Qur’an, Fasting and Piety

Qur’an, Fasting and Piety
 

Qur’an, Fasting and Piety

These high qualities, energy and capability come from piety (Taqwah).

Allah made
it clear in the very beginning of His Book that “it is a guidance for the pious,”16 i.e.
only those can see the right path, take it and keep it, who have piety. Similarly, the
objective of fasting was to make people pious, God-fearing.17
Taken together, these two verses of Qur’an tell the secret of the special
relationship of fasting and Qur’an, and why the month of the anniversary of
Qur’anic revelation was selected for fasting.

There could not have been a better
time than the blessed moments of this month for developing the quality of piety
through fasting – a quality that makes the understanding of Qur’an, and taking up
the responsibility, easy and rewarding.

What is piety?

Piety is a very high and invaluable quality, as well as the sum total of all the
desirable qualities.

In the Qur’an, Allah has given guarantee of success, both here
in this world and in the Hereafter, to those who are pious.

Piety is what shows the
way out of every problem and difficulty.

Piety opens up doors for bliss and
blessings in ways that are not even imagined.

Piety makes all the tasks, mundane
and spiritual, easy.

It is the pious who have been given the glad tidings of entering
paradise; it is they who have been promised forgiveness that paves the way
towards paradise.

While paradise is their inheritance, they have been given a
pledge that worldly riches and peace will also be theirs:
Had the people of those towns believed and been God-fearing, We would certainly
have opened up to them blessings from the heavens and the earth.18
What is piety? In brief, it is that power and capability of the heart and the mind,
consciousness and awareness, determination and resolve, control and discipline,
and behaviour and character that enable us to avoid what we deem wrong and
harmful to us and to uphold what we deem right and good.

The literal meaning of
Taqwah (piety) is ‘to avoid.’ In this light, it is the basic view of Taqwah that I have
expounded here.

This capability has been given to us. It is in our nature to avoid damage and harm,
to aspire and try for good and benefit.

If it were not there, the very existence of
man would be impossible, what to talk of his progress.

We do not put our hand in
the fire; rather, our hand automatically moves away from fire.

When our child goes
near the fire, we rush to bring the little innocent creature to safety. Why? Simply
because we believe that fire burns, it may burn the child’s hand or body – and may
cause mortal injury. This is ‘piety’ regarding the fire of this world.

We have
experience of the harm this fire can cause, i.e. it is in front of our eyes, and so our
capability to avoid it is also very strong.
There is another type of fire too.

This fire flares up due to decay of belief and
action, thought and behaviour.

The holy Qur’an forewarns of taking up the paths
that lead to falling and burning in the fire. It warns us not to go even near this path
to avoid this fire.

Denial of truth, disobedience, transgression, falsehood, unlawful
earnings, usurpation others’ rights and causing harm to them – all lead to fire.

Our eyes cannot see this fire; we have no experience of it. We do not immediately
face the consequences of putting our hand in this fire.

In contrast, we save
ourselves from the fire of this world because we see it and immediately feel its
burning.

We believe in the harm it can cause us.

If we have similar belief that by
telling lies our tongue is burning in fire, by eating unlawful food our stomach is
filling with embers of fire, and by walking on unlawful path fire is enveloping us,
then it will certainly create strength and capability in our hearts, body and mind to
avoid these ills.
This piety is about having fear of God and His Fire.

The belief in the unseen is the
fountain of this piety.

The pious who receive guidance from Qur’an are “those
who believe in the existence of that which is beyond the reach of perception.”19
Today’s distortion in belief and misdeeds will be tomorrow’s fire.

Though we can
not see it today, belief in it creates piety.

It is this belief that generates the
strength and provides the means required to follow the path of Qur’an.

Keeping in view this nature of piety shows that first of all it necessary for us to
have a standard and a permanent criterion for determining right and wrong in
values, behaviour and character – and then to accept it and abide by it.

Piety
(taqwah) has no meaning to those who hold that right and wrong do not exist as
such, that there is no permanent criterion or standard for distinguishing between
right and wrong – these are relative issues that keep changing according to the
times and circumstances – that what was right yesterday can be wrong today or
what is what is wrong today can be right tomorrow, and that it does not make any
difference whether one is honest or not.

We have accepted God as our Lord. It means that true and right is only that which
is according to His command, adhering to which pleases Him, and whose
knowledge is given by Him.

Anything, action or thought, which earns His
displeasure, which invites His wrath, which leads to His disobedience is wrong and
evil, harmful and destructive; it is imperative to avoid it.

Accepting God as our Lord also means that there are some realities that we cannot
see or experience.

These are beyond our sense perception, beyond our body and
soul.

These are over and above the feelings of hunger and thirst, more valuable
and satisfying than the happiness that results from the immediate fulfilment of the
desires of body.

This also means that the real knowledge of right and wrong as well as of these
realities can be given only by the One who has the knowledge of both the present
and the hidden – in fact, it is His Will that sets the standard for right and wrong.

Only those cab be pious believe in these unseen realities. Those who are convinced
that there is only one way: to devote their all strength, time and money in the way
of Allah.

Their talk and walk, their thought and speech all are according to the Will
of Allah, devoted to His obedience.

Whatever He has given – in terms of strength
and wealth, time and resources – is given in His way.

The entire life is spent in the
concern for meeting Him one day, and in the realisation that success at that
moment is the real success.

This is what is meant by piety, as Allah explained in the very beginning of the
Qur’an – belief in the unseen, submission to Him alone – as reflected in the form of
prayers for the body and in the form of Zakat for the wealth (thinking that what
was given by Him is only being spent in His way) – belief in divine revelation for
distinguishing between right and wrong, and belief in the life Hereafter.

Those who profess that Allah is their Lord, yet exert themselves – in terms of their
strength and energy, time and resources – in ways that earn His displeasure, and
do not avoid what invites His wrath, are devoid of piety.

Piety is not about
ostentatious adherence of rituals, rather it stands for the inner strength and
conviction.

That is why the Holy Prophet (pbuh), pointing to his heart, once said:
“piety lies here.”20

18 Al-Qur’an 7:96
19 Al Qur’an 2:3
20 Al-Muslim, narrated by Abu Hurairah

Making the Most of Ramadhan