ اَتۡقٰٮكُمۡ‌ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ عَلِيۡمٌ خَبِيۡرٌ
People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should recognize one another. In God’s eyes, the most honoured of you are the ones most mindful of Him: God is all knowing, all aware.
 It is also the benchmark or standard of friendship or Wilayah of Allah the Almighty. As it comes in Surah Yunus, chapter 10:verse 62,63)
اَلَاۤ اِنَّ اَوۡلِيَآءَ اللّٰهِ لَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَلَا هُمۡ يَحۡزَنُوۡنَۖ ۚ‏ ﴿۶۲﴾الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَكَانُوۡا يَتَّقُوۡنَؕ‏ ﴿۶۳﴾
But for those who are on God’s side there is no fear, nor shall they grieve.63For those who believe and are conscious of God, 64 for them there is good news in this life and in the Hereafter– there is no changing the promises of God– that is truly the supreme triumph.
Taqwa is the means for attaining the qurb of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , as it is evident from a hadith that comes in Masnad Ahmed, regarding the farewell dialogue between Hazrat Muaz May Allah be pleased with him, and Prophet Muhammad ﷺ when the former was being sent to Yemen as a Qadhi. At that time Prophet Muhammad ﷺ predicted that it may not be possible for them to meet again, so he gave a final advise in which he was quoted as saying “ Verily it may be our last or final meeting, and surely theclosest and preferred one to me are the muttaqin, no matter who they may be or where they may be from”.
Taqwa is the most desirable form of worship, as quoted by Hazrat Ayesha May Allah the Almighty be pleased with her : “ Stay away from sins, there is no form of worship better than this”.
The person who wants barakah in his sustenance or provisions and in his life must stay away from sins and an undesirable death. That is another quality of the muttaqin.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ once said that “ Those who fear Allah the Almighty are the ones who acquire the most piety in Islam and they are the best in the eyes of Allah the Almighty.

How to develop/increase the quality of Taqwa:

Make earnest and sincere dua and plead to Allah the Almighty for attaining taqwa.
To have a strong will power and use his utmost ability to stay away from sins of any sort whether minor or major since according to reputed scholars, sins are like cancer , they eat away at a person's piety much like cancer does to the body's healthy cells and tissues. Sooner or later a person’s resistance becomes weak and they give in to the temptations and base desires of their inner self ego or Nafs. Gradually the spiritual heart or qalb becomes decayed with the effects the sins leave on it and it becomes weak. According to a famous well known narration of beloved Prophet Muhammadﷺ :
“ When a person commits a sin, a black dot appears on his heart. If he makes immediate repentance or tauba that dot is wiped away, however if he does not repent and continues to commit sinning these black dots keep increasing till the entire spiritual heart is blackened”.
A person needs to control his inner self or ego through continuous reminders of facing Allah the exalted in hereafter, and Akhirah and facing his death and grave. Then only will he have fear of committing sins and be inclined towards piety.
To remain in company of the pious and muttaqin and avoid the company of people who are doing sinful activities and oblivious to the commands of shariah.
To be aware of any and all forms of tools, devices, and environment which pave the way for disobedience and sinful activities.
To acquire sufficient knowledge of Quran and hadith and legal rulings of shariah so he is aware of the punishments and Allah the Almighty’s displeasure on disobeying His commands.
To abstain as much as possible from all sinful environments whether at work, school, or homeland all the sources that lead towards committing sinful activities.
The more a person remains in a sinful environment where there is constant disobedience of the commands of sharah and activities being carried out which are displeasing to Allah the glorious then obviously he will end up doing the same sinful things no matter how pious that person himself might be.
To recite the Quran and obtain the ilm or sacred knowledge with this intention that he or she wants to stay away from committing sins and know the qualities of the muttaqin salihin.
To stay away from all such kind of websites , social media platforms, TV channels and speakers who are not authentic ulema or religious scholars and are poisoning the mind of our youth and general public with incorrect information and misleading them , creating doubts and agnosticism against Islam.
To listen to the lectures and talks of authentic ulema or religious scholars, attend their gatherings, read the books and biographies of our pious predecessors , like the companions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , and seerah books.
One should also go through the authentic texts of scholars who have written about the various forms and types of sins in order to develop awareness about them and their punishments. This will create fear and abstinence from disobeying Allah the Exalted.
Chapter 05

Ramadan and Taqwa:

The characteristic of taqwa is the entire essence of our deen Islam. To attain piety in islam as seen from the above mentioned verses of Quran is the most stressed upon and significant aspect of our religion. In fact when it comes to the faraid or the religious obligations on a muslim, an entire obligation is based on this characteristic of taqwa, which is saum or fasting in ramadan. As Allah the Glorious mentions in a detailed verse in Surah Al baqarah that the main purpose of Ramadan is not fasting but in fact it is to attain Taqwa through it. As mentioned in Chapter 2: verse 183)
يٰٓاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا كُتِبَ عَلَيۡکُمُ الصِّيَامُ کَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِيۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَۙ‏
183You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God.

How to develop/increase the quality of Taqwa:

The very reason behind fasting is that one must control the inner self or the ego/Nafs by depriving the nafs of it’s base desires which are mainly food, drink and intercourse. If these base desires are under control then the Nafs is also controlled and gets weakened with time.Since we have to understand that what drives the nafs are these temptations and urges and once they are controlled the nafs is weakened and the soul gets its strength through the strengthening of the spiritual heart or Qalb. Hence the urge or temptation to commit the sins is also minimized to a greater degree and one is inclined towards performing good deeds, righteous conduct and morality thus resulting in attaining Taqwa.

Ramadan is a boot camp for the believer’s journey to attain Taqwa:

So in fact this one month of Ramadan is meant to be a special training or a boot camp for the believers, so that they may practice the quality of taqwa for the entire year or eleven months. It is not just meant to be practiced in the blessed month of ramadan and then left for good, rather that is the purpose behind every training or boot camp that the characteristics, skills acquired should be learnt and inculcated in the long term otherwise the companies or organizations would neer go to such lengths to provide these skill development workshops or training programs if their employer won't benefit from them and take the learning points forward as part of their action strategies and goals for future progress.
Similarly Allah the Almighty requires from his believers that they take the taqwa from Ramadan boot camp training of the nafs or ego and carry it forward for their entire life and not just leave it for every month of ramadan. Otherwise the purpose of this month is lost. Since all of it is connected through the fasting and starving one’s ego of its urges and demands . Moreover, that is the practice of our pious predecessors who used to regularly fast not just in Ramadan but for the entire year they would engage in voluntary fasts and prayers and eat very little.

Praying Qiyaam al Layl or Tahajjud prayer:

Another way is also praying Qiyam ul Layl or tahajjud is another way to train the nafs or ego towards self control. As Allah the Almighty mentioned in Surah Muzammil that indeed the getting up of a believer at night to pray is very tough on the nafs and breaks its habit of indulging in its favourite activities like eating, sleeping etc.One must work tirelessly on preventing the ego from fulfilling its every command and need , only then will this prize quality of taqwa will be awarded. (Surah Muzammil, Chapter 73:verse #6)
اِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ الَّيۡلِ هِىَ اَشَدُّ وَطۡـأً وَّاَقۡوَمُ قِيۡلاًؕ‏
Night prayer makes a deeper impression and sharpens words––7 you are kept busy for long periods of the day––8 so celebrate the name of your Lord and devote yourself wholeheartedly to Him.

Crushing the ego- An absolute essential and prerequisite to taqwa:

As Allah the Almighty calls the person who listens to every whim and whisper of the ego and says: ' Have you not seen the one who follows the commands of their ego and rushes to fulfill them?’ Are you not amazed at that person who has made their God or deity the ego or nafs? He rushes to please and satisfy his ego rather than pleasing his Lord and Creator. In the process he ends up committing a long list of sinful acts without bare minimum realization.

Conclusion:

The conclusion is that crushing and overpowering the nafs or self ego is an absolute essential requirement as a preclude to attaining taqwa. Rest will just fall in place after that and Ramadan fasting is the key to it. This is the commencement of the spiritual journey of the believer towards his creator Allah the Exalted,to become even more beloved to His master and please Him. This is the target or aim every muslim believer must strive to acheive . This will open the doors of paradise in the Akhirah the life of hereafter which is permanent and much exalted when seen in comparison with this inferior temporary world of delusion and deception. A momin or believer was never created for this world of illusion , rather their soul is always searching for the place it came from and where it will return, which is to Allah the Glorious who created it in the first place.
The muttaqin realize this special characteristic of taqwa and their soul rides high to conquer the nafs or ego since the ego is crushed so they have no problem in dealing with the foolish whims and whispers and disregard them for the fruits and gardens of the Paradise in hereafter.
Chapter 06

Duas and dhikr for attaining Taqwa:

In the end some preferred and masnoon duas adhkar recommended by our pious predecessors are being mentioned. If practiced regularly and earnestly with the right and proper intention, it will if Allah the exalted wills will lead to attaining Taqwa.

Duas:

There are some duas recommended by our pious predecessors from the sunnah of our beloved prophet Muhammad ﷺ .
اللهم اتی نفسی تقواها وا زکها انت خیر من زکها انت ولیھا و مولھا
Translation: O’ my Lord, grant my nafs the taqwa it desires, and purify it, indeed , verily you are The One Who can purify it, as You are the companion of this nafs and You are its saviour.
اللهم انی اسئلک هدی و تقی والعفاف والغنی
Translation: O’ my Lord I beg you to grant me righteousness , taqwa, obliviousness ( from this world) and forgiveness. ( Sahih al-Muslim, Hadith 2721)
اللھم الھمنی رشد ی و اعزنی من شر نفسیی
Translation: O’ Allah the Almighty grant me the right path, and save me from the evil of my nafs or ego.
 اللهم اجعل وساوس قلبی خشیتک و ذکرک و اجعل ھمتی و ھوای فی ما تحب و ترضی
Translation: O’ Allah the Exalted, turn the devil whisperings of evil of my heart into your fear and remembrance and transform my will and efforts and the base desires and whims of my ego/nafs into the form that is most pleasing to you.
 اعوذ بالله السمیع العلیم من الشیطان الرجیم من ھمزہ و نغخہ و نفثہ
 لا حول و ولا و ولا قوة الا بالله
Translation: I seek refuge with Allah the Almighty who is All hearing and All Knowing, from the satan devil the outcast, from the satanic whispers and his instigation and his breaths that he blows in my chest and from his voice . ( Abu Dawood:Hadith 775)
There is no might and no power except by Allah the Exalted.( Al-Bukhari, Hadith 6384)
اللهم رحمتک ارجو فلا تکلنی الی نفسی طرفتہ عین و اصلح لی شانی کله لا الہ الا انت
Translation: O’ Allah I hope for your mercy, hence do not leave me to myself even for the blinking of an eye. Correct all my matters for me. There is no deity worthy of worship except You. ( Abudawood hadith:5090)
Since an untrained nafs or ego which has not been tamed through regular worship, remembrance of Allah the Almighty , mujahida or consistent effort versus a weaker spiritual heart/qalb paves the way for the satanic intervention as the devil satan or Iblis and his followers whisper the unpleasant and sinful thoughts into the believers heart and mind and instigate these to the extent that the pious Muttaqi believer is propelled through satanic deception into performing these misdeeds and ends up disobeying Allah the Exalted.

Dhikr/ Supplications:

Istighfar or seeking constant forgiveness from Allah the exalted.
استغفرالله الذی لااله الا هو الحی القیوم و اتوب الیه
Translation: I seek the forgiveness of Allah the Almighty. There is none worthy of worship except Him, The Living, The Eternal and I repent unto Him. (Abudawood Hadith : 1517)
Whoever recites these invocation and supplication, his sins will be forgiven even if they are the amount of foam of sea.
( This is just one form of Istighfar or supplication for seeking forgiveness, there are many others in the various authentic supplication booklets).
Sending Salutations on Prophet Muhammad ﷺ .
اللھم صل علی محمد و علی آل محمد وبارک وسلم
Translation: O’ Allah send your infinite mercy on Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his family and encompass them with peace and honour.
Reciting praise and glory of Allah the Almighty.
سبحان الله وبحمده سبحان الله العظیم
Translation: Glorified is Allah the Almighty and praised is He, Glorified is Allah the Exalted , the Most Great. ( Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith: 7563)
سبحان الله و الحمدالله و لا الہ الاالله والله اکبر
Translation: Glory is to Allah the Exalted and praise is to Allah the Almighty and there is no deity worthy of being worshipped then Allah the Almighty and Allah the Almighty is the Greatest. ( Sahih Al-Muslim Hadith:2695)
لا الہ الاالله وحدہ لا شریک لہ ملک ولہ الحمد و ھو علی کل شئ قدیر
Translation: None has the right to be worshipped except Allah the exalted Alone. Who has no partners. Hia is the dominion and His is the praise and His sovereignty is established on all things. ( Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith: 6403).
Reciting the First Kalima as it is negation of every deity other than the Allah the Exalted.
لا الہ الاالله
Translation: No deity is worthy of being worshipped except Allah the Almighty.
Recitation of some portions of the Quran on a regular basis.

Disclaimer:

The theme and majority of the article points are extracted from a lecture by a Pakistani scholar and lecturer at the leading Islamic Institute by the name of Al-Emaan, Mufti Salman Db. I have had the opportunity to attend a number of his spiritual purification talks and sessions. The youtube channel link is given in the reference list below. However, since this talk is in Urdu, the native language of Pakistan, so unfortunately most of the international audience may not be able to benefit from it. However it is highly recommended for those who know this language to benefit from this lecture.