How can we strengthen our faith? Could you give information about the increase and decrease of faith, investigative faith and imitative faith and the importance of faith?

Details of the Question
How can we strengthen our faith? Could you give information about the increase and decrease of faith, investigative faith and imitative faith and the importance of faith?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Faith is a light, a blessing from Allah. However, faith is knowledge at the same time, which must be necessarily learnt. There are two ways to strengthen our faith:

The first and the primary one is to learn the rules of the sunnah and to investigate it in accordance with the Quran and the sunnah, as required by our time.

The second one is to advance in spirituality through performing good deeds, purifying the heart and soul by avoiding sins.

However, the course of this century makes the second way really difficult to take. For this reason, it is very important to read books which teach investigative faith. It has also become essential to study science as a feature of our century, besides studying religious knowledge. This is because the light of the mind is science as the light of the heart is religious knowledge. We can state that one of the most important books which teach both of them together is Risali-i Nur Collection. In addition, one can benefit very well from books of significant people such as Imam Ghazali, Imam Rabbani, Imam Mawardi and Imam Qushairi.

Protecting and enhancing faith is a Muslim’s most important issue. It is necessary to attach importance to taqwa (God-Consciousness) in order to protect faith. Faith can only be protected within the castle of taqwa. Without taqwa, faith tends to deteriorate. It is necessary to read and make research on books about faith a lot in order to enhance faith. Issues about faith which result from knowledge do not have effect on one’s feelings unless it is filtered through reasoning. Firstly, mind must be satisfied.

Contemplation is very important. The fact that Prophet Abraham found his Lord by watching the moon and stars and contemplating is narrated in the Quran. Faith improves with thinking.   For this reason, it is stated in hadith that “One hour of contemplation is superior to one year of nafilah (supererogatory) prayer.”

Environment has a great influence on human being. Sins suggest people infidelity. Suggestion has a great influence on human beings. It infuses infidelity into one’s sub-conscious though people are unaware of it. For this reason, one must keep away from from sinful places as much as possible. Sins committed outside carelessly suggest people that there are not hereafter and punishment. To be protected from the negative effects of such suggestions, one must keep away from sinful places as much as possible and try to suggest people goodness and prevent them from evil as much as s/he can. One needs to study issues about faith a lot and pay attention to delivered messages in order to compensate for the damages of the negative suggestions which s/he has been imposed to. It is necessary to meet often with people who care about good deeds and live in accordance with taqwa. In this sense, the importance of a community (jama’ah) becomes more obvious. Just like sins suggest infidelity, good deeds suggest faith.

How are people deceived in faith issues?

Why cannot I worship Allah properly and be a good servant to Allah?

What is the essence of faith?

Faith, in its essence, is the greatest and kindest blessing from Allah to human beings. Allah bestows it upon whomever He wishes. However, it cannot be said that human beings do not play a role in this bestowment. Contrarily, first of all, a human being must be willing to have faith and righteousness using his/her choice and free will. Allah will bestow faithfulness and righteousness upon him/her because of this will and demand. For this reason, Islamic scholars described faith as “It is the light that Allah places in His servants’ hearts after servants display a partial will and choice.

Are There Degrees and Development in Faith?

Faith develops like a seed develops and grows into a tree. Islamic scholars divided faith into two levels firstly:

1. Imitative faith, 2. Investigative faith…

Imitative Faith: having faith in the pillars of faith in the way one has seen from parents, hodjas and people around, without any reasoning about them. As imitative faith is a kind of faith that one believes without comprehending the pillars, consciousness and details of faith, one can be subject to some doubts and misgivings especially in our time and it may lead to the destruction of faith.

Investigative Faith: having faith in all issues about faith in a detailed way with proofs, and confirming them. Such a faith can prevent itself from being destructed by doubts and misgivings. Investigative faith has got many levels. Islamic scholars have classified those levels in three parts:

1. Certainty at the degree of knowledge: knowing issues about faith together with all of its details, with proofs and having faith in them.

2. Certainty at the degree of witnessing: knowing issues about faith and having faith in them as if you have seen them with your own eyes and witnessed their trueness. Believing with knowledge and witnessing are very different in terms of giving one a precise conviction. One can know something exactly without having any doubts, yet if s/he witnesses it, his/her conviction increases. Like the difference between knowing that America exists and seeing it… So, certainty at the degree of witnessing is the state of believing in the pillars of faith as if one has seen them with his/her own eyes.

3. Absolute certainty: Accepting and comprehending issues about faith by experiencing them in person, apart from witnessing. An example can be given in order to explain those three degrees of faith: A man who sees smoke coming from somewhere knows that there is a fire burning over there. Knowing that there is a fire by seeing smoke from a distance refers to “certainty at the degree of knowledge”. Then he goes to the place where the smoke comes from and sees the fire with his own eyes from a distance. It refers to “certainty at the degree of witnessing”. Then he goes close to the fire and feels its warmness, and it refers to “absolute certainty”.

Is Imitative Faith Enough in Our Day?

As we have mentioned above, imitative faith encounters many misgivings and doubts and eventually is subject to breaking down because of those doubts in our day. Ali Fuad Basgil explains why imitative faith is not enough in our day though it was enough in the past as follows:

“People were in need of religion and power of spirituality in every period of time. However, this need has become an obligation in our day. Our ancestors used to live peacefully with quite a simple knowledge of religion and traditions, that is, with imitative faith; because, all social neighborhood around them suggested them religion and morals.

Today, everything has changed. Religious feelings have weakened and good manners of religious respect have been replaced by an insolent disrespectfulness. Families have gotten smaller and family relations have loosened. Financial burden of the family have been placed merely on spouses and parents have started to neglect to educate their children in terms of religion because of financial needs of the family. On the other hand, schools and universities have become places of anti-religionist propaganda. Today, a simple knowledge of religion has become inefficient in the atmosphere which has become hazier because of the invective words and resistance of obstinate deniers.

Questions such as “What is religion?”, “What is the relationship between religion and science?” and “What should religion do and what should be its place compared to science today?” preoccupy minds more than ever now. Especially educated young people need to know the answers to those questions.”

The knowledge of religion and faith to be given to people today must have an investigative content that combines science and religion and that convinces the mind and reason about the issues of faith. Otherwise, simple knowledge of religion and imitative faith in the form of traditions will be far away from satisfying the people especially the young people of today.

What is the Importance of Faith for Human Beings?
1. Faith is the reason why human beings were created. That is to say, they were created so that they would recognize the Creator through faith and worship Him. If one acts in accordance with this reason of creation, s/he will reach eternal bliss in the Hereafter and will enter Heaven. Otherwise, s/he will enter Hell and be subject to eternal misery and unhappiness.

In this sense, faith is a means of gaining eternal happiness and the key to Heaven for human beings. Without faith, there is no Heaven. For this reason, it is a more precious blessing than the world and than anything in the whole world for a human being to have faith and to keep this faith until his/her last breath without losing it or letting it weaken. Our Prophet said in one of his hadiths “renew your faith by saying ‘la ilaha illallah” because of the importance of faith and emphasized the importance of renewing and keeping faith. One can come up with a question like “Is there a possibility of faith to weaken or to get lost since it is suggested to renew it continuously?”

Badiuzzaman, explains the issue of renewing faith as an answer to the question above, as follows: “Since man himself and the world in which he lives are being continuously renewed, he needs constantly to renew belief. For in reality each individual human being consists of many individuals. He may be considered as a different individual to the number of the years of his life, or rather to the number of the days or even the hours of his life. For since a single individual is subject to time, he is like a model and each passing day clothes him in the form of another individual. Furthermore, just as there is within man this plurality and renewal so also is this world in which he lives in motion. It goes and replaced by another. It varies constantly. Every day opens the door of another world. As for belief, it is both the light of the life of each individual in that person, and it is the light of the world in which he lives. And as for ‘There is no god but God’, it is a key with which to turn on the light. Then the instinctual soul, desire, doubts and Satan exercise great influence over man. In order to damage his belief, they are much of the time able to benefit from his negligence, to trick him with their wiles, and thus to extinguish the light of belief with doubts and uncertainty. Also, man is prone to act and utter words which apparently oppose the Shari’a, and which in the view of some religious authorities are no less than unbelief. Therefore, there is need to renew belief all the time, every hour, every day.” (The Letters, 26th Letter)

Those statements emphasize the importance of renewing belief from three points of view:

The first point: one’s mood, ideas and understanding can often change depending on the period of time in which he lives, the place he is in and the neighborhood he is in contact with. Events he has been subject to, the things he has done and the people he has been in contact with impress him in a positive or negative way. Our Prophet states the following on the issue: “A true believer’s heart is subject to more changes than a boiling pot…” “The heart is like a sparrow. It can head towards anywhere at any time.” “The heart is like a bird’s wing thrown to the fields. The heart can change like wind turns this wing upside down.”  It is ordered to renew faith by saying “la ilaha illallah (there is no god but God)” in the hadith because of the fact that human heart and mood are subject to external influence.
The second point: Human beings have got negative feelings such as instinctual soul, desires and doubts, and Satan constantly tries to deceive them and suggest them evil. It is possible that those negative suggestions will make people to have doubts about faith while they are careless. It is necessary to renew faith in order to avoid such a state.

The third point: One cannot totally keep away from some words and sayings which are against Shari’a and also considered to be disbelief by some Islamic scholars. For this reason, renewing faith by saying “la ilaha illallah” is essential. Another way of strengthening and keeping faith is to save it from imitative level by turning it into investigative faith. And it can be realized only by reading works about faith which teach the realities of faith in an investigative way and respond to all doubts and misgivings one can think of, and by making conversations on faith constantly. If a person upgrades his faith from imitative level to investigative level, there is no possibility for him to lose faith and to pass away to the Hereafter as an unbeliever. Islamic scholars stated that Satan will come and try to deceive people with all of his tricks and misgivings in order to take their faith away while they are about to die. For this reason, Islamic scholars stated that they were afraid of the moment of death. People can be protected from such suggestions at the moment of death with the help of investigative faith; because, in investigative faith, faith is not only in mind, but also in heart, soul, other senses and feelings. Even though Satan may damage the faith in one’s mind, he cannot manage to take the faith in other senses away. In this way, that person remains and dies as a believer.

2. Faith is also a great source of high spirits and endurance. A person who gains true faith can challenge the world and escape the suppression of the troubles he has encountered with the power of his faith. Our victories, which honor the history and inspire authors to write legends, are doubtlessly a good example to the power and might which faith earns a person. A faithful person can react to events and troubles he has been through with sturdiness, can be patient and put up with them, with the help of trust in God which faith earns a person. A faithful person does not become hopeless and pessimistic, does not choose to rebel and complain. It results from the power and might the faith has earned him. Faithless people can easily end their lives by committing suicide when they encounter an insignificant trouble as they become desperate and hopeless. While in Islamic countries committing suicide is so rare, it increases day by day in the world’s most civilized and wealthy countries, which confirms it. The Prophet points out to the power and endurance the faith earns a person in his hadiths: “A true believer resembles green plants. The continuous winds of trouble bend them, yet they cannot break them down. Contrarily, they enable them to pursue their lives and become healthier. However, hypocrites (and infidels) are like faded plants. Their leaves fall down and their body breaks down and they die with the winds of trouble.”

“How astonishing a true believer is! If he encounters goodness, he gives thanks; if he encounters evil, he endures. And this way he makes both of those states good for himself.”

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