Are people still tip-toeing around the notion of taqwa and translating it as “God consciousness,” “mindfulness,” etc.? C’mon, it’s the year 2016! Are younger Muslims still operating with this idea of God as a personal buddy and best friend who loves you unconditionally no matter what because you’re special and amazing and all God wants is for you to be happy and fulfilled, and that’s why describing God as One to be feared is unsavory and makes people feel icky and uncomfortable?
Get over yourself.
Taqwa is crucially tied to the notion of fear. Sure, taqwa can be translated as consciousness but it is more akin to being conscious of something in the sense that you feel overwhelmed by a deep anxiety, like your very life is on the line. Because it is! You fear that you could lose your self at any moment. That is the urgency of taqwa that grips the heart and keeps one on the straight and narrow. You fear Allah as He should be feared. As Allah says: “And as for he who feared (khaf) the Maqam (the station) of His Lord and prevented the nafs from base desires…” Do we have this khawf, this fearful awe at the station of the Almighty?
Imagine even one of the creations of Allah, the Archangel Jibreel (s) who was so large and powerful that he would fill the horizon when he came to earth and upon their first encounter, the Prophet (s) palpably feared for his life in the awesome presence of the noble angel.
And this is just one creation of Allah, so we can try to imagine standing before Allah Himself, Al-Jabbar! And this standing has happened to us in the past and it will happen to us again, very soon. This is a fear of reverence, a fear that comes in the presence of One who is the Almighty, All-Knowing, the All-Perfect, the One who will roll up the earth and all the heavens in His Right Hand and declare, “I am the King; so where are the kings of the earth?”
As the Prophet (s) advised us, worship as if you see Allah, and though you cannot, He sees you. We know from the Quran and hadith the different conditions humanity is in when seeing Allah at different stages of the afterlife. For the dwellers of Paradise, their ultimate reward and the culmination of their existence will be to see their Lord and this will be nothing but sheer joy, love, and awe at His perfection and Divine presence. But also, the presence of Allah will be felt on the Day of Reckoning, and this will be a time of terror at the threat of Allah’s wrath, not due to any injustice or tyranny on the part of our Lord, but due to the injustice and tyranny of our own selves, which will soon be taken to task by the All-Just. So, yes, we should be afraid in a visceral sense and this is part and parcel of piety and true God consciousness.
And I pray that I am struck with it.