What Is Taqwa?

Taqwa (تقوى‎ taqwā / taqwá ) is an Islamic term for being conscious and cognizant of God, of truth, of the rational reality, “piety, fear of God”.[1][2] It is often found in the Quran. Al-Muttaqin (لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ‎ Al-Muttaqin) refers to those who practice taqwa, or in the words of Ibn Abbas — “believers who avoid Shirk with Allah and who work in His obedience.”[3]

Main article: Taqwa (Piety)


The Arabic word taqwa used in a not-necessarily-religious sense means “forbearance, fear and abstinence.”[4]

Some descriptions of the term from Islamic sources include:

  • “God consciousness … piousness, fear of Allah, love for Allah, and self restraint”.[5]
  • “God-consciousness or God-fearing piety”, “virtue”, “wariness”.[6]
  • Fear of Allah, “being careful, knowing your place in the cosmos”.”Proof” of Taqwa is the “experience of awe” of God, which “inspires a person to be on guard against wrong action” and eager to do thing which please Allah.[7]
  • literally “to protect”. In general, to protect yourself “from the Wrath of Allah” by not “indulging in things that Allah forbids”.[8]
  • “a high state of heart, which keeps one conscious of Allah’s presence and His Knowledge.” Taqwa motivates the person who possesses it “to perform righteous deeds” and avoid forbidden activities.[4]

Theological interpretation

According to Tafsir ibn Kathir, the root meaning of taqwa is to avoid what one dislikes. It was reported that Umar bin Khattab asked Ubay ibn Kaab about Taqwa. Ubay said, “Have you ever walked on a path that has thorns on it?” Umar said, “Yes.” Ubay asked, “What did you do then?” to which Umar replied, “I rolled up my sleeves and struggled.” Ubay said, “That is taqwa, to protect oneself from sin through life’s dangerous journey so that one can successfully complete the journey unscathed by sin.”[9]

Taqwa and the Qur’an

According to Erik S. Ohlander in his study on “Fear of God (Taqwa) in the Qur’an,” taqwa is used in the Qur’an over 100 times.[10] According to the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Taqwa and its derivatives appear “more than 250 times” in the Qur’an.[6] In a Quranic context, taqwa refers to fear of God in terms of protecting oneself from displeasing God.[10]

The Quran mentions a number of virtues that cultivate taqwa or that taqwa cultivates in a person: Q.2:283 mentions the keeping of trusts (amana);[11] Q.3:76 faithfulness (al-wafa);[12] Q.3:186 patience (al-sabr).[13]Q.7:96,[14] Q.10:63-64,[15] Q.39:10[16] relate taqwa to the good life (hasanat) on this earth besides reward in the hereafter. Q.65:3[17] relates taqwa to material ease in this life even where the believer does not expect it.[18]

The imperative form of taqwa is found in the phrase Ittaqullah (“fear God” or “be aware of Allah”), which is in a number of verses.

Taqwa and fiqh

In at least one popular work of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), the “Book of Taqwa”, (i.e. the section on taqwa) deals with “knowledge of what is Haraam (forbidden), Makruh (discouraged) and doubtful” in an assortment of matters beyond “the pillars of Islam”. These include: foods, dress, things having to do with sex (“private matters”), kinds of sporting contests, music, gossip, bad mouthing, bad company, beard trimming, etc.[19]


Taqwa is an important concept in Sufism.[20]

The 10th-century Sufi scholar Al-Qushayri in his Epistle (Risala) writes about three parts of taqwa: “full trust in God with respect to what has not been granted to him; full satisfaction with what has been granted to him; and full patience with respect to what has eluded him.”[21]

In Sufism, taqwa has several degrees. The first degree or rank is that of the common people. This rank shuns anything associated with God. In other words, the common people participate in taqwa by simply avoiding shirk. The second degree or rank of taqwa are the elect who shun sins. The final rank is that of the prophets who avoid attributing acts to anyone other than God- “in other words, their fear comes to them from Him and is [directed] to Him.”[22] The highest rank are those who distance themselves from everything that separates them from God, for one of the main goals in Sufism is to get closer to God because being separated from God is equivalent to that of hell.

The master-disciple relationship is one of great importance within Sufi practice. Taqwa is greatly valued within this relationship. God-fearing piety is seen as great religious devotion because it allows for “unhesitating obedience for the order’s superior.” In other words, if one can blindly follow his master, then he should be able to blindly follow God. Taqwa then leads to a lack of questioning authority, for the disciple submits to those with greater power than him. This submission reminds the disciple of God’s power making the disciple a more devout worshipper of God.[23]


  1.  “Taḳwā”,Encyclopaedia of Islam (2012).
  2.  Nanji, Azim. “Islamic Ethics,” in A Companion to Ethics, Peter Singer. Oxford: Blackwells,n(1991), pp. 106–118.
  3.  “The Meaning of Al-Muttaqin”Quran Tafsir Ibn Kathir. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  4.   “TAQWA: Fearing Allah”AHYA.ORG – Authentic Islamic Resources and Information. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  5.  “taqwa”Islamic-Dictionary.com. Archived from the original on 17 September 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  6.   Esposito, John L., ed. (2003). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press. p. 314. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  7.  Zanaty, Anwer Mahmoud. Glossary Of Islamic Terms. IslamKotob. p. 221. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  8.  Taqwa explained by Haq Islam
  9.  Abdul-Rahman, Muhammad Saed (2009). The Meaning and Explanation of the Glorious Quran. MSA Publication Limited. p. 63. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  10.  Ohlander, E. S. “Fear of God (taqwa) in the Qur’an: Some Notes on Semantic Shift and Thematic Context.” Journal of Semitic Studies 50.1 (2005): 137-52. Print.
  11.  Quran2:283
  12.  Quran3:76
  13.  Quran3:186
  14.  Quran7:96
  15.  Quran10:63-4
  16.  Quran39:10
  17.  Quran65:3
  18.  Khan, Muhammad Akram (2013). What Is Wrong with Islamic Economics?: Analysing the Present State and Future Agenda. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 96. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  19.  Essential Hanafi Handbook of Fiqh, A Translation of Qazi Thanaa Ullah’s Ma La Budda Minhu, by Maulana Yusuf Talal Ali al-Amriki, (Kazi Publications, Lahore, Pakistan), p.150-168
  20.  Berger, Lutz. “Fear of God and Hope (for God’s mercy) (in Sufism).” Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. Augustana. 26 April 2013
  21.  126. Qušairī, ʻAbd-al-Karīm Ibn-H̲awāzin Al-. Al-Qushayri’s Epistle on Sufism: Al-Risala Al-qushayriyya Fi ‘ilm Al-tasawwuf. Reading: Garnet Publ., 2007. Print.
  22.  128. Qušairī, ʻAbd-al-Karīm Ibn-H̲awāzin Al-. Al-Qushayri’s Epistle on Sufism: Al-Risala Al-qushayriyya Fi ‘ilm Al-tasawwuf. Reading: Garnet Publ., 2007. Print.
  23.  “Taḳwā.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. Augustana. 26 April 2013

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