The First Pillar of Islam: Faith

When I was a kid I hardly ever believed my parents. “Andrew, don’t touch. It’s hot!” I touched it anyway and was burned. “Eat too much pizza and you’ll have a stomach ache.” I did it anyway and it turned out they were right. Ignoring the advice of our parents–especially in those rebellious teenage years–is an understood phenomena in our culture. Sometimes, though, we even shun the advice of our closest friends who, like our parents, typically just want us safe and happy.

“Andrew you shouldn’t date her, she’s a ________.”

I didn’t listen there either and it cost me years of trouble.

Islam is built upon a foundation called the “Five Pillars of Faith.” This works out pretty well for us because I cover certain topics week by week here on Project Conversion. The first pillar is faith. But what is faith?

The Qur’an says,

“The Apostle [Muhammad, pbuh], and the believers with him, believe in what has been bestowed upon him from on high by his Sustainer: they all believe in God, and His angels, and His revelations, and His apostles, making no distinction between any of His apostles; they say: We have heard, and we pay heed…” Qur’an 2: 285

 

The word “believe” is used three times in this verse. The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews that “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.

Faith then is a form of trust. How can we have faith in something or someone we do not trust? Trust, in its reciprocal, is faith in what we hear or see. It’s the “evidence of things not seen.” I had to trust my mom about the stove based on past experience. If she lied to me before, I had no reason to trust her. Conversely, I also have a choice to ignore trustworthy advise and burn myself.

We also see in the Qur’an verse above that the believers had faith in that which was bestowed upon him from on high. Who is the “him”? Well, it’s Muhammad [pbuh]. God may have delivered the Qur’an (literally the “recitation”) to the people, but he had to do it through someone. That someone required a trustworthy character. Someone others might have faith in because as the verse tells us, God bestowed the Qur’an not on the people directly, but on Muhammad [pbuh].

Faith also comes through consistency of good advice or quality of action. This is why the believers the verse is talking about “…heard and we pay heed.” Paul goes on to write that “…faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God.” Muhammad [pbuh] recited the Qur’an to his people for over 20 years. That, my friend, is consistency. Because this Qur’an proved true and Muhammad [pbuh] proved trustworthy, the faith of the people increased and that is why we have the Qur’an today along with over one billion Muslims. This is trust, trust in God for delivering divine instruction for our lives, trust in Muhammad [pbuh] that what he recited is true and from God, and faith in our own intuition that we might choose the correct path. While Allah promised blessings for those who believe, oftentimes we spend our lives with a test of faith against the contrary.

The first pillar of Islam is faith because without faith, we cannot perceive the subtle world of Allah. A Muslim’s first action in joining the faith and often last words before departing this life is called the Shahada. The statement of faith declares,

“There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his Messenger.” –Shahada

 

For this to work, one must–I must–trust this statement to be true. I must believe that God is real, that he is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He alone is worshipped. In addition, because Allah did not bring the Qur’an to me personally, I must trust that Muhammad [pbuh] is Allah’s messenger. Notice though in the first verse of the Qur’an quoted above that we must believe in ALL the apostles and messengers of Allah and make no distinction between them. I must believe in Adam, and Noah, Moses, Abraham, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Muhammad (peace be upon them all) and others from the Tanakh and Bible.

Of course, there are challenges with this task. Many see the contradictions between these books and ask, “how can one accept all these messengers and books as coming from one God when they contradict one another?” Well, that’s a story for another day. In many other cases, we simply need proof–real experience–in order to believe. For me as a kid, I had to touch the stove to understand the danger. As a teenager, I had to sate that girl before I realized I should have kept my distance. Sometimes, having faith and trust in what we cannot see (like the future results of our choices) is the best option.

As a Muslim or any faithful person, how do you increase your faith daily? For many, this month of Ramadan and fasting increases faith and trust in Allah. What about prayer? What about the physical world around you? What supports your faith, regardless of your religion? And if you aren’t a person of religious conviction, what supports your faith in the absence of the divine?

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  • http://www.myownashram.wordpress.com Niki Whiting

    You handled your month with the Mormons with incredible grace! I do not think you will falter this month.

    I can’t believe that you chose to do Islam month to coincide with Ramadan – you are hardcore!

    Sitting meditation is the single best thing I’ve ever done to increase faith. Learning to decipher what is ‘monkey mind’, what are my feelings, what is an ‘important’ thought and what is the actual voice of the Divine is beyond valuable to me. Learning to hear that ‘still, small voice’ within is priceless. Plus, I regularly remember things that need to be done or find answers to everyday issues when I sit for even 15 minutes. Amazing!

    • abowen

      Hardcore is the only way to go ; )

      Meditation is a wonderful tool, Niki. The prayer movements this month remind me a lot of hatha yoga.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Laurelle

    The best way I know to increase faith is to practice the principles. The more I follow what I am taught and see that it works, the more deeply I can trust. (Conversely, if you’re following bad advice that doesn’t work, you’ll figure it out pretty fast. But since there’s truth in all religion, I’d bet your experiences will be good–it certainly seems like they have so far.)

  • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

    Your faith or trust in your mother is based on past experience. What experience is the basis for your trust or faith in Allah? My lack of such an experience is the reason I do call myself a theist. Truly, faith not grounded in experience is the very definition of bad faith.

  • http://ComparingFaithtoaSeed Art Sherwood

    The Book of Mormon contains a discourse on faith (in Alma chapter 32) that I believe clearly illustrates what faith is and how it is not “blind”. As Editor B alluded to, faith must have some sort of basis. This analogy shows how you can gain that basis for faith and may be equally applied to any religion, creed or belief system.

    21 And now as I said concerning faith – faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

    26 Now, as I said concerning faith – that it was not a perfect knowledge – even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.

    27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

    28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves – It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

    29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

    30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

    31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.

    32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

    33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

    34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

    35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?

    36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

    37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.

    38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

    39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

    40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the atree of life.

    41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

    42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

    43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.