Defining and Activating Imaan

defining and activating imaan

Moving from Faith to Action


What is faith? How do you define it? What does it comprise? And what are its fruits? Imaan has been painstakingly examined by scholars who identified its component parts.

Yet imaan cannot simply reside in the heart, its reality is only evident when it is translated into action. As always, there are obstacles along the way…

Imaan has 60 odd or 70 odd branches, the highest of it is saying la ilaha illa llah; the Shahadah, and the least of it is to remove the harmful things from the root. And hayaa’, (bashfulness) is one of these branches-part of imaan. (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Branches of Faith

This hadith shows that imaan has many branches. And the Prophet (peace be on him) is giving us an overview of the branches of imaan.

Of course, the Prophet (peace be upon him) didn’t stipulate all the branches in this hadith just three of them – the first one is la ilaha illa llah, the last one is removing harmful things out of the way, and the third is hayaa’ (shyness).

Methodology of Collecting the Branches

Scholars, like Imam Bayhaqi tried their best to collate these 77 branches, though it was a formidable task. First, they went through the verses of the Qu’ran, to see which verses classify something as a branch of imaan and gathered them. And then they (Ibn Hibban, Bayhaqi and many others) went through all the hadith also. They put it together and saw there were too many, beyond 77. They deleted any that were repetitions, and this reduced the number to over 60. Imam Bayhaqi took this collection and he composed a huge book of seven volumes called Shu`ab al-Iman, which you can find available online and offline.

The Importance of the Overview

Imam Al Qazwini (may Allah bless him) summarised the book in 1 short volume, which is available free online and has been translated into English. It is like an index for Shu`ab al-Iman. I’m mentioning this because this is something we always see in the sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He always gave an overview. For instance, ‘Islam has been built on five’ is an overview on the main pillars of the deen.

This is the way of education, simplifying things, giving the birds eye view, just to allow you to see the major principles and then not to be lost in the detail. So you always need to know the branches, the pillars, the principles before you go through the details.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught the ummah through the principles. While we have those who specialise in the details and then even the details of the details, this is not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone’s speciality. So, we need to know the overall picture.

The Conversion of Imaan into Action

When he (peace be on him) says ‘imaan has 60 or 70 odd branches,’ the Prophet (peace be on him) even though imaan is about belief, the branch he mentioned last, (the lowest branch of imaan is removing the harmful things form the root) is not actually belief per se, but an action, which is driven by imaan. The purpose of imaan is not to stay rooted in your heart, but to transition to action.

In order to move from imaan to action, we need to be grasp what is required of us. And then we have a to-do list which incorporates core values that we have to demonstrate.

Loving Goodness for All

For example, part of imaan is loving goodness for everyone is and that is why removing harmful things is part of imaan.  The definition of the Muslim is ‘the one from whom people are safe from his tongue and his hand’, meaning he is not insulting anyone by harming anyone by his tongue, nor is he harming anyone by his hand, by his action. This is the definition of the Muslim.

Instilling the Principles

Once we know the principles, we need to spread them, and teach them to our children, starting with the tawheed of Allah Almighty, then imaan and then imbibing concepts like establishing justice.

We cannot ignore these principles, they are so deeply embedded in our deen. We need to establish justice within ourselves, our families, our communities and children. The principle of truthfulness is one of the main principles. Regardless of what you do, and whom you are engaged with, truthfulness is a principle you cannot compromise. Similarly, fulfilling your promises is another principle you cannot compromise.

You see amongst the seven categories that Allah Almighty will give shade of the throne on the Day of Judgement, in first place to a just ruler, but, where are they? We can barely see any! I don’t want to go into politics, but we must tell the truth. So, this shows the importance of justice in our life, to train ourselves to be just and deliver justice, regardless of if it is against your own self, justice must be delivered. Nothing should stop the delivery of justice.


Allah Almighty mentioned in the Qur’an in many verses what might hinder the delivery of justice. In surah An’Nisa, Allah Almighty instructed us to be amongst those who are establishing justice and be a witness for it, even if it’s against your own self:

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” [Quran 4:135]

Overcoming Personal Interest

For each and every principle which we have to establish and implement, we also need to be proactive about removing the obstacles which might hinder the implementation for that principle.

One of the obstacles to the establishment of justice is personal interest. Whether someone is from your own group, your son, neighbour, and so on, it doesn’t matter, establishing justice must be delivered.

Overcoming Nepotism

Allah Almighty said, even if it’s against your own parents, don’t let your family stop you from delivering justice. I know it’s difficult but taste the bitterness of this difficulty in this dunya rather than tasting the severe punishment in the akhirah – God forbid, even if it is against yourself or your parents.

Notice that Allah starts from the centre and then goes outwards. So, He is begins with your own self, your parents and then your relatives. Sometimes your own relatives might cost you the delivery of justice.

In one incident a man came to the Prophet peace be upon him, and he had a complaint against the cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him). As we know, water is a very valuable source and not everyone had access to water 24/7 in those times, so they divided the water into a time-sharing mechanism, i.e. they divided access to water in time periods. So, the person complaining to the Prophet (peace be upon him) was next to the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) cousin, and the man said, ‘He’s [cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him)] preventing me from my own right’. The Prophet peace be upon him said ‘Tell me what’s the story?’ The man said, ‘He keeps the water for a long time and then doesn’t’ allow me to use it after until his plants are satisfied.’ And the Prophet (peace be upon him) listened and then went and listened to his cousin. When the Prophet (peace be on him) heard both sides he decided that his cousin was correct.

The companion complained again and said, ‘You just delivered this ruling because he is your cousin’. And the Prophet (peace be upon him) was so angry after he heard that as he was delivering justice regardless of relations. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to his cousin ‘Keep this water in your garden until the roots suck the water and then you can release the water to your neighbour’. The Prophet (peace be upon him) at first only suggested that his cousin could use the water without satisfying the roots however after being accused of injustice, he instructed that the roots be satisfied as this was originally the correct thing to do, and then the cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him) could release the water to the neighbour.

In this instance the Prophet (peace be upon him) was delivering justice not because of his relation as a cousin. In fact, the Prophet actually favoured the neighbour with the complaint to a certain extent, not in a way which he peace be upon him would harm the delivery of justice. So even your own self, your own parent and relatives should not stop you from delivering justice.

Overcoming Class System

Allah Almighty also mentioned the class system. If someone is rich then you feel like you owe him a favour, but if he is poor you feel as though no one would listen to him. So, don’t let the class system prevent you from delivering justice.

Overcoming Corruption

Favouring your friends and family is corruption. Or offering and accepting bribes to obtain rulings in your favour is wrong.  Justice should be delivered because that person is poor and helpless, and instead that person allows the delivery of oppression instead of justice.

We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to stick to these principles, to deliver these principles and to be amongst those who Allah Almighty has given satisfaction and strength to be with the truth wherever they are, Ameen.

Khutbah delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim at the Albanian Mosque UKAMCCC, Queen’s Park, London

Transcribed by Izzah Malik

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.