What is Taqwa? Taqwa is our ultimate goal and the path to peace in this life and the next.
Taqwa encompasses being, mindful, conscious and aware of Allah at all times. It’s an ideal we all strive for insha’Allah. Taqwa is not just doing things because we are seeking reward or fearing punishment but because we’re aiming to be constantly aware of Him and always doing what is most pleasing to Him .
"Indeed, The most noble of you in the sight of Allah are the most mindful. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Aware." — Qur’an 49:13
Not only does it ennoble us in this life and the next, but taqwa is our path to contentedness and righteousness in life. By living a life of taqwa in accordance with our divine purpose, we live a life in accordance with the sunnah that resonates with our fitrah (natural inclination towards goodness). Insha’Allah living in a way that resonates with our souls and brings us deep inner peace.
In this vein of thinking some theologians posited that heaven and hell are not only physical places in the after-life but also metaphors for spiritual and emotional states of wellbeing that we attain in this life. Attaining a state of bliss on Earth through subjugating our ego and drawing closer to Allah.
Given that taqwa (mindfulness of Allah) is our goal, what are some practical tips we can use to try and attain it insha’Allah? In this first part of this two part series we’ll look at mindset and how we can aim to build a connection with God and grow in our awareness of Him through a positive mentality. Be that at work, with our family, our friends and especially in our prayers.
"If you are grateful, I will surely increase you" — Qur’an 14:7
What does it mean that Allah will increase you? In the clearest sense it means that when we are grateful, Allah rewards our gratitude by giving us more. It also reflects a psychological reality, that even if we’re in the exact same situation if we’re grateful for what we have we will feel like we have more. Even having the exact same provisions we will now feel rich.
At any point in our day we have reason to stop and be grateful for the blessings of warmth, food, clothes, safety as well as the myriad of other things we’re blessed to have in our lives. Being grateful doesn’t just help our own mental health it reminds us of Allah and helps us to draw closer to Him.
Often on a rough day we might be focused on what we don’t have, focusing on the things we wish were different. When things seem out of reach or are frustrating this might be something that gets us down. By adjusting our mindset and focusing on what we already have and reflecting on our blessings we can help ourselves to feel better. Helping us to feel happier, more grateful, more positive and more hopeful.
A multitude of studies have confirmed this. They all found that people who regularly practiced gratitude in their lives were happier, more optimistic and generally felt better about themselves than those who did not.
Gratitude, is a broad term, and can be manifest in a bunch of ways. Before sleeping, we can try to make a list of things we’re grateful for from our day. We can also start and end our prayers by taking a minute to be thankful to Allah for all he has given us; this also helps us focus and prepares a good mindset for prayer. Outside of prayer we can spend time in meditation or dhikr. A great way is to recite "Alhumdulillah" "All Praise is due to Allah" 100 times, and each time think of a different thing we are grateful for in our lives. This sort of dhikr is easy todo either after prayer or just when walking around town going about our daily lives.
We should also reach out to thank those around us for their support, company and assistance. We know from a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ): "He who does not thank the people is not thankful to Allah".
Hopefully through this we can grow and find ourselves being grateful for many little things throughout our day, whether it feels good or bad at the time. Trusting there is wisdom in it from Allah and thanking Him therein.
Regular Islamic classes and reminders are really good, excellent even. It’s important to keep learning and growing, so that hopefully we can continue to benefit ourselves and those around us. A good class, or book, should be informative but also uplifting, reminding us of the principles of our religion and inspiring us to be our best selves.
When we’re not able to consistently learn and study new content it’s beneficial to keep up regular reminders of what we already know insha’Allah. This can come in the form of books, articles, Islamic talks, podcasts, the Friday khutbah or even regular study circles at our local mosque & community space.
Reminders continue to reinforce positive messages in our lives. Often we have already heard a pertinent hadith or we have grappled with similar tests in our lives but we forget the key messages and advice when they may be helpful and comforting to us again. Regular reminders help to resurface things we may have forgotten and insha’Allah solidify them in our long-term memory.
Through continued reminders we hope to better our memory. So that throughout our day whenever we face a test, a trial or even a blessing we remember the lesson and seek Allah appropriately. In times of blessings we aim to be thankful to Him and in times of hardship we aim to be patient and seek help from Him.
3. Good Company
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "The example of a good companion who sits with you, when compared to a bad companion, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith's bellows (or furnace). From the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the blacksmith’s bellows would either burn your body or your clothes, or you would get a bad smell thereof." [Sahih]
They say we’re an average of our five best friends, if we’re surrounding ourselves with good company that regularly take a positive outlook on situations, remind us to pray on time, regularly make dhikr and remember Allah in their speech and actions, this behaviour will quickly start to rub off on ourselves. It won’t be long before we notice our own mindset and actions changing for the better.
On the flipside when we have close friends and co-workers that aren’t aligned with our values, we may find ourselves subtly changing in ways we didn’t want or anticipate. Especially when we’re trying to work on personal growth and self-improvement, the difference between a toxic social-circle and a beneficial one can be stark. A positive environment can lead to marked growth, enabling our goals and helping us to achieve more than we initially even imagined; compared to a detrimental environment that can hinder our progress and possibly even stop us from starting at all.
When our friends are aligned with us spiritually and all striving for the same goals, seeking nearness to Allah and effecting good in society. We hope that one another’s company enables us to achieve our goals and grow together as people and individuals insha’Allah.
4. Positive Thoughts
Similar to the company we keep, is the mindset we cultivate. If we regularly make an active effort to see the positive side of things, this mindset will soon become second-nature to us. But what else affects our mindset?
Often it serves us well to take some time to really interrogate the origin of our core beliefs, values and approach in life. Taking some time to think about what directs our thought processes and how we could make that more pleasing to Allah.
When having a meal at a nice restaurant for example, people often employ what I’ll call the "Masterchef Mentality". Much like a food-critic we will focus on examining our food trying to find the aspects that fall short of perfection, criticising anything that doesn’t meet our high expectations. This may be because we generally live in countries with an abundance of food, but another mindset we could equally adopt would just be absolute gratitude. Gratitude that we were given the chance to eat today, when so many others in the world were not. It is a bit of an intense way to view a simple dinner, but in reality we’re incredibly blessed every time we’re gifted with food and we should be cognisant of that and thankful.
Just as our bodies are a result of our physical diet, our mindset and thoughts are a result of our information diet. Our mindset is informed by the company we keep; the books we read; the films and TV we watch; as well as the podcasts or music we listen to.
We will often find random lyrics from songs, or quotes from films spring to mind out of the blue; and I think we can all agree they’re not always the most wholesome aphorisms. We can work on listening to more wholesome content instead, such as Qur’an, podcasts, dhikr or nasheeds. Occasionally I’ll now find that if I’ve been listening to some dhikr one evening, the same dhikr may pop into my head later while working or going about my everyday life; reminding me of something wholesome and bringing me back on track.
Certain podcasts and videos have really memorable speakers and their sound-bites really stick with me as reminders throughout my day. I’m thinking mainly about Mikaeel Ahmed Smith and his podcast series on "Purification of The Heart". I can’t recommend it enough and even before I understood it all, certain phrases would stick with me as something to reflect on, providing helpful everyday reminders of Allah.
5. Making Sound Intentions
"The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Indeed actions are considered by intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention." [Sahih]
Apart from overall mindset we can also aim to fix our specific intention before undertaking an endeavour. In making our intention clear it helps us to clarify our thoughts and to make sure we’re focused; both on pleasing Allah and being our best selves.
This can be a simple fix, and may literally just require two seconds before an action to say "Bismillah" (I begin in the name of Allah). But often it’s two seconds that we forget to dedicate. To paraphrase one scholar "The problem facing muslims today isn’t that they have bad intentions, but that they have no intention!"
A lot of the time we go through life on auto-pilot. We go to sleep because we’re sleepy or because it is late. How often do we take a second, literally just a second, before sleeping to think "I want to wake up on-time for fajr, and then in the morning I want to be well rested so I can be my best self tomorrow". It may sound verbose when spelt out like that, but that little change can make sure all our actions are hopefully pleasing to Allah. It also helps us to remain focused and on track with what is important to ourselves.
In this article we’ve looked at how we can adjust our mindset throughout our day to hopefully enable ourselves to grow in taqwa. To summarise we looked at:
- Gratitude — in everything
- Islamic classes & regular reminders
- Good company — and the importance of our friends + environment
- Positive thoughts — examining our "information diet"
- Intention — and seeking only Allah
I hope you’ve found this helpful and some of it has resonated with you. In part 2 we’ll be looking at regular actions that can benefit us, in addition to our mindset insha’Allah. I pray you benefitted from this article and please get in touch with anything else you find helpful that works for you throughout your day insha’Allah!
More in this series:
- Steps 1-5 (https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/10-tips-for-taqwa-in-todays-times-part-1/)
- Steps 6-7 (https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/10-tips-for-taqwa-in-todays-times-steps-6-7/)
- Steps 8-9 (https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/10-tips-for-taqwa-in-todays-times-steps-8-9/)
- Step 10 (https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/10-tips-for-taqwa-in-todays-times-tip-10/)
The complete Wird Latif of Imam al-Haddad - (Recommended morning litanies)