Question: In the book Endless Bliss, it is written that one should say, “I am certainly a Mu’min [Believer]” even when expressing one’s îmân at one’s last breath. We have no doubts at all about its being true, but we are unable to fully comprehend the subtle difference here. It is understood as if one (by saying so) tells something unknown (ghayb). Could you give us a clear explanation of how one says “I am certainly a Believer” when meaning one’s last breath?
In the Endless Bliss, it is quoted from Hadrat Imâm-i Rabbânî as in the following:
When one is asked whether one is a Mu’min [Believer], Hadrat Imâm-i A’zam Abű Hanîfa says that one should say, “I am rightfully, that is, certainly a Mu’min.” But Imâm-i Shâfi’î says that one should say, “I am a Mu’min, inshâ-Allah.” The difference between these two is only in words, for one should say “I am certainly a Mu’min” when expressing one’s present îmân. And when speaking of one’s îmân at one’s last breath, one should say, “Inshâ-Allah, I am a Mu’min then, too.” But instead of basing it on a condition by saying “inshâ-Allah,” it is more provident and more proper to say “certainly” every time. (First Volume, 266th Letter; Second Volume, 67th Letter; Third Volume, 17th Letter)
When meaning one’s îmân at one’s last breath, one in the Shâfi’î Madhhab wants to say, “Inshâ-Allah, I will die as a Mu’min.” Surely, people do not have foreknowledge of their credal state regarding their last breath because a person lives as a Muslim but may die as a disbeliever or lives as a disbeliever but may have îmân in the end and may die as a Mu’min.
We Hanafîs, on the other hand, say, “If I can preserve my present îmân, I certainly die as a Mu’min.” We do not say, “I will certainly die as a Mu’min.” That is, we mean to say, “If my present îmân continues, I certainly die as a Mu’min.” Here, we say that we do not doubt our îmân until our dying breath, not that we will certainly die with it.
Question: Why do the followers of the Shâfi’î Madhhab not say “We are certainly Mu’mins” but say “Inshâ-Allah, we are Mu’mins”? What is the meaning of “inshâ-Allah”?
Inshâ-Allah means “if Allah wills it” or “if Allah blesses it.” This phrase is used with a view to submitting all your affairs to the Will of Allah.
Hadrat Imâm-i Ghazâlî explains as follows why Shâfi’îs say inshâ-Allah:
They say inshâ-Allah because of the following four reasons:
1. Fearing that saying such things as “I am certainly a Mu’min” or “I am certainly a scholar” might be counted as self-praise, Shâfi’î scholars added the phrase “inshâ-Allah.” Once, people asked a man of wisdom, “What is the thing that is unbecoming even if it is true?” He answered, “Self-praise is unbecoming, even if it may be true.”
When you are asked whether you are a doctor (or whether you are a scholar, etc.), though being a doctor in reality, if you say “Inshâ-Allah, I am a doctor” purely on the grounds of not boasting, it is not considered wrong.
It is purported in an âyat-i karîma:
(Do not ascribe purity to yourselves [Do not praise yourselves]!) [Sűrat-un-Najm, 32]
A hadîth-i sharîf reads:
(Anyone who claims to be a scholar is an ignoramus.) [Tabarânî] (A scholar does not boast, and a boastful one is not a real scholar.)
2. In order to always make mention of the name of Allah, this phrase is said. The purport of an âyat-i karîma is as follows:
(Do not say about a deed, “I will do it tomorrow,” without adding inshâ-Allah.) [Sűrat-ul-Kahf, 23-24]
This phrase is uttered not only when you talk about uncertain activities but also certain ones. It is purported in an âyat-i karîma:
(Inshâ-Allah, you shall enter the Masjîd al-Harâm.) [Sűrat-ul-Fath, 27]
Allahu ta’âlâ Himself declares, “You shall conquer Mecca.” He states so in order to teach us to utter this phrase. Even though death is an event certain to happen, our master the Prophet, too, says, “Inshâ-Allah, we will die.” When he visited the cemetery, he said:
(As-salâmu ‘alaikum, O abode of the Believers! Inshâ-Allah, we will join you, too.) [Muslim]
3. The term Mu’min is not only used for a person who has acquired real and perfect belief but also for a person with a weak belief. They say inshâ-Allah in the meaning of “a perfect Mu’min.” Their saying inshâ-Allah in this context does not mean that they are not Believers. It means, “Inshâ-Allah, may we become perfect and true Believers!” It is purported in an âyat-i karîma:
(They are the ones who are the real Believers.) [Sűrat-ul-Anfal, 4]
It would not be wrong for you to doubt whether you are a perfect Believer or not. When you mean it, it is jâiz [permissible] to say “Inshâ-Allah, I am a Believer.” Here, what is being doubted is not your being a Believer but your being a perfect Believer. Îmân matures into perfectness through acts of worship. However, we cannot know whether our acts of worship are flawless. For this reason, it is permissible to say “Inshâ-Allah, I am a Believer” in the meaning that “Inshâ-Allah, I have a perfect îmân.”
4. The possibility of dying without îmân at the last breath causes fear. Nobody can foreknow that they will certainly die with îmân. If one dies without îmân, all one’s good deeds perish. Acceptability of good deeds is conditional upon dying with îmân at the last breath. Let us assume that you are fasting. If a person asks you in the forenoon whether you are fasting or not, you surely answer, “Of course, I am fasting.” But if your fast is broken before the sunset, your statement becomes invalid and you will be considered a liar. It is because in order for a fast to be valid it is a condition that it should not be broken until the evening adhân. In the same way, in order for îmân to be valid, it a condition that one should also have it at one’s last breath. A person may live with îmân but may die as a disbeliever or may live as a disbeliever but in the end may have îmân and die as a Believer. In this case, just as one’s erstwhile disbelief no longer has any importance, so one’s erstwhile belief, after dying without îmân, no longer has any importance. Hadrat Abű-d-Dardâ declares, “Those who do not fear losing their îmân die without îmân.” It is purported in an âyat-i karîma:
(The final outcome, the end of affairs rest with Allah.) [Sűrat-ul-Hajj, 41]
Îmân puts its holder into Paradise. Fasting pays the right of Allah. Just as a fast that does not continue until sunset cannot be counted as a fast and cannot pay the right of Allah, so the îmân that does not continue until the last breath cannot put its holder into Paradise. It is no longer considered to be îmân. As it is seen, due to the listed reasons, they said, “Inshâ-Allah, I am a Believer.” It means, “Inshâ-Allah, may I also die with this îmân at my last breath!” (Ihyâ)
[The above-written excerpts from Ihyâ by Imâm-i Ghazâlî are according to the Shâfi’î Madhhab. Therefore, we Hanafîs have to say, “I am certainly a Believer.”]