Taqwa is a core Quranic value. It is universal – like the Quran itself, everyone can benefit from it. It is one of the guiding principles of the life of a believer. Tapping into your inner taqwa can be one of the most empowering and liberating things you ever do for yourself. First, lets define it. Then we’ll look at some excellent ways of building it within yourself insha’Allah.
What is Taqwa?
I define ‘taqwa’ as ‘conscious power’. You may have seen some Quran translations describe it as ‘God-consciousness’. While this is pointing in the same direction, it also lacks something. The actual word ‘taqwa’ does not contain the concept of ‘Allah’ within it. If you want to say ‘be conscious of Allah’, you say ‘itaq Allah’ (imperative tense). In that sense, taqwa is consciousness. The more you are conscious and aware, the closer you get to Allah. There is another subtlety in the word ‘taqwa’. The Arabic word for ‘strength’ is ‘quwwa’, which is contained within ‘taqwa’. Taqwa means having the inner strength to do what you need to do in any given circumstance. This brings us to my definition. Taqwa is ‘conscious power’. The conscious use of your God-given strength.
So, why build up your taqwa?
How does it enhance your life? Well, first and foremost, the Quran states that if you have no taqwa, the gates to divine guidance are closed to you. So are the gates to success in life. And the gates to Paradise. The opening line of the second Surah of the Quran, Surah al-Baqara, is a response the prayer in the first Surah, al-Fatiha, which we recite at least 17 times a day in prayer: “guide us to the straight path”. The response is:
“This is the book without doubt in it is guidance for those with taqwa”.
If you want to access the wisdom and guidance of the Almighty through the Quran, you need to build up your inner-taqwa. This makes perfect sense. It takes time, discipline, focus and study to access the treasures of the Quran. I do my best to short-cut this for you as far as I can, but in reality you need to build up your taqwa so you can engage with the Quran yourself.
Taqwa enhances your life. Building your personal level of conscious power is the most empowering thing you can do. It means building up your ability to take control of your life. When you have a high level of conscious power, you can do anything. You simply need to think up a goal, commit to it, and make it happen. No wimping out of fear, no giving in to laziness – those factors won’t affect you when you up enough taqwa.
How To Build Your Taqwa
If we acknowledge that taqwa is your conscious power, building it becomes easy. Let me give you an example: Have you ever had the feeling that you ‘cant be bothered’ praying? Have you ever prayed anyway? If so, you exercised your taqwa. And I bet you felt a million times better afterwards. That wasn’t by accident. You earned and deserved the right to feel good because you exercised your taqwa, and it grew.
Think of taqwa like a muscle. To grow a muscle, you need to exercise it. Specifically, you need to lift a weight and take it to the point of ‘momentary muscle failure’ – the point at which you exert full effort but you cannot physically bring the weight all the way up. If you don’t reach that point in your weight training, your muscles just won’t grow. It’s the same with taqwa. It requires progressive training.
To build your personal conscious power, you need to decide to do something. It could be anything you know you need to do. It could be a religious or spiritual action like prayer or reading the Quran. Or, it could be something less glamourous like cleaning your bedroom. Once you’ve decided what you need to do and when you need to do it, if you follow through, you will build your taqwa. If you do not, you’ll get a little bit weaker on the inside.
Instituting 5 daily prayers into the religion of Islam was beyond genius – it was Divine. If your life feels like it’s in a mess, pray. Five times. On time. Within a couple of days, I bet you’ll feel differently about your situation. It’s almost like something magical happens. In fact, something magical does happen. Through prayer, as the most symbolic example, you transform yourself from the inside out by building your taqwa. With that higher level of personal conscious power, you now have the inner strength and focus to tackle whatever life throws at you next. If you’ve ever done this, you know from your own experience that it is true, and it works. If you haven’t, try it out and see for yourself.
Salah isn’t the only way to build your taqwa. You can literally pick any goal you’re working on. A great way to do this is to figure out what the ‘frog’ is. Brian Tracy, a famous personal development author has a book called ‘eat that frog’. The idea is simple. If one day you lose a bet (or something more Islamically equivalent!) and the punishment is that you have to eat a frog, when is the best time to do it? The later you leave it, the worse your day will get as you’ll be pre-occupied and you won’t be conscious (have taqwa) throughout the day.
If on the other hand, you eat that frog first thing in the morning for breakfast, how will the rest of your day be? Freakin’ Phenomenal! You’ll be able to do anything life or work throws at you that day, and you’ll be completely focused and on the ball. You’ll arrive at work feeling like a champion. You’ll be fully conscious all day. You’ll be living with taqwa.
Figure out what your frog is right now, and go do it. Then comment below to inspire other busy people with your story of how building your taqwa is improving your life.