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The Reality of Taqwa

The word ‘Taqwa’ is derived from the root ‘waqaya’ which means ‘to safeguard’ or ‘to abstain’. In the Islamic terminology it is defined as the action of restraining oneself from disobeying the commands of Allah (S.w.T.). When Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) was asked to elaborate on the meaning of the word, ‘Taqwa’ he replied, “Submit to the command {of Allah (S.w.T.)} and do not go near the prohibited.” It means that one should endeavor to fulfill all the commands of Allah and abstain from the prohibited things. On the basis of this, Taqwa is classified into two types:
The first type of Taqwa consists of compulsory obedience to Allah (S.w.T.) in fulfilling the compulsory duties (Wajibāt) and not leaving even a single duty unperformed. The obligatory commands (Wajibāt) are those which, if not carried out, invite the wrath of Allah (S.w.T.). Also, as far as possible one should try not to forgo the recommended acts (Mustahabbāt). The recommended acts are those, which if performed earn blessings but if not carried out do not make one liable for punishment.
Sin Obliterates the Good Deeds
Certain Greater Sins (Gunah al-kabira) render the good deeds void, the details of which will follow in the coming discussions. In brief, it must be mentioned that to refrain from sins is more important than performing good deeds. The following narrations are quoted in support of this statement:
The Holy Prophet (S) said: “For the person who recites ‘Subhanallah’, Allah plants a tree in Paradise.” On hearing this a man from Quraish stood up and said, “If it is this way, then there must be many trees for us in the Paradise?” The Holy Prophet (S) replied, “Yes, but you must beware that you don’t set fire from here to burn them all down.”4
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said “To refrain from eating a single morsel of Harām is, near Allah, more valued than the performance of two thousand rakats of recommended prayer.”
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said “To forgo a single dirham of prohibited money, is equal near Allah, to seventy accepted Hajjs.” He continued:  “Strive more to perform good deeds. However if you cannot perform a good act (at least) do not disobey (the commands of Allah). Because if one lays the foundation of a building and does not spoil it, then, even if the progress is slow, the building will definitely rise. (Conversely) The person who lays the foundation and at the same time spoils it, then it is sure that the walls of this building will never be raised.”
Ill-Gotten Wealth Burns Down The Acts of Worship
The Holy Prophet (S) said:
“On the Day of Judgement there would be people whose good deeds will be as heavy as the mountains of Tahama. Inspite of this it would be ordered that they be tossed into the fire of Hell.”
Upon this someone said, “O! the Prophet of Allah (S), were these people performing Salāt (prayers)?”,
“Yes, they used to pray, and fast, and also spend a part of the night in worship. But, whenever they chanced upon something which gave them pleasure, they used to rush to it without thinking whether it was right or wrong.”
Sin is a Barrier to the Acceptance of Invocation (Du’a)
Hazrat Musa (a.s.) passed by a person from his followers who was in prostration. After completing his chore Musa (a.s.) returned to find him still in prostration. He said, “If I had the power to grant your wish I would surely have granted it.” Allah (S.w.T.) revealed to Musa (a.s.) that, “Even if this man prostrates for Me till his head gets detached from his neck, I will not accept his deeds, till he abstains from that which I dislike and does that which pleases Me. Otherwise sin hinders the supplications from acceptance.”
Avoidance of Sins is a Must
Considering the tradition quoted above one is compelled to conclude that it is necessary to dread sinful acts and to be ever cautious of the vices. Only then are the good actions of any consequences. The good deeds must also be performed in such a manner that we strive to emulate as closely as possible the examples set by the high ideals of our Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.). It should not be that good actions are rendered null and void due to sins. It is necessary to be careful of such an impending loss and disaster for which we ourselves would be responsible.
Good Actions Could Be Blown Away Like Dust
Sulaiman bin Khalid says; “ I asked Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) regarding the Qur’anic verse
And We will proceed to what they have done of deeds, so We shall render them as scattered floating dust. (Surah al-Furqān 25:23)
He said,
“By Allah, even if their deeds are as white as Egyptian cotton, but if they find sin and lewdness they do not abstain from it.”
In other words, their good deeds are scattered like dust due to the lack of piety, and hence are of no value at all. Allama Majlisi (r.a.) writes in the explanation of this tradition, “Worship and obedience is rendered null due to sin.”
A Large Number of Pious People Will Enter Paradise
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said “Allah revealed to Hazrat Musa (a.s.), “Verily, My slave cannot achieve nearness to Me without the Three things which I like.” Musa (a.s.) asked with reverence, “My Lord what are those Three things?” Allah replied, “O! Musa those Three things are: To practice piety in this world, to abstain from sins and to weep due to fear.” Musa (a.s.) asked, “Does one who fulfills the Three things gets compensation and reward?”
Allah replied, “One who practices piety in this world will get Paradise. One who weeps due to My fear will be accorded such a high position that no else would be able to reach it. The deeds of all the creatures shall be accounted. But one who abstains from that which I have forbidden, then accounting of his deeds will not be carried out; he would be admitted to Heaven directly.”

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