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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Expressions of Spirituality, Taqwa and piety

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2012/06/expressions-of-spirituality-taqwa-and.html


Taqwa; God consciousness
A tribute to Marylou Ghyst and Petra Weldes


Taqwa, piety, or spirituality can be expressed both externally and internally. In the picture to the far right is Rev. Petra Weldes, possibly representing you and I, the common people who achieve piety within us, and without having to abandon the day to day life. The expressive form of piety is chosen by a few religious men and women through the costumes and the beards.  Pluralism is about the essence of what you do; finding peace within and with others regardless of the format you chose.  To claim that one is better than the other takes away any degree of piety you may have. Spirituality and arrogance are inversely proportional to each other.

I am dedicating this column to two of my favorite spiritualists, who lead a common life like you and I. Rev. Petra Weldes, who and I had extensive discussions about asking the religious leaders to the  parliament of world’s religions, had that happened, to wear clothes and look like everyone else, and hence dedicated to her.

The person who caused me to write this is Rev. Marylou Ghyst,  I am pleased to acknowledge  Marylou, our Christian Member of the World Muslim Congress, please note our membership is inclusive. We are a part of the large family of faiths and we are all in this together to create and shape a world that God willed; to attain the balance and Harmony between all elements of his creation.

Marylou’s major contribution to this forum is religious inquiry, which we appreciate, encourage and admire
; it is an expression of freewill that God endowed to each one of the human beings. And because of her inquiries, we have been able to independently think and find the resources to support it. It is easy for Muslims to answer Muslims, or Christians to answer Christians, but difficult for anyone to share or understand the nuances and the cultural references. Marylou has succeeded in that endeavor. 

The first act of humanity began with free will, Adam was offered that choice, which he blundered, but God was not unhappy about it, nor did he scream at him or told him to go to hell for disobedience; instead God offered him more choices and we are here today, living with it. Thanks to Adam.

Marylou wrote, “Hi Mike, Just curious about something. The word "Taqwa" meaning God consciousness -- I was under the impression that Muslims believed God is outside the universe and therefore God consciousness is unattainable. Do I have the wrong information? Blessings, Marylou.” in reference to my note, “A good Hindu is a good Muslim, is a good Christian, is a good Jew, is a good Sikh.....when you reach Taqwa, the God consciousness, humans don't appear with religious labels..”

Taqwa means many things to many people. Islam is not a monolithic religion; we do have diversity of opinion, that we have come to accept, but don’t admit.  Indeed, Islam is about freedom but the followers are not completely free, if they were, the differences would have transformed into multiple denominations as in Christianity.

Every Prophet, Messenger and a peace maker had the special knowledge about spirituality, but more importantly they understood human nature, they were great psychologists.  Prophet Muhammad was indeed a master psychologist, he understood human nature, and initiated religious practices in the form of rituals that will help an individual achieve piety and humility, thus peace within and peace with others.

He further wanted the people to understand that the diversity is God given, and to keep the religious arrogance out, (its human to be arrogant), he prophesized that his followers will group themselves into 72/73 tribes (a metaphoric number to denote many) and advised each one to race in doing good deeds; the actions that benefit others without any return.

The concept of Taqwa exists in every religion - the Hindus call it Krishna consciousness, or Brahma, the idea of becoming a part of God, or lost in Godliness or God like, when you do not have conflicts with any one, all is yours and you belong to all. There is no barrier between you and the creation. Indeed, that is the un-expressed goal of every religion.

Jesus said, follow me, and Allah in Quraan said to submit to his will and Krishna says surrender to me - all are asking to become a part of the system to keep it functioning cohesively and out of free will.

Since my focus of this article is Taqwa, it is important to note, rather critical, that Islam is about behavior and not your costume or external manifestation. 

Further on piety:

One of the
Islamic dictionaries writes;

“Taqwa is a concept in Islam that is interpreted by some Islamic Scholars as God consciousness. It has many understandings and interpretations. Taqwa may mean piousness, fear of Allah, love for Allah, and self restraint.

Taqwa allows a person to be constantly aware of both God's presence and attributes and a reminder of their relationship and responsibility to God as His creation and servant. The scholars explain that the way to taqwa is through obedience of God, avoiding disobedience, and striving to stay away from doubtful matters. “

Wikipedia:
According to Tafsir ibn Kathir, the root meaning of taqwa is to avoid what one dislikes. It was reported that Umar bin Khattab asked Ubay ibn Kaab about Taqwa. Ubay said, "Have you ever walked on a path that has thorns on it?" Umar said, "Yes." Ubay asked, "What did you do then?" to which Umar replied, "I rolled up my sleeves and struggled." Ubay said, "That is taqwa, to protect oneself from sin through life’s dangerous journey so that one can successfully complete the journey unscathed by sin."
Ibn Abbas said about verse 2:5 in the Quran, "guidance for the Muttaqin", that it means, "They are the believers who avoid shirk with Allah (swt) and who work in His obedience." He also said that Al-Muttaqin means, "Those who fear Allah's (swt) Punishment, which would result if they abandoned the true guidance that they recognize and know. They also hope in Allah's (swt) Mercy by believing in what He revealed


“And We have sent down to you the Book as an explanation of everything, a guidance, a mercy and glad-tidings for those who submitted themselves to Islam.” [TMQ 16:89]

So let us understand the true meaning of Taqwa. In contrast to the distorted picture that people have today, the Qur’an and Sunnah defines the idea of taqwa as protecting oneself from the Hellfire by following the orders of Allah (swt) by doing what He (swt) has commanded and avoiding what He (swt) has forbidden. Many ayat in the Qur’an point to this:

“And unto Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. And, verily, We have recommended to the people of the Scripture before you, and to you (O Muslims) that you (all) fear Allah, and keep your duty to Him, But if you disbelieve, then unto Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is Ever Rich, Worthy of all praise.” [TMQ An-Nisa’ 4: 131]

Taqwa comes from the word 'waqiya', which means to protect. It is protection from the Anger of Allah (swt) and His (swt) punishment. This is why Taqwa is used to describe the performing of actions, which pleases Allah (swt) and abstaining from all actions that displeases Him (swt).

Taqwa in essence means god consciousness, being conscious of Allah (swt) in all our actions and affairs.

Dr. Ibrahim Syed of Islamic Research Foundation international, Inc., in Louisville writes, “It is hard to translate Taqwa into the English language. To me Taqwa is achieving Nobility, humility, generosity, forgiveness, service to mankind, animals and plants, compassion, mercy, etc.etc.”

I wrote a note about Taqwa during Ramadan. “True fasting is self-purification; and from this comes a rich inner life that brings about values such as justice, generosity, patience, kindness, forgiveness, mercy and empathy -- values that are indispensable for the success of the community.” And the values that brings closer to the godliness or God consciousness: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/spirit-of-ramadan_b_939961.html

Mike Ghouse is committed to nurturing the pluralistic values embedded in Islam and invites discussions with an open mind. Together, we can learn to be a productive citizen to our family, community, nation and the world - thus serving God’s purpose of peace; Islam the verb. Please visit www.MikeGhouse.net and if you have the time, connect with 5 other websites and 30 blogs on a variety of topics from Pluralism, Islam, India, Israel, Peace, Justice, conflicts etc. 

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