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October 15, 2004
Iman and Understanding - Part II

by Justoju

Bismillah Arrahman Arrahim

“Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): "Our Lord! Not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.” (Quran- 3:191)

“They said, "Be You glorified! We have no knowledge, except that which You have taught us. You are the Omniscient, Most Wise." [Quran- 2:32]

Imagine: we are sitting in a gathering and I point towards a white door and ask, “Is that door white?” You look at it and then answer. Would your answer that it is indeed white be a reflection of Iman? Do you have ‘Iman’ that the door is white?

“This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah. Who believe in the Unseen…” (2: 2-3)

Oftentimes we fail to understand the difference between Iman, and Mushahida. Iman equals faith, everyone knows this, but what is Mushahida? Mushahida comes from the same root as ‘Shahadah’ or ‘bearing witness’. One who partakes in Mushahida (a Mushahid), has witnessed or observed something. In reference to the door question that I asked above, your answer would be a result of your Mushahida. You observed, believed, and then answered. Iman is different from Mushahida in that it is a belief that is not based on a direct observation. It is a belief in the ‘unseen’.

Ask yourself, what are the tenets of Iman that we must have faith in for us to be upon this deen? The Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace, answered this in the famous Jibreel hadith that is narrated by Abu Huraira (RA) and recorded in Sahih Bukhari:

“It is to believe in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in divine destiny, both the good and the evil thereof.”

Most of the things in the above list fall into the very very large category of the unseen. They cannot be experienced or observed with one’s senses. This is what it means to have faith and why tests of faith are far more difficult than tests of Mushahida. If I ask you to observe something and THEN ask you what you believe about it, the task is far easier than my asking you to tell me what you believe in the unobservable.

“And on the Day that the Unbelievers will be placed before the Fire (they will be asked), “Is this not the Truth?” They will say, “Yea by our Lord!” (One will say:) “Then haste ye the Penalty for that ye were wont to deny (Truth)!” (46:34)

On the Last Day when we have Mushahida of the Truth, our belief, passionate exclamations, and surrender simply will not count. We must understand that the true reward for Iman lies in believing without the actual Mushahida.

On one occasion, the Prophet is reported to have addressed some Companions in the following way. "You are with me and have seen me and if you should leave out even one-tenth of what is obligatory upon you, then, you will be denied Paradise. However, there will come a time when there will be a people who have not seen me and if they are able to do even one-tenth of what has been made obligatory upon them, then, they will attain Paradise."

So Allah, Glorious and Exalted, is well aware of how easy it is to believe once one has seen miracles (the miracle of prophethood in particular) and one has seen the 'zahir', or outwardly apparent, proofs of Islam. This brings us to another point which relates to the basis of one's beliefs.

There are two ways of living:
1. The life of Nadhr
2. The life of Khabr

The life of Nadhr is based on observation. You see that talking, walking, being a
certain way is advantageous so you talk, walk, and are a certain way. You SEE the effects in this Duniya and adopt the apparent causes in order to bring about the effects. It is based on your perception and based upon Duniya.

The life of Khabr is based on Divine decree. You are told by the Quran and Sunnah that talking, walking, being a certain way is advantageous so you talk, walk, and are a certain way. You might see some positive by-products of Divine decree in the Duniya (after all, Islam IS the ‘Good’ and all Divine decrees are, by the Divine Nature, beneficial), but the primary reason why you choose this life is because Allah, Glorious and Exalted, has said so.

Of these two ways of living we know that the life of Khabr is the one that leads to success in both worlds. The life of Nadhr may seem to benefit your Duniya, but in reality it will do nothing for your Akhirah because its materialist and superficial vision cannot see the Akhirah and does not take it into account. It cannot observe a Deity and so does not derive motivation from divine decree. There is no such thing as doing something for “the sake of Allah” and so there is no credit given in the afterlife. The life of Khabr, however, aims towards a holistic benefit in all stages of man’s existence. When we do something for the sake of Allah, Glorious and Exalted, we benefit in the Duniya because our Lord has not asked us to do anything that is not beneficial, AND we benefit in the Akhirah because all that we have done in this life has been for the sake of our Maker.

I leave you with a thought-provoking story. Its isnad might very well go back to someone's imagination, but its meaning is consistent with what we have discussed thus far:
Once the famous Abbasid Caliph, Harun ar-Rashid and his wife Zubaida Khatoon were walking along the riverbank when they saw Behlol Dana making little clay houses, by poking his foot into the clay. Some religious ascetics (those of zuhd) of the day would hide their intelligence behind silly acts so that they could be left alone by society and go unrecognised, unhindered by the nafs’ desire for societal approval of their ‘religiousness’. Some reports say that Behlol, who always taught the Caliph some lesson, was the half-brother of Harun ar-Rashid. Zubeida asked Behlol what he was doing and he replied that he was making houses for Heaven. She asked him if she may purchase one and he said it would cost her ten dinars. She promptly gave him the money, which he then threw into the river. He told her that she might leave since she has her house in Jannah. As they walked home Harun laughed and said that she had been fooled. That evening Harun dreamt that he was in heaven, in front of a house with a sign saying that this was 'Zubeida’s House'. As he tried to enter the house the angels stopped him. He told them that this was his wife's house but they protested saying that only in the earthly life can the wife's house be utilised by the husband. They said that in heaven each one gets what he earned in the earthly life. He awoke in a cold sweat and he told his wife that he had to see Behlol first thing in the morning. They found Behlol at the same place that morning, doing exactly what he did the previous day. Harun told him that he wished to purchase a house. Behlol told Harun that it would cost him ten thousand dinars. Harun asked him why the price had escalated since yesterday.

Behlol replied that yesterday's customers had bought without seeing.

…To be continued…

The next installment shall discuss:
- Iman becoming Mushahida.
- Juxtaposition of aql and qalb and the relationship between the two.
- Choosing the King

I seek forgiveness of Allah, Glorious and Exalted, for my presumptiveness and hypocrisy and seek His Refuge. All good is from Him.
All errors are a result of my own weaknesses.
My own stupidity.
My own insincerity.
My own arrogance.
My own nafs.

“Astaghfirul lahal adheema lladhee la ilaha illa huwa al-Hayyal Qayooma wa atubo ilayh”
I seek forgiveness of Allah, the Living, the Ever-subsistent, through Whom all subsists, and I repent to Him.

“Allahumma innaka Afoowun Kareemun tuhibul afwa fa’foanni ya Ghaffur.”
Oh Allah, surely You are Forgiving, Merciful. You like forgiving. So forgive me Oh Forgiving!

of and relating to...
Saima said


On a side note: science conditions societies to put emhpasis on the "observable" instead of the "unseen". They fail to realize that "observation" only occurs due to our limited senses/perceptions and this limitation fluctuates with either enhanced tools/technology or failure thereof.

i loved the story at the end :)

anyone know of any good Hajj/umrah groups ?

As-salaamu alaikum.

on October 16, 2004 8:04 AM
Humayun said

Asalamalikom, nice article. May Allah reward you.

To sister Saima about the question of Hajj/umrah groups: My friend's dad owns a travel agency and is very active in the umrah/hajj groups business. I think his umrah/hajj groups are usually led by Sheikh Ibrahim Memon from Darul Uloom in Buffalo. Here is the link:
http://www.caravanhajj.com/termsandconditions.htm and the number is (732) 225-4050

on October 16, 2004 8:18 AM
Saima said

Jazakh Allahu khayrun.

May Allah reward you :)

I was at that link.. and many others.. didn't know which one was led by who and which were beneficial.

on October 16, 2004 8:27 AM
Nadia said

Wow Mashallah! I lovved this article especially the story in the end. May Allah (swt) reward you. Ameen.

on October 17, 2004 11:02 AM
passerby said

Very, very beautifully written, Masha Allah.

Have you considered writing books? We need muslim writers, and they way you write Masha ALlah would get the non-muslims thinking Insha Allah. Plus, it's great practice to read muslim literature to children, since they absorb so much at such an early age.


on October 18, 2004 3:42 PM
Faisal Akhtar said


Wait, I don't get the last part.

Where is that story of Behlol narrated from? I find it really unnerving that Behlol is authorized to sell real estate in Paradise. And what does he do with the proceeds of the sale? He throws them away. Sister, can you please tell me the source of that story?

JazakAllah Khair

on October 18, 2004 5:23 PM
Justoju said

Relax brother, I am in no way trying to pass the story off as an authentic historical account of a heavenly property transaction. Allegories and stories are often used in articles just to illustrate points. I am not trying to get people to believe any 'points' that lack quran/hadith evidence.

Behlol is not authorized to sell real estate in Jannah. Last I checked and was taught, no one is. The story is just an interesting tale that I heard from a few different people on a few different occasions and which poetically demonstrates the point of the article. Neither the narrators, nor those listening took it to be 100% true. Take whatever wisdom you can from it and discard the rest. The story may very well be made-up, that is a given and I thought it was obvious to all, but the 'point' of it is consistent with quran and hadith references. Think of it like a Aesop's fable.

Things will become a bit clearer inshaAllah with the third installment. I am sorry for all the confusion. Working in installments often means that many of the clarifying features are left until the final piece. Again, I apologize for any temporary misunderstandings.

on October 18, 2004 9:29 PM
AbuHameedullah said

Regarding the story at the end, I heard it as well. But in the end of the story, Behlol actually said that the sand/clay house would cost the "kingdom of the whole earth and sky". This was something the caliph could obviously not provide (he was only king of a limited amount of land), so the story was definately meant to be a lesson. Behlol was obviously not authorized to sell real estate in jannah, he was only teaching a lesson to the caliph, and the story serves as a lesson for us.

on October 18, 2004 11:33 PM
Faisal Akhtar said


As far as stories go, I agree they can be beneficial in teaching us lessons but there is a limit to what a story should and should not say. I am sure there are great lessons to be learned in Greek mythology and that everyone knows Greek myth is just "Myth". However, it still does not excuse the fact that Greek mythology talks about gods and goddesses. There are gods of love; of war etc, however there is no god except Allah subhana hu wa tala and none share in his authority over anything. To imply otherwise, even in a story for the sake of teaching a lesson, is very dangerous. I know that everyone knows the story of Behlol is a fable and not true but should we not be avoiding Shirk in all its forms?

I admit that I am not a scholar and lack religious understanding and thus am speaking as a Jaahil. Just today, I read on the side of a box of dates "A delicacy only nature could create" and I started having major problems with that statement because none creates except Allah. The paranoia I have developed toward shirk needs to be cured but I would really appreciate someone asking a scholar on this matter.

JazkAllah Khair for the article, it was beneficial.


on October 20, 2004 12:59 AM
UmmNurah said

Assalamu alaikum warahmatulaahi warabarakaatuhu

Masha'Allah very well written, may Allah reward you for your efforts and make it easy for you insha'Allah. :)

Take Care

on October 21, 2004 11:04 PM
Abdullaah said

Br. Faisal, I dont think worrying about shirk is paranoia; it is just being careful about things. nothing wrong with that.
Ramadan Kareem
and do sunnah
not bidah
LOL, I am not being derisive here.

on October 25, 2004 12:17 AM
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