The Prophet (saw) said:” Fear Allah wherever you are and follow up a bad deed with a good one; it will wipe it out, and deal with people by good moral character.” (Tirmidhi)

The above hadith contains comprehensive instruction concerning the rights of Allah and rights of people. The first of these is an admonition to fear Allah at every time and place, whether among others or alone; more specifically, to fear the displeasure and anger of Allah and to fear His punishment.


The general meanings embodied in the verb “ittiqa” are protection and prevention, caution and avoidance; thus, the believer is advised to prevent and protect himself from the consequence of unlawful deeds by avoiding them altogether. It is accomplished by obeying Allah conscientiously and constantly, remembering that He sees everything one does and is aware of his innermost secrets.


Taqwa in itself is commanded repeatedly by Allah in the Qur’an and is therefore a primary obligation upon every Muslim.


The righteous caliph, Umar bin Abdul Aziz, said:” Taqwa is not fasting by day, praying by night and other such things, but taqwa is refraining from what Allah has prohibited and doing what Allah has commanded.


And whoever has been provided with good beyond that – it is additional good.” And he wrote to someone, saying:” I recommend to you the fear (taqwa) of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, who accepts only that, has mercy upon its people, and rewards for it; for those who advise it are many, and those who practise it are few. May Allah make us and you among those who have taqwa.”


Since every servant of Allah is ordered to have taqwa both openly and privately in spite of the fact that he is bound to commit sins, the Prophet (saw) directed the believer how to eliminate his misdeeds by following them with good ones, primarily, repentance as soon as one realizes his error and apology to Allah. Hence, taking account of the self continuously is also prescribed so that one may rectify his condition before it is permanently inscribed in his record.


It is possible that in this hadith the Prophet (saw) was referring to other good deeds beyond repentance or to the acts of worship, such as performance of ablution and prayer, praising Allah,, going for hajj or umrah, fasting, etc., which serve as a kaffarah (expiation for sins).


He (saw) stipulated in several other narrations, however, that such deeds remove the errors and lesser sins for those who avoid all the major sins. A major sin can be annulled only by immediate, complete and sincere repentance, which is in itself ordained by Allah for every believer.


This consists of intense regret and the realization that one has angered his Lord, immediate cessation of the transgression, and earnestly seeking the forgiveness of Allah through prayer, supplication and the performance of additional good deeds. Allah (swt) has confirmed:” Indeed, I am the Perpetual Forgiver of whoever repents and believes and does righteousness and then remains rightly guided.” (Taha: 82)


Behaving well toward people is in reality one aspect of taqwa; indeed, without it taqwa is deficient. Allah (swt) has described people with taqwa as:” Those who spend (on others) during ease and hardship and restrain anger and pardon the people.” (Ali Imran: 134)


The Prophet (saw) mentioned good behaviour separately in this hadith because there is a need to emphasize this particular aspect of taqwa, for many people are of the opinion that righteousness means attention to Allah’s rights alone.


Thus, they devote themselves to worship while often neglecting the rights of their fellow men. Therefore, on numerous occasions the Messenger (saw) stressed the importance of good character, saying,” The best of the believers is the best of them in character,” (Ibn Majah) and “Indeed, the believer, through good character, reaches the ranks of one who fasts (by day) and prays (by night).” (Abu Dawud)

(Prepared by Ustad Abdul Muhaemin Karim)