Being mindful of one's relationship with God is an individual obligation whose foundation is knowledge, and whose life is practice according to Islam. Allah call's the believers, ordering them to be cautious: "Oh you who believe, be cautious of Allah."
Five Stations of Taqwa (God-consciousness)
Ibn Juzay al-Maliki a great classical scholar, wrote, "The degrees of taqwa are five:
1. Being cautious of falling into disbelief. This is the station of submission to God.
2. Being cautious of falling into sin and evil. This is the station of repentance.
3. Being cautious of doubtful things. This is the station of carefulness.
4. Being cautious of the permissible. This is the station of indifference. Ibn al-Qayyim said, "There are some people who will observe the obligations and avoid the prohibited. However, Shaytan will busy them with the permissible acts until the fail to make use of their extra time."
5. Being cautious of letting anything enter the heart save Allah . This is the station of witness."
Taqwa in Practice
Once 'Umar asked a companion, "describe for me taqwa." The companion responded, "If you were to walk through a thorny pathway with a flowing robe, how would you walk?" 'Umar answered, "I would gather my garments, squeezing them tight, and walk carefully." The companion responded, "That is taqwa."
How to Gain Taqwa?
If you were born a Muslim, or accepted Islam, then you already possess taqwa. This is great news and should serve as a spring board to preserve and develop your existing relationship with Allah ! There are some pretty clear ways to do this. However, knowledge and practice are two very different entities:
1. Make a sincere intention to improve your taqwa.
2. Ask Allah to increase your tawqa. It is authentically reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to supplicate:
اللهم إني أسئلك الهدى والتقى والعفاف والغنى
"Allahum Inni asalukal huda wa ttuqa wal 'afaaf wal ghinaa."
"Oh Allah, I ask You for guidance, piety, virtue and sufficiency."
3. To increase your worship. Allah says, "Worship Allah...you will obtain taqwa."
4. Observe the sunnah whenever possible. The Prophet said, "I am the most God fearing person." Thus, following him is a guarantee, if one's intention is right, that one is on the ways of taqwa. Imam Malik said, "The Sunnah is like the Ark of Noah . Whoever got on board was safe. Who didn't, drowned."
At the end of the day, these steps are like tools hanging in our garages. If we use them, we will build something. If we neglect them, making excuses, being lazy or having bad feelings about our Lord , then we have none to blame but ourselves. Start by observing the obligatory acts, increase the number of sunnah, charity and civic engagement. All of those, if done for Allah alone, are Red Bulls for taqwa without the withdrawal!
Taqwa is a quality whose virtues are astounding. Imam al-Faruzabadi mentioned 22 virtues of taqwa mentioned in the Qur'an!