Degrees of Faith

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Degrees of Faith
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Although the reality of faith pertains essentially to heartfelt belief, it must not be supposed that this measure of faith suffices in itself for salvation; rather, the individual is obliged to act in consequence of his faith, accomplishing the obligations that flow from faith. For in many Qur'anic verses and hadiths, the person of true faith is defined as one who is bound by the concomitants of faith and fulfils the religious duties incumbent upon him. Thus, we find in the Sura al-Asr, that all men are accounted as being in a 'state of loss', excepting only:

those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience. (Sura al-'Asr, 103:3)

Although the reality of faith pertains essentially to heartfelt belief, it must not be supposed that this measure of faith suffices in itself for salvation; rather, the individual is obliged to act in consequence of his faith, accomplishing the obligations that flow from faith. For in many Qur'anic verses and hadiths, the person of true faith is defined as one who is bound by the concomitants of faith and fulfils the religious duties incumbent upon him.

Imam Baqir relates that a man asked Imam 'Ali:

'Is it the case that anyone who testifies to the Oneness of God and to the message of Muhammad is a believer?' The Imam replied: 'Where, then, are the obligatory duties one owes to God?' The Imam also said: 'If faith were but a matter of [uttering the double testimony, consisting of] words, then fasting, prayer, and [the distinction between] the permissible and the prohibited, would not have been revealed [as part of the religion].' 1

From the above we can conclude that there are various degrees of faith and each degree has a particular sign. Belief in one's heart, conjoined with some outward manifestation-or at least, in the absence of any denial thereof-is the lowest degree of faith, from which a series of religious and temporal duties proceed. The other degree of faith, which is the source of man's salvation both in this world and the next, is dependent upon the fulfilment of the necessary active corollaries of faith.

There are various degrees of faith and each degree has a particular sign. Belief in one's heart, conjoined with some outward manifestation-or at least, in the absence of any denial thereof-is the lowest degree of faith, from which a series of religious and temporal duties proceed. The other degree of faith, which is the source of man's salvation both in this world and the next, is dependent upon the fulfilment of the necessary active corollaries of faith.

It would be appropriate here to make the following point: Certain hadiths posit the accomplishment of religious obligations as part of the pillars of faith. The eighth Imam, 'Ali b. Musa al-Rida, relates from his father, and through his forefathers, from the Prophet himself, the following saying:

'Faith is knowledge of the heart, confirmation by the tongue and action by one's limbs.'2

In some hadiths, such actions as performing the daily salat prayers, paying zakat, keeping the fast of Ramadan and performing the Hajj, are specified, alongside the double testimony of faith.3 This type of hadith either has in view the means whereby Muslims can be distinguished from non-Muslims, or else affirms that the salvific value of the double testimony of faith is dependent upon the accomplishment of religious duties flowing from faith, among which the aforesaid duties are the most important.
Taking into account these two principles of inner faith and consequent outward expression, no Muslim school should accuse another of being kafir solely on account of differences as regards certain secondary religious duties. For the only basis upon which one can legitimately accuse someone of being a kafir is if he deny one of the three fundamental principles of Islam: (a) attestation of the Oneness of God, (b) belief in the message of the final Prophet, and (c) belief in the Resurrection in the Hereafter. Believing in these principles implies faith and denial of them implies disbelief. Also, true faith is undermined if one denies something which strictly entails a denial of one of these three principles ¬this is the case only if such a denial be clearly and irrefutably incompatible with a confession of belief in the principles of lslam.

The only basis upon which one can legitimately accuse someone of being a kafir is if he denies one of the three fundamental principles of Islam: (a) attestation of the Oneness of God, (b) belief in the message of the final Prophet, and (c) belief in the Resurrection; in the Hereafter. Believing in these principles implies faith and denial of them implies disbelief. Also, true faith is undermined if one denies something which strictly entails a denial of one of these three principles.

From this point of view, it is fitting that Muslims in all parts of the world take care to preserve the brotherhood of Islam, and ensure that differences of opinion-ones that do not pertain to essential principles-are not used as sources of dispute, mutual recrimination or ostracism; even in cases of intellectual or theological differences, Muslims should resort to reasoned debate, based on scholarly research, and guard against senseless outbursts of bigotry, fanaticism and the hurling of false accusations which only leads to mutual anathematization.

1. al-Kulayni, al-Usu( min al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 33, hadith no. 2
2. Shaykh Saduq, 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida (Beirut, 1404/1983), vol. 1, p. 226.
3. al-Bukhari, Sahih, vol. 1, p. 16.

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مَن شَرُفَت هِمَّتُهُ عَظُمَت قِيمَتُهُ.
He whose ambition is lofty his value is heightened.