Takwa (piety) is indeed a unique and great inner power. Its power possesses the energy to catalyse individuals to carve a glorious history in life. So, what is takwa? Umar al-Khattab once asked Ubai bin Kaab about it. Ubai said, “Have you ever walked along a path that was mired with thorns?” Umar answered, “Yes”. Ubai further asked, “So, what did u do?” Umar replied, “I walked with care and conscientiousness.” Ubai stated, “That is takwa.” From Ubai’s reply, takwa can be defined as being wary in life with regard to avoiding things that are impermissible, and being assiduous in performing the required acts of worship and deeds.
Not all believers attain takwa in their hearts. That is why, in the chapter Ali Imran verse 102 to 103, God commands the believers to strive for takwa, “O ye who believe! Observe piety to Allah (takwa), and die not save as those who have surrendered unto Him and host fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate…” Abdullah bin Masud interpreted ‘takwa’ as ‘obeying God and not committing vices, remembering Him and not being negligent, and always showing gratitude to Him and not being ungrateful’. The climax of takwa is being vigilant even when doing things that are permissible, because sometimes when we are too engrossed in the delight of the permissible, we tend to overdo things. At that instant, we may transgress the boundaries of the religion.
For example, when one talks too much, even though it concerns something permissible, one may end up speaking about something impermissible, such as backbiting. Likewise, when an individual is engrossed in spending money, even though it does not involved something that is haram (forbidden), he may ignore the rights of the needy. In respect to this, the Prophet said, “One will not reach the status of piety until he leaves something that is permissible in order to guard oneself against something that is forbidden.” This hadis was narrated by Imam Tirmizi and Ibn Majah.
– Extracted from 7 Formulas of Excellent Individual by Dr. Danial Zain Abidin