Īmān (faith) is a religious term. If something is accepted with the certitude of the heart then this is called īmān. The foundation of this word is īmān (faith) in God. If a person accepts the Almighty such that he submits his heart and mind to Him to the utmost and is happy at all His decisions, then in the terminology of the Qur’ān, he is a mu’min (believer). It is this very essence of faith on account of which the Qur’ān demands from a person that besides substantiation from the heart, his words and deeds should also testify to it. Thus it calls every act of virtue emanating from īmān an essential quality of a believer. No doubt, in the eyes of law every person who professes faith in Islam with his tongue is a mu’min. The extent of his faith can also not be ascertained as far as law is concerned; however, as far as true faith is concerned, it is never static. The faith of a person grows stronger when he remembers God and hears His revelations and witnesses His signs in the world within him and in that around him. The Qur’ān has compared faith to a tree whose roots are deep in the soil and branches spread in the vastness of the sky. Same is the case of one’s faith growing weaker. Thus if a person instead of making it stronger through sound knowledge and righteous deeds does acts which are against the requirements of faith, it grows weaker, and in some cases is totally wiped out. It is evident from this that both faith and righteous deeds are essential to one another. Thus just as righteous deeds are necessary for faith, similarly faith is necessary for righteous deeds. At all places, the Qur’ān has stated this professing faith to be the very first condition for salvation. This faith consists of the following five:
1. Belief in God
2. Belief in the Angels
3. Belief in the Prophets
4. Belief in Divine Books
5. Belief in the Day of Judgement
1. Belief in God
Allah is the name of the being Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all other creations. Since the very beginning, this name has been specifically used for the Lord of this world. Before the advent of the Prophet (sws), in the times of Arab jāhiliyyah also this name was used for Him. This word was also one of the remnants of the religion of Abraham (sws) which the Arabs inherited. An acknowledgement of the existence of God is found innately in man’s nature. The Qur’ān says that this matter manifested itself in the form of a pledge. It refers to this event as a real-life incident and not something metaphorical. Since man has been sent here for trial, the whole incident has been erased from his memory; however, its essence is etched on his heart and ingrained in his soul and nothing can obliterate it. Consequently, if man is reminded of it in the absence of any hindrance in his surroundings, he leaps to it the way a child leaps to its mother even though it never saw itself emerge from her womb and is drawn towards her with such conviction as if it already knew her. A person feels that this pledge of his with the Almighty was the answer to a very natural need found within him. Once he found it, it was as if all the requisites and demands of his psyche were fulfilled. The Qur’ān says that this testimony of man’s inner-self is so undeniable that as far as the providence of God is considered, man will be held accountable before God merely on the basis of this testimony. Besides this innate guidance, man has also been equipped with the ability of deriving conclusions from what he hears, sees and feels – conclusions which are actually beyond these faculties. A simple example to illustrate this is the law of gravitation. An apple falls on the ground. When a stone is to be lifted from ground, strength must be exerted. It is difficult to ascend stairs than to descend them. The moon and the stars move in the skies. Man has been witnessing all these phenomena for centuries until it was Newton who discovered that they are a result of the law of gravitation. This law itself cannot be observed; however it is accepted as a scientific reality in the whole world. The reason for this is that all theories and known facts are in harmony with it. All observable realities are explained by this law and as yet no other law is able to explain various phenomenon as it has done. This process obviously is the derivation of the tangible from the intangible. When a person makes use of this ability of his and studies the world around him, then this study of his also vouches for this very reality found in his inner-self. Thus he sees that everything of this world is a miraculous manifestation of creativity; everything has deep meaningfulness; it has been created with great diligence and thoroughness; there exists amazing wisdom, planning, usefulness and order; there are found superb mathematical and geometrical realities whose only justification is the fact that they have a Creator and this Creator is not an uncontrolled and unrestrained being. On the contrary, He has an unfathomable mind. This is because if power does not emanate from a wise and all-knowing being, then it should be mere tyranny; the truth of the matter is that this is not so: this expression of power and strength has aptness about it; it is also very harmonious and is very advantageous and produces great marvels which cannot be produced by an uncontrolled and unrestrained force. Although these testimonies were sufficient, however in order to leave people with no excuse in rejecting them the Almighty took a step further: He initiated mankind by a human being who directly heard from God, saw His angels and in this manner bore direct witness to the truth. The Almighty took this step so that after the death of Adam, the first human being, this information could be transmitted to the descendents of Adam generation after generation and so that the concept of God and the Hereafter should not become alien in any period of time, in any place on the earth and in any generation of mankind. Not only this, once Adam and Eve were sent to live in this world, the Almighty, for a considerable period of time, made a means for them to know and judge if their faith and deeds were acceptable to God or not. This was like making every person of that time directly experience and observe the truth so that he too could become among the witnesses along with his progenitors. The means adopted for this purpose was that people would offer sacrifice before God; then, as a sign of divine acceptance, fire would descend from the heavens to consume this sacrifice. It is evident from this discussion that the existence of God is an obvious reality whose conception has been transmitted to man from his ancestors and whose testimony is borne by both matter and by life. However, who is this being? What are His attributes? What are the laws and practices He has set for Himself? These are the questions which necessarily arise in the mind of a person who wants to comprehend Allah. This comprehension is essential for faith. When the Qur’ān demanded from people to profess faith in God, it answered these questions. In the following pages, we will take a look at these answers:
The Qur’ān has explicitly stated that no mind can comprehend the being of God. The reason for this is that the being who has created these means of comprehension can certainly comprehend human beings but these means are in no way able to comprehend Him who comprehends these means.
Contrary to the person of God, His attributes can be comprehended to some extent by a human being. The reason is that man himself finds some of these attributes within him, though at a very small scale. God has granted man some portion of His knowledge, power, providence, wisdom and mercy. Man can thus analogously have some idea of the attributes of God. Consequently, when the Qur’ān says that He is al-Khāliq (the Creator), al-Qadīr (the powerful), al-Rahmān and al-Rahīm (the Gracious and the Ever-Merciful), al-‘Alīm and al-Hakīm (the Knower and the Wise), al-Awwal and al-Ākhir (the First and the Last), al-Zāhir and al-Bātin (the Apparent and the Hidden), then we are able to have some concept of the attributes of God. In understanding the attributes of God, the aspect of finesse in them however should always remain in consideration because power is praiseworthy only when it is complemented by mercy, affection and justice. If anger, revenge, rage and fury manifest against oppression and injustice then this is commendable too. Mercy, forgiveness and generosity are laudable in their right context. The mention of the attribute of hamīd (praiseworthy) with ghanī (self-sufficient), hakīm (wise) with ‘alīm (knowledgeable) and ghafūr (merciful) with ‘azīz (powerful) in the Qur’ān guides us to this very aspect of finesse and poise. Similarly, whatever conception of God one perceives, it cannot be devoid of majesty, splendour and perfection. Consequently, attributes such as al-Wāhid (the only one), al-Ahad (the unique) and al-Samad (the rock) depict perfection; the attributes of al-Quddūs (the holy), al-Salām (the one who is peace in entirety) and al-Mu’min (the peace-giver) are attributes of splendour and al-Malik (the king), al-‘Azīz (the powerful) and al-Jabbār (the dominant) are attributes of majesty. The attributes of majesty produce fear, respect and praise in a person; the attributes of splendour produce praise and love for Him and instil hope in a person. The attributes of majesty are more apparent to his senses and the attributes of splendour are more apparent to his intellect and heart. If God is kept in consideration, the attributes of splendour appear more dominant and if a human soul is kept in consideration, the attributes of majesty appear dominant. Man while fearing God leaps towards Him for this very reason and tries to seek refuge in His attributes of splendour. When the Qur’ān says that all gracious names are His, it means that every name which depicts His majesty, splendour and perfection is gracious and He can be called by these names. The greatness of the Almighty becomes evident from His attributes of perfection. When a person acquires the correct understanding of these attributes, he professes faith in a God Who is unique, peerless and only one of a kind; He is the rock of shelter for all; to Him solely belong the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them; no one shares His sovereignty and no one is His partner in running the affairs of this universe; there is nothing in this world which is hidden from Him; no affair of this world is beyond His jurisdiction and control; everything needs Him, but He needs no one; matter, plants and animals all prostrate before Him and are busy in celebrating His praises and glorifying Him; His power is immense and He is all-embracing and every particle of this universe is subservient to His will; Whenever He wants, He can destroy any thing at any time and whenever He wants He can re-create it; it is He who bestows honour or humiliation; everything is mortal and He is the only immortal; He is beyond what is the beyond, yet He is closer to man than his life-vein; His knowledge and wisdom encompass everything; He even knows what is concealed in the hearts; His intention supersedes all intentions and His command supersedes all commands; He is free of all faults and is without any blemish and beyond any allegation. Among the attributes of perfection, the attribute of tawhīd occupies the most importance. It is this attribute of tawhīd which is the most explained and emphasized upon by the Qur’ān. So much so, the sūrah on which the last group of the Qur’ān effectively ends directs the Prophet (sws) to declare the concept of tawhīd openly before the people that God is alone; He is everyone’s support. He is neither anyone’s father nor anyone’s son; and there is none like Him. It is this importance of tawhīd on account of which the Qur’ān has explicitly stated that without adhering to it no deed of a person is acceptable and if a person adheres to it then there is hope that every sin may be forgiven. The reason for this is that a person cannot remain adamant on his sin if he professes faith in tawhīd, and if he happens to sin, he will find that the grace and blessing of God will induce him to repent and to seek God’s forgiveness. Such a person will surely turn to God and as such become entitled to be forgiven even before the Day of Judgement. Arguments of tawhīd which are cited by the Qur’ān are very sound and based on established facts derived from knowledge and reason. Here it should suffice to know that the argument which nullifies polytheism is that no one has any basis of associating partners with God. At more than one place, the Qur’ān has demanded from its addressees to present if they can any grounds for polytheism whether based on intellect or on divine sources. Only God Himself could have informed us if He had any associates and the only way to have knowledge of God’s will in this regard were the Divine books He revealed or the traditions and narratives which have been transferred generation after generation from his prophets and messengers. None of these contain anything which substantiates polytheism in any way.
iii. Dealings and Practices
The dealings of God with His servants and the manner in which He deals with them are called sunnatullāh by the Qur’ān. The Almighty says that these practices are permanent and unalterable. Consequently, for a true comprehension of God, just as knowledge of His attributes is essential, knowledge of His dealings with His creation is also essential. Following are the sunan (practices and dealings) of God:
a. Tests and Trials
God has created this world for test and trial. Every single person on this earth faces these trials and as such His practice of putting mankind through trials is a universal phenomenon. Whatever is ingrained in human nature comes to surface because of these trials; the secrets of the inner personality of a person are revealed through these very trials and the levels attained by a person in his ideologies and in his deeds are ascertained through these very trials. The Qur’ān says that life and death have been created for the very purpose of judging that who among mankind adopts a rebellious attitude towards his Creator and who leads a life according to the liking of his Creator. No doubt, the Almighty has knowledge of everything; however, He has set the practice for Himself that He does not merely reward and punish people on the basis of His knowledge; on the contrary, He does so on the basis of their deeds. For this very purpose, He has implemented the system of trial on this earth. The circumstances of sorrow and happiness, poverty and affluence, grief and joy which befall a person in this world are governed by this very practice of God. Through such circumstances, the Almighty tests His servants and differentiates the good among them from the evil. When He blesses someone with affluence and status, He tests whether such people will remain grateful to Him or not and when He afflicts someone with poverty and hardships, He tests whether such people will remain patient or not.
b. Guidance and Error
In this trial, man has been asked to guard himself from going astray and to consciously adopt the guided path. The Qur’ān has informed us that this guidance is found in the very nature of a person. Moreover, once a person attains the age of intellectual maturity, the signs of the heavens and the earth around him direct his attention to this guidance. If a person values and treasures this guidance and benefits from it and is grateful to his Lord for it, it is the practice and law of God that He increases the glow of this guidance and creates in a person a further desire for this guidance and as a result of this induces in him the urge to benefit from the guidance brought by the prophets of God. If a person decides upon evading this ingrained guidance, refuses to use his intellect, and deliberately deviates from the truth, then in the words of the Qur’ān this is zulm (wronging the soul) and fisq (defiance) and the Almighty never guides a person who continues to wrong his soul and persists in defiance and He leaves him to wander in the darkness of error and misguidance.
c. Beyond-Capacity Directives
In the sharī‘ah revealed through His Prophets, the Almighty never gives a directive to human beings which is beyond their capacity. In all that emanates from God for human beings, it is always made sure that they are not burdened beyond what they can bear and whatever directive be given is given keeping in view human capacity and capability. Consequently, a person will not be held liable for sins done out of forgetfulness or misunderstanding or done inadvertently, and God’s only requirement of man is that he should follow His directives in both letter and spirit with full veracity and honesty. However, this does not mean that if people adopt a rebellious behaviour, then too the Almighty does not burden them beyond their capacity. It is evident from the Qur’ān that for reprimand and training or for punishment or to show them the consequences of their evil deeds or to make them aware of their helplessness against the power of God people are certainly burdened beyond their means.
d. Rise and Fall of Nations
Under the law of trial which has been mentioned earlier just as God selects people to make them undergo a trial of patience or of gratitude, in a similar manner He also selects nations for this purpose. As a result of this selection, when a nation once rises among the comity of nations the practice of God with it is that He keeps it on this position until it itself plunges into lowliness with regard to morality and knowledge. This is an unchangeable practice of God and when, after repeated warnings, He decides to humiliate and depose a nation no one can stop Him and no power of this world can help that nation against the Almighty. The whole history of mankind bears witness to this practice of God regarding the rise and fall of nations.
e. Divine Help
When the Almighty entrusts a person or a group with any of His missions and asks them to achieve it, then He also provides His help to them. This mission can relate to propagation of His message and it can also relate to jihād and warfare. The Almighty has held it mandatory on Himself to help the believers who have taken up such a mission. This help does not come randomly. It is based on a principle. This principle is mentioned in the Qur’ān and it is in accordance with this principle that people receive this help from Him.
f. Remorse and Repentance
If a person commits a sin, there exists a chance for him to repent. In this regard, the rule is that if people repent immediately after they commit a sin the Almighty definitely forgives them; however, He does not forgive people who deeply indulge in sin all their lives and when they see death approaching start to repent and seek forgiveness from the Almighty. Similarly, He also does not forgive people who deliberately deny the truth if they persist with this denial till death.
g. Reward and Punishment
In the Hereafter, reward and punishment is a certain reality; however, it is evident from the Qur’ān that at times this reward and punishment also takes place in this world. These lesser days of judgement are a prelude to the greater day of judgement which will take place in the Hereafter. The various forms of this reward and punishment which the Almighty has spelled out in the Qur’ān are: Firstly, people who are only after this world, live and die for it and are absolutely indifferent to the Hereafter are given whatever worldly benefits the Almighty wants to give them and then their account is settled by Him in this very world and they are rewarded or punished on the basis of their deeds right in this world. Secondly, those who reject their respective rasūl (messenger) even after being communicated the truth to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it are punished in this very world and those who profess faith in him, blessings of God embrace them from all sides. Thirdly, the Almighty has promised the progeny of Abraham (sws) that if they adhere to the truth, they will lead all nations of the world and if they deviate from it, they will be deposed from this position and will have to face the punishment of humiliation and subjugation.
2. Belief in the Angels
The beings through whom the Almighty sends down His directives for His creation are called angels. The Qur’ān uses the word المَلائِكَة (al-malā’ikah) for them, which is a plural of the word مَلَك (malak) that means “a messenger”. Consequently, it is evident from the Qur’ān that it is through the angels that communication between this world and the one beyond it is established, and the Almighty is running the affairs of this world through them. The way this is done is that whatever directive they receive from the Almighty is implemented by them as His obedient subordinates. Their own intention or exercise of authority is not involved in this process in any way. They are an embodiment of obedience and are busy all the time in glorifying Him and in celebrating His praises and never disobey Him in the slightest way.