Kinds of Piety
By: Sayyed Hussain Sheikh al-Islami Tooyserkani
Some people may have the impression that piety means to avoid committing sins only. Therefore in many cases, piety has come to mean fear of God and abstinence from committing sins, whereas it means self-restraint and safeguarding of oneself from opposing the orders of God. Hence, piety is not solely restricted to self-restraint against sins, rather it has other kinds too. Taqwa is sometimes related to ideology (monotheism, prophethood, Imamate and the Day of Judgment) and at other times it is not related to ideology. The latter includes piety in theory and in practice. When piety is related to practice, it is sometimes religion-based and at other times not based on religion. When it is not based on religion, piety is sometimes related to individual and at other times to society. In society too, it is sometimes moral and at other times non-moral. Each of these will be discussed separately.
Piety and Faith
One of the issues a human being has to take seriously and in the words of some religious authorities, the question of following others is not sufficient or as some others say one must reach certainty, is the question of principles of religion and ideology. It is incumbent on every Muslim and non-Muslim to deeply think about his religious principles, that is to choose a right path, to realize that there is a God who is the Lord of the universe and to know with certainty that other gods are false and made by the human imagination. One should truly realize that all beings are Allah’s creatures and before Him, he should prostrate. In this relation, God says: “And I am your Lord, therefore fear Me.”
One should know that human beings are in need of leaders ordained by God as prophets and Imams. He should firmly believe that he has been created for the other world and that this world is transient. Perhaps, it is a reference to piety when we read in narrations that faith is superior to Islam. Imam Baqir (AS) has been reported by Hamran as saying: “I heard the Imam says: Truly God has made faith superior to Islam in the same way that He has made the Ka’aba superior to the Inviolable Mosque.”1
The Imam (AS) then mentions different ranks of Islam and faith. On Taqwa, the Imam says: Piety is superior to faith and certainty is superior to piety in terms of rank. Therefore, Taqwa here is an ideological piety, for the Imam has considered Islam as the lowest and certainty as the highest degree while piety is in between.
1. Al-Kafi, vol. 2, P. 52.
Piety and Monotheism
Piety in relation to monotheism means that man has to know that the All-seeing, the All-hearing, the All-wise, the Maker, the Creator, the Healer and the Provider is the One and Only God and that other beings are His creatures. It is really not very difficult to prove the existence of God. Nevertheless, we would like to mention certain reasons to prove it.
1- Whenever man sees an object in this world, he will automatically think about its producer and inventor. Even if a girl, who has a doll in her hands, is told that this doll has been made by itself, she will laugh at that. How can this universe with the earth, the sky, plants, animals, human beings, waters, mountains, winds, rains, space, planets, light and darkness, fruits, grains and millions of other things exist without a Maker who is All-knowing and All-wise?
2- How can cosmos, the order of days and nights, the four seasons, the function of eyes, ears, heart, digestive tract, and solar system not lead us to the existence of God?
3- In dangers, our hearts are directed towards a Savior and Helper even if we are not Muslims.
4- The news brought by prophets, Imams and the messages of scholars and scientists about an Eternal Being and the Lord of the universe is one of the strongest reasons to prove God’s existence.
When God’s oneness is proved for man, and when man realized that there is no one in this universe save God, who is All-hearing, All-seeing, the King, the Provider of human beings and animals, One who brings forth the living from the dead and brings forth the dead from the living and the Manager of the world, he should exercise this piety that he is not inclined to anything but God.
In this relation, God says: “Say: who gives you sustenance from the heavens and the earth? Or who controls the hearing and the sight? And who brings forth the living from the dead and brings the dead from the living? And who regulates the affairs? Then they will say: Allah. Say then: Will you not then guard (against evil)?”1
That is to say, one should not take heed of false gods or idols, rather he should safeguard himself from vicious circle and deviations which is the same as inclination for idols and their likes.
Regarding this, God has said: “Take not two gods, He is only One God; so of Me alone should you be afraid. And whatever is in the heavens and the earth is His, and to Him should obedience be (rendered) constantly; will you then guard against other than (the punishment of) Allah?”2
That is to say the One who deserves Taqwa is the One God and it is He who punishes, takes us to task and rewards us.
As for those who do not believe, God says: “Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve, who will not believe; those with whom you make an agreement, then they break their agreement every time and they do not guard (against punishment).”3
1. Qur'an, 10:31.
2. Qur'an, 16:51-52.
3. Qur'an, 8:55-56.
Piety and Prophethood
Taqwa in relation to prophethood means that man should know that human beings exist since birth to unknown time. He should also realize that man cannot understand his loss and gain. Hence, he is in need of a more perfect guide to lead him to perfection and a stronger device to rule over the world. Man has no power to secure his own interests. Therefore, there should be those who go between the Creator and the creatures; to receive the message from the creator and to convey it to the creatures.
These people are known as prophets or divine envoys. Imams and their successors follow the path of the prophets. The necessity of a system or order among the creatures, as well as a guide in the same way that the heart is the guide of the realm of body, the fact that not all human beings are capable of receiving revelation, that earth cannot be devoid of a proof of God, that human mind cannot comprehend everything, are some of the reasons which prove the truthfulness of prophets. In our time, the greatest miracle is the Holy Quran. Although this Divine Book has been challenged, no one has been able to bring a verse like it.
In the Holy Quran, we see that when divine messengers invite people to God and monotheism, and invite them to their own truthfulness and adherence and warn them of anything other than God, Taqwa has been mentioned too. The Quran says: be careful of your duty against any deviation.
This theme has been repeated in the Holy Quran: “(The tribe of) Aad denied the messengers (of Allah). When their brother Hud said to them: will you not guard (against evil)? Surely I am a faithful apostle to you; therefore guard against (the punishment of) Allah and obey me.”1
Elsewhere God says: “(The tribe of) Thamud denied the messengers (of Allah. When their brother Salih said to them: Will you not guard (against evil)? Surely I am a faithful apostle to you; therefore guard against (the punishment of) Allah and obey me.”2
In this relation, God says: “The people of Lot denied the messengers (of Allah). When their brother Lot said to them: Will you not guard (against evil)? Surely I am a faithful apostle to you; therefore, guard against (the punishment of) Allah and obey me.”3
God has also said: “The people of Noah denied the messengers (of Allah). When their brother Noah said to them: Will you not guard (against evil)? Surely I am a faithful apostle to you; therefore, guard against (the punishment of) Allah and obey me. And I do not ask you any reward for it; my reward is only with the Lord of the worlds: So guard against (the punishment of) Allah and obey me. They said: Shall we believe in you while the meanest follow you?”4
1. Qur'an, 26:123-126.
2. Qur'an, 26:141-144.
3. Qur'an, 26:160-164.
4. Qur'an, 26: 105-111.
Piety and the Day of Judgment
When it was proved for us that God is All-wise and His administration is wise, how can He not have another world for which He has created man? When God has created man firstly with such complicated body and soul, some of people live for a second, an hour, a month, a year and as long as a hundred or a thousand years and then they will die, what is the philosophy behind it, especially when human beings reach perfection with so much suffering? Is this not something absurd and vain?
Secondly, the obedient and the guilty, the oppressors and the oppressed, the sick and the healthy, the privileged and the underprivileged have a living of their own and enjoy divine blessings in this world where reward or punishment do not exactly exist, then, where will be God’s justice if there is no other world? How can we prove that God is All-wise?
Thirdly: the divine laws will be useless, for law is aimed to distinguish between humans and animals. When there is no other world, the law will be useless, for it will not be enacted.
Fourthly: it may show the falsehood of the Lord (we seek Allah’s protection from that), for Allah has sent prophets with books in which there are the news of the Day of Judgment as well as Heaven and Hell.
Fifthly: The prophets and Imams’ news are enlightening. It is for this reason that God has used the word Taqwa: “How, then, will you guard yourselves if you disbelieve, on the day which shall make children grey-headed?1
Truly, one, who disbelieves in the Day of Judgment, is not certain about it and considers it as a fable or has doubt about it, cannot possibly be a man of piety or to practice it. On the contrary, one who believes in the Day of Judgment and the Hereafter will certainly have piety.
1. Qur'an, 73:17.
Piety and Imamate
One of the other instances in which the word Taqwa has been used is when we obey Allah and obey the apostle and those in authority from among us, for there is a perpetual life in obedience and perpetual punishment in disobedience. Beyond doubt, if God has punished a nation with thunderbolt, heavenly and earthly afflictions, and if they have been afflicted with famine, it has been due to disobedience of divine calls and challenges to the Messenger of Allah (SAW).
Hence, we notice that in most cases when prophets have invited people to monotheism, to God and to the adherence to the prophets, the word Taqwa has been used. In the Quranic Chapter, the Poets (ash-Shu’ara 26), we read about the states of prophets Moses, Noah, Salih, Hud, Lot and Shu’aib (AS). When they say to their tribes: “Surely I am a faithful apostle to you” immediately, they says: “Therefore guard against (the punishment of) Allah and obey me.”
Sometimes, the Lord of the universe advises His messenger to practice Taqwa: “O prophet! Be careful of (your duty to) Allah and do not comply with (the wishes of) the unbelievers and the hypocrites, surely Allah is Knowing, Wise. And follow what is revealed to you from your Lord: surely Allah is Aware of what you do.”1
In certain verses, the following has been added: “And do not obey the bidding of the extravagant.”2
In certain Quranic chapters, God says: “O you who believe! Answer (the call of) Allah and His apostle when he calls you to that which gives you life; and know that Allah intervenes between man and his heart, and that to Him you shall be gathered. And fear an affliction which may not smite those of you in particular who are unjust; and know that Allah is severe in requiting (evil).”3
The Holy Prophet (SAW) has been quoted by Abu Ayyoob al-Ansari as saying: “O Ammar! Soon after me, there will be big mischief so much so that swords will be drawn, some will kill each other and some will hate each other. In that case, it is incumbent upon you to resort to this bald-headed man, sitting on the right side of me (meaning Ali ibn Abi Talib). If all people follow one line and Ali follows another line, you should follow his line and leave others. O Ammar! Surely Ali will not misguide you and will not direct you to destruction. O Ammar! To obey Ali is to obey me and to obey me is to obey Allah.” 4
Imam Sadiq (AS) has been reported by al-Mufaddhal ibn Umar as saying: “God Almighty has chosen Ali as an emblem and standard between Him and His creatures. No one has such a position. Therefore, whoever obeys him is a believer and whoever denies him is an unbeliever. Whoever denies him will enter fire.” 5
The Imam (AS) has also been reported as saying that when Gabriel appeared to the Messenger of Allah (SAW), he said: “O Mohammad! Allah sends you greetings and says: I have created the seven heavens and what is there in them…and I have not created any place higher than the Rokn (the corner of the Kaaba) and the Maqam (the place where Prophet Abraham (a.s.) used to offer prayer). If any one of my servants call Me and meets Me (dies) while he denies the Imamate of Ali, I will throw him into the fire on his face.”6
Imam Ali (AS) has been reported as saying: “There is no heresy unless a Sunnah (prophetic norm) is abandoned (by it). Therefore, keep away from heresy. Walk on a sound way, for long-cherished orders (orders of God and the Messenger) are the best. What heresy has produced will be the worst.” 7
After warning the people of Basra about what was to occur, Imam Ali (AS) says: “Whoever can, at this time, keep himself clinging to Allah should do so. If you follow me, I shall certainly carry you, if Allah so wills, on the path of paradise, even though it may be full of severe hardship and of bitter taste….You should adhere to the Book of Allah because it is the Strong Rope, a clear light, a benefiting cure, a quenching for thirst, protection for the adherent, and deliverance for the attached. It has no any curving to be straightened, and does not deviate from the truth. Whatever it is repeated and whatever it knocks the hearings, it does not become old. Whoever speaks according to it, speaks of the truth and whoever acts according to it shall advance (to success).”
A man stood up and said: ‘O Ameerol Mo'minin! Tells us about the disturbance and whether you enquired it from the Holy Prophet (SAW)’. Thereupon Ameerol Mo'minin said: “When Allah, the Glorified sent down the verse: ‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, we believe, and not be tried?’8 I came to know that the disturbance would not befall us so long as the Prophet is among us.
So I said: O Messenger of Allah, what is this disturbance of which Allah, the Sublime, has informed you? And he replied: ‘O Ali, my nation shall be tried after me.’ I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, on the day of Uhud, when Muslims had fallen martyrs and I was not among them, and this had been very annoying to me, did you not say to me: ‘Cheer up, for you shall be killed (martyred) later on!’
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: ‘Yes, it is so, but what about your endurance at receiving martyrdom?’ I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, this is not a matter of endurance, but it is a matter of delight and gratefulness.’ Then he said: ‘O Ali, Muslims shall soon fall into sedition because of their properties their wealth, put Allah under obligation that they have faith, expect Allah’s mercy, and wish to be safe from His wrath, and because of false doubts and desires, they take His unlawful things as lawful. So, they will then consider wine as just a juice of grapes and dates, bribe as gift, and usury as selling and buying, and thus consider them lawful.’
I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, how should I deal with them at the time? Shall I consider them as apostates and disbelievers or ones involved in sedition?’ He said: ‘Sedition and trial.’” 9
What mischief is worse than this! After the Messenger of Allah (SAW) the Ummah was divided into seventy-three sects as the Holy Prophet (SAW) had said: “The Jews will become seventy-one sects, the Christians seventy-two and my Ummah will be divided into seventy-three sects (after me).” 10
Ibn al-Maghazeli has reported: “The Holy Prophet(SAW) said to Ali ibn Abi Talib: ‘The Ummah after me will soon hatch plots against you.’” 11
Imam Ali (AS) has been reported by many narrators as having said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said to me: ‘Surely God has made Jihad against mischief-makers incumbent upon you as He made Jihad against the atheists incumbent upon me.’ I asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! What is this mischief that has made Jihad incumbent?’ The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: ‘There are some who bear witness to the Oneness of God and my mission but they challenge the Sunnah.’ I asked the Holy Prophet: ‘What should I fight them for while they bear witness to what I testify?’
The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: ‘For the heresy in religion and challenging Imamate.’ I said: ‘You promised that I would be martyred. So I beg God to bring about my martyrdom soon before you.’ The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Who will fight the Naketheen (the breakers of covenant who fought against Imam Ali (a.s.) in the battle of al-Jamal), the Qassiteen (the oppressors (Mo’awiya and his followers) who fought against Imam Ali (a.s.) in Siffeen), and the Mariqeen (the renegades or the Kharijites who fought against Imam Ali (a.s.) in an-Nahrawan) then?”12
Therefore, it is incumbent upon every human to exercise piety in obedience. He should be obedient to those whom God has ordered. Jabir al-Ansari has been reported by Jabir al-Ju’fi as saying: “I asked the meaning of the following verse from the Holy Prophet: “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you.”13
The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: ‘They are my successors and the Imams of Muslims after me. The first of them is Ali ibn Abi Talib, then al-Hasan and al-Hossain, then Ali ibn al-Hossain, then Mohammad ibn Ali known as Baqir in the Torah. O Jabir, you will live long enough to see him. Whenever you meet him, give my regards to him. The next will be as-Sadiq, Ja’far ibn Mohammad, then Musa ibn Ja’far, then Ali ibn Musa, then Mohammad Ibn Ali, then Ali ibn Mohammad, then Hassan ibn Ali and then a person of my name, the poof of Allah on the earth, Baqiyyatullah, the son of al-Hassan ibn Ali, one at whose hands Allah will conquers the east and the west of the earth. He will be in occultation away from his followers and companions that no one shall keep on believing in his imamate except those whom Allah has tried their hearts with faith.”14
1. Qur'an, 33:1-2.
2. Qur'an, 26:151.
3. Qur'an, 8:24-25.
4. Khulasat al-Minhaj, vol. 2, P. 187.
5. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 69, P. 133.
7. Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 1, P. 432
8. Qur'an, 29:2.
9. Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 1, P. 490.
10. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 28, P. 29.
11. Ibid., P. 75.
12. Ibid., P. 79.
13. Qur'an, 4:59.
14. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 23, p. 289