Relationship Between 'Aqeedah and Eemaan

In the Qur'an, Allah, the Exalted, praises eemaan (faith) and the people of eemaan, in aayaat (verses) such as the following:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ 

Successful indeed are the believers.) (Qur'an 23: 1)

أُولَبِكَ عَلَى هُدًى مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَأَوَلَيْكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ 

They are on [true] guidance from their Lord, and they are the successful.) (Qur'an 2: 5)

Allah (swt), promised them Paradise:

11 أَوَلَيْكَ هُمُ الْوَرِثُونَ 10 الَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ الْفِرْدَوْسَ هُمْ فِيهَا خَلِدُونَ

These are indeed the inheritors, who shall inherit the Firdaus [Paradise]. They shall dwell therein forever.) (Qur'an 23: 10-11)

The eemaan (faith) for which Allah praised people was not only 'aqeedah (belief). 'Aqeedah formed the foundation and basis of eemaan (firm belief). So eemaan is the 'aqeedah which is established firmly in the heart, clings to it and never departs from it. It is verbally declared and pronounced by the believer in whose heart this 'aqeedah takes firm roots. His belief and declaration are confirmed by his actions conforming to the dictates of that 'aqeedah.

Belief that takes roots in the heart but has no visible manifestation is an empty and cold belief that does not deserve to be called 'aqeedah. We see many people who know the truth, but they do not abide by it or live their lives in accordance with it. They may even resist the truth which they believe to be true. Iblees (Satan) knows the great universal truths with certainty, he knows Allah, and the truth, the Messengers and Books, but he devoted himself to opposing the truth even after full knowledge.

Pharaoh (Fir'awn) was certain that the miracles brought by Moosa (Moses) (as) (May peace be upon him) were indeed from Allah, but he denied them out of stubborn pride and arrogance, as Allah the Exalted, tells us about him and his people:

وَجَحَدُوا بِهَا وَاسْتَيْقَنَتْها أَنفُسُهُمْ ظُلْمًا وَعُلُوا ...

And they belied them [those Ayaat] wrongfully and arrogantly, though their ownselves were convinced thereof... (Qur'an 27: 14)

Moosa (Moses) (as) had addressed Pharaoh, saying:
قَالَ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا أَنزَلَ هَؤُلَاءِ إِلَّا رَبُّ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ بَصَابِرَ .

Verily, you know that these signs have been sent down by none but the Lord of the heavens and the earth [as clear evidences, i.e. proofs of Allah's Oneness and His Omnipotence]...) (Qur'an 17: 102)

The People of the Book know that Muhammad (ﷺ) is a Messenger sent by his Lord:

هو الَّذِينَ ءَاتَيْنَهُمُ الْكِتَبَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ ...

Those to whom We gave the Scripture [Jews and Christians] recognize him [Muhammad] as they recognize their sons...) (Qur'an 2: 146)

-but they do not admit that.

Listen to what Abu Taalib said to the Messenger (ﷺ) as his excuse for not believing: "I know that the religion of Muhammad is one of the best religions in the world, were it not for the fear of blame and slander, you would see me acknowledging that openly."

So eemaan does not mean only acknowledging that Allah, the All- High, exists, or knowledge that a person admits not because of superiority complex, or refuses to abide by its rulings. Eemaan means 'aqeedah (belief) that a person accepts in his heart and affirms by his tongue, and he accepts and always adheres to the way laid down by Allah (swt).

Hence the scholars of the salaf (Pious Predecessors) said: "Eemaan means belief in the heart, words on the tongue (declaration) and striving to implement its pillars."1

Relationship Between 'Aqeedah and Shari'ah

As we have mentioned above, there are two conditions of faith: 'aqeedah which is deeply rooted in the heart, and deeds which manifest themselves in a person's actions. If either of these two essential components is missing, eemaan is lost or becomes unbalanced. Hence the connection between these two elements is very important.

Eemaan is like a good, strong tree that is firmly rooted in good soil with its branches reaching up into the sky, bearing abundant fruit, producing its fruit for everyone by the grace of its Lord. Thus eemaan is the tree; aqeedah is rooted deeply in the heart, and its trunk, branches and fruits are deeds and actions.

Undoubtedly if the roots are removed or turn rotten or dried up, they will no longer exist. Similarly, eemaan will no longer exist if 'aqeedah is taken away. If the trunk or branches are cut off, or some of them are cut off, the tree will weaken, and may die altogether, because the presence of branches and leaves are essential to the tree's continued existence. Similarly, if deeds are neglected, in part or in whole, then eemaan will be reduced or destroyed.

Paying Attention to Deeds

It is incumbent on us to pay attention to the deeds that Allah (swt), has enjoined upon us as obligatory duties, or that He has encouraged us to do, and to abstain from the deeds that He has forbidden us to do, because this is a part of eemaan. Doing the deeds that are forbidden —even if it is only a little detracts from eemaan proportionately. 

Hence those who undermine the importance of implementing and adhering to the Sunnah of the Prophet should be aware of their dangerous attitude. Some of them may overstep the mark and describe some issues of Sunnah or Islamic religion as unimportant or insignificant. We ask Allah to forgive these people, for all of the religion is important and nothing in it is insignificant, although matters may vary in their degree of importance.

What we say should not be taken as meaning that we do not pay attention to the priorities in knowledge, actions and in calling people to Allah. This is a matter which should be well known and established. But what we are denouncing here is negligence of minor issues and condemnation of those who pay attention to both minor and major issues in Islam and the Sunnah of the Chosen Prophet (ﷺ).

How deeply moved I am when I think of 'Umar's attitude after he had been stabbed, and a young man came to see him and spoke kindly to him. When the young man turned to leave, his izaar (lower garment) was trailing on the ground. 'Umar (RA) may Allah be pleased with him) called him and said to him: "O son of my brother, lift up your garment, for that is cleaner for your garment and more pleasing to your Lord."2 His approaching death did not prevent him from telling that man about a matter which many people nowadays regard as insignificant and as something which we should not pay attention to.

1. This is the general view of the salaf, including the three Imams Ahmad, Maalik and Ash-Shaafa'i. Imam Abu Haneefah said that eemaan was belief and words (declaration), and that actions were one of the requirements of faith, but not included in it.
Another group is of the view that eemaan was only belief, even if it was not accompanied by words and actions. This is the view of the Jahamiyah and the Ash'ariyah. The Karaamiyah thought that eemaan was only words; the refutation of their view may be seen in the text we have referred to.
2. Bukhari in his Şaheeḥ. See Saheeḥ al-Bukhari bi Sharḥihi Fath al-Baari, 7/60, hadith no. 3700.

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