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Imaan and Kufr (Faith and Unbelief)

Imaan (True Faith) means to accept with the heart all those ‘Zaruriyaat-e-Deen’, i.e. ‘Essential and Fundamental Principles of Deen’. To reject any one of the Essential and Fundamental Principles  of Deen is known as kufr (infidelity and unbelief), even if one accepts all the other essential and fundamental principles of Deen. The Essential and Fundamental Principles of Deen refer to those issues or laws which are well know by both the Muslim laymen and the people of knowledge as well. In other words to believe in: 1. The Oneness of Allah  2. The Nabuiwat of Prophets 3. Jannat  4. Jahanum 5. Resurrection  6. The Reckoning etc. For example, one must believe that the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم is ‘Khaatamun Nabiyeen’ (The Seal of the Prophets) and that no new Nabi will ever come after Rasoolullah .. Laymen or a common person here refers to those Muslims who are not amongst the Ulama, but do keep the company of the Ulama, and have the enthusiasm to acquire knowledge of Deen. This does not refer to those who live in mountains and isolated jungles etc. and who are completely disconnected from civilisation, and those who are not even able to recite the Kalima correctly. However, by such people being unaware of the Essential and Fundamental Principles of Deen does not make it non-essential in any way. However, for them to remain Muslims, it is necessary for them to abstain from the rejection of any one of the Essential and Fundamental Principles of Deen. They should have this belief that whatever is in Islam is Haq (The Truth). They should believe in everything in essence.

Belief: True Imaan is the sincere conviction from the depth of the heart. The physical actions are not actually regarded as being a component of Imaan. As for the issue of declaration of Imaan verbally, then if after accepting and affirming Islam, and due to circumstance, a person does get sufficient time to declare it verbally, then he is regarded in the Court of Allah as a believer 1. If he had the time to declare his Imaan verbally but he abstains from doing so even after being requested to, then he is regarded an unbeliever and if he was not asked to declare his Imaan, then according to the laws of this world he will be regarded as a kaafir. Neither will his Janaazah Namaaz be performed and nor will he be buried in the Muslim cemetery. However, in the sight of Allah he is regarded as a believer, on condition that he did not do anything contrary to Islam.

Belief: To be regarded a Muslim; it is also a condition, not to verbally reject anything, which is from amongst the Essential and Fundamental Principles of Deen, even though one may affirm all the other Essential and Fundamental Principles, by saying that he is only  rejecting it verbally but believes in his heart. A Muslim can never utter words of kufr. Only one who harbours such thoughts in his heart and says whatever he pleases whenever he pleases will utter such words of kufr. Imaan is such a firm conviction that it has no room for denial and dispute.

Law: If (Allah forbid) a person was forced into uttering words of kufr, like when his life is threatened and the one threatening him says that he will cut off his limbs etc. and one is completely sure that his threat is genuine, then in this circumstance, he is given room for manoeuvre. However, in his heart, he should still have the same conviction of Imaan as before and it should actually be even stronger now. However, it is more virtuous for him to be killed rather than uttering words of kufr.

Law: Ones physical actions are not included in the actual category of Imaan. There are certain actions, which are absolutely contrary to Imaan and when done, will cause the doer to be declared a kaafir.

Some examples of these actions are:

  1. To make Sajdah to idols, the sun or the moon
  2. To kill a Prophet
  3. To use words of blasphemy against a Prophet
  4. To disrespect the Kaaba Shareef or the Holy Qurfan
  5. To regard any Sunnat as not being important

All the above mentioned actions are undoubtedly regarded as being kufr. Similarly, there are certain practices which are regarded as signs of kufr, such as:

  1. Wearing a Zunar (belt or girdle worn by Jew or Christian as sign of recognition).
  2. Growing a choti (bunch of hair grown on the back of head by Hindus).
  3. Applying the qashqa (the mark made on the foreheads by Hindus indicating their conviction as Hindus). The Fuqaha (Jurists) have declared those liable for such actions as unbelievers. Since these actions are regarded as being kufr and the one charged with this will be ordered to accept Islam again by reciting his Kalima, and if he is married, he will be ordered to renew his Nikah.

Law: To regard any Halaal (legitimate/lawful) thing which has been proven from Nass-e-Qat’aee (i.e. in the light of Qur’an and Hadith) to be Haraam, and to regard any established Haraam (illegitimate/forbidden) thing to be regarded as Halaal is kufr. This is on condition that the command is related to the Essential and Fundamental Principles of Deen, or if the one who is rejecting it, is well aware of the absolute injunction.

Law: Taqleed is not permissible in Usool-e-Aqaa’id, i.e. Principles of Faith. Faith must not be based merely on emulation. It must rather be firmly embedded in a conviction rooted deep in the heart, no matter what the source of this conviction may be. No particular technique or argument is required for attaining this deep and unwavering conviction. However, Taqleed is permitted in certain practical aspects related to certain branches of Faith. It is for this reason that there are two basic groups even in the Ahle Sunnat:

  1. Maturidiya: In other words, those who prescribe to the school of thought of Imam Hazrat Abu Mansur Maturidi
  2. Asha’ira: In other words those who prescribe to the school of thought of Hazrat Imam Shaykh Abul Hassan Ash’ari. Both these Jama’ats are proper branches of the Ahle Sunnat Wa Jama’at and both are on Haq (i.e. The True Path). They do not differ in principle beliefs (Belief). The difference of opinion between them is only in regards to certain issues related to the Branches of Deen, which is similar to the difference of opinion that is found between the Hanafis and Shafa’is, who are both on Haq and neither one of them declares the other as misguided or astray.

Law: There is no scope for any depletion or addition in Imaan. Depletion or addition only takes place in something that can be measured or counted, i.e. something that has a form, shape, height, width and length etc. and all of this is foreign to Imaan. Imaan is an affirmation of conviction and an affirmation is in reality a condition portraying submission. Those verses of the Holy Qurfan which have discussed the issue of Imaan being increased or decreased, does not imply any increase in the intensity of value of Imaan, but rather it signifies that in which one has brought Imaan  and that in regards to which one has affirmed, because in the period when the Holy Qurfan was being revealed, there was no fixed time for this. As and when the verses of the Qurfan were revealed, it became necessary for the people to bring Imaan in the commands, which were being revealed. It does not mean that the fundamental nature of Imaan increased or decreased. However, there is a variation in the strength and weakness of Imaan of every individual1. For example, the Imaan of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique is regarded as being stronger than the Imaan of the entire Ummah put together.

Belief: There is no relation between Imaan (Faith) and kufr (unbelief/infidelity). A person is either regarded a Muslim or a kaafir. There is no third category whereby a person is regarded neither a Muslim nor a kaafir.

Law: Nifaq (Hypocrisy), in other words to verbally declare Islam, yet reject it in the heart, is also simply kufr (rejection of faith). The lowest level of hell has been prepared for such people. There were also such hypocrites in the blessed era of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم. The Holy Qurfan exposed their hypocrisy and the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم recognised each one of them individually by way of his vast knowledge, declaring them munafiqs (hypocrites). Today, we cannot label a person a munafiq absolutely, if he announces Islam and does not explicitly go against any Principles of Faith. We will regard such a person a believer until such time that his practices or statements, which are contrary to Imaan become evident. However, there is a category of Nifaq which is even found nowadays, whereby many budmazhabs (misguided and corrupt sects) refer to themselves as Muslims, yet it is found that even though they claim to be Muslims, they reject certain Essential and Fundamental Principles of the Deen.