This is a continuation of our An Nawawi series. We began discussing the Hadith of Jibreel [Gabriel], and we’re just getting into it. We were discussing Iman last time, and we’ll finish the discussion on that today.
The earliest scholars said: “Iman is statement and action.”
Over time, for the sake of clarity, these two components were broken down into 3: belief in the heart, profession by the tongue and performance of deeds by the physical parts of the body. We will inshaAllah briefly discuss each of these.
Belief in the Heart
The locus of Iman is the heart. If what is in the heart is not sound and proper, then nothing else will be sound and proper.
Belief in the heart is the most important component of Iman, because it is the foundation and driving force behind the other components. If a person really wants to be certain that he has true Iman, he should recognize the truth, desire the truth and have love for the truth in his/her heart. Allah said, when describing the true believers:
But 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 (al Hujuraat: 7)
By the Tongue
The profession of Iman by the tongue plays two parts. One, of course, is the obvious statement of fact, just like testifying in court. Second, it is a statement of commitment to the fact. It is an admission that you intend to adhere to the requirements and guidance of what you’re testifying to.
Of course, the simple pronouncement of words is not enough. They must be accompanied by a sincere attempt to implement: 1) The correct belief in the Lordship of Allah and its related aspects; 2) the abandonment of and freedom from any kind of association of partners with Allah and 3) the following and implementation of the laws of Islam.
Performance of Physical Deeds
Iman is the driving force behind all actions. Therefore, if someone truly has iman in their heart, it will be reflected in their actions.
The relation between true faith and acts may be one reason why Allah so often describes the believers by the acts they perform. If the true iman really exists in the heart, the corresponding goods deeds must follow. It is simply inconceivable that the inner aspects are at a level of great faith and the external acts do not demonstrate that Iman whatsoever.
Iman Increases and Decreases
Our Iman goes up and down all the time. At time – say after hearing an amazing khutbah or a touching story about death – one’s iman may be very high. At other times, when we may be preoccupied with worldly things, our remembrance of Allah will not be so great. This is perfectly normal 🙂
Even the Sahabah experienced this! A hadith in Sahih Muslim tells how Abu Bakr was once asking another companions how he was doing. Handhalah, the other companion, responded that he was committing hypocrisy. Handhalah said that when he was with the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he was reminded of Heaven and Hell as if he was seeing them. But later on, when he went to his family, he forgot how he had felt earlier. Abu Bakr said that he experienced the same thing. When they confessed this to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he said:
Handhala, there is a time for worldly affairs and a time for (worship and devotion), and if your state of mind is always the same as it is at the time of remembrance of Allah, the Angels would shake hands with you and would greet you on the path by saying As salaamu ‘alaykum.
That is, if their Iman was always high and they were always in such a pure state of mind, they would be angels 🙂 [see Muslim Book 37, Number 6624]
The question of iman rising and falling is not just theoretical; it is very important. If someone says iman is always fixed – then why bother trying to higher it? And if their iman does weaken, they wouldn’t notice. Very dangerous indeed. Iman can decrease so that you are deserving of punishment; it can decrease so much that a person falls out of the fold of Islam.
On the other hand, there is no limit to the greatness and completion of Allah’s attributes. Therefore, no one can ever reach the limit beyond which there will be no further iman for which he can yearn or work. The more you learn about Allah, the more you can grow in Iman.
wAllahu ta ‘aala ‘Alam.
Next up insha Allah – tawheed.