Faith is the name of certainty, and belief is its reaction. Meaning, faith comes and you believe. Occurrence of faith is not a discretionary thing. By consideration and attention our minds get affected and we start believing. In this, there cannot be an influence or force that can make you believe.
It is in Quran – ‘ There is no compulsion in Islam. Truth and untruth is abundantly clear and distinct from each other. Now whoever wishes accepts the faith, whoever wishes reject the faith, negate it ’. (Al-Baqra – 256).
It is in Hadith - reported by Bukhari, Muslim and others. It is a long Hadith, therefore only the translation of a part is provided here.
It is narrated by Abu Huraira (RU) that one day the Messenger of Allah (SWT) was sitting with his companions and a stranger, in spotless white dress, came to him and sat in front of him like a pupil, and asked him, O’ Prophet (SAWS), tell me what is Iman?
The Prophet (SAWS) replied that ‘it is the affirmation of your faith in Allah (SWT), His angels, His books, His meeting (on the Day of Judgment), His messengers, and that you affirm your faith in Resurrection’.
The stranger testified it, and asked again, O’ Prophet (SAWS) what is Islam?
The Prophet (SAWS) replied that ‘Islam signifies that you worship Allah (SWT) and do not associate anything with Him and you establish Obligatory Salah, and you pay the obligatory Zakah and you observe the fast of Ramadhan’.
The stranger testified it, and asked again, O’ Prophet (SAWS) what is Ihsan?
The Prophet (SAWS) replied that ‘ you worship Allah (SWT) seeing Him, and in case you fail to see Him, do your prayer knowing fully well that He is seeing you. The stranger testified and asked about the Resurrection to which the Prophet (SAWS) replied in detail and later the stranger left quietly.
The Prophet (SAWS) asked his companions to go and look for the stranger and bring him back. When the companions did not find him, the Prophet (SAWS) asked his companions who he was? Then, the Prophet (SAWS) himself replied saying “he was Jibreel (AS) who had come to teach you your religion”.
From the above Hadith three important states of Muslims are described.
What is Iman (Islamic Faith)?
It is the affirmation of our faith in (i) Allah (SWT), (ii) His angels, (iii) His books, (iv) His meeting (on the day of Judgment), (v) His messengers, and that (vi) we affirm our faith in Resurrection.
What is Islam (Islamic deeds)?
Islam signifies that (i) we worship Allah (SWT) and (ii) do not associate anything with Him and (iii) we establish Obligatory Salah, and (iv) we pay the obligatory Zakah and (v) we observe the fast of Ramadhan, and [(vi) do the Hajj once in a life time, when possible].
What is Ihsan (Visualization of Allah -SWT)?
We worship Allah (SWT) seeing Him, and in case we fail to see Him, we do our prayer knowing well that He is seeing us.
We know that it was Prophet Mohammed’s (SAWS) way of praying.
There are three degrees of certainties in knowing about a thing.
This is ‘Certainty of Knowledge'.
This is known as ‘Certainty of Evidence' (Seeing).
This is most authentic knowledge which is known as ‘Certainty of Truth’.
Generally, people’s knowledge about Allah (SWT) is limited to Certainty of knowledge. This is sufficient for salvation.
However, correct knowledge (Ilm-e-Sahih) is a requirement for salvation. If you start believing in concocted stories, or theories, interpreted by spiritually blind people and deny certain essential facts about Allah (SWT), you may run into trouble on the Day of Judgment.
It is in Quran. ‘The one who is blind (at heart) in this world will be blind in Hereafter’. (Bani Israel – 72).
People’s thoughts and opinions can be categorized as follows.
If you believe Allah – (SWT) is one, but do not believe in His attributes (Like He is manifest, He is present everywhere every moment), or partially believe in His attributes, or associate creature characteristics like hands, eyes to Him, or associate some of His attributes with creatures, or associate partners or relatives to Him in Divinity, etc., you will fall under the category of ‘lie’ and ‘faithlessness’. This is the reasons Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) said that out of 73 sects of Muslims, only one will be on the right path, the rest will be thrown into Hell fire on the Day of Judgment.
People’s wrong beliefs about Allah (SWT)
What is the meaning of ‘knowing by knowledge’? To them, it means that Allah (SWT) is sitting, away from us, on the seventh Heaven, Empyrean (Arsh) and knows that human beings are there on Earth.
They are confining and limiting Absolute Existence of Allah (SWT) in a body form, which has hands, eyes. etc.
The founder of Salafism, Ibn Taymiyyah believed in this theory.
During the time of Ibn Taymiyyah, the famous medieval traveler Ibn Batutah visited him. Ibn Batutah has testified in his book that he visited Ibn Taymiyyah while he was in Damascus Jail. He has written that he witnessed Ibn Taymiyyah on the pulpit saying "every night Allah (SWT) descends to the lower heaven (1st sky) like my descent', and he descended one step down the pulpit". This action of Ibn Taymiyyah shows that he had given a body form to Allah (SWT) in his mind though he never accepted it openly.
Read the following verses of Holy Quran that negate the above contention.
What is ‘fact’ or ‘factual meaning’ ?
In describing a fact or its factual meaning, a word is used for which it is made for.
What is ‘metaphor’ or ‘metaphorical meaning’ ?
In metaphor or metaphorical meaning, a word is used which is not meant for its ‘literal’ meaning.
For example, if some one says that ‘Zamil’ has come. It’s factual meaning is that ‘Zamil’ (a person whose name is Zamil) has come. This is ‘fact’ or ‘factual meaning’.
If some one (seeing Zamil) says that the ‘ tiger ’ has come. In this statement, the word ‘tiger’ is not meant to be used for human beings. But, the purport of the statement is, Zamil, who is brave and awesome like a tiger, has come. This is metaphor.
We make several metaphorical statements in our daily lives.
Some people say to their wives, ‘Honey, I love you’. Here, the purport of word ‘honey’ is his wife.
Some people say to their little kids, ‘you are my ‘morning star’. Here the purport of ‘morning star’ is the child.
Similarly, a policeman says to the criminal ‘the hands of the Law are very long, you cannot escape the punishment’. Laws are statements of penal rules, they do not have a physical body or hands. Here the purport is that the law and the law enforcing authorities in this country are so active that the criminal will not be able to escape the punishment.
There are many verses of Quran that need to be understood in their proper perspective.
It is in Quran - And who is more unjust than he who forges a lie against Allah or (he who) gives the lie to His communications (verses of Quran); surely the unjust will not be successful.( Al-An-A'am-21).
Metaphors add beauty to statements. Our lives will be colorless if we do not use metaphor in our day to day lives.
Bilateral agreements in various fields like trade, military, health, environment, etc., are made between sovereign governments of different countries. Many agreements are signed by Ministers of the countries on behalf of their Governments.
Suppose an agreement is being signed between United States of America and United Kingdom. The Secretary of State will sign the dotted line which says ‘for the President of United States’.
The Foreign Minister of UK will sign the dotted line saying ‘for Her Majesty, the Queen of United Kingdom.
This agreement will be treated as officially signed by the US President and UK Queen.
You ask the US President about the agreement. If he says that the Secretary of State has signed on his behalf. This is a factual statement.
Suppose, to emphasize the importance of the agreement, if the US President says ‘it is not my Secretary of State, I have signed the agreement’. This is metaphor and the purport of the US President is that ‘though the Secretary of State has signed, it was with his full approval and consent and the agreement should be implemented in full’.
We use thousand of metaphorical statements in our daily lives. Some times we say that ‘ I was cured by the Doctor. If I would not found him, I would have been dead’. Here the metaphorical reference is ‘I was cured by the Doctor on Allah’s (SWT) behest ( bi iznillahi).
Some people say that because of certain Sufi Shaikh, I am alive today. The purport of this statement is that the Shaikh has prayed for him, or advised him to act in a certain fashion, with which the person survived the ailment.
Some Muslim sects confuse people as regards to metaphorical statements and associate shirk with Muslims. They should understand that such allegations may run them in lot of trouble on the Day of Judgment.
It is in Quran - "The people who strive in our way, We show and put them on the right path' (Al-An-Kaboot - 69).
All Quranic verses are truthful. When we read a verse that needs to be understood by interpreting its meanings, we should first say, "I believe in whatever Allah (SWT) means" then we should strive to find out their meanings.
It is important for us to do that. If we take their literal meanings, then we will have deny many other verses of holy Quran on the same subject.
Look at the following verses of holy Quran.
We know, giving children is Allah (SWT) prerogative. Therefore, the meaning of the verse will be ‘I have come to you from Allah (SWT) to give you the good tidings of a son’.
Sitting, standing, walking, etc., are the attributes of human beings and creatures. We cannot associate these attributes with Allah (SWT). He is pure from all such considerations.
If we take literal meaning of the word ‘sitting’ in this verse, then, we will have to deny many Quranic verses where Allah (SWT) has said ‘His Existence in unconfined, unlimited’. Therefore, the meaning of the this verse could be ‘ Allah (SWT) – the Compassionate, occupies the seat of power. As a matter of fact Allah (SWT) occupies everything in this Cosmos. Therefore, the actual meanings of this verse will be ‘Allah –SWT is wielding supreme authority’.
Chairs, tables etc., are used by human beings. We cannot associate these attributes with Allah (SWT). He is pure from all such considerations. If we take literal meaning of the word ‘Chair’ in this verse, then, we will have to deny many Quranic verses that emphatically negate ascribing human attributes to Allah (SWT). Therefore, the meaning of this verse will be ‘His authority spreads over the heavens and Earth’.
Throwing, catching, etc., are human attributes. We cannot impose these attributes on Allah (SWT). The purport of the verse is to emphasize that when you threw handful of sand towards enemy’s armed forces, you did it ‘on My (Allah’s -SWT) behest. The purport of this verse is to emphasize that ‘this is exactly what Allah (SWT) wanted you to do and you (O’Prophet – SAWS) threw (handful of sand) on My behest.
Hands, eyes, ears, etc., are the attributes of human beings and creatures. We cannot associate these attributes with Allah (SWT). He is pure from all such considerations. If we take literal meaning of the word ‘hand’ in this verse, then, we will have to deny many Quranic verses. The purport of the verse is to emphasize that when you (O’Prophet –SAWS) were taking ‘ ba’ya ’ from people, you did that ‘on My (Allah’s -SWT) behest. The purport of this verse is to emphasize that ‘this is exactly what Allah (SWT) wanted you to do and you (O’Prophet – SAWS) took ba’ya (promise of allegiance) from the people on My behest.
Whenever we come across these type of verses in Holy Quran, we should first say that ‘ I believe in whatever is the purport of Allah (SWT) in this verse. Then, in order, not to get mislead by misunderstanding these verses, we should deduce their meanings as per the fact of the matter.
It is in Quran ‘ Nothing is like Him’ (Ash-Shu’ra – 11).
We know, we cannot associate human attributes with Allah (SWT). If any reference of human attribute in coming in a Quranic verse for Allah (SWT), we know that this is used as a metaphor.
It is in Quran - ‘When you read Quran, seek protection of Allah (SWT) from the evil Satan’ (An-Nahl – 98).
How do we seek this protection? We say “Auzubillahi Minish Shaitanir Rajeem” ( I take refuge of Allah –SWT from the reprobated and reproached Satan). Then we start reading Quran by saying “ Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim” ( In the name of Allah –SWT who is most compassionate and most merciful).
Why do we do that? To keep ourselves protected from the evil considerations of Satan which mislead us in our understanding of Quran and Hadith.