Question: How do Ahl as-Sunnat scholars define iman and Islam?
Ahl as-Sunnat scholars convey, word for word, the definition given by our Master the Prophet. Iman is to have belief in the six fundamental principles expressed in the Amantu. The following is the purport of the hadith-i sharif, whch was declared to be the Amantu:
(Iman is to have belief in Allah, in His angels, in His books, in His prophets, in the Last Day [that is, to believe in the Day of Qiyama, Paradise, Hell, Judgement, and Mizan], in qadar and that good and evil are from Allah, and in death and Resurrection. It is to bear witness that there is no god except Allah and that I am a human slave and Messenger of His.) [Bukhari, Muslim, Nasai]
The well-known hadith of Jibril (Archangel Gabriel ‘alaihis-salam), too, explains the fundamentals of iman and Islam:
Our beloved superior Hadrat ‘Umar narrates:
“One day we were sitting near the Messenger of Allah. Then a man came and asked:
‘O the Messenger of Allah! What is Islam?’
‘Islam is to say the Kalima-i shahadat, to perform five daily prayers, to fast every day of the month of Ramadan, to give the zakat of one’s property, and to perform hajj [major pilgrimage] for an able person once in his life.’
‘You told the truth. What is iman?’
[We were astonished that he was asking a question and was confirming that the answer was correct.]
‘Iman is to have belief in Allah, in His angels, in His books, in His prophets, in the Last Day, and good and evil occur as the result of Allah's will. ’
‘You told the truth. What is ihsan?’
“It is that you worship Allah as if you were seeing Him because though you do not see Him, He always sees you.’
‘When will Doomsday come?’
‘The One who is asked does not know better than the one inquiring about it.’
“He inquired the signs of Doomsday, and the Prophet of Allah communicated them. After that person had gone on his way, the Messenger of Allah stated, ‘He who asked all these questions was Jabrail alaihis-salam. He came in order to teach you your religion.’” (Muslim, Nasai, Abu Dawud, Tirmudhî)
Another hadith-i sharif says:
(Some people are keys to good and locks for evil while some others are keys to evil and locks for good. Glad tidings to those whom Allah has given the keys to good, but woe to those whom Allah has given the keys to evil.) [Ibni Maja, Abu Dawud, Tabarani, Ibn Hibban]
The above-mentioned hadith-i sharif points out the fact that good and evil are from Allah.
The following Qur'anic verse, too, states that good and evil are from Allah:
(If Allah hastened to give people evil, the way they hasten to obtain good, all of them would certainly have been ruined. However, We leave those who do not believe in meeting with Us [who do not believe in the next world and Resurrection] wandering in their transgression.) [Surat-u Yunus 11]
Allah, alone, is the Creator of evil and good. If one wants to do a good or a bad deed, if Allah wills, too, one does that deed with one’s irada-i juz’iyya (partial free will). If Allah does not permit, a servant cannot do either a good or a bad deed. For this reason, our Master the Prophet declared, “Both good and evil are from Allah.” It is not that Allah makes people do good or bad deeds by force. If it were so, a person who performs an evil act would say, “You have made so-and-so perform a good act. Why have You compelled me to do that wicked thing?” The Jabriyya group believes that Allah causes evil and good to be done by force. On the other hand, the Mu’tazila says that Allah interferes in neither good nor evil and that both are created by servants. Neither of these two beliefs is correct.
Question: Are the words iman and Islam, and Mu’min (Believer) and Muslim the same or different in meaning?
The lexical definition of iman is to know a person as truthful, to believe him/her, and to be fearless. On the other hand, the lexical definition of Islam is to submit and attain salvation. However, their istilah (technical, that is, a different meaning peculiar to the concerned branch of knowledge) meanings are different.
Iman is to have belief in the six fundamental principles expressed in the Amantu and to accept and love all the commandments and prohibitions revealed by Allahu ta'ala, and also to state this belief by word of mouth.
All the rules of our religion, altogether, are termed iman and Islam. These rules have been abridged and summed up in the Amantu as six principles. A person who believes in the six certain facts in the Amantu is called a Mu’min or a Muslim. Iman and Islam are the same.
If iman were only to have belief and Islam to put into practice, the fundamentals of Islam would have been four, not five. However, of them, what ranks first is to say the Kalima-i shahadat, that is, to have belief. What follow it are the principles pertaining to practice. A person who believes and performs other four essentials is called a Muslim.
The things to be practiced, that is, things to be performed and avoided with the heart and body, are called Islam. The place of iman is heart. Islam, on the other hand, is fulfilled with both the heart and the body. Iman is connected to the heart, while Islam is connected to the triad of the heart, the tongue, and the entire body. Iman and Islam in the heart are the same.
Iman is like a candle. Ahkam-i Islamiyya (commandments and prohibitions of Islam) is like the lantern, the glass globe around the burning candle. The candle and the lantern that contains it represent Islam. Islam cannot exist without iman. Therefore, where there is no Islam, there is no iman, either.
One who believes has submitted to the commandments of Allah; that is, one becomes a Muslim. In brief, every Mu’min is a Muslim and every Muslim is a Mu’min. The knowledge pertaining to belief and practice is termed Islam.
Question: It is stated in the Surat-ul-Hujurat: (The Bedouins say: “We have accepted iman.” Tell them: "You have not accepted iman, but rather say: 'We have accepted Islam.'") According to this, are iman and Islam, that is, a Mu’min and a Muslim, different?
Though they are different words, they carry the same meaning. Islam literally, not technically, means submission, surrender, and acceptance of an agreement. If the literal meaning of the word Islam is known, the quandary will be demystified. In this Qur'anic verse, when some Bedouins, who pretended to be Muslims to become the beneficiary of the spoils of war, said, “We have accepted iman” in order to get alms, they were addressed in this verse as follows:
“No, you have not accepted iman. You have not certified it with your heart; you pretend to be Muslims out of the fear of sword and in order to be beneficiary of the blessings presented by Islam. Do not say, ‘We have accepted iman’; rather say, ‘We have surrendered, given in to you.’”
It is written in the books of tafsir:
This verse was revealed in reference to the Bedouin Arabs who belonged to the tribe of Bani Asad bin Khuzaimah.
They, in the year when they were facing an ongoing famine, came in the presence of the Prophet of Allah and expressed the Kalima-i shahadat outwardly, not heartily. That is, they were not Believers. Regrettably, they ruined the roads of Medina with sewage. In addition to this, they acted as a trigger for prices to go up. They would force our Prophet into a feeling of indebtedness by saying: “We, along with our families, have come to you with all our goods and chattels. We, unlike others, have not waged a war against you. For this reason, give us something from the property of zakat.” Allahu ta’ala, making an allusion to their case, revealed this verse.
Allahu ta'ala's saying “Rather say: ‘We have surrendered to you’” means "Say: ‘We have surrendered to you out of fear lest we be taken to be killed and our households be taken captives. As is seen, this conduct is a trait of hypocrites, for they obtained deliverance from death and captivity by way of pretending to be Believers without certifying heartily what they professed verbally. However, the essence of iman is to confirm with the heart. Saying “We have become Muslims” is to outwardly accept the things the Prophet brought, which in turn saves one’s life in this world. (Qurtubi)
Question: A writer who supports the view that Muslims have common ground with Christians in faith writes:
“A German Muslim said to me, ‘You are always informing people about Islam. However, what people need is iman, not Islam.’ Likewise, a man of religion preaches, ‘The world is a book, and plants and other beings are the letters and verses of this book. One who reads this book well will reason that there is a Creator of this universe and so learn iman. Plants absorb nutrients from the soil and yield fruit. Animals eat grass and transform it into meat and milk. Pondering over the existence of the Creator of all these beings is iman.' Nobody presents iman as this man of religion does. Putting aside the iman, everybody talks about Islam. This is the foremost reason incurring us loss.”
Now I am asking you: Does it incur us loss to teach people Islam? Does it not cause disbelief to say that people do not need Islam? Is iman different from Islam?
It is not iman only to convince people of the existence of Allah. As a matter of fact, Jews and Christians, too, have belief in Allah’s existence because everything in the universe and all branches of science confirm His existence. Humans can understand a creator’s existence with their mind, but they cannot know how they can develop belief in Him and how they can perform acts of worship. For this reason, there is no iman without Islam. Iman has been expressed in the Amantu. If one does not believe in even one of the fundamentals in the Amantu, it is not iman. A person cannot obtain iman only through reading the book of the universe. What is more, it does not suffice to explain only the six fundamental facts because if people do not know how to protect their iman, then what is the point in explaining them?
In order to protect the iman, it is necessary to do the following two things:
1. To have a correct belief, that is, the creed of Ahl as-Sunnat,
2. To hold fast to good deeds.
Iman is like a candle. The commandments and prohibitions of Islam are like the lantern, the glass globe around the burning candle. The candle and the lantern which contains it represent Islam. Islam cannot exist without iman. Therefore, where there is no Islam, there is no iman, either. Accordingly, in the Qur’an al-karim there are such statements as “Those who believe and do good deeds.” As is seen, it is necessary to cling to the acts of worship to protect our belief, which, in turn, entails a good knowledge of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Without knowledge, acts of worship will be of no avail, and it will be impossible to maintain the iman, either.
It is reported in hadith-i sharifs:
(The basic pillar of the Deen is the knowledge of fiqh.) [Bayhaqi]
(The person whom Allahu ta’ala calls the highest is the one who is a faqih.) [Majmua-i Zuhdiyya]
(faqih: [pl. fuqaha'] an expert in fiqh.)
(The most valuable act of worship is to learn and teach fiqh.) [Ibn ‘Abd-al-Barr]
(Fuqaha’ are the best of scholars.) [Imam-i Mawardi]
(The situation of a person who performs acts of worship without knowing fiqh is like that of a person who constructs a building in the dark and demolishes it in daylight.) [Daylami]
(fiqh: jurisprudence; knowledge dealing with what Muslims must do and must not do, actions, deeds; tenets pertaining to religious practices.)
Seeing that our Master the Messenger of Allah praised the knowledge of fiqh to such an extent and declared a faqih to be the highest person in the sight of Allah and fiqh to be the most valuable act of worship, it would certainly cause disbelief to disdain it by saying, “We do not need fiqh.”
Hadrat Imâm-i A’zam defined fiqh as knowing the things in favor and against you. Those who run a business without knowing their profits and losses are called insane ones. In the same way, it is a disaster not to know your profits and losses in religious affairs. Without knowing fiqh, you cannot carry out acts of worship, nor can you protect your iman. You cannot retain your iman by trying hard to prove the existence of Allah. Those who do not know the statements and actions that cause disbelief display them easily at all times. For example, saying such things as, “Allah thinks,” “Islam is a system of thought,” “Divine Consciousness” cause you to lose your iman. Allahu ta’âlâ declares in the Holy Qur’an: “All people are in a state of loss save those who believe and do good deeds” (Sűrat-ul-‘Asr).
It is not iman only to affirm Allah’s existence because it is possible that an unbeliever, by observing the universe, can acknowledge the existence of a Creator. Iman is performed with the heart. Islam, on the other hand, is performed with both the heart and tongue. Iman is connected to the heart while Islam is connected to the heart, the tongue, and the entire body. Iman means to learn and believe in the six certain facts. Those who believe in them become Muslims by practicing the commandments of the religion. The indispensable prerequisite to meet in order to qualify for entering Paradise is to become a Muslim. It is a condition that you know and carry out the rules of Islam. It is declared in a Qur'anic verse, “The only true religion in the sight of Allah is Islam.” Or else, why was Islam sent to humanity? Did Allah send it unnecessarily (never!)?
Question: As fundamentals of iman and fundamentals of Islam are different from each other, so are iman and Islam not different, too?
No, they are not different. Since the time of Adam ‘alaihis-salam, Allahu ta’ala has sent hundreds of true religions. All of them communicated the same iman because there are not differences in the tenets to be believed in. The fundamentals in the Amantu and the tenets of belief were the same in all divine religions. Today, though there are some people who increase them to seven or decrease to five, these acts of theirs are valueless. But since the things that were to be done and avoided through the heart and body were different, their being Muslims was different. For example, whereas in the religion of Islam, which was brought by the Prophet of the Last Age, the fundamentals of Islam are five, the number of them was less or more in the other religions. In the religions brought by Hadrat Musa and Hadrat ‘Isa for instance, there was not such a principle as performing pilgrimage. Prayer times and the number of rak’ats were not the same. However, there were not differences in the tenets of belief because things to be believed in do not change in the course of time. Iman is like a candle. Commandments and prohibitions of the religion are like the lantern, the glass globe around the burning candle. The candle and the lantern that contains it represent Islam. Islam cannot exist without iman. Therefore, where there is no Islam, there is no iman, either.
Question: Though in a verse in the Qur’an it is declared, “Die Muslims,” it is declared in another verse, "Mu'mins are brothers.” Do they indicate that a Mu’min is different from a Muslim?
They do not. Islamic scholars state, “Every Mu’min is a Muslim. Every Muslim is a Mu’min.” The meaning of Mu’min is a person who has believed, who has accepted the six tenets of belief. The meaning of Muslim is a person who has believed in the five fundamentals of Islam. If a person believes in the six fundamentals of belief but does not believe in the five fundamentals of Islam, (s)he is not a Mu’min or a Muslim. Similarly, if a person believes in the five fundamentals of Islam but does not believe in the six fundamentals of iman or even one of them, (s)he is not a Mu’min nor a Muslim.
Hadrat Imam-i Qurtubi writes in his tafsir book that the verse saying “Die Muslims” means “Die Mu’mins.” As for the interpretation of the verse “Mu’mins are brothers,” he writes that it also means “Muslims are brothers.” Our Master the Prophet, too, explained the verses mentioned likewise. Some of the hadith-i sharifs on this topic are as follows:
(Muslims are brothers. None of them have superiority over the others except by virtue of taqwa [piety].) [Tabarani]
(A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim. He does not oppress him, but helps him.) [Bukhari, Muslim]
(A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim. It is not lawful for him to hush up the flaw in merchandise that he has sold to his brother.) [Muslim]
(Allahu ta’ala curses a person who puts on a sour face to his brother-in-Islam.) [Daylami]
(He who visits his brother-in-Islam by going his home and eats the meal he has offered will earn much more reward than the one who has offered that meal.) [Hatib]
(It is not lawful for a Muslim to become cross with his brother-in-Islam for more than three days.) [Ahmad]
(He who meets a need of his brother-in-Islam attains the reward of hajj and ‘umra.) [Hatib]