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TAQWA. A crucial Islamic concept, taqwa essentially signifies “god-consciousness” and “godfearing” and, by extension, “piety,” with which it seems to have a partially comparable semantic history. Taqwd and its derivatives occur more than 250 times in the Qur’an; it has been rendered variously as: fear, godfearing, godliness, piety, right conduct, righteousness, virtue, warding-offevil, wariness. A survey of its usage in the Qur’an indicates that taqwa is often paired with faith, goodness, justice, fairness, equity, guidance, truthfulness, perseverance, sincerity, purity, reliance on God, obedience to God, fulfillment of promises, generosity. It is contrasted with fujur (perversity), fisq (deviation), and zulm (oppression).

In addition to its significance in Sufi spiritual thought and practice, and in moral, juristic, and theological discussion, taqwa has an important function in Islamic political discourse, particularly in the contemporary period. It is true that most early modern political reformist thinkers, particularly in the Arab world, have either taken it for granted or concentrated on other concepts, such as unity, freedom, justice, and progress. However,  three important twentieth-century Muslim thinkers have paid particular attention to taqwa within the context of the need to regenerate Islam in the modern world: two prominent fundamentalists, the IndianPakistani Abu al-A’la Mawdudi and the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb; and the modernist Pakistani academic, Fazlur Rahman of the University of Chicago.

Mawdudi (d. 1979), founder of the Jama`at-i Islami, identified taqwa as the basic Islamic principle of Godconsciousness, together with brotherhood, equality, fairness, and justice, on which the true Islamic society of the future is to be based, provided an Islamic state is established. Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), the celebrated ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, systematically elaborates the significance of taqwa in the context of his commentary on the Qur’an, which is characterized by an emphasis on political activism. For both activists, taqwa is a dynamic concept, not a simple, docile “piety” in the Sufi sense, and it occupies a central place in their articulation of God’s hdkimiyah (sovereignty) and rububiyah (lordship) in the political sense.

Fazlur Rahman (1919-1988) described taqwa as “perhaps the most important single term in the Qur’an.” He argued that, owing to inherent inner tensions within the human being, who is a blend of opposites, taqwa provides that “inner torch” or “inner vision” to enable humans to overcome their weakness. He considered it the Qur’an’s central endeavor to develop this “keen insight” in humans “here and now where there is opportunity for action and progress.” As such, taqwa involves a strong sense of moral responsibility, signifying a coalescence of public and private life, and it can be “meaningful only within a social context.” The Qur’an’s declaration that “the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one possessed of taqwa (surah 49.13) is highlighted by Rahman, as by Mawdudi, Qutb, and others, in the context of human equality.

[See the biographies of Mawdudi, Qutb, and Rahman.]


Ahmad, Mumtaz. “Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, pp. 457530 Chicago, 1991.

Izutsu, Toshihiko. Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur’an. Rev. ed. Montreal, 1966. Semantic but limited study, with emphasis on the negative aspects of taqwa

Kassis, Hanan El. A Concordance of the Qur’dn. Berkeley, 1983. Provides the context for each occurrence of taqwa in the Qur’an. using A. J. Arberry’s translation. For taqwa see under WQY.

Qutb, Sayyid. Fi Zildl al-Qur’dn. 6 vols. 5th ed. Beirut, 1977. A portion has been translated by M. Adil Salahi and Ashur A. Shamis as In the Shade of the Qur’an. Vol. 30. London, 1979.

Rahman, Fazlur. Major Themes of the Qur`an. Minneapolis, 198o. Important for an insightful appreciation of taqwa and other concepts in the Qur’an.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam and Modernity: Transformation of the Intellectual Tradition. Chicago, 1982. See especially chapter 4.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/taqwa/

  • writerPosted On: September 2, 2018
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