اَلتَّقْوى حِصْنُ المُؤْمِنِ
Taqwa is the faithful’s fortress.
Taqwa (تقوى) is defined in Islam as the avoidance of sin. It is roughly translated into the English concept of piety and God-fearing. The Holy Quran says in Surat Al-Baqarah
And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah
Taqwa is the subject of many sermons by Ali bin Abi Talib. In sermon 156 of Nahjul Balaghah he says:
Know O’ creatures of Allah! that piety is a strong house of protection while impiety is a weak house which does not protect its people, and does not give security to him who takes refuge therein.
And in sermon 189
You should therefore exercise fear of Allah because it has a rope whose twist is strong and its pinnacle is lofty and invulnerable. Hasten toward death in its pangs (by doing good acts) and be prepared for it before its approach, because the ultimate end is the Day of Judgement. This is enough preaching for one who understands and enough of a lesson for one who does not know. What idea do you have, before reaching that end, of the narrowness of grave, the hardship of loneliness, fear of the passage towards the next world, the pangs of fear, the shifting of ribs here and there (due to narrowing of the grave), the deafness of ears, the darkness of the grave, fear of the promised punishment, the closing of the receptacle of the grave and the laying of stones?
And in sermon 197:
Now then, I advise you to fear Allah, Who created you for the first time; towards Him is your return, with Him lies the success of your aims, at Him terminate (all) your desires, towards Him runs your path of right and He is the aim of your fears (for seeking protection). Certainly, fear of Allah is the medicine for your hearts, sight for the blindness of your spirits, the cure for the ailments of your bodies, the rectifier of the evils of your breasts, the purifier of the pollution of your minds, the light of the darkness of your eyes, the consolation for the fear of your heart and the brightness for the gloom of your ignorance.
ذِكْرُ اللّهِ دِعامَةُ الإيمانِ وَ عِصْمَةٌ مِنَ الشَّيطانِ
Remembrance of Allah is a pillar of faith and protection from Satan.
Remembrance of Allah is defined by Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.S.) in Lantern of the Path as follows:
He who truly remembers Allah is the one who obeys Him: whoever forgets is disobedient. Obedience is the mark of guidance, disobedience the sign of misguidance. The root of both states lies in remembrance (dhikr) and forgetfulness. Make your heart the focal point of your tongue, which should not move unless the heart indicates, the intellect agrees and your tongue accords with belief. Almighty Allah knows what you conceal and what you reveal.
مَنْ وَحَّدَ اللّهَ سُبْحانَهُ لَمْ يُشَبِّهْهُ بِالخَلْقِ
Whoever believes in Allah’s oneness, does not liken him to his creatures.
Tawheed (monotheism) is the first and most important belief in Islam. Surat Al-Ikhlas (Surat Al-Tawheed) describes Allah:
Ali bin Abi Talib has many sermons explaining Tawheed, among them is sermon 64 in Nahjul Balagha:
Praise be to Allah for Whom one condition does not proceed another so that He may be the First before being the Last or He may be Manifest before being Hidden. Everyone called one (alone) save Him is by virtue of being small (in number); and everyone enjoying honour other than Him is humble. Every powerful person other than Him is weak. Every master (owner) other than Him is slave (owned).
Every knower other than Him is seeker of knowledge. Every controller other than Him is sometimes imbued with control and sometimes with disability. Every listener other than Him is deaf to light voices while loud voices make him deaf and distant voices also get away from him. Every onlooker other than Him is blind to hidden colours and delicate bodies. Every manifest thing other than Him is hidden, but every hidden thing other than Him is incapable of becoming manifest.
He did not create what He created to fortify His authority nor for fear of the consequences of time, nor to seek help against the attack of an equal or a boastful partner or a hateful opponent. On the other hand all the creatures are reared by him and are His humbled slaves. He is not conditioned in anything so that it be said that He exists therein, nor is He separated from anything so as to be said that He is away from it. The creation of what He initiated or the administration of what He controls did not fatigue Him. No disability overtook Him against what He created. No misgiving ever occurred to Him in what He ordained and resolved. But His verdict is certain, His knowledge is definite, His governance is overwhelming. He is wished for at time of distress and He is feared even in bounty.
سل عن الرفيق قبل الطريق
Ask about the companion before you travel
It is essential before you travel to know who will travel with you. If your travel companion is experienced and well-mannered you will enjoy his company and reach your destination safely. If he was the opposite of that, your trip will be hard and dangerous.
Likewise, your spiritual journey to Allah which takes a lifetime and is more important, requires careful choosing of your travel guide. In this case he is called master, teacher, guru, or shaikh. If he was an experienced and compassionate spiritual guide, you’ll safely reach spiritual perfection. Otherwise, you are in danger of losing the way and might end up in hell.
لو كان لربك شريك لأتتك رسله
If there was another God he would have sent you his prophets.