Living in London, it seems that we are surrounded by people who do not understand our faith. Confused by our surroundings, we must ask ourselves ‘Do we understand our own belief system?’ Our Īmān is not always strong, and sometimes we find ourselves slipping away from the right path through no fault other than our own ignorance, especially as to how we may strengthen our faith and ourselves in order to combat our inner desires as well as the temptations it calls us to.
Many of us find ourselves embracing Islām, or revisiting (when more mature) the Islām we were once taught through loved ones, but with a much more sincere approach. Through a lack of what should be basic knowledge, we appear to enter a state of emotional faith that places us on an almost transitional level. We rarely begin on the basis we should be working from, and we are reliant on any small conversation to guide us or help to maintain the uplifting and exciting feelings we have found. Īmān has been specifically described as in the Ḥadīth narrated by ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu):
“One day we were sitting with Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and a man suddenly appeared before us, wearing a very white dress, having very black hair, without any signs of journey upon him. He approached until he sat before the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) with his knees touching the Prophet’s knees and he placed his hands on his thighs and said ‘Oh Muḥammad, inform me about Islām.’ Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said ‘Islām is to bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped but Allāh, and that Mūhammad is the messenger of Allāh, to offer the salāt, pay zakāt, fast during the month of Ramaḍān, and to make Hajj if you are able and have the means to make the journey.’ The man said, ‘You spoke the truth.’ We were surprised at his asking and confirming at the same time. He said ‘Inform me about Īmān’. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said ‘Īmān is to believe in Allāh, His angels, His books, and Messengers, the Last day and to believe in His divine preordaining of all that is good and evil.’ He again said ‘You spoke the truth.’ He said ‘Inform me about Iḥsān.’ He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said ‘Iḥsān (perfection) is to worship Allāh as if you see Him; if you can’t see Him, surely He sees you.’ He said, ‘Inform me about the Hour.’ He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, ‘The one asked has no more knowledge of it than the questioner.’ He said, ‘Inform me about His signs.’ He said, ‘The slave girl will give birth to her mistress and you will see the barefooted, naked, impoverished shepherds competing with each other in tall buildings.’ Then the stranger left. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) remained seated for quite a while, then he asked ʿUmar ‘Oh ʿUmar, do you know who the questioner was?’ He said, ‘Allāh and His Messenger know best.’ He said ‘That was Jibrīl, he came to teach you your religion.’”
Notice the mentioning of the pillars of Islām first, as one must know what he or she is required to embark on if they wish to become a practising Muslim. The shahādah carries with it a great deal of important and influential status, so significant is it that we must refer to our shahādah as our first operation amongst conviction and therefore must know of Allāh and His messenger.
As our pillars of Īmān are cited, we must take clear note of them. We are told at the end of the ḥadīth that Jibrīl (ʿalayhi al-Salām) came to “teach you your religion”, and we must understand the importance of this ḥadīth as we live in our common world. In this ḥadīth, faith is described and we are afforded a precedent to follow, in order not to confuse ourselves with this life and the hereafter.
What I would refer to as an emotional faith seems to possess and occupies many of us and we are often inclined to this state as an initial reaction to the zeal of practicing Islām and uttering our first shahādah. Being overwhelmed by the emotion that this first shahādah can bring, we become addicted to the emotion it creates. Similarly likened to the feeling of love, it has a domineering influence and can easily become addictive. The upkeep of this Īmān is extremely difficult as it has no firm basis, and inevitably at times we become overwhelmed with other emotions that just as easily overpower our faith. If Īmān is based on a feeling or emotion, it will become submissive, just as fear can override happiness, love can override sadness, and so on. We try to hold on to this Īmān with nasheeds that we believe strengthens our faith, seemingly becoming reliant on other people to ‘lift’ and ‘help’ us. This is a dangerous and somewhat lazy way of establishing our faith, and though in the beginning natural, a dependence on this feeling of zeal has no basis in the Deen.
We have to endure many hardships and calamities in our lives, and in this state of Īmān we do not stand a chance. At one point or another we will find ourselves weakened without even noticing. Learning and studying other branches of what could be politics and global legislation before our grounding upon the pillars of faith, could almost certainly be described as a deception of Shayṭān helping us to believe we are gaining knowledge and that it is helping us succeed. While all of this is happening, he is helping us to bypass what we really need to adhere to – our basis and rationale that is Tawḥīd.
How many of us are clear on the Names and Attributes of Allāh? Knowing Allāh is a very important part of our relationship with Him, and once gained, this knowledge is never lost, forming a firm basis for our Tawḥīd, and subsequently, our faith – true faith. Knowing Allāh makes a person love as well as fear Him, it helps us place our trust in Him, increasing sincerity in all actions. This is the essence of human happiness. There is no other way of knowing Allāh except by knowing His most beautiful names and understanding their meanings. We are strengthened in our relationship with Him, by increasing our first pillar of Īmān by knowing Allāh.
As Sheikh ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān b. as-Saʿdi (raḥimahu Allāhu) said:
“Believing in, and knowing the most beautiful names of Allāh includes three types of Tawḥīd: Tawḥīd al Rububiyyah (unity of Divine Lordship), Tawḥīd al Uluhiyyah (unity of Divine Nature) and Tawḥīd al Asma wa’l safaat (unity of Divine Names and Attributes). These three types of Tawḥīd form the essence and joy of faith (joy here implying peace and relief from stress), and his knowledge is the basis and purpose of faith. The more a person learns about the Names and Attributes of Allāh, the more his faith increases and the stronger his conviction becomes”
Also, Ibn Al Qayyim Al Jawziyyah (raḥimahu Allāhu) said:
“The key to the call of the Messengers, the essence of their message, is knowing Allāh through His Names, Attributes and Deeds, because this is the foundation on which the rest of the message from beginning to end is built”
If we occupy ourselves with the learning of Allāh, we are doing what we were created for. The meaning of Īmān is not merely to think we believe in Allāh, or blindly assume that we know Him, for real Īmān is based on solid knowledge, and a true dependence is based on a reliant trust.
The Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) spent over a decade with his sahābah in Makkah, strengthening their faith even before the inclusion of prayer which occurred in Madīna. Most early chapters are those of Īmān and can be related to the pillars. Belief is penetrated by a cognitive, astute and sophisticated wisdom – all through knowledge.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says in the Qur’ān:
“except for those who bear witness to the truth knowingly (that there is no god but Allāh – la ilāha il-Allāh) and they know [in their hearts the meaning of the words they utter with their lips]”
Our entire lives have been based on knowledge. We were never born with wisdom. We are only at the stage of ability we possess now through knowledge and guidance we have been allowed to acquire, given by Allāh through our environment. Let us not retire to anything less when it comes to our Deen, and knowing our Creator.
It can always be a taboo subject when admitting we are slipping in our efforts to maintain a hold on our faith, and hence, we do not always refer to such subjects. Through complete understanding of who Allāh is, and our knowledge building us instead of our emotion, we hope to accomplish our relationship with Allāh that we so desperately need and live for. In procuring such knowledge we will find our emotions are of a deeper and more meaningful level of faith. We must know our Lord to satisfy ourselves, and render ourselves a true Īmān, fully restored which no emotion can sway.
 Saḥīḥ Muslim
 Al Tawdah wa’l Bayan li Shararat al Iman by Sa’di – p.41
 Al sawaa’iq al-Mursalah ‘ala al-Jahamiyah wa’l-Mu’attilah by Ibn al Qayyim. p.150-151
 Al-Qur’ān, 43:86