Major Principles of Islam 1 – Imaan
How did the idea of compiling the major principles come about? Every Monday evening I hold an Arabic class, and at the end students ask questions. One of the questions a student put to me was ‘What are the major principles of Islam?’ There are plenty but I could not count them off the top of my head at that moment. Throughout my life, I heard many of my shuyukh and books mention the major principles of Islam, but I could not think of or find a book on the topic. This drove me to collect the principles of Islam, which every Muslim needs to know. It’s like the foundation of any house. You need to have a solid foundation on which to build a house, otherwise the walls, decoration, curtains, and furniture will not be safe.
What are these foundations and principles?
The night I was asked the question, I could not sleep; I began to write down a list of the principles that Islam advocates. It came to nearly 70, and the list was jumbled, because it was from the top of my head. As I thought of each principle I asked myself if it was a major principle or not? How important was it? Could we live without it? Did it appear in the Quran and Sunnah? Once I had 70 I began to categorise them. The beauty of these principles is that they are like a map of the Quran and the Sunnah. They show you the main motorways and junctions in the Quran and the Sunnah. There are some A roads, but the principles show what our religion stands for. For instance, justice is one of the principles. It’s not a minor thing. There are plenty of verses and plenty of narrations in the Sunnah related to this principle. Similarly oppression, there are plenty of narrations that prohibit oppression, which is the opposite of justice. Each principle has subcategories.
A quick tour of the principles
Among the major principles are obedience (taqwa) towards Allah Almighty, repentance (tawbah) and seeking forgiveness (istighfar), tranquillity and reliance (tawakkul) on Allah, modesty and purity, good character, excellence (ihsan), following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), commanding virtue and forbidding evil, freedom, equality, love, mercy, generosity, being good to your parents, ease and facilitation, optimism, truthfulness, patience, remembrance (dhikr) of Allah Almighty, importance of good companionship, being with the congregation or the Ummah, not to split from the Ummah, the importance of consultation (shurah), the importance of sincere advice (naseeha), veneration and respect, avoiding doubtful matters, controlling your speech, staying out of what doesn’t concern you, having a good relationship with your family, fulfilling your promises, concealing the faults of others and not exposing their mistakes and sins, preparing for the Hereafter, the prohibition of oppression (dhulm), theft, killing, arrogance (kibr), lying, backbiting, fabricating news, envy, cheating, anger, hatred, innovation (bid’ah), not breaking the rules and observing the commands of Allah Almighty, not insulting others or looking down at the them, not following one’s whims and desires. Each and every one is a standalone topic. Many of these categories or principles are social, some of it is related to between you and Allah Almighty, some of them related to you and people, some of them related to between you and yourself.
Some principles are related to the vertical dimension – our relationship with Allah Almighty. rtical dimension are certainty in Allah Almighty, closeness to Him, reliance (tawwakkul) on Allah Almighty, love of Allah Almighty, remembrance of Allah Almighty, gratitude (shukr) and repentance (tawbah). These are connected to you and your relationship with Allah Almighty.
Some principles are related to the horizontal dimension – our relationship with people, for instance establishing justice, freedom, equality, and dignity, maintaining good relationships with our family. These are related to how we function as a society. Many of the rulings in Islam are related to people as are not solitary creatures, but live in communities.
Islam teaches us how to deal with our parents, children, siblings, spouses, neighbours and friends, colleagues and employees. There are numerous rulings in the Quran and Sunnah, guiding us on best practice, as it is called in the business world. Islam is about having the best practice in every sphere of our lives and to this end, Allah Almighty sent us the revelation, to show us to do things in the best possible way – with excellence. We will go through these principles systematically in this series.
Faith – Imaan
The principles begin with faith (imaan) in One God. Therefore monotheism (tawhid) is the first principle. This is what we bear witness to in our Shahadah: laa ilaaha illallah Muhammad ar Rasoolallah.
In the very famous hadith, one day Jibreel walked into the mosque of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Madinah in the shape of a man, whom no one recognised. He sat down opposite the Prophet (peace be upon him) with his knees touching his knees and placed his palms on the thighs of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as if he was a student with his teacher, and asked some questions. Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
عن عُمَر بْن الْخَطَّابِ قَالَ بَيْنَمَا نَحْنُ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ذَاتَ يَوْمٍ إِذْ طَلَعَ عَلَيْنَا رَجُلٌ شَدِيدُ بَيَاضِ الثِّيَابِ شَدِيدُ سَوَادِ الشَّعَرِ لَا يُرَى عَلَيْهِ أَثَرُ السَّفَرِ وَلَا يَعْرِفُهُ مِنَّا أَحَدٌ حَتَّى جَلَسَ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَأَسْنَدَ رُكْبَتَيْهِ إِلَى رُكْبَتَيْهِ وَوَضَعَ كَفَّيْهِ عَلَى فَخِذَيْهِ وَقَالَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ أَخْبِرْنِي عَنْ الْإِسْلَامِ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْإِسْلَامُ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَتُقِيمَ الصَّلَاةَ وَتُؤْتِيَ الزَّكَاةَ وَتَصُومَ رَمَضَانَ وَتَحُجَّ الْبَيْتَ إِنْ اسْتَطَعْتَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلًا قَالَ صَدَقْتَ قَالَ فَعَجِبْنَا لَهُ يَسْأَلُهُ وَيُصَدِّقُهُ قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنْ الْإِيمَانِ قَالَ أَنْ تُؤْمِنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَتُؤْمِنَ بِالْقَدَرِ خَيْرِهِ وَشَرِّهِ قَالَ صَدَقْتَ قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنْ الْإِحْسَانِ قَالَ أَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَرَاكَ قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنْ السَّاعَةِ قَالَ مَا الْمَسْئُولُ عَنْهَا بِأَعْلَمَ مِنْ السَّائِلِ قَالَ فَأَخْبِرْنِي عَنْ أَمَارَتِهَا قَالَ أَنْ تَلِدَ الْأَمَةُ رَبَّتَهَا وَأَنْ تَرَى الْحُفَاةَ الْعُرَاةَ الْعَالَةَ رِعَاءَ الشَّاءِ يَتَطَاوَلُونَ فِي الْبُنْيَانِ قَالَ ثُمَّ انْطَلَقَ فَلَبِثْتُ مَلِيًّا ثُمَّ قَالَ لِي يَا عُمَرُ أَتَدْرِي مَنْ السَّائِلُ قُلْتُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَعْلَمُ قَالَ فَإِنَّهُ جِبْرِيلُ أَتَاكُمْ يُعَلِّمُكُمْ دِينَكُمْ
We were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) one day, a man appeared with very white clothes and very black hair. There were no signs of travel on him and we did not recognise him. He sat in front of the Prophet, rested his knees by his knees, and placed his hands on his thighs. The man said, “O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.” The Prophet said, “Islam is to testify there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish prayer, to give charity, to fast the month of Ramadan, and to perform pilgrimage to the House if a way is possible.” The man said, “You have spoken truthfully.” We were surprised that he asked him and said he was truthful. He said, “Tell me about faith.” The Prophet said, “Faith is to believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and to believe in providence, its good and its harm.” The man said, “You have spoken truthfully. Tell me about excellence.” The Prophet said, “Excellence is to worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He surely sees you.” The man said, “Tell me about the final hour.” The Prophet said, “The one asked does not know more than the one asking.” The man said, “Tell me about its signs.” The Prophet said, “The slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and you will see barefoot, naked, and dependent shepherds compete in the construction of tall buildings.” Then, the man returned and I remained. The Prophet said to me, “O Umar, do you know who he was?” I said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Prophet said, “Verily, he was Gabriel who came to teach you your religion.” [Muslim]
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not realise this mysterious man was Jibreel, until he left, yet in this exchange we were given the pillars of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) didn’t call them the pillars of Islam, as they have become known today, but on another occasion, he (peace be upon him) said Islam has been built on 5.
Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
عَنْ ابْنِ عُمَرَ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ عَلَى أَنْ يُعْبَدَ اللَّهُ وَيُكْفَرَ بِمَا دُونَهُ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ وَحَجِّ الْبَيْتِ وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ
Islam is built upon five: to worship Allah and to disbelieve in what is worshiped besides him, to establish prayer, to give charity, to perform Hajj pilgrimage to the house, and to fast the month of Ramadan. [Bukhari and Muslim]
Worshipping Allah alone brings comfort
These pillars begin with belief. Muslims have to believe in all prophets and messengers, from Adam (peace be upon him) till Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) until the Day of Judgement. All these prophets and messengers were sent to teach people monotheism – how to worship Allah Almighty alone, how to ask Allah Almighty alone, how to seek help from Allah Almighty alone. Islam came to teach us how to worship Allah Almighty alone without any corruption or innovation creeping into our religion, keeping the revelation pure. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) demonstrated all this to us through his example. In Surat ul Fatihah, which we recite multiple times a day:
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ٥
You alone we worship and You alone we seek help. [1:5]
This is the essence of monotheism, so we need to polish up our connection with the Fatihah and its meaning, because it’s the summary of the Quran.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught the companions how to perform salah with attentiveness and connection (khushu) with Allah Almighty and this is exactly what we need to do. We need this attentiveness because it strengthens our connection with Allah Almighty, giving us security and tranquillity in our lives, especially in this day and age where everybody is afraid of poverty and rising expenses. We need a boost to our imaan. If we were to rely on the external means alone, i.e. our salary or our efforts or our intellect it will lead to disappointment. However when you know Allah Almighty, the Creator and Lord of the Worlds (rabbil ‘aalameen), it gives us comfort because we are no longer alone. He is looking after us and every single being and atom in creation. From the vast universe and galaxies to the ants He is in charge and so we can rely on Him, with His power, majesty and wisdom to support us, no matter what difficulties we face.
Even when we have a plan – and of course we should all have a plan, our core reliance is on Allah Almighty. Deep down if our heart is connected to Allah Almighty, we can turn to Him for everything we need – the small things and the big things. Never feel shy of asking Him, no matter how many things you want from Him Allah loves to hear us calling on Him and out of His generosity is ready to give us:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ
And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” [40:60]
When we show Allah our need for Him, and acknowledge our powerlessness, He responds.
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِی عَنِّی فَإِنِّی قَرِیبٌۖ أُجِیبُ دَعۡوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِۖ فَلۡیَسۡتَجِیبُوا۟ لِی وَلۡیُؤۡمِنُوا۟ بِی لَعَلَّهُمۡ یَرۡشُدُونَ
If My worshipers ask you about Me, I am near, answering the prayer of the one who prays to Me. They should respond to Me and believe in Me in order to be guided. [2:186]
Faith is the battery of your heart, without it you die.
You might be walking, talking, sleeping, eating, but without a soul. Your soul is alive when you have imaan. That is why when you’re connected to Allah Almighty you feel energised, and when you are facing challenges, you feel tranquil, assured that you will be safe inshallah, and that if the troubles are your destiny you can face them, because Allah Almighty is with you. He’ll protect you. This is the beauty of imaan – it makes you stronger. If you don’t have imaan, you feel weaker even if you have big muscles or many followers or are in position of authority. Real strength is the internal which comes from believing in Allah Almighty.
Allah is the creator of this universe – He is Al Qadir, the most powerful, so if you rely on Him, and He’s with you, you have nothing to fear. This is simple, but deep. It requires training, because within the midst of our challenges – the calamities that strike us, Shaytan comes and fills our ears with fears. However, as the Quran tells us the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) when he was afraid:
لِصَـٰحِبِهِۦ لَا تَحْزَنْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَنَا ۖ
“Be not sad (or afraid), surely, Allah is with us. [9:40]
We need imaan, whether we do the salah or fast, otherwise these are lifeless actions and will not be recorded as a good deed if they aren’t based on imaan. You might see some people doing good without imaan, but they will be rewarded for that in this life, and not in the Hereafter.
The effect of imaan on your life
Imaan is the core of our life. We need to boost it. The more we know about Allah Almighty and His attributes the closer we become to Allah Almighty. The more we recite the Quran and reflect upon it, the more we feel we know about Allah Almighty. It’s something we experience every time we recite the Quran when we have the intention to reflect upon the verses and understand them. No matter how many times you’ve recited a particular verse, every time you recite it with a pure intention, with a fresh eye, Allah Almighty will give you a new meaning, a new opening with that recitation. Afterall it is the word of Allah Almighty. So if you want to speak to Allah Almighty or you want to listen to Allah Almighty speaking to you, then read the Quran with that intention: I want to hear Allah Almighty, hear His words, then you read His book and His book is speaking to you and this is how you benefit from the Quran. Every time you read it, you have to visualise that these are the words of Allah Almighty directed at me. When He says Yaa ayyhalladheena aaamanu, He’s speaking to me. When He says do this or do that, He’s talking to me, showing me how to be a better person. He’s telling me how to be just, how you avoid oppression, how to avoid the traps of the Shaytan. These are the words of Allah Almighty and they are full of miracles. Every time you read the Quran, you feel spiritually uplifted, you gain a closeness which you cannot express with words but you can feel with your heart. They transport you, but you need to have the right intention and the right preparation otherwise it’s just an exercise in Arabic language. When you have the right intention, it will be an opening for a new level in your life.
The practical demonstration of imaan
There are two dimensions of imaan – internal and external. Imaan is not just spiritual or theoretical but carries a practical component. We have a duty to practice imaan in our life and demonstrate it through our actions, by being a person of truthfulness for instance. Reflect your imaan in your actions and in your character. You don’t need to say you are a Muslim, as your actions should speak louder than your words. Your sincerity and your truthfulness, your trustworthiness and good character speak volumes on your behalf. This is the manifestation of imaan.
Often people focus on verbal dawah, but actually the best dawah is your character. Your character is the best dawah. When you have imaan, youunderstand that you are Allah’s servant and have to comply with His commands and follow the footsteps of His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it gives you the motivation to get out of your bed and do wudu when it is a cold and pray. You cannot defeat your pillow and duvet and haul yourself out of bed if your imaan is weak. Shaytan will tell you that it’s so cold and you can pray later when the house is more warm and give you many reasons why you should stay in bed. When you imaan is weak, Fajr is the first prayer that you skip. That is why we have to keep our imaan boosted.
You cannot buy to imaan-boosters over the counter from the chemist, or get an imaan-injection, but with sincerity, you can ask Allah Almighty: Ya Allah Almighty I feel a bit lazy, I feel a bit lonely, I feel a bit weak, so support me and help me to be better, to be stronger, to worship You wholeheartedly, not just robotically. Then Allah Almighty will respond to you 100%. If you’re sincere and truthful Allah Almighty will respond to you. Try it and you will see. I always tell people. If you don’t believe this, try it, give it a go but follow the instructions. Read the manual. Follow the instructions and just let me know if it didn’t work. It will work but you have to be very sincere, especially for those for instance for those who are missing their prayers, because salah is the core of your connection with Allah Almighty, and the manifestation of imaan. Because when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) talked about the five pillars, he (peace be upon him) said the shahada was number one, and then salah, because salah is the manifestation of imaan. Shahada is the verbal manifestation of imaan, and the salah is the physical manifestation of imaan. That is why salah comes straight after the Shahadah. Before he passed away (peace be upon him), as narrated by Ali abi Talib, his (peace be upon him) last words were a reminder to his Ummah to safeguard the salah, he said:
Keep your salah, keep your salah. [Sunan Abi Dawood]
In another narration, he (peace be upon him) said:
“Between man and polytheism and unbelief is the abandonment of salah (prayer).” [Muslim]
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was asking believers to perform salah without fail, because it’s our lifeline, our connection with Allah Almighty and a booster for imaan. With the right intention and with the right etiquettes, it will elevate you to a higher and remember that every time you pray it is the ascension of your soul to its creator – Mir’aj al mu’min.
We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to strengthen our imaan and practice our imaan and improve our connection with Allah Almighty and become stronger and better. Ameen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim 18th Jan 2023 Transcribed by S Jawaid
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