The essence of Eemaan (Faith)
Fatwa No: 12517

  • Fatwa Date:9-2-2012 - Rabee' Al-Awwal 17, 1433
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Question

What is the meaning of Eemaan?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

 

Linguistically, Eemaan means conviction. However in an Islamic context, Eemaan means faith which necessarily consists of the profession uttered by the tongue, the belief in the heart, and the actions of the body. Imaam Ahmad  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him stated that Eemaan is comprised of both sayings and actions and it can increase and decrease. Imaam Ash-Shaafi‘i and Al-Baghawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them reported unanimity from scholars that actions belong to Eemaan.

In fact, there is no difference between saying that Eemaan involves sayings and actions; or sayings, actions and intentions; or sayings, actions and belief because all these phrases linguistically vary but they have the same meaning. Thus, the person who says that Eemaan involves sayings and actions refers to the attestation of the heart and mouth and actions of the heart and body. Whereas, the person who adds "belief" fears that people might understand the word "sayings" literally, so he adds belief of the heart. Moreover, the person who holds that Eemaan includes sayings, actions and intention says that "saying" involves belief (attestation of the heart) and attestation of the tongue. However, people might not understand "actions" to include intention (actions of the heart) so he adds "intention" to the definition.

In brief, scholars view the essence of Eemaan as a combination of sayings and actions. Each is divided into two parts:

1-      Sayings of the heart (inner belief) and sayings of the tongue (declaring the two testimonies of faith).

2-      Actions of the heart (intention and sincerity) and actions of the body.

Eemaan totally disappears if the four parts are neglected, whereas if there is no inner belief, none of the three parts will benefit the person. That is, the three parts and their benefits are contingent on belief of the heart.

Another point that is disputed between the followers of the Sunnah and the Murji'ah sect is the case where a person lacks actions of the heart but attests to the truth. The followers of the Sunnah unanimously agree that such a person has no faith and that attesting this would not help him without actions of the heart, that is, inner love and submission of the heart. For example, such attestation did not benefit Satan, Fir‘awn (Pharaoh) and his people, the Jews or the pagans who used to believe in the truthfulness of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) , and admit it publicly and in secret. They used to say that Muhammad was not a liar but that they would not follow him or believe in him.

There are many texts in the Quran and Sunnah which support the fact that Eemaan involves sayings, actions and belief. For example, Allaah The Almighty Says (what means):

• {For faith has not yet entered your hearts.} [Quran 49:14]

{But Allaah has endeared to you the faith and has made it pleasing in your hearts} [Quran 49:7]

These two verses show that Eemaan lies in the heart, which includes both the sayings and actions of the heart. Additionally, attestation with the tongue is necessary for Eemaan to exist. To support this the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) mentioned that Allaah commanded him to fight people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allaah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is the Messenger of Allaah. If they did, they would gain protection for their life and property and they would be held accountable for their hidden actions by Allaah, unless they committed an act that required a prescribed corporal punishment. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Imaam An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him agreed with the followers of the Sunnah that a true believer is the person who firmly believes in Islam beyond any shadow of doubt and who declares the two testimonies of faith. If he does only one of these he will not be a Muslim.

As for actions, they are also included in Eemaan according to many Sharee`ah texts, such as the Quranic verse in which Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {And never would Allaah have caused you to lose your faith.} [Quran 2:143] that is, to lose the reward for your prayers. Al-Haleemi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him referred to an agreement of scholars that faith in this verse refers to prayers, and thus every act of worship is considered a part of faith. Al-Bukhari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him also stated that prayers are among the acts of faith. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said that Eemaan consists of about 60 or 70 branches, the best of which is saying that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allaah, and the least of which is removing harm from the roads, and that bashfulness is a part of Eemaan. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

This Hadeeth indicates that acts of worship, whether sayings, feelings or physical acts, are included in Eemaan. Imaam Ibn Al-Qayyim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him stated that Eemaan has an origin and several parts, so prayers, Zakah (obligatory almsgiving), fasting and inner feelings such as bashfulness and Tawakkul (reliance on Allaah) all belong to Eemaan.

Allaah Knows best.

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