Ibn Taymiyyah on the Increase and Decrease of Faith (Eeman) | IqraSense.com

Ibn Taymiyyah on the Increase and Decrease of Faith (Eeman)

The following is one of the segments written by the Islamic Scholar, Ibn Taymiyyah. In it he explains that faith, or eeman, doesn’t stay the same all the time; it can change and grow in different ways. In this discussion, he looks at eight important ways that show how faith can increase and decrease. Even though all believers share the same basic beliefs, their faith can be different in strength and depth. These points help us see how faith can change based on actions, learning, and personal growth.

ibn taymiyyah faith

This is taken from his works “Ibn Taymiyyah Expounds on Islam – Selected Writings of Shaykh al-Islam Taqi ad-Din Ibn Taymiyyah on Islamic Faith, Life, and Society compiled and translated by Muhammad ‘Abdul-Haqq Ansari.”

Quran Islam Allah Dua


Quran Islam Allah


Understanding Levels of Faith: Principles and Details of Iman

First, the faith, or iman, which is enjoined, can be understood on two levels: in principle and in detail. Anyone who believes in Allah and His Messenger must fundamentally submit to whatever they command. It’s clear that the responsibilities of the believers were not the same at the beginning of the Quran’s revelation as they were upon its completion.

Moreover, the specifics of one’s faith, when conveyed by the Messenger, are not the same as those presented by any other individual. Similarly, someone familiar with the Quran and the Sunnah and who fully comprehends them will have a more detailed belief than one who does not have such knowledge.

If a person has sincere faith in Allah and His Messenger but passes away before learning the details of the Shari’ah, they die upholding the faith that is incumbent upon them. Naturally, the specifics of what they are obliged to believe or what they genuinely believe cannot equate to the faith of someone who is familiar with the intricacies of the Shari’ah, believes in them, and practices them. The latter’s faith is more complete, both in terms of what they should believe and what they indeed believe.

Differentiating Levels of Faith: The Impacts of Detailed Knowledge and Action

Secondly, the distinction between faith in principle and faith in detail is also applicable to what people actually believe. One may, in principle, believe in whatever the Messenger says and never deny anything, but not care to know in detail what he says, enjoins, or forbids, even though acquiring knowledge of these things is a duty. This person does not acquire that knowledge or act upon it; instead, he follows his own preferences. Another person attempts to understand what the Messenger has commanded and act upon it, while a third tries to learn about it, comes to know it and believe in it, but does not act upon it.

All of them share the responsibility to know the teachings of the Messenger. However, the individual who acquires detailed knowledge and acts upon it, possesses a more perfect faith than one who recognizes his duties, believes in them, commits himself to them, but fails to enact all of them. The person who believes in the teachings of the Messenger, but commits sins, admits them, and fears punishment from Allah, is better than the one who does not try to learn the teachings or act upon them and does not fear punishment for his sins. This person is, in fact, ignorant of the Messenger’s teachings, even though in his heart, he believes in the prophethood and confesses it openly.

When one knows what the Messenger has said, believes in it, and understands what he has commanded and acts upon it, this knowledge adds to his faith in a way he did not possess before, even though he had faith and confessed it in principle. Similarly, one who knows the names of Allah and their meanings, and believes in them, has a more perfect faith than that of one who does not know them in detail, and only knows them in a broad sense or knows only a few of them. The better one understands Allah’s names, attributes, and signs, the more perfect his faith will be.

dua eeman faith

Variations in the Intensity and Certainty of Knowledge and Faith

Thirdly, the intensity and certainty of knowledge and faith can vary significantly. Some people possess stronger, more established faith, and are less plagued by doubt than others. This variance is a phenomenon each individual can experience within themselves. For instance, everyone sees the moon, yet some perceive it more vividly than others. The same applies to other senses such as hearing, smelling, and tasting, as well as internal processes like knowing and believing. The latter, experienced within the heart, often displays a greater range of variance than physical sensations. People’s comprehension of Allah’s names and His words exemplify this disparity, often demonstrating a wider divergence than any other aspect of belief.

The Impact of Actionable Faith and Knowledge on Spiritual Strength

Fourth, the faith that moves the heart into action is more perfect than the faith that does not, and the knowledge on which one acts is more perfect than the knowledge on which one does not act. Among two individuals, the one who believes in Allah, His Messenger, Paradise, and Hell, and whose faith produces in him love for Allah and fear of Him, along with a longing for Paradise and aversion for Hell – his faith will be stronger than the faith of the one who lacks these elements. The stronger the effect, the more powerful the cause that produced it. All these factors are products of knowledge. When you know something is desirable, you strive to attain it; when you know it’s dangerous, you avoid it. If the anticipated effect doesn’t manifest, it usually indicates that the cause was weak. This is why the Prophet said, “A hearer is not like a seer.”

Levels of Faith: Influence of Argument Strength and Conviction

Fifth, the strength of faith can vary based on the factors that stimulate it. For instance, the faith born from compelling arguments that foster firm belief and dispel doubt differs from faith derived from arguments lacking conviction. If the arguments can yield essential knowledge, the faith they stimulate will differ from faith generated by uncertain arguments that require further substantiation and contemplation. It’s evident that a thesis established by a multitude of solid arguments, with its counter-thesis discredited and the counterarguments refuted, is unlike a thesis supported by a single argument, not defended against various objections. Clearly, the more numerous and potent the arguments supporting an idea, and the fewer and weaker the counterarguments, the sounder and truer the idea is.

The Fluctuation of Faith Based on Heartfelt Actions

Sixth, iman also increases or decreases accordingly as the acts of the heart increase or decrease. Every Muslim knows from experience that people differ in their love for Allah and His Prophet, in their fear, trust and sincerity of devotion to Him, in the purity of their heart from self-conceit, pride and pretentions, in the love and sympathy they have for others, and many other similar virtues. Both Al-Bukhara and Muslim have recorded that the Prophet said, “One who has three things in him gets the joy of faith: that he loves Allah and the Prophet more than anyone else, that he loves none except for the sake of Allah, and that he hates to return to unfaith after Allah has taken him out of it as much as he hates to be thrown into fire.” ‘ Allah has said, “Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your spouses, or your kindred, or the wealth that you have acquired or the commerce in which you fear decline, or the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause, then wait until Allah brings about His decision; and Allah guides not the rebellious” (9:24). And the Prophet has said, “By Allah, fear Allah more than any one of you, and know more than any one of you the limits that He has set (in everything).”445 Once he said, “You will not have true faith unless I am dearer to you than your children and your parents, and the rest of mankind.” Hearing this `Umar said, “Prophet of Allah, you are indeed dearer to me than anything except myself,” whereupon the Prophet said, “No, `Umar, not until I am dearer to you than your own self.” `Umar then said, “Now, yes, you are dearer to me than my own self.” The Prophet then said, “Now, `Umar (you have the true faith).

blessings on the prophet

All these ahadith are in the Sahih collections, and there are many more besides. This is echoed in the Quran, which states, “Those who have faith are overflowing in their love for Allah” (Surah Al-Baqarah:165). Everyone can identify with this, as it’s common to feel varying degrees of love and fear towards a thing at different times. Therefore, those with a deep understanding of Allah often state that faith and love can both increase and decrease, as this fluctuation is a personal experience. This notion is also conveyed in the following verse: “People said to them (the Muslims): ‘A great army is gathering against you, so fear them.’ But this (only) increased their faith; and they said: ‘For us, Allah is sufficient, and He is the best disposer of affairs'” (Surah Aal-e-Imran:170). Here, the alarming news did not incite panic; instead, it amplified their faith. This phenomenon is substantiated by numerous ahadith from the Prophet, including one that states, “Those Believers are most perfect in their faith who are most virtuous.

Remembrance, Action, and the Enhancement of Faith

Seventh, those who frequently remember Allah and mind His commands have more perfected faith than those who, although believers, often forget these teachings. Forgetfulness is not compatible with profound knowledge and conviction. Hence, a companion of the Prophet, Amr Ibn I;Iabib, said, ‘When we remember Allah, praise Him or glorify Him, our faith increases; but when we neglect to remember Him, or forget Him, or overlook His commands, our faith decreases.’ This sentiment holds true. Muadh Ibn Jabal used to urge his companions, ‘Let us sit together for a while and strengthen our faith (nu’min).

In the Quran, it is written, ‘Do not obey one whose heart We have rendered neglectful of Our remembrance, one who follows his own desires’ (Surah Al-Kahf:28); ‘Teach the message; for teaching benefits the Believers’ ( Surah Adh-Dhariyat:55); and, ‘The admonition will be received by those who fear Allah, but it will be avoided by those most unfortunate ones’ (Surah Al-A’la:10-11).

Whenever you recall and act upon prior knowledge, you gain new insights which you hadn’t previously understood, leading to a deeper comprehension of Allah’s name and signs. This concept is also supported by the tradition: ‘Whoever acts upon what he knows, Allah bestows upon him the knowledge of what he does not know.’ Every Believer can personally experience this truth.

belief in Allah

The Evolution of Belief: Acknowledgment and Commitment in Faith

Eighth, there are instances when people deny or reject certain things due to their unawareness of whether the Prophet has said or commanded it. If they were aware, they would not have denied or rejected it. Deep in their hearts, they understand that the Prophet speaks nothing but the truth and issues no command that isn’t right. However, upon hearing a verse or a hadith, reflecting on its meaning, having someone explain it to them, or through some other means, they come to believe what they had previously denied or accept what they had initially rejected. This leads to a new acknowledgment and a new commitment, which strengthens their faith. Clearly, they weren’t disbelievers before; they were merely ignorant.

Reference – [Fatawa of Ibn Taymiyyah 7:232-237, 562-568]

Surah Al-Aadiyaat

Surah Al-Burooj

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