Muhammad Munir al-Hayek and Gibril Fouad Haddadd

This article comprises the following sections: (i) Definitions and Usage; (ii) al-Muʾmin as a Divine Name; (iii) Synonymity and Contrast between “Muslim,” “Believer,” and Muḥsin; (iv) The Appellation “Believers” for Followers of Prophets; (v) Attributes of the Believers; (vi) Ranks of the Believers; (vii) Trials of the Believers; (viii) The Divine Address to the Believers; (ix) Verses Demanding of the Prophet and Believers That They Believe; (x) The Honor of the Name of “Believer”; (xi) The Qurʾānic Similes for Believers; (xii) Similes in the Sunna for Believers; (xiii) Istithnāʾ: Adding in shāʾ Allāh after saying “I am a Believer”; (xiv) Bibliography.

Definitions and Usage

This entry concerns Believers defined as people of Muslim faith, their attributes, ranks, trials, and other directly related aspects of the Qurʾān, Sunna and the Law that are not treated elsewhere. For the state of Believers after death see Beauty, Day of Resurrection, and Hereafter.

Al-muʾmin (believer), feminine muʾmina, plural muʾminūn and muʾmināt respectively, is the agential noun derived from the stem ʾ-m-n—which it shares with the noun īmān, “belief”—signifying, in the lexical sense, (i) “one who gives credence, accepts as truthful” (muṣaddiq) (Nasafī, Tafsīr, sub Q 23:1), as in the claim of Yaʿqūb’s sons to their father, and we left Yūsuf with our belongings, so wolves ate him, and you are never going to give credence to us (bi-muʾminin lanā) even if we are telling the truth (Q 12:17), “muʾmin: muṣaddiq” (Thaʿlabī, Kashf), and (ii) “a giver of safety and security” (amān: Qushayrī, Sharḥ, p. 82; Ghazālī, Asnā, pp. 74-75), “as in the verse and He secured them (āmanahum) from all fear (Q 106:4)” (Rāzī, Lawāmiʿ, p. 143) and the saying of the pre-Islamic poet Ziyād b. Muʿāwiya b. Ḍabāb al-Dhabyānī known as al-Nābigha (d. 17bh/605),

  By the One safeguarding the new mother-birds (wal-Muʾmini al-ʿāʾidhāt)

  riders to Makka pat between the waters of Ghayl and Saʿad Hills!

      (in Ibn al-ʿArabī, Amad, 2:195, 2:199; Qurṭubī, Asnā, 1:237).

In the sacred Law, muʾmin means “one who has faith in Allah and His Messengers” (muṣaddiq lil-Lāh wa-Rusulih), upon them blessings and peace (Ibn al-Anbārī, Zāhir, 1:105 §64; Azharī, Tahdhīb, 15:371, sub n-m). In the restrictive sense, it means “one who has faith in Allah, in His Messenger [Muḥammad], upon him blessings and peace, and in all that he brought” (muṣaddiq lil-Lāh wa-Rasūlih wa-bimā jāʾ bih) (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:221; Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf, sub Q 33:35; Jurjānī, Taʿrīfāt, al-muʾmin), “in speech and actions, and from whose evil people are safe” (Ibn al-ʿArabī, Amad, 2:201), as in the Hadith of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, “Whoever believes (kāna yuʾmin) in Allah and the Last Day, let his neighbor be safe (fal-yaʾman) of his calamities” (cf. Bukhārī, Adab, ithm man lā yaʾman jāruh bawāyiqah; Muslim, Īmān, bayān taḥrīm īdhāʾ al-jār) (Ghazālī, Asnā, p. 76); “anyone who utters the two testimonies of faith, matching his heart with his tongue” (Nasafī, Tafsīr, sub Q 23:1), that is, giving credence in addition to having faith; and is safe in the hereafter (Baghawī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:3). Out of a total of 811 times in which the cognates of ʾ-m-n occur in the above senses, muʾmin occurs in its various forms (masculine and feminine, singular and plural) a total of 229 times.

al-Muʾmin as a Divine Name

As one of the Beautiful Names of Allah, al-Muʾmin occurs once (Q 59:23) and is among the Names He shares with those He loves among His servants as a subtle grace (luṭf) on His part (Qushayrī, Sharḥ, pp. 82-83). It possesses multiple meanings: (i) the One regarding Whom all rest safe (amina) He will never be unjust; (ii) the Safeguarder from Whose punishment His friends are safe as recipients of His amān; (iii) the One Who gives credence, i.e. to His Muslim worshippers on the Day of Resurrection; (iv) the One Who confirms His Messengers (Muṣaddiq Rusulah) through His Speech and by creating staggering miracles (muʿjizāt, see Signs of Allah) at their hands, and confirms His Friends (see Friends of Allah) by creating miraculous gifts (karāmāt) at their hands; (v) the One Whose promise to His slaves is true; (vi) Who fulfills what He guaranteed them of provision in the world and of reward in the Hereafter; (vii) Who meets the expectations of His believing servants, never disappointing them, as His Divine Statement (Ḥadīth Qudsī) says, “I am exactly as My servant thinks of Me, so let him think of Me what he wishes” (Aḥmad, 25:398 §16016, 28:186-187 §16979; Dārimī, Riqāq, fī ḥusn al-ẓann bil-Lāh); and (viii) the One Who confirms Himself and declares His own Oneness (Azharī, Tahdhīb, 15:370, sub n-m; Ibn al-Anbārī, Zāhir, 1:84 §50; Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam, 10:494, sub n-ʾ-m, maqlūbuh; Wāḥidī, Wajīz and Naysābūrī, Ījāz, sub Q 59:23; Ibn al-ʿArabī, Amad, 2:197; Rāzī, Lawāmiʿ, pp. 143-144; Qurṭubī, Asnā, 1:238-239; Jalālayn, Tafsīr, sub Q 59:23).

Synonymity and Contrast between “Muslim,” “Believer,” and Muḥsin

The differences and similarities between the above-mentioned appellations are closely similar to those between islām, īmān and iḥsān covered in the entry Belief  and can be subsumed under three points: (i) muslim and muʾmin can be indifferently synonymous with each other; (ii) the muslim is one who outwardly and visibly submits while the muʾmin is one who possesses inward, hidden conviction, each state complementing the other; and (iii) the one who practices iḥsān—defined as excellence in Religion—is also both, since iḥsān is the fruit and the reward of islām and īmān (Tustarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 14:24-26). In the latter sense the muḥsin is “one who excels in islām and īmān” (Abū Ḥayyān, Baḥr, sub Q 2:236), but with greater synonymity with the muʾmin as “one who has faith [in Allah and His Messengers]” (muṣaddiq) (Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt, sub Q 37:113; Wāḥidī, Wajīz, sub Q 2:112).

In illustration of the first point, Allah Most High said of the town of the Prophet Lūṭ , upon him peace, Then We brought out whoever was there of the Believers (muʾminīn), but We found in it none save a single household of Muslims (muslimīn) (Q 51:35-36), namely “Lūṭ and his two daughters” (Naḥḥās, Iʿrāb). This verse is an example of the manifest use of both terms to mean “obedience in reality, verbally, physically and spiritually” (Thaʿlabī, Kashf), or one in exchange for the other indifferently (Samʿānī, Tafsīr, sub Q 49:14). It is also argued that the semantic parity in the verse is an outward locution that moves from subset to set without implying synonymy (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 51:35-36).

In illustration of the second of the above three points, both Allah Most High and the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, stopped short of naming certain Muslims “Believers,” respectively (i) in the verse, The desert Arabs said, “We believe”; say [to them], “You do not believe yet; but say, ‘We submit’, as belief has not yet entered your hearts” (Q 49:14), that is, “you are not yet Believers” (Ṭabarī) because “you do not have faith (lam tuṣaddiqū) yet” (Zajjāj, Maʿānī): “in private, they were not Believers” (Thaʿlabī, Kashf), in reference to the Banū Asad b. Khuzayma who were seeing their professing of islām in opportunistic terms (Mujāhid, Tafsīr; Farrāʾ, Maʿānī); and (ii) in the hadith recounting the Prophet’s distribution of certain spoils (see Booty) or zakāt  monies to a small group of weakly committed new Muslims at the exclusion of someone, at which time Saʿd b. Abī Waqqāṣ (d. 55/675 in his seventies) said, “Messenger of Allah, why do you not also give to So-and-so? For, by Allah, I do consider him a Muʾmin!” The Prophet replied, “Or a Muslim;” this dialogue took place thrice, following which the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “I may give a lot to someone even when someone else is dearer to me than him, lest the latter be thrown headlong into Hellfire” (Bukhārī, Īmān, idhā lam yakun al-islām ʿalā al-ḥaqīqa, wa-kāna ʿalā al-istislām aw al-khawf min al-qatl; Muslim, Īmān, taʾalluf qalb man yukhāf ʿalā īmānih li-ḍaʿfih wal-nahy ʿan al-qaṭʿ bil-īmān min ghayr dalīl qāṭiʿ). The “someone else” dear to the Prophet is identified as the Emigrant (see Muhājirūn) Companion Juʿayl b. Surāqa al-Ḍamrī (?-?) (Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ, 1:80, Īmān, idhā lam yakun al-islām ʿalā al-ḥaqīqa). Another version states that Saʿd said, “You gave ʿUyayna b. Ḥiṣn and al-Aqraʿ b. Ḥābis a hundred [camels] each but you gave nothing to Juʿayl.” The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, replied: “By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, Juʿayl b. Surāqa is better than the earth’s fill of such as ʿUyayna and al-Aqraʿ; but I am winning them over (ataʾallafuhumā) and I entrust Juʿayl to his faith (akilu Juʿaylan ilā imānih)” (Ibn Ḥajar, Iṣāba, 1:250 §1168, rated “mursal ḥasan with a fully-connected witness-report”).

Among the several additional inferences from the latter exchange (such as the financial support of new or weak Muslims out of the Muslim treasury, the Divine and Prophetic Sunna that wealth is a protection of Religion for some Muslims more than others, and the fact that coming into wealth is not necessarily a mark of being loved by Allah and His Prophet, cf. Thaʿlabī, ibid.; Ibn al-Jawzī, Kashf, 1:232 §163) are the implied prohibition of declaring someone a believer since it is an unseen matter (Nawawī, Sharḥ Muslim, Īmān, taʾalluf qalb man yukhāf ʿalā īmānih li-ḍaʿfih wal-nahy ʿan al-qaṭʿ bil-īmān min ghayr dalīl qāṭiʿ; ʿAynī, ʿUmda, Īmān, idhā lam yakun al-islām ʿalā al-ḥaqīqa wa-kāna ʿalā al-istislām aw al-khawf min al-qatl), as alluded to in the subheading for that hadith in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, and the differentiation between the Believer Muslim who submits “verbally, physically and spiritually, as in the verse, “Submit!” He [Ibrāhīm] said, “I submit to the Lord of the worlds” (Q 2:131)” and the non-Believer Muslim who submits “verbally but not with the heart” (Baghawī, Tafsīr, sub Q 49:14).

The Appellation “Believer” for Followers of Prophets

That followers of Prophets are called Believers derives naturally from the fact that a Believer is “one who gives credence and has faith.” This usage is confirmed time and again in the Qurʾān in reference to past Prophets as well as the Seal of Prophets, upon him and them blessings and peace, as shown by the following examples.

·        Some, but very few, believed in the Prophet Nūḥ, upon him peace: Verily none of your people shall believe other than those who already do (Q 11:36); and carry in it, of each kind, two… with whoever believes; but none believed with him save very few (Q 11:40).

·        Some believed in the Prophet Ṣāliḥ, upon him peace, and his Message, they said, “Verily we are believers in the Message he brings” (Q 7:75).

·        None believed in the Prophet Lūṭ, upon him peace, other than his daughters as in the verses already discussed.

·        Many besides the Israelites (see Children of Isrāʾīl) believed in the Prophet Mūsā, upon him peace, among the people of Firʿawn, including (i) the Magicians (see Magic) who declared their belief in Allah and His Prophets (Q 7:121-122) and were denounced by Firʿawn on the spot (Q 7:123); (ii) the latter’s wife who also believed in Mūsā (Q 66:11) and is one of the female archetypes of spiritual completion together with Maryam the daughter of ʿImrān, upon her peace, Khadīja bint Khuwaylid, Fāṭima the daughter of Muḥammad, and ʿĀʾisha the wife of the Prophet, upon him and them blessings and peace (Bukhārī, Aḥādīth al-Anbiyāʾ, qawl Allāh taʿālā, Q 66:11; Muslim, Faḍāʾil, Faḍāʾil Khadīja Umm al-Muʾminīn raḍya Allāh taʿālā ʿanhā; Maʿmar, Jāmiʿ, 11:430 §20919; Aḥmad, 4:409 §2668); and (iii) the muʾmin from the family of Firʿawn who was keeping his faith hidden and argued at length in defense of Mūsā (Q 40:28-34). “He was an Egyptian, like Firʿawn, who had kept his faith hidden for a hundred years; when he heard that Firʿawn had said he would kill Mūsā, he spoke out” (Muqātil). He was said to be a paternal first cousin of Firʿawn that went by the name of Jibrīl (Ṭabarī).

·        The followers of the Israelite King Ṭālūt (Saul) are described as Believers (Q 2:249),

·        as are those of the jinns(Q 72:2) who pray (Q 72:19), bowing and prostrating,

·        and as are the Disciples of ʿĪsā b. Maryam, upon him peace, identified as the ḥawāriyyūn (Q 5:111, 61:14), “Bleachers,” as that was their trade (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Zajjāj, Maʿānī; Ibn al-Mundhir, Tafsīr, sub Q 3:52; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, 2:116, sub ḥ-w-r; ), also described as Muslimūn (Q 3:52; 5:111).

·        In the majority of cases, however, the 182 verses that mention the phrase those who believe refer to the Muslims specifically, of which 89 verses are Divine addresses that are all meant to include the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace (Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr, sub Q 8:15). However, in Q 2:62 (cf. Q 5:69, 22:17), those who believe are merely those that profess the religion of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, whether as real Muslims or as hypocrites, some saying the latter are meant exclusively here (Tafsīrs of Makkī, Wāḥidī (Wasīṭ), Samʿānī, Taymī, Zamakhsharī, Ibn ʿAṭiyya, etc.) “because Allah has paired them with the Jews, Christians, and Sabians” (Qurṭubī), hence “they file up in the strand of the unbe­liev­ers” (Bayḍāwī). 

Attributes of the Believers

The Believers are explicitly and exclusively described as those who, when Allah is mentioned and remembered, their hearts quiver, and when His Signs are recited to them, their faith increases or strengthens, and upon their Lord they do rely (Q 8:2); those who raise up prayer and spend from what We provided them (Q 8:3); those who believed, migrated, waged jihad in the path of Allah with their wealth and their lives, and those who gave shelter and lent all their assistance… those are the believers in truth (Q 8:72-74); those who believe in Allah and His Messenger and, when they are with him in a collective endeavor, never leave without first asking his permission (Q 24:62); brethren to one another (Q 49:10); those who believe in Allah and His Messenger, after which they no longer doubt, rather they struggle with their wealth and lives in the way of Allah; such are the truthful (Q 49:15). Believers’ lives and property were purchased by Allah in exchange for Paradise for fighting in the path of Allah (Q 9:111, see Jihad), and the definition of believers as such is reiterated in several verses (Q 4:84, 4:94-95, 5:54, 9:38, 49:15). However, the most frequent pairing is that of Believers as those who believe and do good deeds which is reiterated 53 times in 52 verses.

Far from just the invisible, inward conviction that the technical definition of īmān entails, the attributes of belief are therefore palpable and all about actions and deeds including (i) remembrance of Allah and mention of Him; (ii) trust in Allah rather than oneself and others; (iii) establishing prayer; (iv) remitting charity; (v) taking up residence among other believers; (vi) waging only a just war (jihad); (vii) assisting others in those respects; (viii) being at the Prophet’s beck and call as opposed to the hypocrites  who desert him at every chance; (ix) loving one another like family because of their shared affiliation to belief, which results in eternal life; and (x) laying down one’s wealth and life in those respects (Tafsīrs of Muqātil, Ṭabarī, Samarqandī, sub Q 8:2-3; Muqātil, Qushayrī, Wāḥidī (Wasīṭ), sub Q 49:15; Qushayrī, Rāzī, sub Q 8:72-74; Bayḍāwī, Ibn ʿAjība, sub Q 49:10; Ibn ʿĀshūr, sub Q 24:62).

Several passages of the Qurʾān regroup some of the above attributes and add others in close succession. One example is the series of verses introduced by the header And the slaves of the All-Merciful are those who tread softly on the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace (Q 25:63), which goes on to list nightly standing in prayer and prostration; refuge-seeking in Allah from the reality of Hell through supplication; keeping a middle ground between extravagance and avarice in spending; not calling upon any other god; steering clear of murder and fornication; repenting and doing good; never committing perjury; avoiding idle speech and falsehood; never being deaf and blind to the Signs of Allah when reminded of them; praying for good spouses and good progeny (Q 25:64-74).

Another example is Q 70:22-34, beginning with the mention of Those who pray and proceeding with their description as constant in their prayer; generous towards beggars and the destitute; having faith in the reality of the Day of Judgment; fearful of the reality of Punishment (see Reward and Punishment) without a false sense of security from it; guarding their genitals except from lawful sexual intercourse; keeping trusts and promises; standing by their testimonies; and guarding their prayers. The groups of verses in both Suras (Q 25 and Q 70) characterize the Believers (Tafsīrs of Rāzī, sub Q 25:64-74; Ibn Kathīr, sub Q 70:32).

The first ten verses of the eponymous Sura of the Believers, al- Muʾminūn (Q 23), said to be the last revealed in Makka before the Hijra (Wāḥidī, Asbāb), also reiterate some of the above attributes and add others:

(i)               The Believers reap true success (Q 23:1), that is, Paradise : “Allah the Mighty and Glorious planted the Gardens of Eden with His Hand; they are opened up in the time before dawn, whereupon He gazes at them and says, The Believers reap true success” (Mujāhid, Tafsīr). In another version, “He planted them with His Hand then said to them, “Speak,” whereupon they said, The Believers reap true success (Ḥākim, 2:392, Tafsīr Q 23). The verse begins with qad, a particle that “[conveys] an anticipated outcome (jawāb li-mutawaqqaʿ), as people anticipate the knowledge of their state in the Divine presence” (Ibn Fāris, Tafsīr).

(ii)            They are those who, in their prayer, are submissive (Q 23:2). It is related that the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, and his Companions would look at the sky during prayer, so this verse was revealed, after which they would all look down (Ṭabarī; Wāḥidī, Wasīṭ; Ḥākim, 2:393, Tafsīr Q 23; Suyūṭī, Lubāb). The Prophet’s son-in-law and fourth rightly-guided caliph Abū Turāb ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib al-Hāshimī (16bh-40/606-661) said, “It means submissiveness in the heart, to soften your shoulders for Muslims, and not to look right and left in your prayer” (Ḥākim, 2:393, Tafsīr Q 23).

(iii)         Those who turn away from idle speech (laghw) (Q 23:3), “that is, nonsense and jokes” (bāṭil al-kalām wal-muzāḥ: Ibn Qutayba, Gharīb), sin (Ṭabarī), including polytheism (Naḥḥās, Iʿrāb), and all falsehood (al-bāṭil: Ibn Abī Zamanīn).

(iv)          Those who practice the zakāt (Q 23:4) is glossed as the remitting of the obligatory yearly charity taken out from one’s wealth (Ṭabarī; Wāḥidī, Wajīz), the end-of-fast zakāt al-fiṭr (Samʿānī, Tafsīr), and self-reform (tazkiya, see Purification) including all the acts that show obedience to and love of Allah (Māturīdī).

(v)            Those who guard their genitals except from their wives and those whom their right hands possess, whereby they are beyond reproach; but whoever pursues other than that, such are the transgressors (al-ʿādūn) (Q 23:5-7). “Men are specifically meant here; by other than that is meant any other sexual relationship; and by transgressors are meant adulterers and fornicators, those who pass from the lawful to the unlawful” (Ṭabarī).

(vi)          Those who observe their trusts and engagements (Q 23:8) “to people; they are faithful to all their trusts and contracts” (Ṭabarī) and “watchful of others’ rights over themselves” (Zajjāj).

(vii)       And those who guard their prayers (Q 23:9), that is, observe the times of prayer without distraction from worldly occupations and perform them to completion with full bowing and prostration (Samarqandī, Baḥr).

The Mother of the Believers Umm ʿAbd Allāh ʿĀʾisha al-Nabawiyya bint Abī Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (7bh-57/615-677), when asked to describe the character of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, would reply by asking the questioner to recite the above Sura until the tenth verse. The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said of these ten verses: “Whoever upholds them is sure to enter Paradise” (Ḥākim, 2:392-393, Tafsīr Q 23).

Ranks of the Believers

Verse Q 9:112 lists yet more of the attributes of Believers in similar fashion: the repentant; the worshipful; the extollers; the fasters; the bowers; the prostrates; the commanders of good and forbidders of wrong; those who guard the boundaries of Allah—and give glad tidings to the Believers! These traits are said to be normative and exhortative rather than purely descriptive, being those of the most accomplished of believers (awṣaf al-kamala min al-muʾminīn), which are mentioned to encourage Muslims to vie in obtaining them and be in the highest rank possible (Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar), as levels of superiority are assured for those who wage jihad with their property and lives over those who remain home (Q 4:95-96), believers in general (Q 6:82-83) together with scholars of knowledge (Q 58:11), and all of creation, including probationary worldly ranks meant as a test (Q 6:165, 12:76, 43:32) and forerunner of the ranks of the hereafter (Q 17:21), as well as negative ranks among those who end up punished more or less severely in the hereafter (Q 3:162-163, 6:132). These ranks are mentioned over and beyond the above-mentioned specific attributes, as in the verse they have levels (darajāt) in the presence of their Lord (Q 8:4) which comes in the wake of their being dhikr-hearted, increasing in their faith, reliant on Allah, establishing prayer and remitting zakāt (Q 8:2-3). In a similar vein Allah has guaranteed, as for the Believers who do righteous deeds, We will certainly place them among the Righteous (al-ṣāliḥīn) (Q 29:9), referring to “righteousness, one of the most far-reaching and powerful attributes of the Believers, and it is the highest aspiration of the Prophets of Allah” (Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf; Nasafī, Tafsīr).

Prophets themselves have been given ranks of superiority not only over all other human beings (Q 6:83, see Messengership and Prophethood)—“We hold that any single Prophet is better than all the awliyāʾ put together” (Ṭaḥāwī, ʿAqīda)—but also over one another (Q 2:253), as shown in the fact that the Prophet Mūsā, upon him peace), “was placed in the seventh sky, because he was the interlocutor of Allāh (kalīm Allah)” (Bukhārī, Tawḥīd, qawluh wa-kallama Mūsā taklīman), the highest sky above all other Prophets up to and including the Prophet Īsā, upon him peace. Another version states that Mūsā was in the sixth sky and the Prophet Ibrāhīm, upon him peace in the seventh (Bukhārī, Badʾ al-khalq, dhikr al-malāʾika; Muslim, Īmān, al-isrāʾ bi-Rasūl Allāh ṣallā Allāh ʿalayh wa-sallam wa-farḍ al-ṣalawāt al-khams). The Prophet Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace, towers above all Prophets and Messengers according to the prevailing gloss of and He elevated one of them uncounted levels (darajāt) in the verse that begins, Those are the Messengers; We gave superiority to some of them over others; among them is he with whom Allah spoke; and He elevated one of them uncounted levels (darajāt) (Q 2:253), “meaning the Prophet Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace” (Mujāhid, Tafsīr; Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Zajjāj, Maʿānī; Wāḥidī, Wajīz; Samʿānī, Baghawī, Tafsīrs; Zamakhsharī, Kashshāf; etc.). “He put darajāt in the indefinite in the sense of tremendous levels” (Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām, Munya, p. 18; Basīlī, Taqyīd, sub Q 2:253). He also ranks above all else in creation by consensus: “And the best of creatures in absolute terms is our Prophet, so steer clear of dissent” (Laqānī, Jawhara, line 65 and Hidāya, 1:748-750), as is demonstrated Sura by Sura (Ghumārī, Dilāla).

Trials of the Believers

The trials of the believers together with the rest of human beings through conflicts, famine, disparities in wealth and life in general are part of the Divine custom of creation (Q 6:165, 43:32, 47:4, see Way of Allah) to test you as to who is best in deeds (Q 11:7, 67:2), but believers get additionally tested in their faith (Q 5:48) (see Trials and Strife), so that Allah may mark off whose who fear Him without seeing Him (5:94, cf. 3:140-141) from the hypocrites (Q 29:10-11) and put what is in your hearts to the test (Q 3:154). Two of the most vivid examples of such tests are the abrogation of the qibla of Jerusalem (Q 3:142) which “caused the Muslims to say, concerning themselves all those who had prayed towards the Bayt al-Maqdis, ‘Our deeds and theirs are void and were all for nought,’ while the polytheists said, Muḥammad is confused as to his religion.’ So this was a strife for people and a test for the Believers” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:143). The second example is the Night Journey and Ascension, at which time the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said to the Makkans he had been taken to the Hallowed House, prayed there among the other Prophets, and came back again in one night, after which they accused him of sorcery, whereupon Allah Most High revealed the verse, We appointed not the vision which We showed you but as a test for people (Q 17:60; see Muqātil, Tafsīr, sub Q 17:1; Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 17:60). “It is said that Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (Most Trusting) was thus named because he gave credence to the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, regarding his account of that night” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:75).

The Divine Address to the Believers

The believers are addressed en masse in the Noble Qurʾān with the phrase O you who believe (yā ayyuhā al-ladhīna āmanū) eighty-nine times. The phrase is grammatically couched in the masculine but actually inclusive of female believers, as stated by exegetes for such verses as O you who believe, do not approach prayer drunk until you know what you say, nor ritually impure (Q 4:43: Akhfash, Maʿānī); O you who believe, let those whom your right hands possess ask permission of you (Q 24:58: Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī, Rāzī, Qurṭubī, Bayḍāwī, Abū Ḥayyān, Biqāʿī); O you who believe, let not a people mock another people (Q 49:11: Tafsīrs of Samarqandī, Baghawī), a fortiori for verses of more obviously universal import, although military verses address men in particular (Q 4:71, 4:94, 9:38, 61:2-4), and explicitly gender-specific verses distinguish between male and female believers (Q 4:19, 9:71, 24:30-31, 33:35).

This form of address occurs mostly for the commands and prohibitions that constitute legal rulings (aḥkām), as distinguished from primary foundations (uṣūl), for which the apostrophes O people (yā ayyuhā al-nās) and O children of Ādam (yā Banī Ādam) are reserved (see Kattānī, Tafsīr, Class 209, Q 33:53). Several early authorities hold that, as a general rule, the latter expressions typify verses and suras revealed in Makka while the former typifies those revealed in Madīna (Ibn Masʿūd in Bazzār, Musnad, 4:336 §1531, and Ḥākim, 3:18, rated ṣaḥīḥ by Suyūṭī, Nawāhid, 2:75; Ḍaḥḥāk in his Tafsīr, sub Q 2:21; ʿAlqama in Ibn Abī Shayba, 15:514 §30768 and Wāḥidī, Asbāb, sub Q 2:21; Maymūn b. Mihrān in Abū ʿUbayd, Faḍāʾil, p. 367 and Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, Preamble), although a few Makkī verses with ayyuhā al-ladhīna āmanū and Madanī verses with ayyuhā al-nās are cited (Suyūṭī, Nawāhid, 2:76; Itqān, Type 1, maʿrifat al-Makkī wal-Madanī, ḍawābiṭ).

The major jurist among the Companions, ʿAbd Allāh b. Masʿūd (d. before 34/655), reportedly said: “Whenever you hear Allah Most High say O you who believe, pay close attention, for truly it is some goodness you are being enjoined to do or some evil you are being forbidden to commit” (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:118). Examples include: O you who believe, remember Allah with abundant remembrance (Q 33:41); O you who believe, when you contract a debt for a fixed term, record it in writing (Q 2:282); O you who believe, ask not about things which, if made known unto you, would trouble you (Q 5:101), O you who believe, forbid not the good things which Allah has made lawful for you (Q 5:87). Apostrophe with , known as “the mother of apostrophic particles,” is originally reserved for a distant addressee but is also used for one who is near, either to emphasize the urgency of the address or imply the high rank of the speaker, that of the addressee, or the inattention of the latter. Ayyu is a necessary connective (waṣla) between and any noun with the definite article al-, such as the conjunctive noun al-ladhīna (those), while the admonitory particle (ḥarf tanbīh) is intercalated between the two to em­phasize who is being apostrophized (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:21; Ibn ʿAqīl, Sharḥ, 3:255, 269; Daqr, Muʿjam, pp. 112, 491, 529, 551, sub ay al-nidāʾiyya, nidāʾ, , and). The Azerbaijani exegete Nāṣir al-Dīn ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUmar al-Bayḍāwī (d. 708?/1308?) said:

This style of summoning abounds in the Qurʾān because it uniquely possesses various em­phatic senses. Indeed, everything to which Allah calls His slaves—from the per­spec­tive that they are grave matters that merit their full awareness and their hearts’ devotion, yet most of them are heedless of them—deserves to be summoned to through the most emphatic and powerful means possible. (Tafsīr, sub Q 2:21)

The art of Qurʾānic intonation (tajwīd) contribues to the above nexus of emphatic markers through the “optional elongation between two words” (al-madd al-jāʾiz al-munfaṣil), namely the fact that , when immediately followed by a glottal stop (hamzat al-qaṭʿ) such as the initial letter of ayyuhā, can be intoned with two, four and up to six “measures” (ḥarakāt), whereas normal elongation (madd ṭabīʿī) for and every prolonged vowel (ḥarf madd) is two measures (Ibn al-Qāṣiḥ, Sirāj, pp. 48-52, al-madd wal-qaṣr; Ibn al-Jazarī, Nashr, 1:321-326, al-Madd wal-qaṣr, marātib al-mudūd; Suyūṭī, Itqān, Type 32, al-madd wal-qaṣr; Ḥulwānī, Laṭāʾif, pp. 34-38, al-madd al-farʿī; Ḥuṣarī, Aḥkām, pp. 215-217, al-Madd al-farʿī, iii. al-madd al-munfaṣil; see Readings of the Qurʾān). This lengthening of recitation in such contexts illustrates the gravity of the Divine summons and the responsibility placed upon those summoned, particularly in repetitive close succession (Ibn ʿAjība, Baḥr, sub Q 49:1-2).

The fact that the phrases “O Muslims” (yā ayyuhā al-muslimūn) and “O those who have submitted” (yā ayyuhā al-ladhīna aslamū) do not occur in the Qurʾān suggests two main inferences:

(i)               Islām and its external components, as elucidated in the Hadith of Jibrīl, constitute the doorway to Īmān (see Belief; Islam) and it is unfit for one to stop at the doorway without entering fully; likewise, belief is more specific than submission, and thus nobler and more desirable as its ulterior goal. Also, from another perspective, all of the five external components of Islām are subsumed among the seventy-odd branches of Īmān of which the highest is the level of Iḥsān (excellence, q.v.); focusing on the possessors of Īmān is therefore all-inclusive.

(ii)            Only worthy of being addressed are those who have reached even the first level of belief as confirmation (taṣdīq), beyond that of mere conformity shared with weakly committed new Muslims, impostors and hypocrites as contextualized by the verse of the desert Arabs (Q 49:14), the hadith “or a Muslim,” and the gloss of those who believe (Q 2:62) in the sense of “those who profess islām” already discussed (Saʿd, Shadharāt, pp. 54-55; Jibrīn, Riyāḍ, 3:464-465). An example of the above-mentioned first level is the verse O you who believe, avoid much conjecture (al-ẓann)… neither spy on nor backbite one another (Q 49:12) where you who believe means “those who profess faith even if they are in the first of its levels” (Shirbīnī, Sirāj).

Since the unbelievers are not specifically worthy of Divine address, though they are of course included wherever the Qur’ān speaks to humankind in general, they are not addressed or called upon in the way the believers are called upon (although the Prophet is ordered to address them just once, in their eponymous Sura, al-Kāfirūn, Q 109). Nevertheless the Qurʾān informs us that they will be addressed on the Day of Resurrection with the words, O you who disbelieved, make no excuses for yourselves this day. You are only being repaid for what you used to do (Q 66:7).

Verses Demanding of the Prophet and Believers That They Believe

The exegetes clarify the apparently tautological terms of certain verses relating that the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, and the Believers believe, or commanding them to:

·        The Messenger’s belief in the verse The Messenger believes in what was sent down to him, as do the Believers (Q 2:285), for example, means his confirmation (taṣdīq) and declaration (iqrār) of all that the Book of Allah contains about the lawful and the unlawful, Promises and Threats, divine commands and prohibitions (see Commanding Good and Forbidding Wrong) (Ṭabarī). The same can be said of the verse Say (singular): We believe in Allah and what was sent down to us… (Q 3:84). In both verses the commonality of the Believers are adjoined to his mention evidentially as an immense honor, since it is obvious that they are not comparable to him: “All of them believed by inference (stidlālan), while the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, believed because he is connected (wiṣālan)” (Qushayrī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:286).

·        The verse Say (plural): we believe in Allah and in what was sent down to us… (Q 2:136) is a command for the Believers to state their belief to the Jews and Christians or, alternately, a Divine directive for the believing servants of Allah concerning what was revealed to them in detail and what was revealed to past Prophets in general (Ṭabarī).

·        The verse O you who believe, believe in Allah, His Messenger, and the Book He sent down on His Messenger, together with the Book He sent down before that (Q 4:136) refers to Allah Most High addressing the Jews and Christians who had believed in His previous Prophets and Books, inviting them to believe in Allah, His Messenger, the Qurʾān, and in his being sent to them and to all the communities before them as well. This is shown by the fact that He said about them, Believe, that is, “confirm,” without actually naming them Believers (Ṭabarī). Another interpretation is the completion, reaffirmation, and perpetuation of belief rather than its inception when it is already there. It is understood in the same way that each believer says in each prayer, Guide us on/to the straight path (Q 1:6) (Ibn Kathīr, sub Q 4:136).

The Honor of the Name of “Believer” and Their Ranks

The Qurʾān heightens the immense merits of Believers beginning with the very title of al-Muʾmin itself, which is the name of one of its Makkan Suras (Q 40)—named after the verse already discussed that mentions the muʾmin from the family of Firʿawn who was keeping his faith hidden (Q 40:28)—also known as Forgiver (Ghāfir) and as the Sura of Abundance (al-Ṭawl) after Q 40:3, the Forgiver of sins accepting repentance, severe in punishment, Who lavishes abundance (Zarkashī, Burhān, Type 14, maʿrifat taqsīmih bi-ḥasab suwarih wa-tartīb al-suwar wal-āyāt wa-ʿadaduhā; Khafājī, Ḥāshiya, sub Q 40:1). This is of import in light of the names of Suras being divinely-sanctioned (tawqīfīyya)—many were named by the Prophet himself—rather than merely independently inferred, together with patent logical and linguistic justifications related to sura contents (Zarkashī, ibid.; Suyūṭī, Itqān, Type 17, maʿrifat asmāʾih wa-asmāʾ suwarih; Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr, 1:91, 8th Prolegomenon). Q 40, furthermore, begins with Ḥā Mīm as its Opening Letters, which are said to be one of the Divine Names and which puts it among a group of Suras that were all known among the Companions as “the Suras of Allah” (Suwar Allāh), “the Family of Ḥā Mīm” (Āl Ḥā Mīm), “the Brocade (dībāj)” and “the Heart (lubāb)” of the Qurʾān, and “The Brides” (al-ʿawāris) (Zarkashī, ibid.).

Several Qurʾānic exhortations to do good and leave wrongdoing and Qurʾānic encouragements address the Believers by challenging their attribute and identity as Believers in seventeen verses, among them: Beware Allah and quit whatever usury remains, if you are Believers (Q 2:278); Do not weaken and do not be sad when you are prevailing, if you are Believers (Q 3:139); Allah and His Prophet are worthier that they should please Him, if they are Believers (Q 9:62).

The Qurʾānic Similes for Believers

Among the many striking similes the Qurʾān coins for the Believer is that of a Divinely-enlightened living being treading the earth among those who are forever lost in the dark, devoid of real life: Is the one who was dead and to whom We gave life and a light whereby to walk among people as one whose type is in darknesses, never to emerge from them? (Q 6:122); “this is a simile for the believer who was once an unbeliever” (Abū Ḥayyān, Baḥr). The two main metaphorical vehicles, life and light, are respectively taken up in similar fashion in (i) the verses mentioning the deafness of the dead in their graves (Q 27:80, 30:52) which, by consensus of the exegetes, refer to the living unbelievers who walk the earth with dead hearts (Abū Ḥayyān, Baḥr, sub Q 27:80) and (ii) the Verse of Light and the following verses (Q 24:35-40) where the similitude of His light, among other interpretations, stands for the hearts of the Believers following guidance and success, while mirages and darkness stand for the unbelievers’ futile deeds, misguidance and perdition (Ṭabarī, Rāzī).

The Believer is also compared to one endowed with hearing and sight, as opposed to the unbeliever who is blind and deaf: The similitude of the two sides is as the blind and the deaf on the one hand, and on the other, the sightful and the hearing; are they equal in what they show? (Q 11:24). “The similitude of the unbeliever is as a blind person: even when looking, the unbeliever does not see guidance and truth; and the unbeliever is also deaf, one who hears neither truth nor the Divine command, even if endowed with perfectly functioning ears. The believer, on the other hand, can see, that is, is sightful of truth and guidance, and hearing full well the Divine command so as to be well-guided by it” (Abū ʿUbayda, Majāz).

The above similes reoccur among others within a series of antithetical pairs of geo-physical and biological phenomena that are all meant as vehicles of the same Believer/unbeliever dichotomy: The two seas are not the same; this one is enjoyable and sweet to drink while that one is salty and brackish… nor are the blind and the sightful the same; nor darknesses and light; nor shade and blazing heat; nor are the living on a par with the dead (Q 35:12, 35:19-22). “All of this is a simile for Believers and unbelievers: just as the two waters are not the same, one sweet and one salty, and just as the blind and the sightful are not the same, and just as darknesses and light are not the same, similarly, Believers and unbelievers are not the same. Al-Suddī said, ‘This is a simile for the unbelievers and the Believers: the dead are the unbelievers, as they are tantamount to being dead’” (Yaḥyā b. Sallām, Tafsīr).

Another key Qurʾānic simile for the Believer is as a pure and beautiful tree (ka-shajaratin ṭayyiba) whose base is firm and whose summit is in the sky; it brings its produce every time by permission of its Lord (Q 14:24-25). The pure and beautiful tree is the Believer, its base is the Believer’s deeds and speech, and its summit is their rising up to heaven (related from the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, in Tustarī, Tafsīr and from Ibn ʿAbbās in the Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī, Thaʿlabī, Makkī, Baghawī). The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, mentioned that “your saying lā ilāha illā Allāh, wa-Allāhu akbar, wa-subḥān Allāh, wal-ḥamdu lil-Lāh ten times after each prayer” is one such deed (Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr) and took up the simile of the Believer to the date-tree in his Hadith as well (see next section). A similar verse, And the pure and beautiful land, its vegetation comes out by permission of its Lord; but the wicked one does not come out except in short supply (Q 7:58) is glossed along the same lines (Ibn Abī Zamanīn, Tafsīr). The Qurʾān also mentions the similitude of the Companions of the Prophet Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace, as coined in the Gospel (see Injīl), as a seed that puts forth its shoot then strengthens it so that it grows stout and rises straight upon its stalk, impressing the sowers, that through them He may enrage the unbelievers (Q 48:29). The simile uses botanical terminology to show how the first Believers helped one another, starting with the seed planted by the Prophet: the phrase strengthens it so that it grows stout referring to continuous growth, “the new strengthening the old” (Zajjāj) and becoming very many after having been very few (Ṭabarī).

Another simile is that of the sincere and truthful Believer who spends for the sake of Allah as a rain-watered garden on a hill: it brings double its fruit; and if not rain, then dew (Q 2:265) sandwiched between two similes of insincere unbelievers who spend for purely worldly reasons, the first as a smooth rock sprinkled with earth that gets washed away by the rain (Q 2:264) and the second as a wealthy landowner in his old age whose fertile orchards are devastated by a firestorm as he leaves behind helpless heirs (Q 2:266). “This is a similitude coined by Allah Most High for Believers and unbelievers with regard to what they are granted in this world: how the Believer is saved in the hereafter, although financially straitened in the world, while the unbeliever’s lavish worldly wealth leaves him bankrupt of all but evil in the hereafter” (Ibn ʿAbbās in Ṭabarī, Tafsīr).

Similes in the Sunna for Believers

The Sunna also coins similarly vivid similes for the Believers from the physical world. Among them, the hadith of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, “The similitude of the Believer is as the stalk of a plant (al-khāma min al-zarʿ): whencesoever the wind blows on it, it bends it; once it is straight again, it has coped with the test. The depraved (al-fājir), however, is like a cedar, tough and stiff until Allah breaks it in pieces when He wishes” (Bukhārī, Marḍā, mā jāʾ fī kaffārat al-maraḍ; Muslim, Ṣifāt al-munāfiqīn wa-aḥkāmihim, mathal al-muʾmin kal-zarʿ wa-mathal al-kāfir ka-shajar al-arz). This hadith is one of many that show that sickness and afflictions erase sins for Believers and that the latter may endure many such tests, while unbelievers, although Allah may let them live in the lap of luxury, untested—cedarwood is one of the most solid types—He reserves for them a dire and painful end that forebodes punishment in the hereafter (Ibn Baṭṭāl, Sharḥ; Nawawī, Sharḥ).

Another hadith states, “The similitude of the Believer who recites the Qurʾān is as a citron (utrujja): its taste is delicious and its smell fragrant; and the similitude of the Believer who does not recite the Qurʾān is as a date: its taste is delicious and it has no smell” (Bukhārī, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, faḍl al-Qurʾān ʿalā sāʾir al-kalām; Muslim, Ṣalāt al-musāfirīn wa-qaṣruhā, faḍīlat ḥāfiẓ al-Qurʾān). This hadith superposes the spiritual teaching that the Qurʾān is the best speech on top of the dietetic truism that the best food is the one that smells as well as tastes good (Ibn Baṭṭāl, Sharḥ) as well as assigning taste to the attribute of belief while attributing fragrance to the act of recitation (Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ).

Again drawing from the vegetal world, the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, once asked, “Tell me about a tree whose similitude is that of a Believer.” People mentioned various trees from the wilderness. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUmar (10bh-73/611-692) said, “It came to my mind that it was the date-tree. I was about to say it, but the elders were speaking, which daunted me. When they fell silent the Prophet said, upon him blessings and peace, ‘It is the date-tree’” (Muslim, Ṣifāt al-munāfiqīn wa-aḥkāmihim, mathal al-muʾmin mathal al-nakhla). The date-tree is one of the most expressive vehicles among the similes for Believers due to its seemingly endless list of benefits such as the permanency of its shade, the excellence and constant availability of its fruit for consumption from the time it sprouts until long after it dries up, the multiple benefits of its wood, leaves, branches and fiber for human beings and animals, and the beauty of all of the above aspects (Nawawī, Sharḥ). Its importance in the Qurʾānic context, especially for the contemporaries of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, is indicated by the fact that there are up to 300 names for the date-tree and its fruit in Arabic (Sijistānī, Nakhla, pp. 45-100).

In another hadith drawing on human physiology the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said, “The similitude of Believers in their mutual love and mercy is as the human body: when any part of it suffers an ailment, the rest of it mobilizes with wakefulness and fever” (Muslim, al-Birr wal-ṣila wal-ādāb, tarāḥum al-Muʾminīn wa-taʿāṭufihim wa-taʿāḍudihim). Another version has, as its first clause, “Believers are as a single person” (Muslim, ibid.). Such solidarity, however, hinges on the fulfillment of the conditions outlined in such hadiths as “None of you believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself” (Bukhārī, Īmān, min al-īmān an yuḥibba li-akhīh mā yuḥibbu li-nafsih; Muslim, Īmān, al-dalīl ʿalā anna min khiṣāl al-īmān an yuḥibba li-akhīh mā yuḥibbu li-nafsih min al-khayr) and “One shall not find the sweetness of faith until he loves others for no other reason than for the sake of Allah” (Bukhārī, Adab, al-ḥubb fīl-Lāh) (Ibn Baṭṭāl, Sharḥ).

The Afghan-Makkan polymath, teacher and calligrapher of Qurʾān, and author of over 100 works, Mullā Nūr al-Dīn Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Sulṭān Muḥammad al-Qārī al-Harawī (d. 1014/1605) gave a poignant explanation of the type of Believer referred to in the hadith of the similitude with the human body:

The elucidation of loving, for one’s brother, what one loves for oneself is that Believers are united with respect to souls, multifarious with respect to bodies and forms, like a single light in various manifestations, or a single life in bodies that are dispersed, so that, if one of them feels pain, they all feel it, as he, upon him blessings and peace, alluded when he said, “Believers are as a single person, etc.” I am whom I love and whom I love is I… we are a single soul two bodies have latched on. When one acquires a firm foothold in such a level one can truly say the same about all things. That is because such faith is informed by the light of guidance in the sacred Law and practice, and by the light of Allah in reality, namely, the light of pure monotheism, which spells sociability and mercy. Thus, if one is sad they are all sad, if happy they are all happy. (Mirqāt, Ādāb, al-shafaqa wal-raḥma ʿalā al-khalq)

Istithnāʾ: Adding in shāʾ Allāh after saying “I am a Believer”

Because Allah Most High commanded people to say, “We submit” (Q 49:14), stating, And who speaks better than one who summons unto Allah, does good, and says, “I am one of those who submit”? (Q 41:33), many early and late authorities view that it is forbidden for Muslims, when saying “I am a Muslim,” to voice any doubt over their Islam through istithnāʾ, the exceptive phrase in shā’ Allāh, “if Allah wills.” However, they allowed (or preferred) it in the saying “I am a Muʾmin, in shāʾ Allāh” in light of the desert Arabs verse (Q 49:14) and similar evidence already discussed (Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal in Ibn Naṣr, Taʿẓīm, 2:526 §584; Abū ʿUbayd, Īmān, p. 21 §16; Baghawī, Sharḥ, 1:41; Ibn al-ʿArabī, Aḥkām, 4:85, cf. 1:608; Tafsīrs of Rāzī, Qurṭubī, Abū Ḥayyān, sub Q 41:33; Mardāwī, Taḥbīr, 2:531-532).

This is also the position of the Ashʿarī school, with the difference that they define the Believer as one who dies as a Muslim, in accordance with the Hadith, “Actions count only according to the last moments” (innamā al-aʿmālu bil-khawātīm: Bukhārī, Qadar, al-ʿamal bil-khawātīm), which no one can be sure of in advance. The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, also said that “A man assuredly does the deeds of the people of Paradise as far as the people can see (fī-mā yabdū lil-nās) but is in fact one of the people of Hellfire; and another man assuredly does the deeds of the people of Hellfire as far as the people can see but is in fact one of the people of Paradise” (Bukhārī, al-Jihād wal-siyar, lā yaqūl Fulān shahīd; Muslim, Īmān, ghilaẓ taḥrīm qatl al-insān nafsah). “That addition of as far as the people can see is of huge import in relation to the question of ‘I am a muʾmin if Allah wills’” (Ibn al-Subkī, Ṭabaqāt, 4:39).

This uncertainty with regard to one’s faith in one’s final moments is the Ashʿarīs’ rationale for adding the dubitative phrase “if Allah wills” to the af­firmation “I am a believer”—meaning at the time of death, in shā Allāh—and their doctrinal differen­ti­ation between islām and īmān. Another reason is the flight from arrogance. The Sufi exegete and hadith scholar of Nishapur, Zayn al-Islām Abū al-Qāsim ʿAbd al-Karīm b. Hawāzin b. ʿAbd al-Mālik al-Qushayrī (376-465/986-1073) said in his “Chapter on the Exposition of the Beliefs of the Sufis on Questions of Doctrine:”

Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Sayyārī said: “His bestowal (‘aṭāʾuhu) is of two kinds: generosity (karāma) and entrapment (istidrāj). Whatever He causes to abide in you is generosity. Whatever He removes from you is entrap­ment. Therefore say: ‘I am a Believer if Allah wills’ (anā muʾminun in shāʾ Allāh).” Abū Bakr al-Wāsiṭī said: “Whoever says, ‘I am a believer in Allah really (anā muʾminun bil-Lāhi ḥaqqan), will be told, ‘reality indicates direct view, eyesight, and encom­passment. Whosoever has none of this, his claim to that effect is invalid.’” (Risāla, Bayān iʿtiqād hādhih al-Ṭāʾifa fī masāʾil al-uṣūl)

Bayḍāwī recapitulated both reasons in his commentary of the verse And behold! We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam!” So they prostrated, except Iblīs: he re­fused and was arrogant, and became one of the unbe­lievers (Q 2:34):

Among the benefits of this verse are (i) the condemnation of arrogance; (ii) the fact that the latter might lead one to unbelief; (iii) the exhortation to obey His order (iv) and refrain from pro­bing its hidden aspects; (v) the fact that command constitutes oblig­atoriness; (vi) and that someone whom Allah Most High knows—right then—will eventually expire as an unbeliever: that is the true unbe­liev­er; for what mat­ters is the final moments (al-khawātīm), even if his status at that time is that of a believer. This is the [doctrine of] “Ultimate Arri­val” (muwāfāt) attributed to our teacher Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī—may Allah Most High have mercy on him. (Tafsīr; cf. Khafājī, Ḥāshiya, 2:135; Gimaret, Doctrine, pp. 479-483).

Māturīdīs, however, on the basis of their position that muslim and muʾmin are indifferently synonymous and the fact that Allah Most High ordered, Say: “We believe in Allah” (Q 2:136) and Ibrāhīm said, “My Lord, let me see how You revive the dead;” He said, “Do you not believe?” He said “Yes” (Q 2:260) without any added pendency, consider it categorically forbidden to voice istithnāʾ with one’s declaration “I am a Muʾmin” because it would then express doubt in one’s identity as a Muslim (Māturīdī, Tawḥīd, al-Īmān wal-Islām, §6.5; Usmandī, Lubāb, §54; Taftāzānī, Sharḥ al-ʿAqāʾid, §33; Qārī, Minaḥ, Supplements, §31; Khādimī, Barīqa, 1:314 §20). To do so is variously included among the “expressions that contitute unbelief” (alfāẓ al-kufr, see Apostasy; Disbelief) (Badr al-Rashīd, Alfāẓ, pp. 51-52 §227-235) and among the mere “terminological differences” (al-khilāfāt al-lafẓiyya) (Dāmād, Naẓm, §32; Abū ʿAdhaba, Rawḍ, §1.1) with Ashʿarīs.


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See also

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