Taqwa has been described as an attribute to develop for those who wish to enter Jannah and have the chance to behold Allah Subhanawataala; it is also called God consciousness or God awareness for lack of a better way of expressing it. In Urdu it has a much sterner translation as in FEAR of God.
My understanding of Taqwa came to me from the way it was practiced by my mother and how she taught me about it in everyday living. It was much later in life that I actually studied the official translation and explanations of what it means and what are its fruits in this life and in the Hereafter.
Taqwa instead of being a FEAR OF PUNISHMENT to me always was a loving, caring with an undertone of sternness in my Allah who was always watching over me. He was continuously indicating to me what was good and what He was displeased with and what He considered crass disobedience. These three categories were expressed by my mother with the sentence always ending with and “Allah is watching you” and “You have to have the awareness inside you” I cant say that there weren’t times when I forgot this or at least shelved it temporarily as my Nafs was raging and was a petulant demanding nag. May Allah forgive me!
Through the awareness of His presence in my life, I always knew that no matter where I was and in whatever condition He was always there with me, watching over me with great vigilance in both my mistakes and my successes.
Many a time He stopped me in my tracks without saying a word, but by just knowing that his watchful eye was over me not only affectionately to guard over me but also sternly to frown over the temptation of a choice that was displeasing to Him.
It was long after and in the later part of my life that I learned the official definition and explanation of Taqwa, which literally means “a Shield”.
Here is what comes to mind on one of the days when I was very aware of Him watching me and waiting expectantly for me to do the right thing:
I am new in New York and am dirt poor on a resident’s salary, 80% of which is eaten up by parking and apartment dues. Yet dreams and glamor propels us to walk into Tiffanys to look at emerald rings for our engagement.
On entering the store we are met with cold suspicious stares from the sales person. Both of us are wearing old jeans and I probably look like someone fresh off the boat with my longish hair and the naïve look of my demeanor.
The salesperson gives me an icy look as I ask to see a large and scintillating emerald. I can read in his face the disgust and contempt which says, “ You cant even afford the box it sits in” Yet he pulls it out and shows it to me holding it the whole time. Next to him is a young sales woman who appears overly eager to help. She seems to be an assistant whom he completely ignores.
After looking at the exorbitant prices of the beautiful emeralds that probably came from Pakistan’s emerald mines. They were cut in Holland’s famous diamond cutting monopoly store and now were being sold in New York for 500 times the price they bought it from some poor Pakistani official at the emerald mines.
I excuse myself to go to the rest room to get ready for the rest of the day in the city. As I bend down to wash my hands, sitting beside the faucet is a magnificent ring .the center is a large ruby the size of a small birds egg and encircling it is a ring of some of the most brilliant diamonds I have ever laid eyes upon.
I pause……….and slip it on my finger it is gorgeous on my young hands, it has no tags or labels. I feel Him watching me………..as someone waits for his favorite protégé to choose what he or she have taught them to choose. I know now that if I walked out of Tiffany’s with that ring on my finger they would have had no proof that it was not mine. The thought of keeping the ring never enters my head.
I walk out and present it to the sales person, who is shocked, contrite, thankful and almost creepily ingratiating to me. What a change from his previous attitude. The girl next to him turns pale. Apparently he had Okayed her to wear the ruby ring around the store and she had left it in the rest room.
I walk out and I feel Him (Subhanawataala) smile……….. I had passed this test of taqwa and I was deeply aware of his pleasure……….