Levels of the Religion – Shaykh Saalih Al-Fawzaan

Allah says:

‎ قَالَتِ ٱلۡأَعۡرَابُ ءَامَنَّا‌ۖ قُل لَّمۡ تُؤۡمِنُواْ وَلَـٰكِن قُولُوٓاْ أَسۡلَمۡنَا

The bedouins say: “We believe.” Say: “You believe not but you only say, ‘We have surrendered (in Islaam),’ (Al-Hujuraat: 14)

What is the meaning of this verse? And is there a difference between Eemaan and Islaam? (If so) what is it?

Shaykh Saalih Al-Fawzaan answered:

The religion is of three levels:

The first is Al-Islaam, higher than that is Al-Eemaan and higher than that is Al-Ihsaan, just as has been reported in the Hadeeth of Jibreel (alayhis salaatu was salaam), when he asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) about these levels and the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) answered regarding every level and at the end of the hadeeth, he (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) said:

“This is Jibreel, he came to you to teach you your religion.”

Verily, he mentioned these levels beginning with the lowest, then that which is higher, and that which is above that.

So, the Bedouins (mentioned in above verse) came to the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) when they had first entered Islaam and claimed a level for themselves which they hadn’t yet reached, Muslims came and claimed the level of Eemaan and it was a level that they hadn’t reached yet and due to this Allah replied to them with his statement:

‎قَالَتِ ٱلۡأَعۡرَابُ ءَامَنَّا‌ۖ قُل لَّمۡ تُؤۡمِنُواْ وَلَـٰكِن قُولُوٓاْ أَسۡلَمۡنَا وَلَمَّا يَدۡخُلِ ٱلۡإِيمَـٰنُ فِى قُلُوبِكُمۡ‌ۖ

The bedouins say: “We believe.” Say: “You believe not but you only say, ‘We have surrendered (in Islâm),’ for Faith has not yet entered your hearts. (Al-Hujuraat: 14)

So, they were at the beginning (of their religion) and eemaan hadn’t been firmly established in their hearts, and if they did have eemaan it was weak eemaan, or a small amount of eemaan.

The benefit derived from this statement of Allah:

وَلَمَّا يَدۡخُلِ ٱلۡإِيمَـٰنُ فِى قُلُوبِكُمۡ‌ۖ

Faith has not yet entered your hearts. (Al-Hujuraat: 14)

is that Eemaan will enter (their hearts) in the future and they were not disbelievers or hypocrites, rather they were Muslims and they had something from eemaan, however it was as small amount and did not justify them being called Muminoon (possessors of eemaan), however eemaan would firmly establish in their hearts later, due to His statement:

وَلَمَّا يَدۡخُلِ ٱلۡإِيمَـٰنُ فِى قُلُوبِكُمۡ‌ۖ

Faith has not yet entered your hearts. (Al-Hujuraat: 14)

And if Al-Islaam and Al-Eemaan are mentioned together, then each one takes a different meaning, Islaam then has a specific meaning as does Eemaan, as is in the Hadeeth of Jibreel (alayhis salaam), that he asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) about Islaam and he (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) said:

“Islaam is to testify that there is no deity truly deserving of worship, except Allah alone, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish the prayer, pay the zakaah, to fast the month of Ramadhaan and to make pilgrimage to the house (Kaaba), if you have the ability.” (1)

And he was asked about Eemaan, so he (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) said,
“Al-Eemaan is to believe in Allah, and His Angels, His Books, His Messengers and the Last Day and to believe in the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.”(2)

So, based upon this: Al-Islaam is outward compliance and Al-Eemaan is inward compliance, if they are mentioned together.

As for if Al-Islaam is mentioned alone, or Al-Eemaan is mentioned alone, then the meaning of one enters the other; if Al-Islaam only is mentioned, then the meaning of Al-Eemaan enters it and if Al-Eemaan is mentioned only, then the meaning of Al-Islaam enters it. The people of knowledge have said, if they are mentioned together they are separate (in meaning), and if they are mentioned separate they are together (in meaning).

Al-Eemaan according to Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa’ah is: Speech of the tongue, action of the limbs and belief of the heart, based on this definition, the meaning of Al-Islaam is included into Al-Eemaan; statement of the tongue, action of the limbs (Al-Islaam i.e. outward compliance) and belief of the heart (Al-Eemaan i.e. inward compliance).


Paraphrased from Majmoo’ Fataawa of Shaykh Saalih Al-Fawzaan (hafidahullah) Vol. 1 Page 11-12
(1) Bukhaari: Hadith number 50 & 4777. Muslim Hadith number 8
(2) Ibid.

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