Our life is equal to difficulties, mental pressures, sufferings, cry, laughter, love and faith. Some believe that life is vacuous. Obviously, these people are not only unhappy, but they do not deserve living; since they have questioned the philosophy behind creation. There are also people who know why they breathe, cry or laugh out loud. These people have found the reality of life and know that it's by working, hardship and suffering, loving the realities of life and creations of God that the life makes sense.
The life and mental atmosphere of a human being is like a garden in which flowers should be planted instead of thorn bushes. There also might be place for the weeds to grow next to the flowers.
Planting the beautiful flowers is much easier than weeding out the weeds. One should plant as much beautiful flowers in the garden within himself so as to prevent weeds to grow.
Human beings have a same creation, but due to differences in lifestyles and having different beliefs, their values are different. Human beings can behave in a way that the copper inside them turns out to pure gold and the garden within them be filled with beautiful and colorful flowers. This requires attention to the spiritual life and also practicing the solutions written in the Holy Quran and said by the infallible imams.
One of the most important solutions for creating a spiritual life is Taqwa. In educational systems, what is usually paid attention to is the interactions between the individual and the society and the mentioned principles, goals and methods result in the correction of these interactions.
In the Islamic educational system, attention is also paid to the interactions between the individual and the society, the individual and God, and the self and nature. Among these, the interaction between the individual and God is more important and is known as the basis of other interactions, since reaching the ultimate goal of creation depends on the compatibility of all interactions with this specific one. In fact, the key word in the interaction between a person and God is Taqwa, since no action is accepted without it:
«إِنَّمَا یَتَقَبَّلُ اللهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِین »
"Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous"
1) What Taqwa Means
The word Taqwa and its equivalents have been used for a total of 258 times in Quran in two kinds of nominal and verbal forms. In Persian, this word has been mostly translated as abstemiousness and fear which are not very accurate . This word is originated from "Waqaya" which means covering, preserving and protecting something from harm and loss . Raqib says:
"Waqaya means protecting something from whatever harms it. Taqwa means protecting self from what is feared from, but sometimes due to the rule of using the cause instead of the effect and vice versa, the word fear is used instead of piety and piety is used instead of fear ."
Therefore, using Taqwa, meaning protecting, with the meaning fear is metonymy. In the practice of Shari'ah, Taqwa means keeping self away from whatever leads to sins . In fact, Taqwa is like a holy habit which comes to soul, strengthens it and makes the carnal self and unyielding emotions obedient and docile.
The word Taqwa has been used in Quran with the meanings of: humbleness , worship and devotion , no rebellion , believing in the uniqueness of God and sincerity in practice .
Taqwa has two main components, including "negative" and "positive". The negative part is self-preservation from the impurities of purely natural aspects and bestial desires and also keeping the heart and soul away from drowning in the flames of selfishness. This part of Taqwa is an essential prelude for entering the way of evolution and the more it s observed, the more preparation and changes will happen to the person. All the verses of Quran regarding the necessity of purification and self-refinement and many of the moral principles are related to this part of Taqwa.
The positive part of Taqwa is acquiring admirable human attributes, believing in acceptance of the divine domination, believing in the fact that all human movements and behaviors are seen by God; and that people have to make themselves attracted to the spiritual perfection.
Thus, Taqwa is like clothing which God provides for his servants and examines the hearts for accepting it. Taqwa has two kinds: one is the "Divine Taqwa" which is like a cover that has a sign from God and his guidance; God would grant it to those who seek the guidance and are enthusiasts of the truth. The other one is "Devotion Taqwa" which means observing the principles of servitude and the safety tips for passing the way by good behavior, a way which ends in human perfection. As Imam Ali said:
"Seek help from God to have Taqwa and use Taqwa for reaching God ."
2) Importance and status
Taqwa has a privileged status in Islam and has been introduced as a genuine moral value, the best provision for the hereafter and the greatest means of salvation:
«وَ تَزَوَّدُواْ فَإِنَّ خَیْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى»
And take a provision [With you] for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct .
A believer travels through the way of self-improving using Taqwa, since Taqwa is an inner force which controls against sins. Taqwa also is like a tether which prevents the rebellious horse of desires from falling into the valleys of lust and passions. That is why Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
"O servants of Allah! Know that Taqwa is a solid and impenetrable fortress ."
Taqwa can be likened as a person who is passing a land full of thorns and tries to protect his clothes and walks cautiously lest a thorn harms his feet. If a person moves so carefully in life and is careful about his deeds, behaviors and words lest to do any sins; he can overcome his passions and harness the rebellious animal within. Imam Reza (A.S.) says:
"Avoid the ladder which is easy for going up but hard to come down. Do not leave your rebellious self to its will and desires, since its annihilation is to fulfill the desires. Leaving the self to have what it wants leads to harm and preventing it results in its protection ."
Indeed, obeying the self and going up the stairs of whims is easy and can be achieved easily, but forsaking, leaving, going and being questioned at the time of death is much more difficult; just like a person who gradually climbs up a mountain but is wandered and astonished at the time of descending; or like a person who climbs up a ladder step by step but at the final step suddenly falls down.
A Muslim must flip through the pages of his book of deeds and see what he has done and what he does. Does he turn his attention to the satisfaction of God? Does he relinquish worldly pleasures because of his fear for God? Or does he scorn obedience to and service of his God and not obey him wholeheartedly? Imam Reza (A.S.) said:
“Venial sins will lead to cardinal sins and one who has no fear for venial sins will have no fear for cardinal sins either. Even if God had not warned people of the hell’s fire and heaven, they should still obey God and not defy him because God has given people gifts which they do not deserve.”
Most people are verily in loss and by virtue of natural life do nothing but lose except for those who have great redemptive faith and can persevere in the path of faith. Imam Reza (A.S.) said:
“Almighty God revealed to one of his prophets, ‘Whenever I am obeyed, I will become content and when I become content, I’ll bestow blessings and my blessings are infinite; whenever I am disobeyed, I will bear a grudge and when I bear a grudge, I will curse and my curse will be harsh.’”
The true identity and personality of Man and his pure idealist nature will be realized in the light of continuous endeavor based on the right faith and belief. Disbelief and sin destroys the true nature of Man and will spoil all of his treasures, talents and potentialities; Thus in Quran and Hadiths it is advised that people pursue Taqwa and continence. Imam Reza (A.S.) quoted the Holy Prophet as saying:
“I advise you to Taqwa, abstinence, Ijtihad , trust, honesty, long Ruk’u [bow] and prostration, night prayers, feeding and greeting.”
Man should always admonish his rebellious self and try to constantly improve it. Imam Reza (A.S.) tells an interesting story of Bani Isra’il [Children of Israel]: In Bani Isra’il, a pious man prayed God for forty years then sacrificed an animal for the cause of God but his sacrifice was not accepted. The pious man regarded the rejection of the sacrifice as a result of his inappropriate deeds and started blaming himself. Imam said: God revealed to this man these sentences:
“The admonishment you had against yourself was better than forty years of worship.”
Looking at the hadiths by Imam Reza (A.S.) suggest that Taqwa has a sublime position.
A) Criteria for Virtue
Islam has disapproved all material and superficial advantages and has stated a single criterion for dignity and superiority; it gives originality and priority to the issue of Taqwa:
إِنَّ أَکْرَمَکُمْ عِندَ اللهِ أَتْقَاکُم
“Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is [he who is] the most righteous of you.”
A man said to Imam Reza (A.S.): “By God, from my father’s viewpoint, no one is nobler than you on the earth.”
He [Imam] said about the reason of this nobility:
“Taqwa has given them this nobility; besides, obedience of God has rewarded them with this feature.”
Another person asked Imam Reza (A.S.): “By God, you are the best person.” Imam said:
“Oh man, do not swear to God; the one better than me is the one who is more pious and more obedient to God.”
B) Superior to faith
Having faith has a higher position than Islam and has levels and stages; Taqwa is superior to having faith. Imam Reza (A.S.) said:
“In fact, the position of faith is superior to Islam and the position of Taqwa is higher than having faith.”
C) Criterion for being a Shiite
Being a Shiite is not merely uttering the sublime position and leadership of the Infallible Imams (P.B.U.T.); however, true Shiites must prove themselves in their obedience to Imams in terms of manners and behavior. For this purpose, the Infallible Imams (A.S.) gave instructions for their followers. Taqwa is one of the issues that link humans with the Infallible Imams (A.S.). Imam Reza (A.S.) said to his brother Zaid:
“Oh Zaid! Fear God and practice Taqwa; in fact, if we have reached this level, it is because of Taqwa and abstinence. One who is not pious does not belong to us and we detest him.”
D) Obedience to others
In their lives, humans have ups and downs on their ways to reach the highest goals. The ways that humans have ahead of them are full of difficulties, obstacles and barriers which threaten them and may lead them astray. God has created humans and devised the plan for them to achieve their goals. Taqwa for the seekers of enlightenment and travelers of the right path is the most significant factor in achieving insight, overcoming the obstacles and solving the problems.
God has clearly stated in his last heavenly book and warned that he would accept the deeds from the pious people and that only men of self-restrain will conquer peaks of achievement. Therefore, one who practices Taqwa will remove dark veils of heart and will see the light of truth shining in front of him. Taqwa is a ladder for climbing up and getting close to God. Taqwa is like a firm castle that saves the person from the rebellious and satanic desires of the self. Besides, it’s like a shield against the deadly satanic arrows.
One who practices Taqwa only obeys God and stops following pharaohs and evils. In return for this obedience, God will make his Creatures follow him. Imam Reza (A.S.):
“One who fears God and practices Taqwa for him, people will abide by him and anyone who follows God, people will follow him.”
E) Overcoming the plights and predicaments
Sin leads humans away from God and places him in disasters and predicaments. Imam Reza (A.S.) said:
“Whenever people commit a new sin, God will strike them with a new disaster.”
If sins are factors of being struck with a predicament, Taqwa will be the only way out. For this purpose, Taqwa is a path for redemption and remaining safe from disasters and pains.