What is Eemaan?
What is true eemaan, or faith? Who is a true believer (mu’min)? What are the essential elements, or articles, of eemaan? These questions are of vital importance. In fact, this is what Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) explained to Angel Jibreel when the latter asked him about eemaan.
When Angel Jibreel asked the Prophet (pbuh), “What is faith (eemaan)?” He replied, “It is to believe in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and to believe in the Divine Decree (al-qadar), both the good of it and the bad of it.”
Eemaan is a Statement and Action
Eemaan is a statement and action. In other words, it has three essential elements: belief in the heart, profession by the tongue and performance of the deeds by the physical parts of the body.
Belief in the Heart
The heart is the locus of eemaan as well as its foundation. The Quran says,
“O Messenger let them not grieve you who hasten into disbelief of those who say, “We believe” with their mouths, but their hearts believe not…”
Hence, eemaan is the statement of ‘the heart’. It is made up of recognition, knowledge and affirmation. In other words, a believer recognizes that there is none worthy of worship except Allah. He has knowledge of this truth and he affirms it in his heart.
The second element of eemaan is the actions of the heart. This aspect of eemaan is made up of commitment, voluntary surrender and acceptance. These include, among other things, love of Allah, awe of Him, trust in Him, heedfulness of His commands and prohibitions, fear of Him and hope in Him.
Declaration of Faith with the Tongue
The second essential element of eemaan is to declare one’s faith with the tongue. In this case, one testifies that one recognizes the truthfulness of the testimony of the faith and intends to adhere to the commands and guidance of what he has testified to. Mere pronouncement of the words in themselves is not enough.
Performance of Righteous Deeds by the Body Parts
Eemaan is a statement and action. Faith increases by acts of obedience to Allah and decreases by acts of disobedience. The heart is the driving force behind all actions. If the heart is filled with eemaan – with the love of Allah and His Messenger (pbuh), fear of Allah, hope in Him, amongst other things – It will certainly prompt the body to perform acts of obedience to Allah. It will keep him away from forbidden, shameful and even doubtful or dubious acts. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “There is a lump of flesh in the body; when it is sound, the whole body is sound; but when it becomes corrupted, the whole body also becomes corrupted. It is the heart.”
(Part of a hadeeth reported by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)
Faith, however, differs from one believer to another, and true faith is one that is expressed in actions, as Almighty Allah says, “And that is Paradise which you are made to inherit for what you used to do.”
Branches of Faith
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Faith has sixty-odd or seventy-odd branches; the highest and the best of which is to declare that there is no god worthy of worship but Allah, and the lowest of which is to remove something harmful from the road. Modesty, too, is a branch of faith.”
(Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)
If eemaan has different branches and each part is called eemaan, it follows that salaat is eemaan, Zakaat is eemaan, and Hajj is eemaan. Virtues such as modesty, trust, fear of Allah, heedfulness of Allah, and total submission to His will, even removing a harmful thing from the way, are parts of eemaan. Some of these parts are very basic: like the two testimonies of faith. If you lose them, you lose eemaan completely. Others are marginal, such as removing an obstacle from the way. If, for any reason, you lose them, you do not lose eemaan completely. Instead, you have moved from the lofty level of eemaan to its lower level.
There are a number of things that testify to one’s true faith. These include the following:
- Loving the Prophet (pbuh) more than one loves one’s parents and children. (See al-Bukhaaree, 1:14)
- Establishing voluntary prayers on the Night of the Decree (Laylat al-Qadr). (See al-Bukhaaree, 1:35)
- Fasting the month of Ramadhaan faithfully and in anticipation of Allah’s rewards. (See al-Bukhaaree, 1:37)
- Establishing the obligatory prayers. (See al-Bukhaaree, 1:40)
- Following the funeral procession of a Muslim. (See al-Bukhaaree, 1:47)
- Observing hayaa’ (modesty, honour, bashfulness) (See al-Bukhaaree, 1:24)
Sweetness of Faith
Anas ibn Maalik narrated that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “Whoever possesses these three qualities will enjoy the sweetness of faith: (1) One to whom Allah and His Messenger is dearer to him than anything else, (2) one who loves a person only for the sake of Allah and (3) one who hates to revert to disbelief as he hates to be thrown into the Hell-fire.”
He is still a Believer he who has Deficiency in Faith
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “A fornicator (a person who indulges in illicit sex) while committing illicit sex is not a [true] believer. A thief while stealing is not a [true] believer.”
(al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)
A similar hadteeth states, “When a person commits illicit sexual intercourse, eemaan leaves him and remains above his head like an awning. When he parts from this illicit behavior, the eemaan comes back to him.”
During the time of the Prophet (pbuh), some people committed adultery, stole and drank wine. The Prophet (pbuh) did not call them disbelievers. He did not even declare that relations between them and the Muslims be cut I off. Instead, he flogged the drinker and I had the hand of the thief cut off. At the f same time, he sought Allah’s I forgiveness for them.
Scholars have argued that the Prophet’s words in the hadeeth, “Eemaan leaves him and remains above his head like an awning” suggest that eemaan does not depart from him completely. A person who performs such deeds still remains a believer but he has a deficiency in his faith. In other words, he is a believer with respect to his faith and an evildoer with respect to the sin he commits. He is not a true believer. He does not fulfil his faith sincerely.