What is required of a believer is to know who you are in connection to having faith in your Lord and His Messenger (SAW) among the other crucial components of belief (or articles of faith) that serves as the foundation for a creed. When we affirm that “we belong to Allah (God) and to Him is our return” when a person dies, we are reminding the living of the reality of our existence, not to pity the dead.
One of the goals of the Magnus Opus, Ihya Ulum Al-Deen, is the realisation of faith as a knowledge that is lived and acted upon in relation to the state of the body and soul (in every action and inaction) to improve our connection to Allah (God) both in public and private lives.
One has to confirm the truth that Prophet Muhammad has come with. The least of faith is acceptance of what has been transmitted by inculcating it, studying or knowing (in detail), the creed comes next and it is only needed to help you answer the questions of why you believe in what you believe, but it does not help in nurturing your faith, as Imam al-Ghazali argues.
Faith is nurtured by:
- Acts of being in submission to Allah (God), following the Prophet’s lifestyle or models, and striving in your acts of devotion.
- Dhikr (remembrance), that is – being in a state or doing acts that will remind you of God, which may be in the form of chanting words of praises or meditation or recitation of scripture.
- Inculcating praise-worthy traits and ridding oneself of blameworthy traits are the ways to grow consciousness, making the heart stay alive and connected to witness and experience the reality of the belief as long as it remains steadfast and consistent.
Imam Ghazali has divided the text into four parts.
1-The Islamic Creed,
The creed, as codified in the orthodox Islamic belief, is a means of understanding the bare minimum of what is necessary for us to accept Allah’s attributes (God). These essential attributes in summary are;
– He necessarily is Existent: The existence of Allah is the most obvious thing in this creation. Every other thing is contingent on His existence.
– He is without Beginning and has no End: The opposite of having no beginning is coming into being, and that is Inconceivable of God. To say something brought Him to existence leads to an infinite regress.
– He is Self-subsistent: He absolutely is free of all needs; He is not contingent upon anyone or anything.
– God is Absolutely One: unlike His creation, He is not composed of parts, He is indivisible, similar to nothing, and nothing is comparable to Him.
– He is all-Powerful, Willful, Knowing, Living, Seeing, Hearing, and Speaking
– He is Dissimilar to Created Things
The other part of the Islamic creed is about the belief in Prophethood and the certainty that Prophet Muhammad is the last of them. That Allah has sent the Prophets & Messengers to teach, warn, and tell us about our salvation and matters of the unseen, including the belief in all the events after death, such as the punishment in the grave, resurrection details, judgement day, paradise, and hellfire; and to believe in the Angels.
2- Stages of Belief and Certainty by Proofs
The first stage of belief is to retain the Islamic creed in memory as a child memorises without full understanding, the next stage is understanding, then believing in it, then attaining certainty of faith and acceptance. All of these can happen even in childhood. As Imam Ghazali argues, the strengthening of belief does not lie in proofs or argumentation.
3-The indoctrination of the creed is like planting a tree. In the first few years, you will not notice anything but as time passes, the seed begins to sprout. If the foundation is not strong in the first place, you will not have a firmly-rooted tree. So, it becomes evident what people have built for themselves over the years. The things they have nourished their souls with; reading, studying, addictions, entertainment, and all of those things which people do to escape their emptiness are reflected in their form. Meaning, even if you are ugly physically, people see only beauty because of your inward state.
This is why Imam al Ghazali, in his autobiography (Deliverance from Error), explains, after checking all the sciences (which he mastered before the period of seclusion), the science of the purification of the heart is the most important of all sciences that genuinely leads to Allah (God). You could be a great theologian or intellectual who understands or has proof of faith but may not be living it. Thus what you profess outwardly may not be your inward reality, even though the people and the law will/must judge you by what you profess outwardly.
The reader can relate to someone they know or have met, who captures their heart, not because of their physical beauty but because of their wisdom and good character regardless of who they are.
4-Belief (Iman) and Submission (Islam) are interrelated but different terms. Consequently, every acceptance is a submission, but not every submission is a complete acceptance. In related terms, it can be said that belief is part of Islam. Islam can be outward acceptance while belief is an inward affirmation (with the mind).
“We believe.” Say, “You, have no Faith, but you (only) say, ‘We have submitted our wills to Allah, ‘for not yet has Faith entered your hearts.”(Al Hujurat 14)
May God grant us the understanding of what is necessary to know of Him, to submit and devote ourselves to Him and enter us into His mercy.