Principles of faith

Principles of faith

Islamic subjects and problems can be divided into two groups: Principles of faith (Usul Deen) and secondary issues (Furu Deen). Principles of faith (Usul Deen) are also called as beliefs and secondary issues (Furu Deen) are known as duties. Secondary issues (Furu Deen) are duties and dos and don’ts, which are imposed by the Almighty God on man and they can be divided into three groups: Ethics, worship acts and non-worship laws. The last is also called as ‘dealings’ (Maamilaat).

Principles of faith (Usul Deen) are regarded as pillars of Islam and faith on them is necessary for a person if he wants to be considered a Muslim. They are: belief in oneness of God, resurrection and prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (s).

However, Shia Imamiyah, in addition to these consider faith in Imamate also as part of fundamentals of belief, which in terminology is known as Principles of Religion.

Principles of belief are also called as ‘world view’. It is such a view that man has a sense of responsibility towards the creator of the universe and accepts the divine duties, which have been arranged to guarantee success in the world and hereafter. Laws and duties are called as ‘ideology’.

Matters of beliefs are divided into two groups: Roots and branches. Fundamentals of belief are matters, which are necessary to believe in if the faith of a person is to be considered true; like Oneness of God, Resurrection and Prophethood.

However, the branches of beliefs are derived from the fundamentals, like: Divine names, Positive Attributes (Sifaat Thubutiyyah) and Negative Attributes (Sifaat Salbiyyah), Infallibility of prophets, intercession, purgatory (Barzakh), process of enlivening of the dead and such other matters.
Role of beliefs in success of man

Principles of religion and world view can affect the success of man from the following aspects:

A) Dos and don’ts, which affect the lifestyle of man and which are derived from his world view and special beliefs.

B) Obtaining recognition of the facts; especially the recognition of Almighty Allah, from the point of view of Islam is a personal value; on the contrary it is considered among the best of worship acts and which causes perfection of self and proximity to God. Knowledge and recognition directly affects the self of man and convey it to perfection.

On the basis of this, obtaining recognition and knowledge is introduced in Quran as a great and valuable worship act.

 اللَّهُ الَّذِى خَلَقَ سَبْعَ سَمَوَاتٍ وَمِنَ الْأَرْضِ مِثْلَهُنَّ يَتَنَزَّلُ الْأَمْرُ بَيْنَهُنَّ لِتَعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى‏ كُلِ‏ّشَىْ‏ءٍ قَدِيرٌ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَحَاطَ بِكُلِ‏ّ شَىْ‏ءٍ عِلْماً

Allah is He Who created seven heavens, and of the earth the like of them; the decree continues to descend among them, that you may know that Allah has power over all things and that Allah indeed encompasses all things in (His) knowledge.” (65:12)

In the same way, it says:

يَرْفَعِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ مِنكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees; and Allah is Aware of what you do.” (58:11)

Amirul Momineen (a) said: O believer, knowledge and manners are values of your self, thus make efforts in gaining knowledge, as much as your knowledge and manners increase, your status and value would also increase, because through knowledge you would be guided to your Lord and through manners you would be able to serve the Lord in the best way and one who has good manners, would become eligible for the guardianship (Wilayat) and proximity of God. Hence, accept good advice, so that you may be saved from the punishment of God.[1]

Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) said: “The best worship acts are knowledge of God and submission before Him.”[2]

Hisham bin Hakam has narrated from Imam Musa Kazim (a) that he said: O Hisham, God deputed the prophets as His messengers to make the people wise and mindful of God. The more they accept and believe in these messengers, the greater is their God-consciousness. The wisest among men is one that is more knowledgeable about; and one that is most perfect in his reasoning enjoys the highest status among men in this life and the life hereafter.[3]

C) Belief in God in the possibility of proving the intention of proximity and sincerity is among conditions of worship and is the real secret of gaining of proximity. If belief on God is not there and deeds are not performed for Him, it will not have value and eligibility of rewards of the hereafter.
Ways of recognition

Islam considers gaining of recognition and knowledge to be possible for man, therefore in Quran man is invited to contemplate on the amazing aspects of the earth, skies, mountains, seas, trees, animals, sun, creation of night and day and other matters. Now if gaining of recognition had not been possible, call to study, contemplation and thought would have been absurd.

Now we shall explain what recognition and obtaining of knowledge is:

1. Senses: Man can maintain connection with the external world and understand things through the sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. However, these senses only perceive material things and they cannot perceive abstract matters; that is they don’t have the power to perceive and see the angels and Almighty Allah directly; although these senses can be mediums of recognizing the creator of the world.

2. Mind and intellect: The best way to perceive reality and to gain certainty is through use of reason and logical argumentation. Quran invites man to contemplate on the amazing aspects of creation so that in this way he may discover the creator of the world and His knowledge and power.

The Holy Quran says:

 قُلِ انْظُرواْ مَاذَا فِى السَّمَوتِ وَ الْأَرْضِ وَ مَا تُغْنِى الْأَيَتُ وَ النُّذُرُ عَن قَوْمٍ لَّا يُؤْمِنُونَ‏

Say: Consider what is it that is in the heavens and the earth; and signs and warners do not avail a people who would not believe.”

It also says:

 أَفَلَمْ يَسِيِرُواْ فِى الْأَرْضِ فَتَكُونَ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ يَعْقِلُونَ بِهَآ أَوْ ءَاذَانٌ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَعْمَى الْأَبْصَرُ وَلَكِن تَعْمَى الْقُلُوبُ الَّتِى فِى الصُّدُورِ

Have they not traveled in the land so that they should have hearts with which to understand, or ears with which to hear? For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts which are in the breasts.” (22:46)

Not only has the Holy Quran urged man to contemplate, it itself makes use of logical reasonings to prove some of its points; like when it says:

 لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَآ ءَالِهَةٌ إِلَّا اللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا فَسُبْحَنَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَرْشِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ

If there had been in them any gods except Allah, they would both have certainly been in a state of disorder; therefore glory be to Allah, the Lord of the dominion, above what they attribute (to Him).” (21:22)

And it says:

 مَا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ مِن وَلَدٍ وَمَا كَانَ مَعَهُ مِنْ إِلَهٍ إِذاً لَّذَهَبَ كُلُّ إِلَهٍ بِمَا خَلَقَ وَلَعَلَا بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَى‏ بَعْضٍ سُبْحَنَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ

Never did Allah take to Himself a son, and never was there with him any (other) god - in that case would each god have certainly taken away what he created, and some of them would certainly have overpowered others; glory be to Allah above what they describe!” (23:91)

The Holy Prophet of Islam (s) and the Holy Imams (a) were also people of reasoning. Sometimes they resorted to logical reasoning in order to prove roots of religion. They didn’t ask their opponents to ‘just shut up’; on the contrary, they tried to prove to them the facts through reasoning and discussions. Discussions of the Prophet and Imams are nicely recorded in history.

On the basis of this it can be said that: Islam is a religion of logic and reasoning and it accepts reason as a reliable instrument and has called its followers towards it. However, the correct conclusion for reason and logical sources has special conditions and its application is also within particular limits.

3. Purification of self and cleaning of conscience: One of the methods of understanding facts and discovering realities is purification of self and cleansing of conscience. With regard to this, they say: The soul of man is an ethereal and abstract element having the capability to witness some of realities of the unseen world without traversing the path of reasoning. That which obstructs this perception is the filthiness of the soul due to sins and material relations. Thus if man adopts piety, cleans his self from sins, reduces worldly relations and bestows luminosity to his self and performs worship and remembrance of God, he can become eligible for divine grace and he would perceive the realities. Scholars have argued from some verses and traditions in order to prove the correctness of this method:

The Holy Quran says:

وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا * فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا * قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا * وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا

And the soul and Him Who made it perfect. Then He inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it. He will indeed be successful who purifies it. And he will indeed fail who corrupts it.” (91:7-10)

And it says:

 يَأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِن تَتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّكُمْ فُرْقَاناً وَيُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ‏

O you who believe! If you are careful of (your duty to) Allah, He will grant you a distinction and do away with your evils and forgive you; and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace.” (8:29)

On the basis of this, purification and discipline of the soul is a desired act, which becomes the cause of his success and perfection. If man observes piety and does not smear his soul with sins, he would reach a level when he can see the realities and distinguish between truth and falsehood.

“The Messenger of Allah (s) has also said: One who devotes himself solely to Almighty Allah for forty days and nights, springs of wisdom from his heart would flow on his tongue.”[4]

Amirul Momineen (a) said: “Hearts of pure persons are eligible for attention of Almighty Allah, so one who purifies his heart would earn the attention of Almighty Allah.”[5]

Imam Ali (a) also said: “Glad tidings to one who performs worship acts and supplications only for Almighty Allah and does not make his heart involved in that which his eyes see and does not make that which reaches his ears to forget the remembrance of God and is not aggrieved by that which is given to others.”[6]

Lady Fatima Zahra (s) said: One who sends his sincere worship acts to Almighty Allah, Allah also sends to him the best of the interests.”[7]

It can be concluded from these verses and traditions that the way of obtaining knowledge is not restricted to reasoning and evidence, on the contrary there is another way, which in other words is: Purification and discipline of the soul from sins, bad morals and endeavor in worship and sincerity of actions for Allah. Realities can be reached from this path also.

Some divine saints and sincere people in order to gain knowledge and certainty have traversed this path and have reached the aim, but traversing this path is extremely difficult and is not possible by all, because it requires struggle (Jihad) with the self, and abstinence.

4. Information given by prophets and Infallible Imams (a): Though Islam invites people to contemplate and take benefit from reasoning and considers it to be a sensual value, but the custom of the prophets was not as such that they always invited to method of reasoning, on the contrary mostly they took advantage of their truthfulness and honesty and invited people to faith. When the trustworthy and truthful Prophet of Islam said to people: I invite you to faith in Allah and monotheism, you are not annihilated by death, on the contrary you are transferred to the world of the hereafter, so that you may see the rewards for your good deeds and punishment of your bad deeds, most people gained faith through his statements. Mostly the call was not accompanied with reasonings, but his statements brought faith and certainty. Although such a faith was not defective and baseless, rather it was stronger than the faith derived through logical reasonings.

These people as a result of the reliance they had on the Prophet of Islam considered his information to be definite and developed belief on its correctness and brought faith in it. Although if an individual or some individuals demanded evidence, he convinced them through reasoning and was even fond of it; but such was not his usual style.

On the basis of this, the above style can also be regarded as one of the ways of obtaining knowledge, certainty and faith, which was employed by the prophets.

5. Inculcation of parents and teacher: Faith of many people is created through inculcation by father, mother or teacher. Guardians and nurturers prepare the child with the word of God; after that they mention the roots of religion to him in ordinary manner and read them out to him till he memorizes them perfectly and they make it appealing to him. Then they teach him recitation of ‘Hamd’[8] and other Surahs, method of ablution (Wudhu) and ritual prayers. Gradually the child develops faith in God, Prophet and resurrection and grows up with this same faith and belief. Reading books of religious teachings also strengthens faith. Although some of them, when they grow up investigate this and strengthen their childhood faith through reasonings and proofs, but most remain content with their childhood faith and also have no doubt, because in proving faith resolve and certainty is the condition and they possessed it.

As for faith, which is based on contemplation and reasonings, it has precedence over inculcated faith, but it is not that if it had been without investigation and reasoning, it would have harmed actual faith.

Now, if a person is having doubt in one of the principles of belief, he should logically search it out and make his faith stable. Shortcoming and carelessness in this matter is not allowed.

However, with regard to secondary beliefs one can rest content with conjectural reasonings like solitary reports (Khabar Wahid); although investigation and acquisition of certainty in secondary beliefs is also when possible, having precedence over conjectural reasoning.


[1] Biharul Anwar, Vol. 1, Pg. 180

[2] Tohafful Uqul, Pg. 383

[3] Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 16

[4] Biharul Anwar, Vol. 70, Pg. 242

[5] Ghurarul Hikam wa Durarul Kalam, Pg. 501

[6] Biharul Anwar, Vol. 70, Pg. 229

[7] Biharul Anwar, Vol. 70, Pg. 249

[8] First chapter of the Holy Quran