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Surah Baqarah Ayat 3

Surah Baqarah Third Ayah in Arabic:

الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنْفِقُونَ


Allazeena yu’minoona bilghaibi wa yuqeemoonas salaata wa mimmaa razaqnaahum yunfiqoon

English Translation:

DR. GHALI Who believe in the Unseen, and keep up the prayer, and expend of what We have provided them,

MUHSIN KHAN Who believe in the Ghaib and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and spend out of what we have provided for them [i.e. give Zakat, spend on themselves, their parents, their children, their wives, etc., and also give charity to the poor and also in Allah’s Cause – Jihad, etc.].

PICKTHALL Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them;

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them,

YUSUF ALI Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them;

MUFTI TAQI USMANI who believe in the Unseen, and are steadfast in Salāh (prayer), and spend out of what We have provided them;

ABDUL HALEEM who believe in the unseen,keep up the prayer, and give out of what We have provided for them;

ABUL ALA MAUDUDI for those who believe in the existence of that which is beyond the reach of perception, who establish Prayer and spend out of what We have provided them,

Surah Baqarah Ayat 3 Tafseer

Here we’ve provided different sources of commentary to help with learning and understanding the third ayat of Surah Baqarah.

Tafsir by Ibn Kathir [2:3]


The Meaning of Iman


Abu Ja`far Ar-Razi said that Al-`Ala’ bin Al-Musayyib bin Rafi` narrated from Abu Ishaq that Abu Al-Ahwas said that `Abdullah said, “Iman is to trust.”. `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said,



(who have faith) means they trust. Also, Ma`mar said that Az-Zuhri said, “Iman is the deeds.” In addition, Abu Ja`far Ar-Razi said that Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that, `They have faith’, means, they fear (Allah).

Ibn Jarir (At-Tabari) commented, “The prefered view is that they be described as having faith in the Unseen by the tongue, deed and creed. In this case, fear of Allah is included in the general meaning of Iman, which necessitates following deeds of the tongue by implementation. Hence, Iman is a general term that includes affirming and believing in Allah, His Books and His Messengers, and realizing this affirmation through adhering to the implications of what the tongue utters and affirms.”

Linguistically, in the absolute sense, Iman merely means trust, and it is used to mean that sometimes in the Qur’an, for instance, Allah the Exalted said,

﴿يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَيُؤْمِنُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ﴾


(He trusts (yu’minu) in Allah, and trusts (yu’minu) in the believers.) (9: 61)

Prophet Yusuf’s brothers said to their father,

﴿وَمَآ أَنتَ بِمُؤْمِنٍ لَّنَا وَلَوْ كُنَّا صَٰـدِقِينَ﴾


(But you will never believe us even when we speak the truth) (12:17).

Further, the word Iman is sometimes mentioned along with deeds, such as Allah said,

﴿إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّٰـلِحَـتِ﴾


(Save those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous deeds) (95:6).

However, when Iman is used in an unrestricted manner, it includes beliefs, deeds, and statements of the tongue.We should state here that Iman increases and decreases.

There are many narrations and Hadiths on this subject, and we discussed them in the beginning of our explanation of Sahih Al-Bukhari, all favors are from Allah. Some scholars explained that Iman means Khashyah (fear of Allah). For instance, Allah said;

﴿إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُم بِالْغَيْبِ﴾


(Verily, those who fear their Lord unseen (i.e. they do not see Him, nor His punishment in the Hereafter)) (67:12), and,

﴿مَّنْ خَشِىَ الرَّحْمَٰـنَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَجَآءَ بِقَلْبٍ مُّنِيبٍ ﴾


(Who feared the Most Gracious (Allah) in the Ghayb (unseen) and brought a heart turned in repentance (to Him and absolutely free from every kind of polytheism)) (50: 33).

Fear is the core of Iman and knowledge, just as Allah the Exalted said,

﴿إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ﴾


(It is only those who have knowledge among His servants that fear Allah) (35:28).


The Meaning of Al-Ghayb


As for the meaning of Ghayb here, the Salaf have different explanations of it, all of which are correct, indicating the same general meaning. For instance, Abu Ja`far Ar-Razi quoted Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, reporting from Abu Al-`Aliyah about Allah’s statement, i

﴿يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ﴾


((Those who) have faith in the Ghayb), “They believe in Allah, His angels, Books, Messengers, the Last Day, His Paradise, Fire and in the meeting with Him. They also believe in life after death and in Resurrection. All of this is the Ghayb.” Qatadah bin Di`amah said similarly.

Sa`id bin Mansur reported from `Abdur-Rahman bin Yazid who said, “We were sitting with `Abdullah bin Mas`ud when we mentioned the Companions of the Prophet and their deeds being superior to our deeds. `Abdullah said, `The matter of Muhammad was clear for those who saw him. By He other than Whom there is no God, no person will ever acquire a better type of faith than believing in Al-Ghayb.’ He then recited,

﴿الم – ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ﴾


(Alif Lam Mim. This is the Book, wherein there is no doubt, a guidance for the Muttaqin. Those who believe in the Ghayb), until,



(the successful). ” Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Marduwyah and Al-Hakim, in his Mustadrak, recorded this Hadith. Al-Hakim commented that this Hadith is authentic and that the Two Shaykhs – Al-Bukhari and Muslim – did not collect it, although it meets their criteria.

Ahmad recorded a Hadith with similar meaning from Ibn Muhayriz who said: I said to Abu Jumu`ah, “Narrate a Hadith for us that you heard from the Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Yes. I will narrate a good Hadith for you. Once we had lunch with the Messenger of Allah . Abu `Ubaydah, who was with us, said, `O Messenger of Allah! Are people better than us We embraced Islam with you and performed Jihad with you.’ He said,

«نَعَمْ قَوْمٌ مِنْ بَعْدِكُمْ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِي وَلَمْ يَرَوْنِي»


(Yes, those who will come after you, who will believe in me although they did not see me.)”

This Hadith has another route collected by Abu Bakr bin Marduwyah in his Tafsir, from Salih bin Jubayr who said: `Abu Jumu`ah Al-Ansari, the Companion of the Messenger of Allah , came to Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) to perform the prayer. Raja’ bin Haywah was with us, so when Abu Jumu`ah finished, we went out to greet him. When he was about to leave, he said, “You have a gift and a right. I will narrate a Hadith for you that I heard from the Messenger of Allah. ” We said, “Do so, and may Allah grant you mercy.” He said, “We were with the Messenger of Allah, ten people including Mu`adh bin Jabal. We said, “O Messenger of Allah! Are there people who will acquire greater rewards than us We believed in Allah and followed you.’ He said,

«مَا يَمْنَعُكُمْ مِنْ ذَلِكَ وَرَسُولُ اللهِ بَيْنَ أَظْهُرِكُمْ يَأْتِيكُمْ بِالْوَحْيِ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ، بَلْ قَوْمٌ بَعْدَكُمْ يَأْتِيهِمْ كِتَابٌ مِنْ بَيْنِ لَوْحَيْنِ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَيَعْمَلُونَ بِمَا فِيهِ، أُولٰئِكَ أَعْظَمُ مِنْكُمْ أَجْرًا مَرَّتَيْن»


(What prevents you from doing so, while the Messenger of Allah is among you, bringing you the revelation from heaven There are people who will come after you and who will be given a book between two covers (the Qur’an), and they will believe in it and implement its commands. They have a greater reward than you, even twice as much.)”

﴿وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلٰوةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَـهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ﴾


(And perform Salah, and spend out of what we have provided for them)


Meaning of Iqamat As-Salah


Ibn `Abbas said that,

﴿وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلٰوةَ﴾


(And perform the Salah), means, “Perform the prayer with all of the obligations that accompany it.” Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said, “Iqamat As-Salah means to complete the bowings, prostrations, recitation, humbleness and attendance for the prayer.” Qatadah said, “Iqamat As-Salah means to preserve punctuality, and the ablution, bowings, and prostrations of the prayer.” Muqatil bin Hayyan said Iqamat As-Salah means “To preserve punctuality for it, as well as completing ones purity for it, and completing the bowings, prostrations, recitation of the Qur’an, Tashahhud and blessings for the Prophet . This is Iqamat As-Salah.”


The Meaning of “Spending” in this Ayah


`Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said,

﴿وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَٰـهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ﴾


(And spend out of what We have provided for them) means, “The Zakah due on their wealth.” As-Suddi said that Abu Malik and Abu Salih narrated from Ibn `Abbas, as well as Murrah from Ibn Mas`ud and other Companions of the Messenger of Allah , that,

﴿وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَٰـهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ﴾


(And spend out of what We have provided for them) means, “A man’s spending on his family. This was before the obligation of Zakah was revealed.” Juwaybir narrated from Ad-Dahhak, “General spending (in charity) was a means of drawing nearer to Allah, according to one’s discretion and capability. Until the obligation of charity was revealed in the seven Ayat of Surat Bara’ah (chapter 9), were revealed. These abrogated the previous case.”

In many instances, Allah mentioned prayer and spending wealth together. Prayer is a right of Allah as well as a form of worshipping Him. It includes singling Him out for one’s devotion, praising Him, glorifying Him, supplicating to Him, invoking Him, and it displays one’s dependence upon Him. Spending is form of kindness towards creatures by giving them what will benefit them, and those people most deserving of this charity are the relatives, the wife, the servants and then the rest of the people. So all types of required charity and required spending are included in Allah’s saying,

﴿وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَٰـهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ﴾


(And spend out of what we have provided for them). The Two Sahihs recorded that Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إِلهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ، وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ، وَحَجِّ الْبَيْت»


(Islam is built upon five (pillars): Testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the prayer, giving Zakah, fasting Ramadan and Hajj to the House.)

There are many other Hadiths on this subject.


The Meaning of Salah


In the Arabic language, the basic meaing of Salah is supplication. In religious terminology, Salah is used to refer to the acts of bowing and prostration, the remaining specified acts associated with it, specificed at certain times, with those known conditions, and the characteristics, and requirements that are well-known about it.

Believing in the Imperceptible

The surah then gives a description of those who are God-fearing. In doing so it presents the early model of believers in Madinah, which was also to be the universal one for all future generations of Muslims: “Those who believe in what lies beyond the reach of human perception, observe Prayer and give of what We bestow upon them. Those who believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you, and are certain of the Hereafter.’’ (Verses 3-4)

The most essential quality of the God-fearing believers is their conscious, active moral unity that enriches their souls with profound belief in the imperceptible, or ghayb, dedication to their religious obligations, recognition of all God’s messengers, and unshakeable certainty in the hereafter. Such are the ingredients that make the Muslim faith a complete whole and distinguishes believers from unbelievers. Such a thorough outlook is worthy of God’s final message to man, which was intended as a focus and a guide for all human endeavour on this earth. Man is called upon to adopt this message and lead a complete and wholesome life, guided by its light which shapes man’s feelings, actions, beliefs and ways of living and behaviour. Looking more closely at each of these qualities, one discovers a number of essential values that are fundamental to human life.

Who believe in what lies beyond the reach of human perception.” (Verse 3) The limits of human perception do not prevent believers’ souls from reaching their Creator, the omnipotent power behind the universe and all existence. Their limited natural senses do not stand in the way of their desire to reach beyond the physical world or their pursuit of the ultimate truths of life.

Belief in the imperceptible is a major threshold in human understanding, and crossing it elevates man above animals and takes him far beyond the physical world Al-Baqarah (The Cow) | THE MESSAGE SPELT OUT 29 of the senses or all the devices that may extend their function. It raises human consciousness to a level where a wider and fuller world can be perceived. Such a step has far-reaching effects on man’s understanding of his own existence and the existence of everything else around him. It provides him with a totally new awareness of the realities of the interacting energies and forces that are at play in this complex world, and of the way he conceives of them. It also affects his behaviour and life on earth in general.

There is a vast difference between the thinking that is trapped within the parochial materialist world of the senses, and that which is based on the awareness of an infinite world of existence and which can, through the soul and the instinctive mind, deeply and intensely feel its energies and the forces governing it. Time and space extend far beyond what can be determined or comprehended within the short span of life. Man will come to recognize the great and ultimate truth that underpins the whole cosmos and sustains all existence, seen as well as unseen. It is the Divine Being that the human eye cannot see, nor the mind perceive.

This belief has the vital role of preserving man’s finite mental and intellectual powers and saving them from being wasted, abused or misdirected. These faculties have been bestowed on man to enable him to properly discharge his obligations as God’s vicegerent on earth. In the present life, the domain for man’s activities of procreation, construction, innovation and excellence is limited. His intellectual power needs to be strengthened and complemented by spiritual power which stems directly from God and is thereby linked to the whole of existence.

Any attempt to comprehend the world from another perspective is futile and foolish, because it resorts to the wrong tools and defies the fundamental truth that the finite cannot fathom the infinite. Man’s limited sensory and intellectual capabilities do not enable him to understand the absolute meaning of things.

This inherent human deficiency, however, in no way prevents man from believing in the imperceptible and accepting that it is the prerogative of the Divine. Man should leave these matters to God, the Omniscient, and should turn to Him for meaning, information, understanding and explanation. Recognition of this fact is the greatest prize the human mind can win, and is the first and foremost mark of the God-fearing believer.

The concept of the imperceptible is a decisive factor in distinguishing man from animals. Materialist thinking, ancient as well as modern, has tended to drag man back to an irrational existence, with no room for the spiritual, where everything is determined by sensory means alone. What is peddled as ‘progressive thought’ is no more than dismal regression. God has protected believers against such an error by describing them as those who believe in the imperceptible. For that alone they should be deeply grateful.

Those who “observe prayer,” revere and worship none but God Almighty. They never debase themselves by worshipping anyone or anything else. They turn to the real and ultimate power in this world, humbling their hearts and souls to Him alone. In this way they link up to the cause and origin of existence; their lives assume real meaning and noble purpose, transcending the crude and trivial pursuits and needs of worldly living. Their ties with God give them power over other creatures and feed their conscience with moral strength and fear of God. Prayer is an essential element in the building of a believer’s character and shaping his concepts, feelings and behaviour and in linking them directly with God.

And give of what We bestow upon them.” (Verse 3) This implies the believers’ recognition that what they own and possess is a gift and a favour from God. It is not of their own making. Such a belief brings mercy and benevolence towards the weak and the poor, and mutual fellowship and a true spirit of brotherhood and human community among all. The outcome is to eliminate greed and fill people’s hearts with compassion and humanity, making life an opportunity for cooperation rather than an arena for conflict and confrontation. The sick, the weak and the young and helpless in society are given security, so that they feel they are living among human beings with compassionate hearts and scrupulous souls, rather than selfish beasts with nothing but claws and teeth.

This kind of benevolent spending comprises the obligatory zakat, as well as the giving of alms, voluntary donations and all other forms of charitable offerings. The latter had been instituted in Islam long before zakat, because they are more general and wide-ranging than zakat, which relates to the obligatory aspect of charitable spending. Faţimah bint Qays quotes the Prophet Muhammad as saying: “There is a rightful claim to people’s money, other than zakat.” [Related by al-Tirmidhi] This statement by the Prophet clearly establishes the general principle with respect to financial obligations.

who believe in the unseen, and are steadfast in salah, and spend out of what We have provided them;

The next two verses delineate the characteristic qualities of the God-fearing, suggesting that these are the people who have received guidance, whose path is the straight path, and that he who seeks the straight path should join their company, adopt their beliefs and their way of life. It is perhaps in order to enforce this suggestion that the Holy Qur’an, immediately after pointing out the attributes peculiar to the God-fearing, proceeds to say:

أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَىٰ هُدًى مِّن رَّ‌بِّهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
It is these who are on guidance given by their Lord, and it is just these who are successful.

The delineation of the qualities of the God-fearing in these two verses also contains, in essence, a definition of Faith (‘Iman ایمان) and an account of its basic tenets and of the fundamental principles of righteous conduct:
الَّذِيْنَ يُؤْمِنُوْنَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَ يُـقِيْمُوْنَ الصَّلٰوةَ وَ مِمَّا رَزَقْنٰھُمْ يُنْفِقُوْنَ
Who believe in the unseen, and are steadfast in Salah and spend out of what We have provided them.

Thus, the first of the two verses, mentions three qualities of the God-fearing – belief in the unseen, being steadfast in Salah, and spending in the way of Allah. Many important considerations arise out of this verse, the most significant being the meaning and definition of ‘Iman ایمان (Faith).

Who are the God-fearing?

The Definition of ‘Iman
The Holy Qur’an has provided a comprehensive definition of ‘Iman ایمان in only two words ” يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ “Believe in the unseen”. If one has fully understood the meaning of the words ‘Iman ایمان and Ghayb غیب ، one will have also understood the essential reality of ‘Iman ایمان .

Lexically, the Arabic word ‘Iman ایمان signifies accepting with complete certitude the statement made by someone out of one’s total confidence and trust in him. Endorsing someone’s statement with regard to sensible or observable facts is, therefore, not ‘Iman ایمان . For example, if one man describes a piece of cloth as black, and another man endorses the statement, it may be called Tasdiq تصدیق (confirmation) but not ‘Iman ایمان ، for such an endorsement is based on personal observation, and does, in no way, involve any confidence or trust in the man who has made the statement. In the terminology of the Shari` ah, ‘Iman ایمان signifies accepting with complete certitude the statement made by a prophet out of one’s total confidence and trust in him and without the need of personal observation.1

1. It would be helpful to note that in the everday idiom of the West, and even in modern social sciences, “faith” has come to mean no more than an intense emotional state or “a fixe emotion”. As against this, the Islamic conception of Iman ایمان is essentially intellectual, in the original signification of “Intellect” which the modern West has altogether forgotten.

As for the word Ghaib غیب ، lexically it denotes things which are not known to man in an evident manner, or which are not apprehensible through the five senses. The Holy Qur’an uses this word to indicate all the things which we cannot know through the five senses or through reason, but which have been reported to us by the Holy Prophet ﷺ . These include the essence and the attributes of Allah, matters pertaining to destiny, heaven and hell and what they contain, the Day of Judgment and the things which happen on that Day, divine books, all the prophets who have preceded the Holy Prophet ﷺ . in short, all the things mentioned in the last two verses of the Surah Al-Baqarah. Thus, the third verse of the Surah states the basic creed of the Islamic faith in its essence, while the last two verses provide the details.

So, belief in the unseen ultimately comes to mean having firm faith in everything that the Holy Prophet ﷺ has taught us – subject to the necessary condition that the teaching in question must have come down to us through authentic and undeniable sources. This is how the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars generally define ‘Iman ایمان (See al-‘Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah, ‘Aqa’id al-Nasafi etc.).

According to this definition, Iman ایمان signifies faith and certitude, and not mere knowledge. For, a mental knowledge of the truth is possessed by Satan شیطان himself, and even by many disbelievers – for example, they knew very well that the Holy Prophet ﷺ was truthful and that his teachings were true, but they did not have faith in him nor did they accept his teachings with their heart, and hence they are not Muslims.

The Meaning of Establishing Salah

The second quality of the God-fearing is that they are “steadfast in the prayer.” The verb employed by the Holy Qur’an here is Yuqimuna يُقِيمُنَا (generally rendered in English translations as “they establish”, which comes from the word Iqamaha اقامہ signifying “to straighten out” ). So, the verb implies not merely saying one’s prayers, but performing the prayers correctly in all possible ways and observing all the prescribed conditions, whether obligatory (Fard فرض) or necessary (Wajib واجب) or commendable (Mustahabb مستحب). The concept includes regularity and perpetuity in the performance of Salah as also an inward concentration, humility and awe. At this point, it may be noted that the term does not mean a particular Salah, instead, it includes all fard, wajib and nafl نفل prayers.

Now to sum up – the God-fearing are those who offer their prayers regularly and steadfastly in accordance with the regulations of the Shari’ah, and also observe the spiritual etiquette outwardly and inwardly.

Spending in the way of Allah: Categories

The third quality of the God-fearing is that they spend in the way of Allah. The correct position in this respect, which has been adopted by the majority of commentators, is that it includes all the forms of spending in the way of Allah, whether it be the fard (obligatory) Zakah or the Wajib (necessary) alms-giving or just voluntary and nafl نفل (supererogatory) acts of charity: For, the Holy Qur’an usually employs the word Infaq انفاق with reference to nafl نفل (supererogatory) alms-giving or in a general sense, but reserves the word Zakah for the obligatory alms-giving. The simple phrase: مِمَّا رَ‌زَقْنَاكُم : “Spend out of what We have provided them” inspires us to spend in the way of Allah by drawing our attention to the fact that anything and everything we possess is a gift from Allah and His trust in our hands, and that even if we spend all our possessions in the way of Allah, it would be proper and just and no favour to Him. But Allah in His mercy asks us to spend in His way “out of’ what (مِمَّا) he has provided – that is, only a part and not the whole.

Among the three qualities of the God-fearing, faith is, of course, the most important, for it is the basic principle of all other principles, and no good deed can find acceptance or validity without faith. The other two qualities pertain to good deeds_ Now, good deeds are many; one could make a long list of even those which are either obligatory or necessary. So, the question arises as to why the Holy Qur’an should be content to choose for mention only two – namely, performing Salah and spending in the way of Allah. In answering this question, one could say. that all the good deeds which are obligatory or necessary for man pertain either to his person and his body or to his possessions. Among the personal and bodily forms of Ibadat عبادت (acts of worship), the most important is the Salah. Hence the Holy Qur’an mentions only this form in the present passage. As for the different forms of ` Ibadat عبادت pertaining to possessions, the word Infaq انفاق (spending) covers all of them. Thus, in mentioning only two good deeds, ` the Holy Qur’an has by implication included all the forms of worship and all good deeds. The whole verse, then, comes to mean that the God-fearing are those who are perfect in their faith and in their deeds both, and that Islam is the sum of faith and practice. In other words, while providing a complete definition of Iman ایمان (Faith), the verse indicates the meaning of Islam as well. So, let us find out how Iman ایمان and Islam are distinct from each other.

The distinction between Iman ایمان and Islam اسلام

Lexically, ‘.Iman ایمان signifies the acceptance and confirmation of something with one’s heart, while Islam signifies obedience and submission. Iman ایمان pertains to the heart; so does Islam, but it is related to all the other parts of the human body as well. From the point of view of the Shari’ah, however, Iman ایمان is not valid without Islam, nor Islam without Iman ایمان . In other words, it is not enough to have faith in Allah and the Holy Prophet ﷺ in one’s heart unless the tongue expresses the faith and also affirms one’s allegiance and submission. Similarly, an oral declaration of faith and allegiance is not valid unless one has faith in one’s heart.

In short, Iman ایمان ، and Islam have different connotations from the lexical point of view. It is on the basis of this lexical distinction that the Holy Qur’an and Hadith refer to a difference between the two. From the point of view of the Shari` ah, however, the two are inextricably linked together, and one cannot be valid without the other – as is borne out by the Holy Qur’an itself.

When Islam, or an external declaration of allegiance, is not accompanied by Iman ایمان or internal faith, the Holy Qur’an terms it as Nifaq نفاق (hypocrisy), and condemns it as a greater crime than an open rejection of Islam:
اِنَّ الْمُنٰفِقِيْنَ فِي الدَّرْكِ الْاَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ
Surely the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of Hell. (4:145)

In explanation of this verse let us add that so far as the physical world goes, we can only be sure of the external state of a man, and cannot know his internal state with any degree of certainty. So in the case of men who orally declare themselves to be Muslims without having faith in their heart, the Shari’ah requires us to deal with them as we would deal with a Muslim in worldly affairs; but in the other world their fate would be worse than that of the ordinary disbelievers. Similarly, if Iman ایمان or acknowledgment in the heart is not accompanied by external affirmation and allegiance, the Holy Qur’an regards this too as kufr کفر or rejection and denial of the Truth – speaking of the infidels, it says:
يَعْرِفُوْنَهٗ كَمَا يَعْرِفُوْنَ اَبْنَاۗءَھُمْ
They know him (that is, the Holy Prophet ﷺ) as they know their own sons (2:146);

or in another place:
وَجَحَدُوْا بِهَا وَاسْتَيْقَنَتْهَآ اَنْفُسُهُمْ ظُلْمًا وَّعُلُوًّا
Their souls knew them (the signs sent by Allah) to be true, yet they denied them in their wickedness and their pride. (27:14)

My respected teacher, ` Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Anwar Shah used to explain it thus – the expanse which Iman ایمان and Islam اسلام have to cover in the spiritual journey is the same, and the difference lies only in the beginning and the end; that is to say, Iman ایمان starts from the heart and attains perfection in external deeds, while Islam starts from external deeds and can be regarded as perfect when it reaches the heart.

To sum up, Iman ایمان is not valid, if acknowledgment in the heart does not attain to external affirmation and allegiance; similarly, Islam اسلام is not valid, if external affirmation and allegiance does not attain to confirmation by the heart. Imam Ghazzali and Imam Subki رحمۃ اللہ علیہما both have arrived at the same conclusion, and in Musamarah, Imam Ibn al-Humam (رح) reports the agreement of all the authentic scholars in this respect.2 …who believe in what has been revealed to you and in what has been revealed before you, and do have faith in the Hereafter.

2. Today one finds a very wide-spread confusion, sometimes amounting to a total

incomprehension, with regard to the distinction between Islam and Iman ایمان ، essentially under the influence of Western modes of thought and behaviour and, to be more specific, that of the ever-proliferating Protestant sects and schools of theology. Since the middle of the 19th century there have sprouted in almost every Muslim country a host of self-styled Reformists, Revivalists, Modernists et al, each pretending to have understood the “real” Islam for the first time, and each adopting an extremist, though untenable, posture with regard to Islam and Iman ایمان . On the one hand, we have people claiming that Islam is only a matter of the “heart” (a word which has during the last four hundred years been used in the West as an equivalent of “emotion” or, worse still, of “emotional agitation” ) or of “religious experience” (a very modish term brought into currency by William James). As a corollary, they stubbornly refuse to see the need for a fixed ritual or an ethical code, all of which they gladly leave to social exigency or individual preference. They base their claims on the unquestioned axiom that religion is “personal” relationship between the individual and “his” God. It is all too obvious that this genre of Modernist “Islam” is the progeny of Martin Luther with cross-pollination from Rousseau. On the other hand, we have fervent and sometimes violent champions of Islam insisting on a merely external performance of rituals – more often on a mere conformity to moral regulations, and even these, of their liking. They would readily exclude, and are anyhow indifferent to, the internal dimension of Islam. A recent modification of this stance (in the wake of a certain Protestant pioneering, it goes without saying) has been to replace divinely ordained rituals by acts of social service or welfare, giving them the status and value of acts of worship. Counseling on divorce, abortion, premarital sex and the rest of the baggage having already become a regular part of the functions of a Protestant clergyman, it would not be too fond to expect, even on the part of our Modernists, the speedy inclusion of acts of entertainment as well. There is still another variety of deviationists, more visible and vociferous than the rest, and perhaps more pervasive and pernicious in their influence, finding easy credence among a certain section of Muslims with a sloppy western-style education. While dispensing with the subtle distinctions between Islam and Iman ایمان ، they reduce Islam itself to a mere system of social organization, or even to state-craft. According to their way of looking at things, if Muslims fail to set up a social and political’ organization of a specified shape, they would cease to be Muslims. Applied to the history of Islam, this fanciful notion would lead to the grotesque conclusion that no Muslim had ever existed. These are only a few examples of the intellectual distortions produced by refusing to define Islam and Iman ایمان clearly and ignoring the distinction between the two. Contrary to all such modernizing deviations, Islam in fact means establishing a particular relationship of obedience and servitude with Allah. This relationship arises neither out of vague “religious experiences” nor out of social regimentation; in order to attain it, one has to accept all the doctrines and to act upon all the commandments specified in the Holy Qur’an, the Hadith and the Shari’ah. These doctrines and commandments cover all the spheres of human life, individual or collective, right up from acts of worship down to social, political and economic relations among men, and codes of ethics and behaviour, morals and manners, and their essential purpose is to produce in man a genuine attitude of obedience to Allah. If one acts according to the Shari’ah one, no doubt, gains many worldly benefits, individual as well as collective. These benefits may be described as the raison d’etre of the commandments, but are in no way their essential object, nor should a servant of Allah seek them for themselves in obeying Him, nor does the success or failure of a Muslim as a Muslim depend on attaining them. When a man has fully submitted himself to the commandments of Allah in everything he does, he has already succeeded as a Muslim, whether he receives the related worldly benefits or not.

(2:4) for those who believe in the existence of that which is beyond the reach of perception,4 who establish Prayer [5] and spend out of what We have provided them, [6]

5. This is the third requirement. It is pointed out that those to whom belief means merely the pronouncement of a formula, who think that a mere verbal confession of faith is enough and that it makes no practical demands on them, can derive no guidance from the Qur’an. To benefit from the Qur’an it is essential that a man’s decision to believe should be followed immediately by practical obedience to God.

Prayer is the first and continuing sign of practical obedience. No more than a few hours can pass after a man has embraced Islam than the mu’adhin calls to Prayer and it becomes evident whether or not the profession of faith has been genuine. Moreover, the mu’adhin calls to Prayer five times every day and whenever a man fails to respond to his call it becomes clear that he has transgressed the bounds of practical obedience. An abandonment of Prayer amounts to an abandonment of obedience. Obviously, if a man is not prepared to follow the directives of his guide, it is immaterial whether or not true guidance is available to him.

It should also be noted that the expression ‘establishment of Prayer’ has a wider meaning than mere performance of Prayer. It means that the system of Prayer should be organized on a collective basis. If there is a person in a locality who prays individually but no arrangements are made for congregational Prayer, it cannot be claimed that Prayer is established in that locality.

6. This, the fourth prerequisite for a person to benefit from the Qur’an, demands that the person concerned should neither be niggardly nor a worshipper of money. On the contrary, he should be willing to pay the claims on his property of both God and man, and should not flinch from making financial sacrifices for the sake of his convictions.