Is there increase and decrease in belief?
Belief does not increase and decrease in quantity; it increases and decreases in quality.
What is meant by belief not increasing and decreasing in quantity is as follows:
The issues of belief like the existence and oneness of Allah, the existence of the angels and prophets and the occurrence of the hereafter are certain. There is no increase or decrease in them. There is no difference between a prophet and any believer in terms of believing those issues. Both believe in the same things. Besides, when one of the things that need to be believed is denied, a person exits the religion of Islam and becomes an unbeliever. That is, belief does not increase in quantity; everybody believes in the same things. The belief of all of us is equal.
What is meant by belief increasing and decreasing in quality is as follows: belief increases and decreases in terms of quality and perfection. For instance, investigative belief is superior to imitative belief. Certainty at the degree of witnessing is superior to certainty at the degree of knowledge; absolute certainty is superior to certainty at the degree of witnessing. It is similar to the state of a person who knows the Kaaba without seeing it and whose certainty increases when he sees it. Belief increases as a person reads and sees the evidences.
The Prophet (pbuh) expresses with the following hadith that belief increases in terms of quality: “If Abubakr’s belief were weighed against the belief of all believers, his belief would outweigh theirs.” This weight is related to the degree of perfection and quality of belief. In this regard, the belief of the whole ummah cannot be equal to Abubakr’s belief.
It means believers are equal to one another in terms of the essence of belief and oneness. However, they are different from one another in terms of perfection and quality. For, belief is like seeing. Those who can see are not equal in terms of the strength and weakness of seeing. Some of those who see do not see at night and some do not see during the day. Some people see only big fonts; they see small fonts only through glasses. Some people see near objects better and others see distant objects better, etc. The quality of belief is different just like that. Therefore, Imam Muhammad regards it makruh for a person to say “My belief is like Gabriel's belief.” For, there is a big difference between the belief of a person and that of Gabriel (Jibril) in terms of the quality of belief. However, it is permissible for him to say, “I believe in what Gabriel believes.” For, their belief is equal in terms of quantity.
Likewise, it is not permissible for a person to say, “My belief is like the Prophet's belief.” For, the criterion of the light of belief in the hearts of believers is different. Oneness and belief illuminate the hearts of some people like the sun. They illuminate some like the moon and others like a bright star. Oneness makes some people's hearts shine like a big blaze and others like a dim light. As the light of belief increases and its degrees rise, it eliminates doubts and lust. It makes a person obtain attributes like obedience, taqwa and asceticism.
To sum up, belief does not increase and decrease in quantity, that is, in terms of the amount of the things to be believed. However, it increases and decreases in terms of the perfection and quality of belief. There are thousands of degrees in belief in terms of quality.
The reason why we deal with this issue here is to show that the statement of those who say, “I do not need evidence; those who have doubts deal with evidences" is wrong and to encourage people to learn the evidences.
For, we have learnt that the quality of belief increases and decreases. The perfection of belief increases and decreases; so, we have to learn the evidences of the truths of belief and meditate on them profoundly in order to make our belief perfect. Belief increases as the evidences are learnt and meditated.
• Evidence is a step in the stairs; a person is elevated spiritually with each evidence that he learns.
• Evidence is a light that illuminates the heart. Each evidence that is learnt increases the light of the heart.
• Evidence is a broom. It purifies a person of doubts and delusions.
• Evidence is a castle; it protects man from the attacks of Satan.
It means to try to learn the evidences is an acceptable way for those who want to increase their belief. What matters is not to get rid of doubts only; therefore, the statement," We have no doubt; therefore, we do not need any evidence" is meaningless. What matters is to rise in belief and to attain perfection. The primary way to do it is to attain the certainty at the degree of knowledge that is as strong as absolute certainty by learning the evidences about what we believe.