Delivered on 26 June 2016 by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town


Tonight being the 21st night of Ramadaan and a very probable night of Qadr makes it an extremely valuable night as well as the upcoming 23rd night.

We might not perceive what is happening around us spiritually, but need to be conscious and benefit from these nights by taking stock of our life and seeking from Almighty Allah’s Vast Forgiveness and Mercy.

We are not guaranteed to be here next year. It takes a fraction of a second for destiny to change and for us to leave this world.

Today we lost a big personality and businessman in our community who was very generous and supported various religious and charitable courses. Though he had substantial material wealth, nothing went with to his grave other than his good deeds and sadaqatul jaariya that he left behind.

And the reality of life strikes home when we contemplate these events. At his janazah, people even rushed to cut their dua short as they had to rush back for iftaar. That is the harsh reality of this material world.

Do we want to leave empty handed? Or do we want to take with the achievement of a lifetime of worship of this Night of Qadr to our grave and its concomitant reward?

Thus benefit from these nights with clean hearts and pure intention and knock at Almighty Allah’s door as Allah will respond to your call.

Tonight is also the night of Imam Ali (a.s) as we remember his martyrdom.

In the past few nights we discussed certain attributes of the Servants of Rahman and showed how Imam Ali (a.s) was the personification of these attributes.

These attributes were that they:

  • Have humility;
  • Have forbearance;
  • Are regular in night worship; and
  • Fear the Day of Accountability and the Punishment of Jahannam

While Imam Ali (a.s) had no fear in the battlefield, he shook in fear during his prayer.

Imam Ali (a.s) believes that Worship must be based on Taqwa.

Taqwa is the most discussed issue in Quran as well as in Nahjul Balagha.

While those who have sick hearts hate Imam Ali (a.s) due to hypocrisy in their hearts like Prophet (sawa) says:

“O Ali, no one will love you except a believer and no one will hate you except a hypocrite”;

There’s another group like us who say we love Imam Ali (a.s) but don’t learn anything from him or get closer to him.

There are 10 khutbas in Nahjul Balagha on Taqwa, yet we are not even familiar with its basic contents.

When it came to issues of justice, Imam Ali (a.s) had no mercy even for his very close lovers if they crossed the boundaries.

Thus we cannot have a slogan of loving Imam Ali (a.s) but have actions which are contrary to the love of Imam Ali (a.s).


When reading the word taqwa in Quran, we find that it is often translated as being to fear Allah or fearing the fire of hell. But in Arabic the word taqwa has nothing to do with fear!

The root letters of the word taqwa are “Wauw/qaf/yaa” which has nothing to do with “fear” or even “abstinence” which it’s sometimes translated as in the form “abstain from sin”, etc.

“Wauw/qaf/yaa” means “to protect” or “to save” something.

Yes “fear” might be a consequence of of the motive to protect, but this fear is not taqwa itself.

In English we say “piety” is to be religiously conscious – but that is not taqwa.


Ayatullah Mutahhari says that taqwa is to protect yourself from the anger of Almighty Allah and consequently from the fire of jahannam.

This protection occurs in two ways. It can either take a:

  • Positive form; or
  • A negative form

By way of example, our tongue often falls prey to all sorts of sins that takes results in is reaching the bottom of jahannam.

To control this tongue, some people think we should not talk at all and thus they protect their tongue from sin. Thus they sort of “throw stones into their mouth” to prevent themselves from speaking. It is as if they remove their tongues will power by force.

Then we think that this person is pious as he lives in a corner and has nothing to do with anything.

There are many narrations of Persian poetry that demonstrate this phenomenon. Some of these poems go along the lines of:

“I saw a worshipper hiding himself in the mountains;

I asked him why he is hiding;

He replies ‘if I go to the city, my eyes will fall onto many things and slip into sin’;

So I rather stay here in the mountain!”

This expression of taqwa is more of a weakness, than being real taqwa itself.

But then you get another expression of taqwa that involves self control and discipline. It does not involve running away from the world and abstinence. Rather it is a quality that you develop within your self to control yourself in the real world.

How does one’s “self” control one’s “self”?

It’s important to note that you get a “real self” and a “fake self”.

The “real self” is one’s intellect that distinguishes between right and wrong.

The “fake self” is our desires.

In Persian they say when “self” can control “non self” (desires) – then you have taqwa!

This quality of the soul is not easy to develop and requires much practise.

So Imam Ali (a.s) considers taqwa to be a power (not a weakness of hiding in a mountains) where you live in society and see all its ills and are still able to control yourself. If you can’t do this then you don’t have Taqwa!

So if someone has taqwa, he is successful in this world as well. If taqwa was limited to religious conscience (as alluded to in the English dictionary), then what does it have to do with this world?

Thus Imam Ali (a.s) says “Tawqa is the key to success”.

And Quran considers “the clothing of taqwa is best”.

Just as clothing protects you, so taqwa protects. Clothes are not a “chain” that restricts you but protects you.

And then Imam Ali (a.s) says taqwa is mutual – it will protect you but you must also protect it!

And thus Imam Ali (a.s) includes a reminder of Taqwa in his final will when he was on his deathbed