Faith is indeed
a blessing from Allah and should not be taken for granted. Just
as it may increase and become fuller and stronger, it may also weaken
and become less and less until it is minimal or non-existent. Hence
it becomes very important for a Muslim to take steps not only to
preserve his faith but also to increase it.
The uppermost branch
of faith is the true, sincere, committed belief in Laa ilaaha illalaah Muhammad Rasoolulaah. Iman has over seventy branches.
The lowest or most basic branch is to remove something harmful from
the path. Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi
wa sallam, said:
has over seventy branches or over sixty branches, the most excellent
of which is the declaration that there is no God but Allah and the
humblest of which is the removal of what is injurious from the path;
and modesty is a branch of faith.”
Basically, to do
everything that Allah (swt) has ordered us to do is a part of faith
and to avoid all that He has asked us to avoid is a part of faith.
A Muslim’s level and strength of faith are based upon his attitude
and approach when he fulfils this.
“Then we have given
The Book for inheritance to such of our servants as We have chosen.
But there are among them some who wrong their own souls, some who
follow a middle course, and some who are, by Allah’s leave, foremost
in good deeds, that is the highest grace.”
Thus, man falls
into one of the three following categories:
Dhaalim li Nafsihi: This
person is self oppressed. He is constantly falling into sin and
may be committing various acts of shirk.
Al- Muqtasid: he does only the basic obligations and
is satisfied with this. He may also indulge in those things that
are Makrooh (that which has been discouraged by Allah and His Prophet,(saws)
but not prohibited.
Saabiq bil Khaaraat: This person lives as if he were
in a race with others in doing that which is liked by Allah. He
does all of the obligatory deeds and not being satisfied with this,
he will strive to do more of the nawafil (the optional acts in the
sunnah). He will make every attempt to avoid the Makrooh acts in
fear of what they may lead them to.
One may ask, is
it within the capacity of man to avoid all haram and makrooh and
live his life doing only halal, fard and naafil deeds? Yes, it is
very possible. Allah, (swt), tells us in the Qu’ran:
no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.”
“O you who believe!
Bow down, prostrate yourselves and adore your Lord and do good so
that you may prosper. And strive in His cause as you ought to strive;
He has chosen you and has placed no difficulties on you in religion.”
All actions fall
into two categories:
The obligatory acts which we are asked to avoid or do for
the benefit of the individual and society
Those other than the obligatory deeds, which guide us to
good in this life and which raise our level in the hereafter, placing
us among the Saabiq bil Khayraat. Therefore of the first steps to
increase is to work harder to do this second category of optional
We must look for
the doors that lead to good. These doors are many and we often have
the opportunity to enter them but don’t realise it.
Kindness to parents
and the poor, for example, are entrances to good deeds that are
available to most everyone.
And the benefits
The personal benefit you gain through your deeds; and
The benefit that is gained by society when you perform
Any door to good
that you enter will place you closer to the Saabiq bil Khayraat
level of faith. It will help you to attain righteousness and guidance
and increase your Iman. Even paradise has doors for the faithful,
those who were of the Saabiq bil Khayraat in their life on earth.
Hurairah related that the Messenger (saws) of Allah said:
who engage in prayer will be invited to enter by the Gate of Prayer;
those who take part in jihad will be invited to enter by the gate
of Sadaqah; and those who fast will be invited to enter by the Gate
of Ar Rayaan.” Abu Bakr said; “No distress will rest on him who
is invited to enter by those gates, but will any one be invited
to enter by those gates,” He replied: “Yes, and I hope that you
may be one.”
Abu Bakr, (ra) was
of the Saabiq bil Khayraat. He was never satisfied in doing a little
or just one thing. He constantly opened and entered the doors to
good and eagerly sought out others.
one occasion, the Prophet (saws) asked his companions: Who among
them had fasted the day before, Abu Bakr replied that he had. He
then asked who had visited the sick the previous day, Abu Bakr replied
that he did. Then he asked them who had given Sadaqah, and Abu Bakr
said that he had. Umar, who always tried to compete with Abu Bakr
in doing good deeds, admitted in respect, admiration and humble
acknowledgement that he was much less than Abu Bakr.
the exact wording of the hadith)
does one enter these Iman strengthening doors and thereby step up
in levels of faith?
occurs by possessing those qualities and performing those deeds
that constitute the different parts of faith called Shu’ab Al Eman
(shuab meaning parts of faith). In stepping forth, certain approaches
must be followed so that one’s effort is sincere and upon the path.
The first of all
deeds is du’a - supplication. Due to our absorption in today’s worldly
life it is very important that before we perform any deed for Allah
we clear our minds of such preoccupation’s and direct our attention
to Him. There are two kinds of du’a- Du’a of request for help in
this life and the hereafter and du’a of worship in which you are
actually praising Allah. We should, before setting forth to do any
deed, ask Allah to allow us to perform the deed and allow us to
perform it well.
man asked the Prophet, (saws) to teach him a supplication that would
embody all supplications. He told him to make the following du’a:
a’ anee ‘alaa dhikrika wa shukrikah wa husn ‘ibaadatik.
Dawood and An Nasai
O Allah, help me
to remember You often, and to thank You often, and to perfect my
worship of You.
highest branch of faith - Laa
ilaaha illallah - must be fully developed within one’s life.
The understanding of it’s deep implications will have a tremendous
effect in one’s level of faith. As well, the one who says it sincerely
in his heart will be admitted into paradise.
bin Jabal asked the Prophet (saws): O Messenger of Allah, tell me
of an act which will take me into paradise and will keep me away
from Hellfire. He said: You have asked me about a major matter,
yet it is easy for him whom Allah Almighty makes it easy for. You
should worship Allah, associating nothing with Him; you should perform
the prayers; you should pay the Zakah; you should fast Ramadan;
and you should make
the pilgrimage to the House. Then he said: Shall I not show you
the gates of goodness? Fasting (which) is a shield; charity extinguishes
sin as water extinguishes fire; and the praying of a man in the
depths of the night. Then he recited:
“Who forsake their
beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope and spend out of what
We have bestowed on them. No soul Knoweth what is kept hid for them
of joy, as a reward for what they used to do.”
he said: “Shall I not tell you of the peak of the matter, its pillar
and its topmost part? I said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” “The
peak is Islam; the pillar is prayer; and its top most part is jihad.
Tirmithi in An Nawawi’s 40 Hadeeth
The quality of the
faithful is that they
perform Salah with regularity, humility, and submissiveness (khushoo).
Allah tells us in the first verses of surat Al Mu’minoon:
indeed are the believers; those who humble themselves in their prayers.”
The Prophet, (saws)
are five prayers which Allah has prescribed for His servants. For
those who perform them properly without disrespectful omissions,
there is a guarantee that Allah will admit them into paradise, To
those who do not observe them (properly), Allah offers no such guarantee.
He may punish them or he may admit them to paradise as He wills.”
Dawud, An Nasai and Ibn Majaah
members of my community may perform the prayer in such a way that
their bowing and their prostration are as one, yet their prayers
may be as far apart as heaven and earth.”
a man performs the entire prayer, he may get no credit but for a
half of it, or a third of it, or a quarter, a fifth, a sixth, or
a tenth. A man gets credit only for that part of his prayer of which
he is conscious.”
If you were to prepare
to visit a dignitary, a king or even your supervisor, you prepare
yourself for such a meeting with great concern for every detail,
being completely absorbed in this encounter. So what of your encounter
with Allah during prayer? Shaytan will try as hard as he can to
distract you. He will take away from you as much as he is able to
and as much as you allow him to.
A Muslim should
always approach Salah with the realisation that he is preparing
to face His Lord.
The Prophet, (saws)
Allah faces his servant in prayer as long as he does not turn away.”
The sharh (explanation)
of this hadith tells us that to turn away has two meanings:
The turning away of the heart so that your heart is not
really present in your prayer.
The turning away of the eyes, looking about is distraction
The renown scholar
Ibn Al-Qaym, has described the different performances of Salah in
relation to Khushoo and classified people into four categories:
The one who offers prayer but is late in doing so, does not
observe the requirements such as a proper ablution, and does not
cover the awrah. As for the performance of the prayer itself, the
pillars of the prayer are deficient, standing and prostration are
not performed properly.
This person fulfils the physical conditions for prayer and
performs the prayer as required yet is overcome by Al -Wasaawis
the whisperings of Shaytan. His mind is completely removed from
his prayer until the time of tasleem.
The person also offers the prayer properly and is also afflicted
by Al-Wasaawis but he fights it and is in constant battle.
This very special person is he who finds prayer an oasis.
He approaches it having fulfilled the prerequisites perfectly and
with humility and performs the prayer with khushoo’, humbling himself
before his Lord. He may even be unaware of happenings around him
due to his absorption in his private meeting with Allah.
In the first case,
this person has made the attempt to fulfill his obligation to pray
but is not sincere. He will be punished for the deficiencies in
In the second case,
we have a person who makes sincere efforts to fulfill the prayer
but is weak against shaytan and does not fight him. He will
be rewarded for only the part of his prayer he did well as described
in the previous hadeeth, one half, one third, etc.
As for the third
category, this person is considered a mujahid against the whisperings
of shaytan He will be rewarded for his sincere efforts and Allah
will direct him to righteousness.
The final category
is of those very rare individuals, the one we all wish to be in.
They perform the prayer as the Prophets of Allah did, removing their
hearts completely from the world. They love prayer most of all.
Their eyes are filled with joy and ecstasy when they perform it.
There is no question of their reward and their superiority of faith.
Prayer is a very
important part of one’s Iman and plays a significant role in life.
To achieve its benefits, it must be performed properly. It helps
prevent one from committing evil and makes one successful in this
life as well as in the Hereafter - but only when it is performed
properly, humbly and sincerely. At the time of prayer angels spread
about calling man to “put out the fire of sin” that he is burning.
has promised us that prayer removes sin committed between them
The Prophet (saws)
When a Muslim performs Wudu properly, and then observes salat five
times a day his sins fall off , just as leaves fall off a tree.”
He then recited
the following Ayat:
“And establish regular
prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of night
for those things which are good, removes those things which are
evil. That is a reminder for the mindful.”
It is not possible
that a Muslim who observes prayer correctly could stand before his
Lord without asking forgiveness for the sins he has committed.
If you develop khushoo
in your prayer, you cannot consist in committing sins, because the
effort of your prayer makes you aware and ashamed of your misdeeds.
For Example: If
you are backbiting, your prayer will make you conscious of your
deed. Your level of consciousness will be elevated and your faith
will increase. This will make you less likely to fall into major
When Muslim fasts
he does so not only, through abstaining from food and drink, but
also shuns bad deeds, false words, etc.
The Prophet (saws)
does not give up false words and evil actions, Allah is not in need
of his leaving his food and drink.”
Fasting also presents
many benefits other than simply fulfilling the commandments of Allah,
and being rewarded for it. If you are prone to, incline, or fall
into sin fasting will lessen your evil inclination.
For Example: A man
who is unable to marry is recommended to fast, this will lessen
his desires. We also know from the hadith “ The devils are chained
during Ramadan” that during fasting, man is not as easily influenced
by them. This you can see in your own personal change of religious
consciousness when you fast during Ramadan.
For the one who
fasts properly, gaining the full benefit, it is an exercise and
training for the whole year. You gain a kind of power and change
which you carry through the whole year. But you should not stop
once Ramadan ends. Make fasting a habit, at least occasionally.
The Prophet (saws)
consistently fasted at least three days a month. By fasting periodically,
you retrieve some of the spiritual uplifting that Ramadan brings
throughout the year. This is a very strong faith strengthening tool
that all can apply.
Here we are referring
to the charity you give voluntarily, not the obligatory Zakat. It
is the voluntary sadaqah that strengthens faith, the more you do,
the more you erase your bad deeds. Sadaqah is not only monetary.
There are many deeds that are considered sadaqah. If someone wishes
to give sadaqah, and you assist in its delivery, for example, you
are rewarded for giving sadaqah yourself.
Ayesha (ra) related
that the Prophet (saws) informed them as to who would follow him
in death saying:
one who has the longest hands amongst you would meet me most immediately.”
Prophets wives used to measure their hands as to who was the biggest.
It was the hand of Zainab that was the longest amongst them, as
she used to work with her hands
and spend that income in charity.”
It was Zainab bin
Jahsh whose long hand reached out to the poor so often, not with
money but food and other things that she had to give, she was the
first of his wives to die after him.
The Prophet (saws)
Muslim has to give sadaqah.” He was asked “If someone has nothing
to give, what should he do?” He said “He should work with his hands
and benefit himself, and also give in charity (from what he earns)”.
The people then
he cannot find even that?” He replied. “Then he should perform good
deeds and keep away from evil deeds and this will be regarded as
He also said:
of you women should consider even a sheeps trotter to insignificant
a gift to give to her neighbor.”
Mu’aadh bin Jabal
related from the Prophet (saws):
extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire.”
Al-Tirmidi and Ibn Maajah
The Prophet (saws)
believers shade on the day of resurrection will be his sadaqah.”
al Qaym was a student of ibn Taymeeyah who played a significant
role in guiding his footsteps upon the way of the Qur’an and Sunnah
in the age of innovative religious teachings, he died in 752 AH,
leaving us a treasure of wisdom. May Allah have mercy on