They say, ‘Habits make a person.’ Psychologists tell us that habit change takes 21 days. If someone does something continuously for 21 days it will become a habit. We are about to come to the Annual Habit Change Workshop that Allah sends as His mercy every year, to help us cultivate habits of the people of Jannah.
Be a Person of Taqwa
The first and most critical condition of being a Jannati, of being from among the people of Jannah, is to be a Muttaqi – a person of taqwa. It is good to remind ourselves that all the promises of Allah’s mercy and reward are for the Mu’minoon and Muttaqoon. Not for the Muslimoon. Becoming a Muslim is only the entry point. To attain higher levels with Allah one has to make effort; to enter that blessed group of people who will be honored and entered into Al Jannah. And remember, it is Allah who will decide who is a Muttaqi. It is not a matter of either one proclaiming it for himself or of his friends or followers proclaiming it for him. Taqwa is to be developed individually by every man, woman and child for his or her own benefit.
In one line, Taqwa is to avoid the doubtful.
Allah orders us to have His Taqwa – to fear His displeasure and be aware of His presence – when He says:
O you who believe! Fear Allah (have Taqwa) as He should be feared. And die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims) (3:102)
Allah has ordered the Muslims to develop a state of mind and heart where they fear to displease Him, as it is His right that people should fear to displease Him. And He tells the Muslims to make sure that they don’t die except in a state of complete submission to Him. This is the meaning of ‘fearing Allah ’.
I make this point because we hate things we fear. But with respect to Allah we love Him. Allah says about the Believers:
…But those who believe, love Allâh the most (above all else)… (2:165)
So the fear of Allah that we talk about is the fear of displeasing Him. We love Allah above all else, so we fear displeasing Him more than anything else. The more we love Allah the more we fear to displease Him. Anyone who deliberately disobeys Allah is showing that He doesn’t love Allah . So there is no need for any confusion between fear and love of Allah . Allah shows us how to develop Taqwa and gives us the means to do it. He has made fasting fard (compulsory) upon us so that we can develop Taqwa.
O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (2:183)
As we can see, Allah has ordered us to have Taqwa and shown us how to develop it – by fasting. Once a Muslim develops Taqwa, his submission to Allah is assured.
The secret of obedience is to obey without question. It is not obedience without understanding. It is obedience without question because we understand. That is why selective obedience is disobedience.
It is important, when obeying Allah , to understand who Allah is, not to figure out the logic behind the command. This is a major trap that most of our so-called intellectuals fall into. They get lost in trying to understand the logic of the command and forget who is commanding it. That is why Ramadan comes – to emphasize the fact that the Muslim obeys only because Allah commanded it; not because it makes ‘sense’ to him. Allah made some things halal and some things haram, but in Ramadan, during the hours of daylight, Hemade even the things which are ordinarily halal, haram. When the Muslim obeys Allah and fasts, he is essentially doing something which makes sense only when one understands whose command it is. It also emphasizes for the Muslim that if he obeys Allah during Ramadan and stays away even from halal, how much more important must it be for him to stay away from what Allah prohibited and made haram outside of Ramadan.
That is why it is so critical to know Allah , to be connected to Allah , to be conscious of Allah and to be concerned about His pleasure and approval for all that we say or do, because to Him is our return. Ramadan comes to reiterate this to us every year; that we are the slaves of Allah and that in being true to that lies our salvation.
Ramadan comes to teach us obedience. It comes to teach us the meaning of uboodiya. It comes to teach us the meaning of being Abdullah and Amatullah and to do that because we love Allah above all else. We fast as a labor of love for our own fulfillment, not as a burden to be discharged or for fear of punishment. Those who don’t know Allah can’t experience the sweetness in worshipping Him and obeying Him.
That is why it is essential to know who Allah is, to revel in the fact that we worship the One who created us and the only One who is worthy of worship. We must know that when we call on Him, He hears us and answers, and that there is nothing in the world or in the Hereafter that is beyond His control. He gives to those who ask Him, and those who ask Him have faith (Tawakkul) because they know who He is and who they are asking. The surest sign of knowing Allah is the banishing of all fear of created things from your heart. Taqwa makes the heart free from stress and fear. Taqwa is the route to true freedom – the freedom of the soul.