What is Iman?

Iman or Faith is the first pillar of Islam. It is through iman that a person enters into the fold of Islam. When one acknowledges God as one's Lord and Master, one is entering, as it were, into a 'contract' with God, a covenant which excludes all other beings and makes Him all in all. Then it is around Him alone that all one's thoughts and emotions will revolve; it is in Him alone that one will place complete trust. With the passage of time it will be to no one but the Almighty that all one's hopes, fears and supplications will be addressed.

There is no one - great or small- who does not have a focus of attention and activity in his life. For some, the household and family hold the central position, while for others it is business and moneymaking. For yet others, the preoccupations of political leadership are all that matter. Many base their entire lives on dreams of power and pres¬tige. But, whatever the sources of human satisfaction, if a man does not live in his Lord, his life will be one of the most abysmal ignorance. He will have built himself a house of straw, to be carried away by the merest puff of the wind. It is only when he strenuously pulls himself out of his mundane existence, and begins to live in his Creator that he will discover what, in essence, his true life ought to be. It is only then that he will understand his Maker's intentions, and realize that he is now in possession of that divine support without which, not only he, but the entire universe would collapse. Once he has achieved that state, he will think of God day and night, as he sleeps and as he awakens, and will not take the slightest initiative without first putting his trust in God. It will be for God and God alone that he will speak or remain silent.

Faith can be likened to the electric current, which lights up the factory and sets all machines in motion. When faith comes to a man, it is like the arrival of the electric cur¬rent from the power house - his soul is ablaze with light, his heart throbs faster with devotion, and a new fire-zeal-¬burns within him; his entire being is stirred with a longing for his Lord. This human being, born of his mother's womb, is born once again from the womb of faith.

When two people love one another, they remain in touch with each other mentally and emotionally, even if they are thousands of miles apart. Physical separation does nothing to impair the quality of their attachment for each other, and, in each and every thing, they see a likeness of the beloved's face. A similar emotional bond links the true believer with God, so that when confronted with the vastness of space, he will behold, not emptiness, but the great¬ness of the Lord. In the fury of the tempest he will see the glory of his Maker. When birds sing, he will hear divine melodies, and when the sun peeps over the horizon, he will, experience its warmth and light like a caress from the hand of his Lord. The sight of the beautiful foliage of the trees will make him feel that God has spread out the story of His creation before him in every leaf, twig and bud. The merest breath of the wind in his face will make him feel that he has come closer to God. In fact, at every instant, the believer is in touch with God, bathing in a divine ocean of unfathomable depths. Each experience serves to strengthen his bond with the Lord. God and he become as one.

To believe in God is to, have faith in One who is Creator, Master and Sustainer of the Universe. It is He who has fashioned all things; there is nothing, which can func¬tion except by virtue of His power; without Him, nothing can even begin to exist. Faith awakens human conscious¬ness to this great truth and man, in his newfound aware¬ness, sees himself as the slave of the Almighty. All things appear to him as manifestations of the Lord and, whatever it falls to his lot to receive, he cherishes as a divine gift. He is unceasing in his praise and remembrance of the Lord.

The individual who is thus imbued with faith is not negligent in the way he lives on earth, remaining alert to every opportunity of coming closer to his Lord, for he is ever aware of the many blessings showered on him by his Creator. For instance, when his fatigue of the previous day has been banished by a good night's rest, he expresses his profound gratitude for this miracle called sleep. Without sleep one would go mad and soon die. When he sees the darkness of the night dispelled by the rising sun, he ex-claims quite involuntarily: "Blessed be the One who has created light! Without light the entire world would be plunged into a sea of pitch darkness!" And simply the satisfaction of his hunger and the quenching of his thirst floods his whole being with a sense of gratitude. Amazed at the miracles of food and water, he falls to wondering what state mankind would be reduced to, were it not for such blessings sent down by the Almighty.

When the believer is hurt, it is to God that he calls out for comfort and consolation; when he is in distress, it is to God that he turns for help. Whenever he has stood to gain, he is ever mindful of the fact that this is part of the Lord's bounty, and is moved to offer Him his heartfelt gratitude. Should he incur a loss, he bows to the reality that all things happen at the will of God. He does not become arrogant when showered with blessings, neither is he driven to despair by the adversity of conditions. The strength of his attachment to his Lord is so great that not even the most wonderful of attachments to another human being can im¬pair it. Neither can any greater or lesser degree of self-¬interest divert him from his duty to the Almighty.

From time to time, important scientific discoveries are made by brilliant minds aided by sophisticated apparatus-the gravitational force of the earth and cosmic rays being two of the better known. But although their im¬pact is very great in the realms of science, they do not saddle either the discoverers, or the recipients of their newfound knowledge, with any significant moral responsibilities. Nor do they bring any keener awareness of the ul¬timate reality. No matter how scientifically important they may seem as forms of enlightenment, they cannot compare with the discovery of God.

Discovering God means arriving at the source of all strength and wisdom. It is the meeting of the soul with the one who is all-hearing, all-seeing and all-knowing. With the discovery of our Maker comes the consciousness that He has not created this universe in vain. How could such a great universe forever remain a mystery? Is it within the realms of possibility that its meaning should never become manifest? In a universe controlled by a God who is both omniscient and omnipotent, this is simply inconceivable. To one who has made the discovery of faith, the certainty inevitably comes that God, who had hitherto directed the world from behind the scenes, will stand forth in all His glory, to be emblazoned on every cloud, crag and pinnacle, on every blade, leaf and twig, on every heart, body and soul. On that day of days, doubts and differences will be banished forever, and the truth will belong to all. This conviction brings the believer to the further conclusion that when the Creator and Master of the Universe ultimately takes on a visible form before all His creatures, this manifestation will have direct, personal repercussions on every human soul. It will not be an event, which can be viewed dispassionately as if it were just another natural phenomenon like the rising of the sun or the waxing and waning of the moon, bearing no direct relation to the moral aspect of our lives: it will be an awesome event – the manifestation of a Being, a Power, who is not only possessed of a limitless knowledge of all things, but who is both Reckoner and Retributor. When the Lord of the Universe makes himself manifest, all of His creation will arise from the dead to await His Judgement. Those who have rebelled against Him, and those who have thought fit to worship only themselves, will on that day be like men of straw; they will be brought low, lower than the most groveling of insects. On the contrary, those who have believed in God, devoting their entire lives to Him, will find themselves immediately raised to a superior position. During the millennia on earth when God chose to remain concealed those who were not faithful to Him were free to revel in their apostasy. But when God reveals Himself to them, they will realize how ill-used their freedom was and how abysmal their failure in the eyes of their Maker. It will only be those who remained faithful to Him, invisible as He then was, who will find themselves crowned with success in the after-life. God's manifesting Himself will mark the beginning of a new and perfect world, in which those who were faithful to Him will lead a life of everlasting bliss, and in which those who rebelled against him will be relegated to eternal punishment.

Whenever a human being finally grasps this reality, he trembles in fear of God, He cries out to his Maker: "Lord! Save me from disgrace on that day when you appear in all Your Power and Glory! When I stand helpless before You on that day, only You will hold the scales of justice in your hand; only you shall be the possessor of power."

The very act of having faith in God entails acceptance of the Prophet as His Apostle. This is of the greatest impor¬tance, for the moment a man discovers God as a live and conscious Being, he needs to understand what God wants of him; he may garner indications from his own inner nature and from the world all around him, but he needs someone to spell out the Lord's message to him in quite unmistak¬able terms. In particular, he does not wish to be left in any doubt as to the events of the Last Day, and who is better to explain them to him in advance than God's very own Prophet? It is exactly at this crucial, questing stage of his spiritual development that the words of the Prophet resound in his ears: "I am God's servant and His Apostle. The Lord has sent me to bring guidance to mankind. Come to me and hear the message of God."

The genuine seeker after the truth will have little dif¬ficulty in recognizing the Prophet's call, for he will already have broken down the walls of prejudice and indifference which confine the ignorant and the complacent within their cell of spiritual darkness. The truth-seeker will recognize the word of God, as His Prophet brings it to him, just as a child recognizes his own mother's voice. Through the words of the Prophet, he comes truly to know God. His soul blos¬soms at the very sound of them in the way that drought¬ stricken land puts forth green shoots as the blessed rain falls from the heavens. His whole inner being becomes radiant as if bathed in a divine light. His discovery of God is raised to an infinitely higher plane of illumination by his discovery of God's Prophet.

The Prophet is neither an angel nor any other kind of supernatural being, having been born into this world of a human mother, just like any of his fellow-men. What truly distinguishes him from the rest of mankind is his having been chosen by God as His messenger. It is through His Prophets that we come to understand our Creator.

Imbued with the right faith, when we, eventually, go to meet our Lord, we earnestly pray that we shall find favour in His eyes, hoping to live in the Hereafter in the Gardens of everlasting delight. But if we are to merit this fate, we must ascertain from the Quran, the preserved book of God, what He commands, and must observe from the life of the Prophet of Islam how God's commands are to be carried out. We must then mould our lives on the divine injunctions re¬corded in the Quran and on the supreme example of the Prophet Mohammad’s life. This is the true path for great and small alike. Any other course will lead to perdition.