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What is Eeman?

Prepared Shawana A. Aziz for Quraan Sunnah Educational Programs

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When it comes to a concept from the Qur’aan and meanings of these terms in such a way that it is
the Sunnah, there has always been two not necessary to look for their linguistic origins or
approaches to determine its correct meaning. how they were used by the pre-Islamic Arabs and
Analyzing this essential step distinguishes the so forth. Therefore, it is a must that while trying to
correct Islam from the later invented views. determine the meanings of such terms, one looks
at how Allah and His Messenger  explained
a) The first approach is to discover the meaning them. Their explanation is clear and sufficient…
from the Qur'aan and the teachings of Allah’s the heretics have been misled on this matter.
Messenger , as he passed on to his Companions. They turn away from this method. Instead, they
begin to explain the religion of Islam based on
b) The second approach is to discover the some principles that they believe to be sound,
linguistic meaning based on assumption without either concerning linguistic meaning or rational
first referring to the explanation given by Allah thought. They do not ponder or consider the
and His Messenger . This latter approach is of explanation of Allah and His Messenger . Every
the heretical groups. premise that goes against the explanation given
by Allah and His Messenger  is certainly
S h a i k h al - Is l am Ib n Ta y m i y ya h misguidance.’
(rahimahullah) writes in Kitab al-Eeman, ‘One
must understand that if any term is found in the Eeman is explicitly described in the
Qur'aan and the Hadeeth, and its explanation is famous hadeeth of Jibreel , when he  asked the
known and its meaning is made clear by the Messenger of Allah : ‘What is Eeman?’ He 
Prophet , then there is no need to use any replied, ‘Eeman is to believe in Allah, His Angels,
linguistic meanings as evidence… The words His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day and to
Salat, Zakaat, Siyam (fasting), Hajj are found in believe in the Predestination; the good and the
the words of Allah and His Messenger . The bad.’ [Agreed upon]
same is true for the word Khamr (intoxicants) and
others. From him (Allah's Messenger ), one In another narration, Ibn Abbas  said, ‘When the
knows their meanings. If anyone wants to explain delegation of Abd al-Qais came to the Messenger
such terms in a way, other than how the Prophet of Allah , he commanded them to believe in Allah
 explained it, such an explanation will not be and asked, ‘Do you know what is Eeman?’ They
accepted… The terms Eeman, Islam, Nifaq replied, ‘Allah and His Messenger  knows best.’
(hypocrisy) and Kufr are more important than He  then answered, ‘It includes bearing witness
these terms. The Prophet  explained the that there is no god but Allah, and that
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Muhammad  is the Messenger of Allah, to the main message of all the Messengers of Allah 
establish Prayer, pay Zakaat, fast in the month of and their dispute with the disbelievers was
Ramadaan, and give one-fifth of the war-booty.’ specifically the second aspect; i.e. ‘Submission to
[Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] the Commands of Allah.’ Allah says, ‘And verily,
We have sent among every Ummah (community,
Thus, in light of the above Ahaadeeth, we nation) a Messenger (proclaiming), ‘Worship
understand that Eeman is a combination of belief Allah (Alone) and avoid Taghoot (false gods).’
and actions. The earlier scholars summed up [Soorah an-Nahl (16): 36]
these two components in their saying: ‘Eeman is
Statement and Action.’ [See al-Laalakai v.1, (2) Confession by the Tongue: The second
p.176] Statement here includes both; statements necessary component of Eeman is the confessing
of the heart and statement of the tongue and of one’s Eeman by the Tongue. The simple
Action include both, actions of the heart and pronouncement of the Shahada (testimony), ‘La
actions of the body. These two components are ilaha illAllah’ is not the intent - Certainly, the
broken down into three essential parts for better hypocrites did so (i.e. they merely pronounced the
understanding: Shahadah) but they were not true believers. The
1.Belief of the Heart. pronouncement of the words must accompany: -
2.Confession by the Tongue. (a) The Correct Belief in the Lordship of Allah and
3.Actions of the Body. its related aspects.
(b) Rejection of all kind of Shirk.
(1) Belief of the Heart: Heart is the root of (c) Adherence to the laws of Islam.
Eeman. If the belief of the heart is not firm and
correct then no other deed or action can be perfect. If these principles are not the intent of the
The Messenger of Allah  said: ‘There is a lump of proclamation, then such a confession is not
flesh in the body. When it is sound, the whole body beneficial. Hence, before one makes the testimony
is sound; but when it goes wrong, the whole body of Faith, he must clearly understand the meaning
goes wrong. It is the heart!!’ [Agreed upon] and purport of confession.

Belief in the heart constitutes two parts; Tasdeeq Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) writes in
and Inqiyaad his book Kitaab al-Eeman, ‘The Arabs do not have
any such thing in their language as affirmation or
i) Tasdeeq is the Statement of the Heart and denial unless it be in meaning and word (i.e.
it incorporates Recognition, Knowledge and unless one understands and verbally confesses or
Affirmation of (the Existence and Lordship of) denies). One will not find in Arabic speech
Allah and His Commands. This Tasdeeq is statements such as, ‘Mr. X believed in Mr. Y’ or
ingrained in the Fitra, which is the natural ‘denied him’ if Mr. X only knew it in his heart that
instinct of mankind and it recognizes the True he (Mr. Y) was true. (Such a statement would only
Lord – Allah. The Prophet  said, ‘Every child is be made if the person) spoke it. Whoever does not
born upon Fitra but it is his parents who make affirm his belief in someone with his speech, if he
him a Jew, or a Christian or a Magian (fire has the ability to do so, is not a believer according
worshiper).’ [Agreed upon] Imam Ibn Katheer to Arabs. Therefore, our pious predecessors of this
explained, ‘Allah stated that (when Allah created nation (the Sahabah ) and those who follow them
Adam) He brought the descendants of Adam out of in goodness agree on this point. One who believes
their father’s loins, and they testified against in his heart but does no verbally state his belief is
themselves that Allah is their Lord and King and not considered a believer; neither in this life nor in
that there is no deity worthy of worship except the Hereafter. Allah has not declared such a
Him. Allah created them on this Fitra, just as He person to be a believer in the Message (the
said (in Soorah Rum (30): 30), ‘So set you (O Qur’aan) - simply due to the Knowledge of Eeman
Muhammad) your face truly towards the religion, in his Heart. He is not considered a believer unless
Hanifan. Allah's Fitrah with which He has he confirms it by his speech. Therefore, the
created mankind. No change let there be in outward speech is an essential aspect of Eeman,
Khalqillah.' and according to the earlier and later scholars, one
will not be saved unless he verbally testifies. The
ii) Inqiyaad is the Action of the Heart which Muslims agree that he, who does not make the
means Acceptance and Submission to Allah and confession of faith although he has the ability to do
His Commands. Unlike Tasdeeq, Inqiyad is so, is a disbeliever. He is a disbeliever both
something that needs to be established and thus, inwardly and outwardly according to the pious

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predecessors and Imams of this nation.’ [Ibn frighten the magicians. These men who had been
Taymiyyah, Kitaab al-Eeman, p.126] begging Pharaoh for more gold coins - now became
so fearless because of their faith in Allah that they
(3) Actions of the Body: Actions of the body are replied, ‘Never shall we prefer you over the Clear
the third integral part of Eeman. True belief of the Signs that have come to us and Him who has
heart results in external Submission to the created us. So decree whatever you wish to decree.
Commands of Allah. It is not possible that one's For you can only decree concerning matters of this
belief of the heart is at a high level of Eeman but it world. We have believed in our Lord; may He
is not demonstrated by his deeds. Ibn Taymiyyah forgive us our faults and the magic to which you
(rahimahullah) said, ‘It is inconceivable that there did compel us, for Allah is the Best and forever
be a man who is a believer with confirmed belief in abiding.’ [ (20): 72-73]
the heart that Allah has obligated him to pray,
give in charity, fast and perform Hajj but he lives Increase and Decrease of Eeman: ‘Whenever
his whole life without even making one there comes down a Soorah, some of them say,
prostration to Allah or never fasting any month of ‘which of you has had his faith increased by it?
Ramadaan, never paying Zakaat for the sake of Yes, those who believe, their faith is increased and
Allah and never making pilgrimage to Allah's they do rejoice. But as for those whose hearts is
House. This is impossible!! This would only diseased, it only adds wickedness to their
happen if the person has hypocrisy and opposition wickedness, and they die while they are
to Islam in his heart - It would never happen with disbelievers.’ (9):124]
a true faith!! For this reason, Allah describes those
who refused to prostrate, as unbelievers…’ Eeman increases and decreases according to one's
[Muhammad Ibn Taymiyyah Majmoo vol.7, p.611] Belief and Actions. It has higher parts and levels.
Acts of obedience to Allah increase one’s Eeman
The most important belief that should dictate our and acts of disobedience decrease it. This is where
actions is that Allah All-Mighty exists, He is the those who posses Eeman fall in different ranks.
Creator and Provider, and none can benefit not Hence, with regards to the actions of the heart,
harm us except with His Permission. For example, some have a greater love of Allah than others,
if a person's Eeman in Allah is firm, he will be able while others fear Him more, and others are
to direct all his worship and obedience to Allah superior in their sincerity to Allah. Concerning
and feel no fear to worldly powers. Consider the the actions of the tongue, some recite Qur'aan
encounter of Pharaoh’s court magicians with more than others do, others engage in more
Prophet Moosa  as described in the Qur'aan. remembrance. Likewise, people also differ in
Before meeting the Prophet, they pleaded with actions of the limbs.
Pharaoh for a substantial reward if they were to
defeat Moosa  in the contest using magic, ‘So the The basic compulsory level of Eeman is the
sorcerer came to Pharaoh and said, ‘Of course we minimum level of Tasdeeq and Inqiyaad: The
shall have a suitable reward if we win.’ [ (7): 113] minimum level of Tasdeeq is to believe in
everything that one knows from the Messenger of
Pharaoh accepted their plea and promised Allah  and the willingness to believe in all the
them not only a reward but also position at his new information one may acquire. Meaning to
court. When the encounter with Moosa  began, realize, accept and admit that he must believe in
the magicians realized quickly that while their everything that is authentically reported from the
own display was simple magic, Prophet Moosa's Messenger of Allah .
display was extraordinary and much more than
any human could do. So they all fell down in The minimum level of Inqiyaad is to
prostration saying, ‘We believe in the Lord of the adhere and submit to everything known from the
Worlds. The Lord of Moosa and Haroon.’ [ (20): 70] Messenger of Allah ; i.e., all the commands of
Allah's Messenger  and have a willingness,
Pharaoh was so stunned by their desire and recognition that he is obliged to submit
declaration of Faith in Allah that he shouted, to every command authentically known from him
‘Have you believed in him, before I gave you . These are the compulsory aspects for the
permission?… Be sure, I will cut off your hands validity of Eeman. If these are not fulfilled then
and your feet on opposite sides, and then I will Eeman does not exist.
crucify you on trunks of palm trees. So shall you
know which of us can give the more and lasting
punishment.’ [(20): 71] But these threats did not

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