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Before discussing the articles of faith, acouple of introductory topics need to be touched upon. The first concerns thedefinition of “faith” or “belief” from an Islamic perspective. The secondconcerns the basis of one’s faith.
The Definition of “Belief”
For many an English speaker, “belief”simply means the acknowledgment the something is true. Thus, one can be asked, “Do you believe that God exists?” and the replymay be, “Yes.” The same person may be askeda follow-up question, “Does your belief in God haveany influence or ramifications upon your life, your deeds and your goals?”To this question, the same person who says he believes in God will reply, “No.” Given this common scenario, the followingquestion must be addressed: Could this type of belief possibly be equivalent towhat Islam means by, for example, “belief inAllah”?
The foundation of one’s Islam starts withwhat is in one’s heart and one’s beliefs. Thus, Islam has put a great emphasison what to believe in, as shall be discussed in this chapter. At the same time,though, Islam also stresses what “belief” is supposed to be. Belief, from anIslamic perspective, cannot be something that a person claims is in his heartwhile it has no influence on the person’s life and behavior. On the contrary,the beliefs in the heart should be the driving force behind everything the individualdoes. The true and effective beliefs never remain at an abstract level buttheir influence is manifested on a day-to-day practical level. To take a simpleexample, the question of cheating and stealing is directly related to one’soverall belief system. If a person believes that these acts are morally wrongand that there is an all-knowing, just God who will hold him accountable forhis deeds, he will most likely refrain from such acts. But if a person does notbelieve in any eternal ramifications or any day of judgment, his decidingfactor may only be the chances of being caught and the severity of the punishmentfor those acts.
In fact, true belief does much more than make a person realize the negative or positive ramifications of an act. As a person develops in his faith and his beliefs become stronger, his faith molds the very way he looks at thing. His love for something and his hatred for something is determined by his beliefs about that thing. For example, when he recognizes that God loves something, he realizes that that thing must be wonderful and also deserving of his love. On the contrary, if God dislikes something, the individual realizes that that thing must be filled with traits that are deserving of his dislike as well.
One can take the example of smoking.Someone may believe that smoking is harmful and wrong by accepting the factsshowing smoking to be harmful as true but he continues to smoke and he does notlet what he recognizes to be true guide his actions. In other words, he doesnot submit to the truth he sees nor does he implement what it implies. Hisfactual knowledge about smoking has not permeated into his heart such that hedevelops a hatred for smoking due to its evils. Hence, his recognition of thefacts is not the same thing as “belief” or, in Quranic terms, imaan. Imaannecessitates that one has the willingness to submit to or enact what onerecognizes to be true. In the case of true belief or Imaan, if that Imaanis strong and healthy at that moment, then it will put the feeling of hatred inthe person’s heart for that act that hebelieves to be wrong or harmful. It will keep the person from wanting to committhat harmful act.
At the same time, itwill put the love for all good deeds into his heart. Thus,
“Allah has endeared the Faith to you and has beautified it in your hearts, and has made disbelief, wickedness and disobedience hateful to you. These! They are the rightly guided ones”
Such a faithwill, therefore, rule his life and it will guide him to what he should do. (If,however, his faith is weak and can be overcome by other forces in the heart, itmay not have that effect.)
Therefore, truebelief means that one acts in accordance with that belief. When, for example,an individual says that he believes in the angels, it means that he knows thatthe angels are present and that they are actually recording his deeds. Thisshould affect him in that he will not perform those deeds that he does not wantthose angels to see and record.
Thus, a thoroughstudy of the Quran and Sunnah shows that faith or Imaan hascertain components. These componentswere summed up by the earliest scholars in their saying, Imaan isstatement and action.” Statement hereincludes both statement of the heart (affirmation) and statement of the tongue(verbal profession). Action includes both the actions of the heart (willingnessto submit, love and so forth) and actions of the body (such as prayer and soforth).
Forthe sake of clarity, over time, these two components were broken down into thethree following essential components of Imaan(1)Belief in the heart; (2)Profession by the tongue; (3)Performance of deeds by the physical parts of the body.
In sum, faith, meaning true and definitivebelief in something, should lead to a corresponding submission to what onebelieves in. Otherwise, it is simply an acceptance of a fact but it is not theIslamic concept of “faith” (imaan). Thus, IbnUthaimeen wrote,
Imaan isthe affirmation that requires acceptance and submission. If a person believesin something without acceptance and submission, that is not imaan. Theevidence for that is that the polytheists [Arabs] believed in Allah’s existenceand believed in Allah as the Creator, Sustainer, Giver of Life, Bringer ofDeath and the Manager of the Universe’s Affairs. Furthermore, one of them evenaccepted the messengership of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) but hewas not a believer. That person was Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet (peacebe upon him)… But that [belief in the Prophet (peace be upon him)] will notavail him whatsoever because he did not accept and submit to what the Prophet(peace be upon him) brought.
- Cf., Ahmad ibn Taimiya, Majmoo Fatawaa Shaikh al-Islaam ibn Taimiya (collected by Abdul Rahmaan Qaasim and his son Muhammad, no publication information given), vol. 7, p. 672.
- Muhammad ibn Uthaimeen, Sharh Hadith Jibreel Alaihi al-Salaam (Dar al-Thuraya, 1415 A.H.), pp. 4-5.