We all look for happiness and hope for it. Some people may think happiness lies in having a lot of money or in having a high status or a position of power. However, Bilaal, may Allah be pleased with him, saw happiness in faith in Allah The Almighty, as he repeated, “Ahadun Ahad (Allah is One…Allah is One)”, while the polytheists made him lie on the burning sands of Makkah in the hot desert at mid-day, putting a huge stone on his chest, thus making it difficult for him to breathe. This happiness was also seen by Ibn Taymiyyah  as he said, “What can my enemies do to me? My Paradise is in my heart and they cannot take it from me. If they exile me, my exile would be a journey for worship; if they imprison me, my prison would be seclusion; if they kill me, I would die as a martyr as the Book of Allah and the Sunnah (tradition) of His Messenger  are in my heart.”

Faith has a certain sweetness that is known only to those who have tasted it. The Prophet  said: “The one who accepted Allah as a Lord, Islam as a religion and Muhammad as a Messenger, has tasted the sweetness of faith.” [Muslim]

The Prophet  also said: “There are three qualities by which he who is characterized (with them) will taste the sweetness of faith: that Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than anything else; that he loves a person purely for the sake of Allah; and that he hates returning to disbelief after Allah has rescued him from it just as he would hate to be cast into the Hellfire.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

One righteous man said about his enemies, “If they knew the faith that is in our hearts, they would fight us for it.” Whoever wants happiness in this life should abide by faith; whoever wants happiness in the Hereafter should abide by faith; and whoever wants to be secure should abide by faith.

What is faith?

Linguistically, faith means 'belief', and this meaning is clear in the story of Prophet Yoosuf (Joseph), may Allah exalt his mention. When his brothers returned to their father Ya’qoob (Jacob), may Allah exalt his mention, after putting Yoosuf in the well, they told their father that Yoosuf had been eaten by a wolf and they stained his shirt with blood. However, they felt that their father did not believe them, so they told him (what means): {But you would not have faith in us, even if we were truthful."} [Quran 12:17], meaning you would not believe us. Complete faith is achieved through certainty of the heart, approval of the tongue and submission of the organs. Thus, faith involves both words and deeds: the words of the tongue and heart, and the deeds of the heart and body.

Such faith has certain characteristics that are peculiar to it. These are:

1. Faith is a condition for the acceptance of deeds:

The Prophet  went out with the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, before the Battle of Badr, and on the way a man who was known for his courage, daring and strength caught up with them. The Companions  were very happy when they saw him. Then the man came close to the Prophet  and said, “I came in order to follow you and win a share of the booty.” The Prophet  asked him: “Do you believe in Allah and His Messenger?” The man said, “No.” The Prophet  said to him: “Then, return, as I will not seek the help of a polytheist.” Thus, the man left. After a while, he returned and said the same words to the Prophet  and the Prophet  told him the same words. After that, the man returned for the third time and said the same words, the Prophet  asked him:“Do you believe in Allah and His Messenger?” The man said, “Yes.” The Prophet  told him:“Go on (join us).” [Muslim]

Allah The Almighty Says (what means):

• {And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer - those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed.} [Quran 4:124]

• {But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer - it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah].} [Quran 17:19]

2. Faith is not by the tongue only:

‘Abdullaah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool, the chief of the hypocrites, used to go to the Prophet  praise him and declare that he believed in Allah and His Messenger; however, after leaving, he would insult the Prophet  and order the hypocrites to disobey Allah The Almighty and His Messenger. The hypocrites showed Islam outwardly and pretended to follow the Prophet  but they concealed disbelief and enmity to Allah The Almighty and His Messenger. Allah The Almighty Says about them (what means):

• {Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire - and never will you find for them a helper} [Quran 4:145]

• {When the hypocrites come to you, [O Muhammad], they say, "We testify that you are the Messenger of Allah." And Allah knows that you are His Messenger, and Allah testifies that the hypocrites are liars.} [Quran 63:1]

3. Faith motivates man to perform more righteous deeds:

Faith and righteous deeds are like twins and Allah The Almighty mentioned them together in the Quran sixty times. Just as faith is completed by righteous deeds, the latter is proof of the sincerity of faith. The Prophet  said: “If you see a man praying at the mosque regularly, bear witness that he is a believer.” [At-Tirmithi]

The Companions of the Prophet  were born in the pre-Islamic environment where drinking intoxicants and becoming addicted to them was considered an indispensable part of the lifestyle. However, when the verse in which Allah The Almighty Says (what means):{O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.} [Quran 5:90] was revealed and Allah The Almighty ordered them to quit drinking intoxicants, they threw the glasses from their hands to obey Allah The Almighty. Some of the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, even had the glass almost touching their lips, but when the verse was revealed, they spilt it in order to obey the orders of Allah The Almighty. Each of them went home and spilt all the intoxicants that they had, to the extent that the streets of Madeenah were full of the smell of intoxicants for a long period of time.

Thus, faith achieved what empires could not achieve and what they spent billions in order to eliminate. Some empires spent thousands of millions in order to put an end to alcoholism; however, their efforts were in vain.

1. Faith prevents sins and diminishes them:

Sins do not eliminate faith, but they affect and weaken it, while faith diminishes sins and prevents them. A man from one of the nations past once travelled along with three men. When night came, they wanted to sleep, so they entered a cave to stay there overnight. Suddenly, a huge rock rolled down the mountain and blocked the mouth of the cave. They said (to each other), “Nothing can save us from this stressful situation but to invoke Allah by mentioning the righteous deeds that we have done (for the sake of Allah only).” So, the first one invoked Allah The Almighty mentioning the best of his righteous deeds, and the rock moved a little, but they could still not get out. The second man invoked Allah The Almighty mentioning the best of his righteous deeds and the rock moved a little more, but still they could not get out of the cave. The third man said,

“O Allah! I had a cousin who was the most beloved of all people to me and I wanted to have sexual intercourse with her, but she refused. Later, she came across hard times during a year of famine and she came to me, and I gave her one hundred and twenty Dinars on condition that she would not resist my desires, and she agreed. When I was about to fulfill my desires, she said while shaking and shuddering, ‘O slave of Allah, fear Allah and do not break the seal except with its due right (meaning, it is illegal for you to violate my chastity except through legitimate marriage).’ So, I moved away from her, though she was the dearest of all people to me, and I left her the money I had given her. O Allah! If I did that for Your sake only, please relieve us from the present calamity.”

So, the rock moved completely and they walked out.

Thus, faith prevented this man from committing the sin of adultery. When a believer is about to commit a deed that brings the anger of Allah The Almighty, he remembers that Allah The Almighty sees him and is watching him, so he abstains from doing what brings the anger of Allah The Almighty.

2. Believers obtain their strength and assistance from Allah The Almighty:

The people of Quraysh went to Abu Taalib, the paternal uncle of the Prophet  and said angrily, “O Abu Taalib! Your nephew has ridiculed our minds, blasphemed our gods, attacked our religion, and separated between our sons and us. If what he wants is money, we will gather our property for him so that he would be the richest of us; if he wants sovereignty, we will make him king, and if he is sick, we will get him the best physician so that he would be cured.”

The Prophet  answered them (with the certitude of a strong believer in Allah The Almighty, who never succumbs to seduction and never sells his faith no matter how enormous the worldly price may be): “O my uncle! By Allah, if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left in return for my giving up this cause (meaning Islam), I would not give it up until Allah makes truth victorious, or I die in its service.” [Ibn Hishaam]

The disbelievers dug deep trenches and set them on fire, then threw the believers who believed in Allah The Almighty into the ditches, but the believers did not give up their belief even if the price was their death. Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {Cursed were the companions of the trench. [Containing] the fire full of fuel, When they were sitting near it And they, to what they were doing against the believers, were witnesses. And they resented them not except because they believed in Allah, the Exalted in might, the Praiseworthy,} [Quran 85:4-8]

When Pharaoh brought the magicians to defeat Moosa (Moses)  and they saw the miracle of Allah The Almighty and His might, they bowed to Him in prostration. Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {They said, "We have believed in the Lord of the worlds, The Lord of Moses and Aaron."} [Quran 7:121, 122] Pharaoh threatened that he would cut off their limbs because they believed in the Lord of Moosa and disbelieved in him, but faith and certainty filled their hearts and strengthened them. They said (what means): {…"No harm. Indeed, to our Lord we will return.} [Quran 26:50]

3. Faith and trials:

Trying people is one of the norms of Allah The Almighty in His creation, as He tests people with evil and with good as a trial in order to distinguish between those who are truthful believers and those who are lying hypocrites. Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {Alif, Laam, Meem. Do the people think that they will be left to say, "We believe" and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.} [Quran 29:1-3]

It was narrated on the authority of Mus‘ab ibn Sa’d that his father said, “O Messenger of Allah! Who are the most afflicted people?” The Prophet  said: “The prophets, then those who are the best. Man is afflicted according to the degree of his belief. If his faith is strong, then his affliction will be as strong as his faith is, but if his faith is delicate, he will be tested according to his faith. Trials continue to afflict the slave until they leave him walking the earth free of any sins.” [At-Tirmithi and Ibn Maajah]

Khubayb ibn ‘Adiyy, may Allah be pleased with him, was captured by the disbelievers and was taken to be crucified, but he asked them to let him pray two Rak‘ahs (units of prayer) first. He prayed two short Rak‘ahs then went to them and said, “By Allah! If you would not think that I am afraid of death, I would have prayed more.” They lifted him and tied him to a wooden pole. After that the polytheists asked him, “O Khubayb! Would you like to be safe at home, while Muhammad would be in your place?” He replied, “No. By Allah! I would not like to be safe while even a thorn would prick his foot.” Then he recited some poetic verses indicating that he did not care if he was killed so long as he was killed as a Muslim and in the cause of Allah The Almighty.

Sumayyah, may Allah be pleased with her, was also persecuted by the polytheists along with her husband and son. The Prophet  would pass by them and say: “Be patient, O family of Yaasir; your reward will be Paradise.” [Ibn Hishaam] The believer is patient at times of trials and he relies on Allah The Almighty Who Says (what means): {O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful.} [Quran 3:200] The Prophet  said: “Patience is half of faith.” [Abu Nu‘aym] The Prophet  also said: “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for all his affairs are good, and that is for no one except the believer. If something good happens to him, he expresses gratitude, and that is good for him, and if something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” [Muslim]

Faith increases by performing good deeds regularly and decreases by committing sins and being negligent with Allah The Almighty. Allah The Almighty Says (what means):

• {The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely} [Quran 8:2]

• {Those to whom hypocrites said, "Indeed, the people have gathered against you, so fear them." But it [merely] increased them in faith, and they said, "Sufficient for us is Allah, and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs."} [Quran 3:173]

Handhalah ibn Ar-Rabee’, may Allah be pleased with him, met Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq, may Allah be pleased with him, and told him, “Hanthalah is a hypocrite!” Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Glory be to Allah! What are you saying?” Hanthalah, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “When we are with the Messenger of Allah he reminds us of Paradise and Hell as if we can see them with our eyes, but when we leave him we have intimate relations with our wives, we play with our children and we become concerned with our worldly matters.” Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “By Allah, it is the same with me.”

So, both of them went to the Prophet  and Hanthalah  said to him, “O Messenger of Allah! Hanthalah is a hypocrite.” The Prophet  said: “Why do you say this?” Hanthalah  told the Prophet  the same words that he had said to Abu Bakr. Then the Prophet  said: “By Him in whose Hand is my life, if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembering Allah, the angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your paths but, Handhalah, there is a time for this and there is a time for that.” The Prophet  said this thrice. [Muslim]

Abu'd-Dardaa’  used to say, “It is a sign of the slave’s religious understanding that he cares for his faith so that it would not decrease, and to know whether his faith is increasing or decreasing.”

There are means that increase faith, some of which are: knowledge, good deeds, reflection and so forth. Gaining more knowledge is a means of increasing faith as Ibn ‘Umar  used to say, “We learned faith, but when we learned the Quran we increased in faith.” There is no doubt that having knowledge of the Names of Allah The Almighty and the meanings that each one of them comprises increases the Muslim’s faith. Knowing the Seerah (biography) of the Prophet  along with his morals, dealings, Jihaad and acts of worship increases faith and strengthens it. Allah The Almighty praises people of knowledge in many places in the Quran. Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?"} [Quran 39:9]

It was narrated that Al-Haarith ibn Maalik Al-Ansaari  was passing by and the Prophet  asked him: “O Haarithah! How are you doing?” He replied, “I have become a true believer!” The Prophet  told him: “Be wary of what you say, as everything has a truth, so what is the truth of your faith?” He said, “I abandoned the worldly life to the extent that I stay up at night (praying) and I remain thirsty during the day (because of fasting). I feel as if I can see the Throne of My Lord; the people of Paradise visiting each other and the people of Hell being tortured in it.” The Prophet  said: “O Haarithah! You have come to know, so adhere to what you know!” He repeated this three times. [At-Tabaraani]

Just as knowledge is a means of increasing faith, deeds are also a means of either increasing or decreasing faith. Performing good deeds increases faith; committing sins weakens it. The Companions  were keen on increasing their faith. ‘Umar  used to say, “Let us make our faith increase.” And they would remember Allah The Almighty. ‘Abdullaah ibn Rawaahah  used to hold the hand of his friends and say, “Get up and let us have a faith boosting hour (by sitting with people who remember Allah).”

It was narrated that Allah The Almighty Says: “I Am just as My slave thinks of Me and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers me secretly, I remember him secretly and if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering that is better.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Among the reasons that increase faith is constant reflection upon the creation of Allah The Almighty. If someone tells you about the cleverness of a certain person and you see a sample of his work, you would be more amazed. If you see even more examples, you would be even more amazed at his cleverness, and if you scrutinize his workmanship carefully, you would be even more convinced about his skill and truthfulness!

The might of Allah The Almighty is quite clear to everyone in this vast universe. The heavens are lifted without pillars and have stars and planets; while the earth is planted with seeds and produces the sweet and the sour. This makes the believer who has a pious heart unable to contain himself and he finds himself declaring the glory of Allah The Almighty and the beauty of His creation, saying, “Indeed, He is Allah, the Omnipotent.”

Reflecting upon the creation of Allah The Almighty is one of the characteristics of the believers. Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {And give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth...} [Quran 3:191] 

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