Imaan (faith) and Aqeedah (belief)

The following series of questions and answers are based on the work of Mufti Taqi Usmani and taken from his book ‘اسلام اور دور ا حاضر کے شبھات و مغالطے’ – Islam and doubts and misconceptions of the modern age. These have not been translated exactly and have been stated in my own words. The target audience are the Muslims but non-Muslims may also benefit from these.

1. If mankind was created with only the purpose of worship, then were angels not sufficient for worship?

Many people, especially those exposed to new ideas, have a doubt that if the purpose of creation of mankind was only to worship, then what was the reason for creating mankind? Angels were already doing this job very well and were busy with the remembrance of Allah Almighty. This is the reason when Allah Almighty informed the angels that He would create Adam (عليه السلام), the angels asked Him:

اتجعل فيها من يفسد فيها ويسفك الدماء ونحن نسبح بحمدك ونقدس لك

Would You place a species on earth that will cause chaos, and shed blood? We chant Your praises, and We venerate and glorify Your name (constantly).[1]

Similarly, even those objecting today are objecting that if the purpose of man was only to worship Allah Almighty, then the need to create mankind would not have arisen as angels were already doing this.

Indeed, the angels were worshiping Allah Almighty but their worship was of a totally different nature and the worship prescribed to mankind is of a totally different nature. The kind of worship the angels were doing was not possible for them to reject or deny as per their nature and natural disposition. Allah Almighty had eliminated the possibility for them to sin and could not have wished to forego the worship of Allah. Neither do they feel hungry, nor do they feel thirsty and they do not get sexual desires so much so that they do not even get the thought of sin; the desire to sin or to implement on it is a thing far off. This is why Allah Almighty has not kept any reward or punishment on their worship because if the angels do not sin, there is nothing great of their own and if there is nothing great of their own, then the reward and blessing of heaven also does not apply.

For example, if a person is devoid of eyesight due to which all his life, he never saw a movie, neither saw television nor looked lustfully upon women, then what great act has this person done by not doing these sins? He does not have the ability to commit such sins. However, on the other hand, there is a person who has a functional eyesight and can see whatever he desires but then refrains from lustfully looking upon those whom he is not allowed to look at due to the fear of Allah. Both of these people are avoiding sins but there is nothing great in the avoiding of sins of the former as compared to the latter.

Similarly, if the angels do not eat from morning till evening, there is nothing of a wonder because they do not feel hungry and do not require to eat. However, even if a person reaches the greatest height a man can reach i.e. prophethood, he still needs to eat food. Even the disbelievers objected to the messengers:

مالهذا الرسول ياكل الطعام ويمشي في الاسواق

What sort of an apostle is this, who eats food, and walks through the markets?[2]

We can see that even the prophets cannot live without eating. Therefore, if a person is hungry and due to the order of Allah Almighty, refrains from eating, then that is a great act. Such worship by mankind and refraining from sins carries worth with Allah Almighty and, as a reward for which, Allah Almighty has created such a paradise which no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard of and no mind can ever imagine because he gets the desires but due to God consciousness and piety, refrains from acting upon them. Such a form of worship was not possible for angels and this is why mankind was created.

In short, angels were created for worship for which they cannot do otherwise but man was created for worship with the ability to do so otherwise (i.e. free will).

2. Why is mankind bound to prophets and messengers?

لقد كان لكم في رسول الله اسوة حسنة لمن كان يرجو الله واليوم الاخر وذكر الله كثيرا

There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.

The question that arises is that why an example is needed? If Allah had just revealed His book, we could have read it and followed it. The reason is that the requirement to send an example arose because book alone is not sufficient to teach man; a working example is also required. Until there is an example available, only reading will not lead to learning real knowledge. This is something Allah Almighty has put in human nature.

If a person thinks that since books have been written on medical science, he can simply read them and start operating on people, then no one would take him seriously even though he knows how to read and is also smart and intelligent. Such a person will only increase space in graveyards.

Therefore, this is common rule in the world that if someone obtains the qualification of M.B.B.S (doctor), he or she is not allowed to practice until he or she completes a certain period of house job i.e. on job training under supervision. There are numerous books on cooking available out there and in it one can find the recipe for pretty much everything. If a complete beginner obtains a book and starts preparing based on instructions, the outcome would definitely result in a disaster. However, if someone trained the person properly showing how the thing is done, then he or she would be able to do a much better job.

From this we know that Allah Almighty has created the nature of man in such a way that until a practical example is not presented in front of him, he cannot come to the correct path and cannot learn and implement properly any art, skill or knowledge. This is the reason why Allah Almighty sent prophets and messengers as practical examples for the people to learn from, implement and follow.

3. When everything is written (predestined), then what is the use of deeds?

Some people question that if it has been written who will go to paradise and who to hell, then what is the use of doing good deeds! Only that will happen what has been written.

This does not mean that a person will only do those deeds which are written in his or her destiny but this means that it has been written before that what a person will do by his or her free will because destiny means the foreknowledge of Allah Almighty and Allah Almighty knows in advance what a person is going to do by his or her own free will. Therefore, Allah Almighty had that all written in Looh al-Mahfooz (the protected tablet) and the going to heaven or hell would be based on one’s own deeds that are in one’s own control.

It does not mean that man will do what is written but rather it means that what man will do has been written. Allah Almighty has given man free will and according to this free will, man keeps doing deeds and therefore, believing that doing deeds is useless is not a valid argument. When Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) explained predestination, the companions asked him:

ففيما العمل يا رسول الله؟

Then what good are the deeds of Messenger of Allah? (ﷺ)

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:

أعملو ا فكل ميسر لما خلق له

Keep doing deeds because every person has to do that for which he was born for, therefore you keep doing deeds in your control.

4. When everything is written, then what is the use of planning and management?

If a person does not plan for something and believes that since it is written, it is bound to happen, then he would be acting against the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) because the instructions, on the contrary, are to plan accordingly for what is required and to do so comprehensively.

Second thing is that implementing on the belief of predestination occurs after the occurring of the event. For example, when an event takes place, and a believer should think that he planned and did what he could have done and the event that took place against the plan is the decision of Allah Almighty and he should be satisfied with it and accept it. Therefore, after an event occurs that is against the plan, to feel extremely sad or to say that if such and such had been done, such and such would have been the outcome is against the concept of predestination. Between these two extremes, Allah Almighty has shown us the way that till the time the predestinated event takes place, till then it is the duty of the people to strive hard for what they intend and plan accordingly for the procedure, contingency etc. because we do not know what is written in the destiny.

5. What is the correct meaning and reality of taqdeer (predestination)?

Answer: The second caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab –may Allah be pleased with him- was once travelling to Syria and was informed on his way that a plague has struck a certain place in Syria which was so strong that it kills a person within hours.[3] The caliph consulted the companions whether to go there or not and whether they should return and at that time Abdul Rahman ibn Auf narrated a Hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)) stating that if a plague strikes a place, the people in that place do not leave and those outside do not enter the plague struck area. Hearing this, the caliph understood that the instructions of the Prophet were clear and they should not enter the plague struck area and decided to cancel the plan of going there. Another companion of the Prophet present in that consultative meeting said to the caliph:

أتفر من قدر الله؟

Are you going away from the destiny of Allah?

He intended to mean that by the plague, if Allah Almighty had written death for them, it would strike them even if they don’t go and if death is not written for them, then it would not strike them even if they go to the area. In response, the caliph said:

لو غيرك قالها يا ابا عبيده!

O Abu Ubaydah, If someone other than you had said such a thing, I would have considered him disabled but you are aware of the whole situation and the truth, then how can you say that we are running away from taqdeer? The he said:

نعم نفر من قدر الله إلى قدر الله

Yes, we are running away from the destiny of Allah to the destiny of Allah.

The meaning is that till the event has occurred, we are instructed to plan ourselves and implement accordingly and planning is not against taqdeer but is, in fact, included in the belief in predestination.

6. Why are all the actions of Allah praiseworthy?

All praise belongs to Allah and all actions of Allah are praiseworthy. However, there are actions in the world we do not find pleasing and cannot be praised, looking at or thinking of which causes sadness such as a wrong or injustice being happening to someone. The doubt arises that if such injustice and wrong exists, then how can all actions of Allah Almighty be praiseworthy. This doubt arises due to the short-sightedness of the human beings but Allah Almighty who is the Creator of the entire universe, who runs the entire universe and the laws governing it knows the intricacies of all acts.

Let us look at it from an example of a child who has developed a cancerous mole on his skin and the best solution or treatment is to remove the mole in that stage to stop the cancer right there and then. The little child might shout, cry in pain and what not and might consider it an evil thing happening to him by the doctors but this same apparently harsh treatment from the doctors is for the benefit of the child. This is a small example, however, the One who runs the entire universe and all that exists, who has infinite knowledge knows what is best for which situation and person and whatever He decides is the best filled with complete wisdom.

7. Which difficulty is a blessing and which is a punishment?

Every kind of difficulty that a person may face, whether it be personal, marital, economic, social, societal or political is of two types:

  1. First kind is the one that is a punishment from Allah Almighty. The real punishment for sins is in the hereafter but at times, Allah also punishes in this world. Allah Almighty has said:

 ولنذيقنهم من العذاب الادنى دون العذاب الاكبر لعلهم يرجعون

And indeed We will make them taste of the Penalty of this (life) prior to the supreme Penalty, in order that they may (repent and) return.[4]

  1. The second kind of difficulty or problem is one by which the ranks of the believer are raised and he or she is given trials and difficulties whereby his or her sins are removed and good deeds increased.

However, how does one recognize whether the difficulty is of the first kind or the second one? The signs of both these difficulties are different. If a person stops being grateful to Allah Almighty and instead of coming near to Him, goes far away from Him, then this is a sign that the trial is a punishment from Allah and if, one the other hand, a person seeks Allah further and draws near to Him, then this is a sign that he is being tested with a difficulty that will erase or reduce his sins and increase his good deeds.

8. Why do difficulties and tests come to pious believers of Allah Almighty?

The question that arises is that when a person loves someone, he tries to cause good to his loved one and does not try to harm his loved one, then why does Allah Almighty put to trial the one whom He loves!

There is not a single person in this world who has not suffered from any sort of difficulty or problem in life whether it be a prophet, a rich and influential man, a businessman or any other person because this world has been created by Allah in such a way that happiness and sadness, relief and pain all go along together. The place of pure happiness and relief is not this world but is paradise about which Allah says لا خوف عليهم ولا هم يحزنون (There will be no fear there, nor any sadness). The real happiness and relief is meant to be for the paradise and the world has been created in such a way that in it there will be happiness at times and at times, sadness and it is not possible for anyone in this world to spend his or her life without ever being unhappy. A Hadith of the Prophet states:

إذا أحب الله عبدا صب عليه البلاء صبا

When Allah loves someone, then He sends upon him different kinds of trials, tests and difficulties.

These trials and difficulties pour on the person like rain. Some narrations mention that the angels ask Allah that this person is His loved one, is a pious believer and loves Allah then why so many trials and difficulties for him! In response to their question, Allah Almighty tells them to leave the person in that condition as He loves His worshipper to call on him, to pray to Him and to remember Him. Although this narration is weak in terms of the chain but the message is obtained from a number of other narrations of similar message. Allah turns the suffering in this world into relief for the next.

9. The desire to be born in the times of the Prophet or the companions.

Sometimes we get this thought that if we were present during the time of the Prophet or the companions, we would have been in a much better position or that we would have contributed a lot to their cause and helped them all along the way. However, if we think of it, this is the wisdom of Allah Almighty that he created us in our times and not in those times. If we were to be born in those times with our current capabilities, it would not be difficult to imagine that we could most probably have been in the camps of the likes of Abu Lahab, Abu Jahal etc. That time was no doubt filled with blessings but at the same time was also filled with many difficulties and dangers. Today we have narrations that have reached to us after much scrutiny and if someone denies any, part or some of it, the scholars consider that person to be a grave sinner but not a disbelievers. However, if such an act was done during the time of the Prophet, then staying a Muslim, or at least a true believer, would have been possible. We look at the great personalities that existed at that time but must also look at the powerful and influential disbelievers and hypocrites. Therefore, to wish to be born during the time of the Prophet or the companions is actually not a very wise wish.

10. If this had happened or that had happened. The word ‘if’ opens doors to satanic thoughts and deeds.

It is said:

و إن أصابك شيئ فلا تقل لو أني فعلت لكان كذا وكذا و لكن قل قدر الله وما شاء فعل، فان “لو” تفتح عمل الشيطان

If you encounter any trouble or pain, don’t say if I had done this then this and this would have happened. Do not say this ‘if’ but say that this was the decision or will of Allah and what Allah willed happened because this word ‘if’ opens the door of the work of Satan.

If a loved one passes away, people at times say that if they had gotten the deceased operated from such and such doctor, he would have survived or if someone is harmed by a theft, he or the people might say that if he had protected himself this way, he would not have encountered this. Rather, the person should say that even if I had planned with great detail with great precision, the event would have still taken place by the will of Allah. It was the will of Allah that caused this and no amount of ‘ifs’ could have changed it. Such an ‘if’ is actually a rejection of the qadr of Allah. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:

إذا قضى الله قضاء ا أحب أن يرضى بقضاء

When Allah decides upon a matter, then Allah loves that His action is accepted without complaints.

Saying ‘if’ after the outcome of something is not the behavior of a true believer.

11. Is displaying sadness or anger against accepting the decree of Allah?

If a person cries when faced with a calamity or feels sad as a result of something, then such displays of emotion do not mean that the decree of Allah is rejected and is therefore, not a sin. Now one may question that if on one hand, crying or feeling sad is allowed but on the other hand one is required to accept the decree of Allah, then how can both these actions be done so simultaneously! It must be well understood that grief and shock is one thing and rejecting the decree of Allah is another because accepting the decree of Allah means to accept that the decision of Allah is based on wisdom which we do not know and due to not knowing the wisdom of the result, the heart feels as pain. Therefore, if a person feels sad at any action but his intellect accepts that this is the decision of Allah, then the person does not do wrong.

12. No action or event is coincidence.

Numerous actions and events take place in everyone’s lives but at times due to non-attentiveness people label some events as coincidence. For example, I left my home and suddenly met a very old friend and in discussion he mentioned that he is looking for such and such person for a vacancy which happened to fit me perfectly and as a result I got a job. Such an event is labelled as coincidence but the reality is that there is no such thing as coincidence in the world. All the events in the example are through the wisdom and decree of Allah Almighty. Many a times, when we are not able to see the reason and purpose of some action, we label it as coincidence but the reality is that the entire universe, the creation and whatever is between the heavens and the earth is under the control of Allah.

13. What to do with evil whispers concerning Imaan and Aqeedah?

Answer: There is no person, no matter how pious or God fearing, who is not afflicted by the evil whispers of Shaytaan. We believe in Allah, His Oneness, His angels, His books, His Messengers, the Day of Judgment and predestination and that all good or evil happens by the will of Allah. However, Shaytaan does not refrain from casting doubts into the hearts of the believers upon these beliefs.

A person who does not care about his faith and is busy only with worldly life, gets involved in sins and transgresses, does not get afflicted by evil whispers. A person who is pious and follows Islam is afflicted by the evil whispers of Shaytaan with doubts which vary from person to person; some are afflicted with doubts on the authenticity of Ahadith, some on predestination, and some on certain matters of the Shariah while some may have bigger or smaller doubts.

The solution to these evil whispers is to not listen to them at all. If whispers come and go, then let them come and go and do not think about them. This must be remembered that the evil whispers itself, are a sign of faith. A companion of the Prophet asked him concerning the evil whispers he gets so much and so evil that he preferred being burned to ashes than saying them with his tongue. The companion sought advice and the Prophet said to him:

ذاك صريح الايمان

This is an open sign of faith.[5]

Only a believer can get such evil whispers of Shaytaan, a disbelievers, a hypocrite or a transgressing sinner does not get afflicted by such evil whispers. A thief enters only that house where there is treasure and not into such a house which is devoid of any wealth.

Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an:

انما النجوى من الشيطان ليحزن الذين امنوا وليس بضارهم شيئا الا باذن الله

Private conversation is only from Satan that he may grieve those who have believed, but he will not harm them at all except by permission of Allah.[6]

Therefore, when encountered with evil whispers, then know that this is a sign of faith and that Shaytaan is trying his bit.

Let us take a look at another example of an ordinary person who is invited by a king to his palace at a certain time. The person would consider this as a big moment and would plan accordingly and take care of the details. He would wear some of his best clothes and leave on time so he may reach on time and not miss the opportunity. If on the way, he encounters dogs barking at him, would he fight back with them and try to scare them back to their homes or would he focus on his real purpose and move ahead ignoring the barking dogs? Therefore, when we pray and worship the Creator of the heavens and the earth and get distracted by other thoughts, we must do as the person going to the king’s palace would do i.e. ignore the barking dogs and in this case, the distractive thoughts.

To eliminate darkness, we do not run after it to put away the darkness. Rather, we turn on the lights and wherever the light reaches, darkness does not reach. Therefore, to eliminate the darkness of the evil thoughts, heart must be put to light by the remembrance of Allah.

While encountering evil thoughts or whispers, one must not look at others. Doing so, one might see that such and such person, who is pious and God fearing, does not suffer from evil whispers. Everything happens by the will of Allah and for him that is best and for the one suffering from evil whispers that is best as decreed by Allah Almighty. For more on this, refer question 8 above.

14. How is the Day of Judgment near? It has been more than 1,400 years and it has not come yet?

The Prophet said:

بُعِثْتُ أَنَا وَالسَّاعَةَ كَهَاتَيْنِ

“My advent and the Hour are like this (or like these),” namely, the period between his era and the Hour is like the distance between those two fingers, i.e., very short.[7]

The universe is billions of years old and human race itself is several thousand years old. Considering a few thousand years out of hundreds of thousands is definitely a very short amount of time. Furthermore, Qur’an describes the time on earth being very short:

قال كم لبثتم في الارض عدد سنين – قالوا لبثنا يوما او بعض يوم فسأل العادين

[Allah] will say, “How long did you remain on earth in number of years?” They will say, “We remained a day or part of a day; ask those who enumerate.”[8]

15. Is there any specific day or time that is cursed?

The reality is that Muslims have lived among other beliefs all throughout history and many beliefs and superstitions have been taken and accepted from them which do not form a part of Islam. Such and such a day is blessed, such and such a day is cursed etc. are views and beliefs alien to Islam and whatever has been taken by the Muslims of such views are done so through interactions with other belief systems.

Many days and times have been mentioned by Allah Almighty as being special and hence we find many days and times to be extra beneficial but Allah Almighty has not stated any day to be cursed or lacking mercy. However, a day or moment being unblessed can be due to our deeds; the day or moment we disobey Allah is not a blessed moment for us.

In some cultures among the Muslims today, Dhul-Qiddah is considered as an unblessed or cursed month and is considered by some to be devoid of blessings and hence they do not marry in this month. The reality is that no such thing exists in the Shariah (Islamic law).

Indeed, Allah knows the best.

[1] Qur’an 2:30

[2] Qur’an 25:7

[3] Thousands of companions of the Prophet passed away in this plague.

[4] Qur’an 32:21

[5] Saheeh Muslim, book of Imaan

[6] Qur’an 58:10

[7] Saheeh al-Bukhari, book 63, Hadith 221

[8] Qur’an 23:112, 113


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