Posted by: Dawud Israel | July 4, 2011

Taqwa Rose Explained

This post is a continuation from my first post on this.


This is a very old project that I’ve been trying to get going for a long time. I feel we under-utilize the potential for artwork to educate. Ideagrams, infographics and graphs are rarely seen in Muslim literature, and when they are there, they don’t inform or convey information but are there as mere decoration.

The structure and form of artwork can educate and teach its beholder, even its creator, (i.e. in this case myself) as an aid to contemplation and discovery. Thus, Islamic artwork, representing spiritual knowledge can take on a “living” form bringing to life not a creature, or separate entity, but bring a life to our very souls. It can be utilized as a powerful tool of tarbiya/ta’dib and be passed on quite easily. So in short, its about this notion of Islamic understanding and lesson within a piece of artwork. I think a fairly smart way to go about it is through something similar to the mind-map– something I have talked about many times in the past on this blog. It is an organic portrayal of our thoughts and knowledge to help us see the connections and get a better idea of a bigger picture.

One shortcoming is that this form of artwork is dangerous because you are ‘dictating’ patterns of thinking and making the internal external that is, by making something wholly spiritual, physical. In reifying things in this way it can take away from the experience and surprise somewhat. This has the danger of becoming a dogmatic and hollow understanding, and so it needs to be said that this is not written in stone, you could create an alternative depiction or another form with even better explanation. What is represented can be changed, but only in the same spirit it was drawn, with true sincere intention and has the Shariah’s aims of maximizing benefit and minimizing harm behind it. As an example you could take what I have presented here and try to think of ways it could be done differently and what effect that would have. The point here is with every configuration, comes not a better meaning, but a different meaning.

Out of modesty, gentleness and to prevent myself from sounding paternalistic I’m going to explain Taqwa Rose in the remainder of this post without the use of capital letters.

Connections and Relationships: Continuum of the Taqwa Rose

love of the prophet as the root of all virtue
i have made the core virtue the love of the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam. it is through his life story (seerah) and example that we come to understand the fullest human dimension of these virtues. they, become true virtues when the best of creation salallahu alayhi wasalam takes them on and teaches them in the best of ways as is his esteemed status salallahu alayhi wasalam.

tafakkur, rifq and contentment
the beauty of thought is that it is a gentle affair, so our tafakkur and contemplation is so soft and this is why it is so compelling, it comes as if from nowhere and is thus the best analogy of the idea of ‘blessings’ moreover still because the prophet described it as ‘all good.’ thoughts when they are not gentle, are often violent and carry that violence elsewhere to others in the form of abrasive words and physical harm, the opposite of contentment. however, when we are gentle with others in speech and action, conveying at the same time a gentleness of thought, we foster contentment in others and in ourselves. we have fully expressed ourselves to the extent possible but were we not to do so gently, we would be dissatisfied in failing to express ourselves. the thing with anger and frustration are that they are a sign of incompletion, they are incomplete because they always continue and anger is exhausting and by its nature short-lived. it dies out but if there is anger mixed with contentment (as opposed to contempt) then there is restraint, we may say something and deem it to be enough, if not for others then for perhaps enough for us.

generosity and ikhlas
if you have generosity, that leads you to being generous with yourself…which brings forth sincerity- if you are stingy with yourself, how can you allow yourself sincerity? but you need ikhlas then to continue being generous. but in order to be generous you need to be just and honest to understand what the requisite needs are. and true generosity is giving before being asked and giving more than one is expected to give.

ihsan and generosity
ihsan originates in generosity because it goes above and beyond. it is motivated by a love, which in turn is rooted in ikhlas, but that generosity comes from not identifying with oneself and so where will the focus be but away from the self? that is why generosity is almost natural for those who have ihsan because its as seamless to be generous to others as some find it as seamless to be generous to yourself (miserly).

zuhd and generosity
in showing cautiousness and scrupulousness, one is being generous with oneself in not overburdening your self. not: overstuffing your stomach, overloading your mind, over congesting your surroundings, and in so decreasing things you see less of your self and you allow more room and opportunity to be generous with others.

love and ikhlas
the question, ‘how sincere am i to Allah if i hold back in love?’ in this way ikhlas is an evaluator or an indicator of love. and love is hard to explain as well. between love and ikhlas there is only hesitation. the best way to understand love and ikhlas with Allah is to reflect on how hard it is sometimes to make eye contact with someone you admire. this itself is a big topic that is hard to do justice to here.

sabr, contentment and tawakkul
one needs to have tawakkul in order to have sabr. and proper tawakkul and sabr in combination foster a contentment. malcontent is a fostered through haste and immediate expectation- the precise mirror inversion of these three.

contentment and steadfastness (istiqama)
Ibn Rajab al Hanbali (ra) mentions in his Jaami al Uloom Wal Hikam, that there is a distinction between contentment and steadfastness:

“Steadfastness is to withhold and restrain the self from discontentment while one experiences pain and wishes for its departure, and to restrain the limbs from acting in impatience.

Contentment is the expansion of the breast and its expansiveness with respect to the decree and giving up wishing for the departure of that which causes pain even when one experiences pain, but, however, contentment lightens the pain because of the heart’s embracing the spirit of certainty and gnosis. If the contentment is strong, it will completely drive away the experience of the pain.”

tafakkur, hikma and sabr
one way to understand this is the life of a genius: sabr is required to do tafakkur and contemplate ideas, to conceive every relevant thought and understand the connections and subtleties in the wisdom of Allah’s design in the universe.

shukr, contentment and sabr
shukr is closely related to contentment because its a way of affirming what one has and by thanking we are engaged in tafakkur, contemplating the effects that blessing has and to where it extends, thereby our contentment increases by that contemplation. on the flip side, when we are heedless we become forgetful and blind to the blessings around us leading to malcontent; though there is no end to the blessings of God, the blessing of being able to make shukr is one that brings into one’s consciousness existence of all blessings immediately, so in this sense, it is in this sense that shukr satisfies and gives fuel to sabr.

hayya and contentment
hayya is related to contentment because they are both subdued with humility. and this brings forth izzah and respect for people who are content and modest. individuals who are content and modest will often be saved from the sins of the tongue as well, since there is nothing they crave or chase after. they are safeguarded from jealousy and will guard their modesty by making sure they can help others be modest as well vis-a-vis not speaking ill of others nor exposing their weaknesses.

honesty and justice
honesty renders something true, honesty by its nature demands to be specific- that is why a dictionary is not a place of lies because it speaks to the true reality of words. in being honest one has to dig deeper and make sure one is certain, and this is the quality that justice shares with it in giving everything its due and proper place.

their is an arabic saying ‘he who knows the meaning of words finds his morals softened’ and this speaks to the understanding inherent in both justice and honesty. in many ways justice and its correlates are similar to an ecosystem that must stay in balance and that if it is unbalanced, the whole system suffers, just as if you were to remove something from this Taqwa Rose, the whole would suffer and be incomplete and difficult without the aid and company of an adjacent virtue.

justice, courage and izzah

for some dignity to be present there must be justice, and any act of injustice experienced is an attack on that persons dignity, thereby reducing there honour. being just requires courage and their is a noble izzah in doing something few would dare, since it may mean hurting oneself. ‘be just, even if it be against yourself’ since it has no other motive than to be for God.

shukr and wara
when you are cautious you are being wary of blessings that you have and preserving them. in a sense you are also giving greater attention to those blessings more worthy of your attention. there is also a greater clarity in staying back and being cautious, you see blessings with greater clarity. for example, a fasting person’s smell is sharpened and they notice the various smells far more easily.

humility, war’a and zuhd
humility is related to war’a and zuhd in that it is easier to be scrupulous and ascetic when one is humbled and realizes the shortness of his/her stay in proportion to his/her deeds. zuhd and wara in turn cause one to be even more humble through sheer meekness of one’s changed presence.

hayya, wara and zuhd
scrupulousness goes hand in hand with zuhd because they both demand detachment, the war’a being the less intense of the two but zuhd being a manifestation of war’a, though much more fully realized. war’a also demands on is careful in one’s thoughts and tafakkur (contemplation) to inspect where one needs to be more scrupulous and cautious, where the effects are positive or negative and how they reach that point. there is a hayya that is also present when we limit ourselves and shy away from the world, not because we are shy of the world but shy of God which is the reality of hayya.

war’a, honesty and justice
it is connected with justice and honesty because it deems that the best safety from being unjust is to endure some difficulty and to live undeservedly, thereby freeing oneself from the need to be treated justly but also to prepare oneself for being treated unjustly. it makes one resilient and is a precaution to do justice to one’s potentially experienced injustice by toughening oneself by preparation. when difficulty comes your way you are ready for it.

compassion, fear and hope
Rumi says, ‘Allah scares us because He is Merciful’ and that scaring is not to hurt us but to compassionately warn us, much like how a little pain in the body can save us from even more pain. if you consider what Rumi said above, then fear is a type of hope given to us compassionately from God. in the words of Abdal Hakim Murad, the ummah provides fear, and Allah gives hope. hope and fear are also related by the fact that too much or too little hope leads to paralyzing fear. there is a great deal written on fear/hope also by ibn Qayyim and imam Ghazali (see here).

tawakkul and compassion
when you are feeling down but trust in Allah and someone comes along and out of compassion gives you some nasiha. the connection between tawakkul and compassion is that of hoping and Allah acceding and granting fulfillment of that hope. there are countless stories of people merely strengthening their tawakkul in difficulty and Allah send aid to them immediately.

compassion and humility
when someone is showed compassion, no matter how proud they are they will be humbled by the genuine compassion and humbled by the magnanimity of that individual. now, it is rare to see someone who has no humility to be truly compassionate, unless its for show. but there is also compassion in that you do not impose your humility upon others, so you don’t expect them to behave like you would but are compassionate to differences.

compassion, generosity and contentment
you feel you can be compassionate because you are content, you don’t seem to have any worry and therefore this makes compassion easier. your mentality is that there is nothing to lose. if you are however resentful and frustrated, compassion seems to be a far away thought since you will think of yourself first.

humility and izzah
tawad’u ahadillah illa min rafa’ullah– Allah will raise those who humble themselves (hadith)

hayya and humility
this humility draws solely upon hayya minallah, shyness before God, not shyness before others. i touched on this earlier.

hayya and izzah
self-respect and dignity in being modesty and hiding some part of your self. the most hidden are often the most beautiful because they are not known.

izzah and contentment
when one is content and free of need there is more dignity, what can you give this person as a gift? not much. there is also a hadith that states, ‘leave what people love and they will love you.’ and it makes sense because if you abandon what people love, people recognize you are unique, you are free of ulterior motives nor are you tied down with others vain hopes and ambitions, so there is little to no chance of harm from you.

hope and humility
hope is related to humility in many ways in that they are brothers to each other where hope never abandons the humbled, and when one is humbled that is when hope is the most sincere and real.

dhikr is connected to tafakkur
when we contemplate and find something worthy of contemplation we find something to keep our dhikr alive longer and to make it deeper. its like finding a gift of hikma along a journey or a sustenance for that journey.

rifq and istiqama
the Quranic term: to have beautiful patience, is stating as if Allah wants us to be beautiful for Him, through patience. there is a gentleness (rifq) in that and in persevering (istiqama) one must be gentle or else it is difficult to outlast.

rifq and shukr
gentleness is beautiful and beauty is all about appreciation. not much else to say there.

ikhlas and ihsan
if ihsan is the blade, then ikhlas is the sharpener and polisher of that blade. ikhlas is atomistic and can get into anywhere, there is relevance to it everywhere and in every moment.

hikma, courage, sacrifice, dhikr and purity
i placed all these 5 upon the outside because constitute the ‘actualizers,’ the seeds and vehicles that bring all the other virtues into being. wisdom serves both as a teacher and amanah, weighing on you to put it to worthy use, while courage brings forth a seriousness that looks at these virtues beyond nice words. sacrifice is slightly different from courage because it is an opportunity, one we create or one that arises to endure courage’s power and be transformed by generosity, love, shukr, tawakkul, or any of the virtues in the rose. purity is important because it is half of faith, but also a struggle to maintain and ceaselessly improve, though there be no dirt there, yet there is continual cleaning and expanding- the mirror doesn’t get dirty but clearer and larger. and i think that understanding of purity is also a comprehensive understanding of beauty. one must strive to keep their tongue clean through keeping their heart clean. purify your heart and Allah will create more space to accommodate for more khayr in your heart. and the heart is capable of great flexibility. dhikr, the act of remembrance, is important in reminded us of these virtues, that in remembering God we can remember all these virtues, and the wisdom and responsibility inherent in them. and hikma is a gift that is given by Allah to assist us in our struggles. one can also see these 5 as measures, that if we one is lacking in hikma, courage, sacrifice, dhikr and purity, then it is likely other moral virtues are missing.

i have summarized just a few ways in how the moral virtues of islam are related and interconnected to each other. i would like to imagine i have just touched the tip of the iceberg. many will discuss these virtues in name but few will discuss their realities and how they are related and how one needs all of them in order to fully understand, or at the very least the few i have mentioned here. i did not include discussion of many negative traits partially because there are so many of them, but because focus on these virtues is often enough to remedy them. unfortunately we tend to focus more on the negative and rarely focus on the beautiful virtues which are more worthy of our attention. i didn’t mention other related concepts such as eman or husn or jamal or jalal or hilm, though those could conceivably be included simply because i wanted to focus on those virtues that are do-able. it is easier to be practical in this way rather than in other ways.

don’t be surprised if there is a 2.0 version of this or a spin-off.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


  1. deeply reflective and brillant explanation…
    “Islamic artwork, representing spiritual knowledge can take on a “living” form bringing to life not a creature, or separate entity, but bring a life to our very souls.”
    may this taqwa rose be inseparable part to our living life and our souls

    May Allah inspire you with other educative artworks

  2. Beautiful. MashaAllah.
    I made this with my younger sister and she loved it. 🙂 Alhumdulillah.

  3. […] like the Taqwa Rose, I have intended this as a learning tool to aid in understanding. Rather than read through a long […]

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