The word taqwa means to seek protection from a possible danger or anything that is likely to lead the person to suffering.
There are three levels of protection:
- Protection from duality (shirq) – to take as deity things besides Allah.
- Protection from mistakes or what is commonly referred to as ‘sin’.
- Protection from thoughts that are unbecoming of a servant of Allah.
As the first two are self-explanatory, I want to talk a little about the third level.
What is befitting a servant of Allah is to be conscious at every instance that he is comprised of the Names and attributes of Allah and the sole purpose of his existence is to be a servant of Allah, that he is ‘nothing’ in the sight of Allah (that his individual existence is an illusion) and thus to conduct his emotions, thoughts and actions independent of his ego… To be in constant observation of the fact that others are also manifestations of Allah’s Names and attributes, and that Allah is the ultimate creator of all actions… Hence, to be in a state of protection at all times.
If we look at it from the broadest perspective, why do we need protection? And why has guidance been given not to the whole of humanity, but particularly to those who protect themselves?
Let’s remember the verse:
“This is the Knowledge (Book) of the reality and sunnatullah (the mechanics of the system of Allah), about which there is absolutely no doubt; it is the source of comprehension for those who seek protection.”
Everything in the universal system of Allah is subject to the process of coming to life, reproducing and dying, in other words, transforming!
This being the case, it is imperative for one to consider what is awaiting after the transformation of death. Let’s remember the exemplary reply Hadhrat Ali (ra) gave to one who asked him, “You ask me to prepare for the afterlife, O Ali, but what if none of what you claim actually exists? What if none of it is true?”
“If none of it is true then I have nothing to lose, but if the things the Rasul taught us are true and you’ve done nothing to prepare for them, can you imagine the state you’ll be in forever? Can you fathom the loss you’ll be in and are you conscious of the fact that you can never compensate for your losses?”
If you fear death, you don’t jump off a tall building or go swimming in shark-infested waters, i.e. if your goal is self-preservation!
That is, seeking protection from danger is a natural instinct.
I find it quite striking that some claim they’ll ‘see about it’ if life after death really does exist, that ‘surely they’ll find a way to manage’! If a man doesn’t know how to swim, then wakes up and finds himself in the ocean, what’s there to 'see about'? This is as absurd as saying, “I’ll learn how to swim once I fall into the ocean!”
The Universal Book or ‘System of Life’ can only be discerned by READing and living by it. Many dangers await us in the life after death, against which any intelligent person would want to seek protection.
So, how to seek protection? What to do to be safe from these dangers?
 Quran 2:2