Question: What are the types of īmān?
Although īmān is a whole entity, it is divided into three types in respect of its strength:
1. The īmān obtained by religiously ignorant people through imitating their parents with respect to belief and acts of worship is termed īmān-i taqlīdī [imitative belief]. It is feared that such people may lose their īmān.
2. The īmān of people who have learned the rules of Islam i.e., fards, wājibs, sunnats, mustahabs, mubahs, harāms, makrūhs and mufsidsfrom ilm-i hāl books and act upon this knowledge of theirs is termed īmān-i istidlālī [that is, knowing with proofs]. The īmān of such people is strong.
[istidlāl: reasoning; inferring the existence of the doer of the work by seeing the work, that is, to know the existence of the Creator by seeing His creatures.]
3. This type of īmān is the īmān of ārifs. If all people became unbelievers, their heart would never be clouded with even the
slightest doubt. Such īmān is analogous to that of prophets, and it is termed īmān-i haqīqī [real belief].
[ārif: a great scholar who has comprehended through their heart the knowledge about Allahu taālā and His attributes. For one to be an ārif, it is necessary to make progress and be promoted in the way of tasawwuf.]
Īmān communicated by our Master the Prophet (alaihis-salām) cannot be inquired, that is, cannot be studied, in order to learn whether it is true or not. Īmān itself is, without consulting mind, experience or philosophy, to confirm, to believe the facts which Hadrat Muhammad communicated as the Prophet. If one confirms them because they are reasonable, one has confirmed mind and the Messenger together, in which case the Prophet has not been trusted completely. When confidence is incomplete, there is not īmān. For īmān cannot be broken.
The rank of prophethood is beyond and above mind and thought. To study what the Prophet has communicated to see whether they are suitable with mind means disbelieving and distrusting the rank of prophethood. In matters pertaining to tenets of belief and the next world, it is necessary to follow and obey the Prophet without consulting the mind.
Those who have not reached the grade of fanā (that is, those who are not awliyā) in tasawwuf cannot attain the real belief.
[fanā: forgetting everything except Allahu taālā; dispelling the love of the world from the heart.]
Hadrat Muhammad Mathūm states:
Allahu taālā can be known in two ways:
1. Knowing Him as the scholars of Ahl as-Sunna communicated,
2. Understanding of the great men of tasawwuf.
In the former the nafs has not given up disobedience, and īmān is metaphoric. This īmān may go away. In the latter, because the nafs itself has become a believer, īmān is protected from being lost. This real belief is referred to in the hadīth-i sharīf, Oh my Rabb! From You, I want īmān the end of which is not disbelief, and in the 136th āyat of the Sūrat-un-Nisā, Oh Believers! Believe in Allah and His Rasūl. In fact, this āyat purports, Acquire the real belief.
Hadrat Imām-i Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahimah-Allahu taālā), in order to attain the real belief, although he was at a high degree in knowledge and ijtihād, ran to be in the service of Hadrat Bishr al-Hāfī (and Zunnun-i Misrī).
Imām-i Azam Abū Hanīfa (rahimah-Allāhu taālā) gave up the work of ijtihād in his last years. He attended Hadrat Jafar as-Sādiqs (rahimah-Allahu taālā) suhba for two years. When he was asked why he had done so, he answered, Numān would have perished if it werent for those two years. Although both the imāms [Abu Hanīfa and Ahmad ibn Hanbal] were at ultimately high grades in knowledge and ibādāt, they went to the superiors of tasawwuf and attained marifa and its fruit, īmān-i haqīqī. [volume 2, letter 106]
Hadrat Thanāullah ad-Dahlawī states:
He who has attained the grade of fanā on the way of tasawwuf certainly dies with īmān. The 143rd āyat-i karīma of Sūrat-ul-Baqara which declares, Allahu taālā does not make your īmān go away, and the hadīth-i sharīf Allahu taālā does not take back the īmān of His servants. But, He makes the knowledge fade away by annihilating the ulamā shows that Allahu taālā does not take back the real faith and bātinī [interior, hidden] knowledge. [Irshād-ut-tālibīn]
Īmān-i taqlīdī (imitative belief)
Question: Is it permissible to follow a person who is said to be a scholar but not known for certain whether (s)he is an Ahl as-Sunnat scholar?
It is not permissible to follow teachings of someone only on the basis of his fame and celebrity or on the basis of intense propaganda which promotes his books or speeches without knowing whether he is known as an Ahl as-Sunnat scholar. One may be ruined and led to spiritual disasters if one follows someone with respect to belief and worships without investigating him from dependable Ahl as-sunnat sources.
One does not have to imitate anyone in order to be a Muslim or in order to understand the existence of Allahu taālā, His Oneness, His Power and His other Attributes. Anyone who develops his mind to a level to understand knowledge of science can easily understand His existence and thus obtain belief by only contemplating. It is foolishness not to understand the existence of a Creator while one sees His creation. Islam commands everyone to contemplate in this fashion and thus obtain belief. A person who believes the existence of Allah has to find the true religion, Islam. Saying I believe in Allah does not carry any weight without believing in Islam. Is a person who does not believe in the religion communicated by Allah as communicated by Him considered to have belief in Allah?
Even though it is permissible to obtain belief by way of imitating, people who acquire their belief in this manner are considered sinners on account of their desertion nazar [careful examination] and istidlāl about creation and the existence of the Creator. However, as declared unanimously by the savants, it is permissible to imitate an īmām of madhhab in deeds and acts of worship without investigating. (Hadīqa)
A correct belief which is acquired by only imitating (taqlīd) parents or teachers is judged as valid. Yet people who acquire their belief in this fashion are considered sinners on account of their desertion of the necessary studies, i.e., their not studying and learning the scientific knowledge and not developing their mind to contemplate and understand the existence of Allahu taālā. There are other scholars, however, who say that a persons lack of scientific knowledge does not constitute a sin if (s)he is able to obtain belief from his/her parents or by reading books or by contemplating.
It cannot be called imitation (taqlīd), because īmān does not develop as soon as one asks and learns the tenets of belief. After learning them, one contemplates, loves and accepts them; and following this process, belief comes into existence. Islam commands people to have īmān in this manner. Īmān that has been formed without contemplating, loving and understanding them after learning them is imitative belief, and it is without proof. Those who become disbelievers by only imitating their parents stand exemplary for the issue. Actually, the īmān advised by Islam is the one obtained through understanding, proofs, and ones own free will. The disbelief of disbelievers does not take root from their own choice, but they are just in imitation of their parents. It is, in turn, transferred from generation to generation.
There is no room for imitation in īmān. However, since imitation in acts of worship has been commanded by Allahu taālā, those who teach and learn the rules pertaining to acts of worship will attain Paradise.
Īmān means accepting by heart all things revealed to Muhammad alaihis-salām by Allahu taālā and delivered by him to us and stating this belief with the tongue. Place for the belief is qalb [spiritual heart]. The spiritual heart is a power which exists in the biological heart. Situations beyond ones control, such as duress, illness, dumbness, and sudden death when there is no time, absolve one from the compulsion of stating ones belief with the tongue. Imitative belief, which one has developed without understanding, is acceptable. It is sinful not to understand, and not to think of the existence of Allahu taālā. To deny any one of the tenets of belief means to deny all of them. However, it is considered as īmān to express belief in them as an ensemble without knowing all the tenets individually.
Īmān-i istidlālī (belief obtained through reasoning)
Question: Is īmān obtained through istidlāl [reasoning] not superior to the īmān obtained through taqlīd [imitation]?
Hadrat Imām-i Rabbānī says:
The īmān [belief] that people have obtained by imitating the prophets is īmān-i-istidlālī, for those who imitate so have understood with their reason and deliberation the fact that everything the prophets have communicated is true. Because the mujizas [miracles] Allahu taālā has given to prophets in order to reveal their prophethood prove beyond doubt that all prophets are truthful. The īmān which is worthless is the one acquired by following ones parents. It is the belief developed by not reflecting over the fact that the prophets are truthful and what they have communicated is true, but by simply imitating ones parents. Such an imitative belief is valueless according to the majority of the scholars. As for the intellect-based belief obtained through reasoning and reflection, a person can reach the īmān by following this process; however, a few people have achieved this. Shame upon those who try to obtain belief only by way of reasoning (istidlāl) without imitating the prophets! Allahu taālā prescribes how we should obtain belief. As a matter of fact, the 53rd āyat of Sūrat-u Āl-i Imrān declares: Our Lord! We believe in what You have revealed and we follow Your Messenger. (First Volume, 272nd Letter)
Extricating ourselves from imitative belief
Question: What is necessary for us to know in order not to be imitators in īmān?
Observing and learning the explicit order and harmony on the earth, in the sky, in creatures and in your own body, and thus reflecting over the existence of a Being who has created all of them extricate you from being an imitator in belief. We are not imitators in belief, but imitators in deeds.