What is Eemaan?

Eeman is explicitly described in the famous hadeeth of Jibreel (alaihis-salaam), when he (alaihis-salaam) asked the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam): “What is Eeman?” He (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) replied: “Eeman is to believe in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day and to believe in the Predestination; the good and the bad.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]

Ibn Abbas (radhiallahu anhu) said: ‘When the delegation of Abd al-Qais came to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam), he commanded them to believe in Allah and asked: “Do you know what is Eeman?” They replied: ‘Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) knows best.’ He (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) then answered: “It includes bearing witness that there is no god worthy of worship but Allah, and that Muhammad (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) is the Messenger of Allah, to establish Prayer, pay Zakaat, fast in the month of Ramadaan, and give one-fifth of the war-booty.” [Abu Dawood 3/ 4660 and at-Tirmidhee]

All the matters of belief relating to Allah, the Day of Judgment and other matters of the unseen originate from these six fundamentals, so “Give glad tidings to those who believe and do good deeds, for them will be Gardens through which rivers flow…” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 25]


Eeman is a combination of Belief and Actions. The earlier scholars summed up these two components in their saying: “Eeman is Statement and Action.” [See al-Laalakai v.1, p.176]

Statement here includes both; statements of the heart and statement of the tongue (Verbal Confessing) and Action include both, actions of the heart and actions of the body. These two components are broken down into three essential parts for better understanding: –

  • Belief of the Heart.
  • Confession by the Tongue
  • Actions of the Body.

(a) Belief of the Heart: Heart is the root of Eeman. If the belief of the heart is not firm and correct then no other deed or action can be perfect. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: “There is a lump of flesh in the body. When it is sound, the whole body is sound; but when it goes wrong, the whole body goes wrong (as a result). It is the heart!!” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]

Belief in the heart constitutes of two parts: –

(a) Statement of the Heart, i.e. Tasdeeq (Affirmation) made up of Recognition, Knowledge and Affirmation of Allah and His Commands.

(B) Actions of the Heart i.e. Inqiyaad (Submission) made up of Acceptance and Submission to Allah and His Commands.

The first aspect of Recognition and Knowledge is ingrained in the human nature (i.e. Fitrah Natural Instinct). The second aspect of Submission requires to be implied. Therefore, the main message of all the Messengers of Allah (alaihis-salaam) and their dispute with the disbelievers was specifically the second aspect; i.e. ‘Submission to the Commands of Allah.’

Allah says: “And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): “Worship Allah (Alone) and avoid Taghoot.” [Soorah an-Nahl (16): 36]

It was difficult for the disbelievers to accept and submit to the Commands of Allah because they lacked the love for the Truth.

Allah says: “…he brought them the Truth, but most of them are averse (unwilling, opposed) to the Truth.” [(23): 70]

And: “It is not you (O Muhammad (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam)) that they deny, but it is the signs of Allah that the wrongdoers deny.” [Soorah al-An’aam: 33]

But “If you ask them (the disbelievers) who created them, they will surely say: “Allah” How then are they turned away (from His worship)?” [(43): 87]

Thus, in general, the truth of Allah’s Oneness (Allah’s Lordship) is clear to all, but they do not accept and submit to the Commands of Allah, which Allah refers as Truth in the verse. This is one of the major aspects that distinguish Mumin (believer) from Mushrikeen (non-believers).

Thus, the belief of the heart is the most important component of Eeman. One who desires to be certain about his Eeman and safeguard himself from loosing it (Eeman) – he must Recognize the Truth, Desire the Truth and hold Love for it (meaning adhere firmly to the Commands of Allah). This should also be combined with hatred for falsehood and disbelief, because Allah mentioned love for Faith along with the hatred for disbelief and disobedience in the verse:

“But Allah has endured the Faith to you and has beautified it in your hearts and has made disbelief, wickedness and disobedience hateful to you. These are the rightly guided ones.” [Soorah Hujurat (49): 7]

(B) Confession by the Tongue:

The second necessary component of Eeman is the confessing of one’s Eeman by the Tongue. The simple pronouncement of the words ‘La ilaha illAllah’ is not the intent – Certainly, the hypocrites did so (merely pronounced the Shahadah) but they were not true believers. The pronouncement of the words must accompany: –

  • The Correct Belief in the Lordship of Allah and its related aspects.
  • Rejection of all kind of Shirk.
  • Adherence to the laws of Islam.

If these principles are not the intent of the proclamation, then such a confession is not beneficial. Hence, before one makes the testimony of Faith, he must clearly understand the meaning and purport of confession.

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) writes in his book Kitaab al-Eeman:

“The Arabs do not have any such thing in their language as affirmation or denial unless it be in meaning and wording (i.e. unless one understands and verbally confesses). One will not find in Arabic speech statements such as: ‘Mr. X believed in Mr. Y’ or ‘denied him’ if Mr. X only knew it in his heart that he (Mr. Y) was true. (Such a statement would only be made if the person) spoke it. Whoever does not affirm his belief in someone with his speech, if he has the ability to do so, is not a believer according to (the language of the) Arabs. Therefore, our pious predecessors of this nation (the Sahabah) and those who follow them in goodness agree on this point.

One who believes in his heart but does no verbally state his belief is not considered as a believer neither in this life nor in the Hereafter. Allah has not declared such a person to be a believer in the Message (the Qur’aan) – simply due to the Knowledge of Eeman in his Heart. He is not considered a believer unless he confirms it by his speech.

Therefore, the outward speech is an essential aspect of Eeman, and according to the earlier and later scholars, one will not be saved unless he verbally testifies. The Muslims agree that he, who does not make the confession of faith although he has the ability to do so, is a disbeliever. He is a disbeliever both inwardly and outwardly according to the pious predecessors and Imams of this nation.” [Ibn Taymiyyah, Kitaab al-Eeman, p.126]

(c) Actions of the Body:

Actions of the body are the third integral part of Eeman. True belief of the heart results in external Submission to the Commands of Allah. It is not possible that one’s belief of the heart is at a high level of Eeman but is not demonstrated by his deeds.

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) said: “It is inconceivable that there be a man who is a believer with confirmed belief in the heart that Allah has obligated him to Pray, give Zakaat, Fast and perform Hajj but he lives his whole life without even making one prostration to Allah or never fasting any month of Ramadaan, never paying Zakaat for the sake of Allah and never making pilgrimage to Allah’s House. This is impossible!! This would only happen if the person has hypocrisy and opposition to Islam in his heart – It would never happen with a true faith!! For this reason, Allah describes those who refused to prostrate, as unbelievers…” [Muhammad Ibn Taymiyyah Majmoo vol.7, p.611]

The most important belief that should dictate our actions is that Allah All-Mighty exists, He is the Creator and Provider, and none can benefit not harm us except with His Permission. For example, if a person’s Eeman in Allah is firm, he will be able to direct all his worship and obedience to Allah and feel no fear to worldly powers.

The Story of the Prophet Moosa, the Magitians and the Pharaoh

Consider the encounter of Pharaoh’s court magicians with Prophet Moosa (alaihis-salaam) as described in the Qur’aan. Before meeting the Prophet, they pleaded with Pharaoh for a substantial reward if they were to defeat Moosa (alaihis-salaam) in the contest using magic:

“So the sorcerer came to Pharaoh and said: ‘Of course we shall have a suitable reward if we win.'” [Soorah al-A’raaf (7): 113]

Pharaoh accepted their plea and promised them not only a reward but also position at court. When the encounter with Moosa (alaihis-salaam) began, the magicians realized quickly that while their own display was simple magic, the Prophet Moosa’s display was extraordinary and much more than any human could do. So they all fell down in Sajda (prostration) saying: “We believe in the lord of the Worlds. The Lord of Moosa and Haroon.” [Soorah Taa-Haa : 70]

Pharaoh was so stunned by their declaration of Faith in Allah that he shouted: “Have you believed in him, before I gave you permission?… Be sure, I will cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and then I will crucify you on trunks of palm trees. So shall you know which of us can give the more and lasting punishment.” [Soorah Taa-Haa : 71]

But these threats did not frighten the magicians. These men who had just been begging Pharaoh for more gold coins now became so fearless because of their faith in Allah that they answered him back easily: “Never shall we prefer you over the Clear Signs that have come to us and Him who has created us. So decree whatever you wish to decree. For you can only decree concerning matters of this world. We have believed in our Lord; may He forgive us our faults and the magic to which you did compel us, for Allah is the Best and forever abiding.” [Soorah Taa-Haa : 72-73]

Increase and Decrease of Eeman:

“Whenever there comes down a Soorah, some of them say: ‘which of you has had his faith increased by it? Yes, those who believe their faith is increased and they do rejoice. But as for those whose hearts is diseased, it only adds wickedness to their wickedness, and they die while they are disbelievers.” [Soorah at-Tawbah : 124-125]

The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: “Faith has over seventy branches, most excellent of which is the declaration of “La ilaha illa Allah’ and the humblest of which is the removal of a bone from the road. And modesty is a branch of Eeman.” [(Saheeh) Sunan Abo Dawood (3910)]

Eeman increases and decreases according to one’s Belief and Actions. It has higher parts and levels. Acts of obedience to Allah increase one’s Eeman and acts of disobedience decrease it. This is where those who posses Eeman fall in different ranks. Hence, with regards to the actions of the heart, some have a greater love of Allah than others, while others fear Him more, and others are superior in their sincerity to Allah. Concerning the actions of the tongue, some recite Qur’aan more than others do, others engage in more remembrance. Likewise, people also differ in actions of the limbs.

Basic Level of Imaan

The basic level of Imaan is the minimum level of ‘Tasdeeq – Affirmation (or Statement)’ and the minimum level of ‘Inqiyaad Submission (or Action).’

(a) Tasdeeq (Affirmation) – Belief in everything that one knows from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) and willingness to believe in all the new information he acquires from him (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam). Meaning to realize, accept and admit that he must believe in everything that is authentically reported from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam).

(b) Inqiyaad (Submission) – Adherence to everything known from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam). Meaning to submit to all the commands of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) and have a willingness, desire and recognition that he is obliged to submit to every command authentically known from him (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam).

These are the compulsory aspects for the validity of Imaan. If these are not fulfilled then Imaan does not exist.


Linguistically, the word ‘aqeedah means: ‘to knot, bind, fasten tightly, fortify, consolidate and cement.’   

Technically, the word ‘aqeedah means, ‘a firm, unwavering  belief or conviction – which is not open to any doubt – in the mind and heart of  the one who holds this conviction.’ 

Therefore, the Islamic ‘Aqeedah (Creed) refers to a firm unwavering faith (Imaan) in the following:

1)      Allah, the Most High, and what is due to Him of the Tawheed in one’s belief, worship and obedience to Him,

2)      His Angels,

3)      His Scriptures,

4)      His Messengers,

5)      The Last Day,

6)      The Divine Decree (Qadr and Qadaa’): accepting its good and its evil, &

7)      What is confirmed from the remaining matters of the Unseen and reports concerning the previous nations.