Increasing the Iman which Allah commands us to have, and
which is a trait of His believing worshipers, can be achieved through different means. The first aspect in increasing Iman
is through practicing ijmaal, total, observance and tafseel, detailed, observance of Allah's commands, for it is the obligation
of all mankind to believe in Allah and His Messenger, and of every community to commit itself to all that the Messenger (sallallahu
`alayhe wa sallam) has ordered. It is well known that what was obligatory at first differs from what was required after the
revelation of the whole Qur'an. Hence, unlike one who does not know about Islam, he who knows the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and
their meanings is obliged to have a detailed Iman. That is, if a man, inwardly as well as outwardly, believed in Allah and
the Messenger (pbuh) and died before he knew the laws of religion, he would die as a believer. His obligation and what he
did are different from the Iman of the one who knew the Islaimic laws and who believed in them and worked to fulfill them.
The Iman of such a person is more complete, in accordance with the obligatory and the actual deeds. Indeed, of what he performed
in accordance with the obligation is of a more complete Iman and what he did is also considered more complete.
Allah says: "… This day I have perfected your religion
for you …" (5:3). In this verse, the word "religion" refers to the legislation of commanded and forbidden actions,
but does not mean that everybody is obliged to do what the whole community is ordered to do. It is recorded both in Sahih
Muslim and Sahih al-Bukhari that the Prophet (pbuh) described women as diminished in intellect and religion. This diminution
in intellect made the witness of two women equal in that of one man; the diminution in her religion is due to the fact that
she does not pray and fast when she is menstruating. Indeed, this diminution is not a diminution of what she is commanded
to do and so she will not be punished because of it. However, if someone is commanded to pray and fast and does so, his religion
is complete compared to the one of diminished religion.
The second aspect [of increasing one's Iman] is the total and detailed acts of people. To illustrate this, let us compare
the Iman of the following three men. The first absolutely believed in what the Messenger (pbuh) came with and asked for, but
was neither concerned about what the Messenger (pbuh) commanded and prohibited nor sought the required knowledge of religion
so as to act accordingly. The second sought and obtained this knowledge and acted on it. The third man acquired knowledge,
became well acquainted with it, and believed in it but did not act accordingly. These three men shared the same obligation,
but the one who looked for detailed knowledge and acted on it had a more complete Iman than the one who knew and believed
but did not practice his knowledge. Likewise, he who believed in the message, confessed his sins, and feared punishment was
a better believer than the one who did not seek to understand what he was asked to do, and did not fear punishment; on the
contrary, he later was negligent and careless, although [overtly as well as covertly] he believed in Muhammad (pbuh) as the
Messenger of Allah.
Accordingly, the more the heart knows, believes in, and practices
[what Allah and His Messenger have ordered], the more a person's Iman increases even if that person has a general adherence
and general verbal confession.
Similarly, if someone knows Allah's Names as well as their
meanings and believes in them, his Iman is more perfect than that of someone who does not know but believes in them generally,
or someone who knows only some of them. Hence, the more one knows Allah's Names, Attributes, and Verses, the more perfect
The third aspect is that knowledge and assent are differentiated among people. That is, some people have stronger, more
enduring Iman and assent than others whose Iman is subject to doubt. Indeed, this is something experienced by each one of
us. For example, people differ in the way they see the new moon, hear the same sound, smell the same smell, and taste the
same food. So it is with the heart's knowledge and assent. People differ widely in their belief in the meanings of Allah's
Names and His Words.
The fourth aspect is that the assent which requires the work of the heart is more complete than that which does not. So,
knowledge which is accompanied by works is better than that which is not. Suppose that two men knew that Allah, the Messenger
(pbuh), Paradise, and Hell are true. The knowledge of the first man obliged him to love and fear Allah, wish for Paradise,
and avoid Hell. However, the knowledge of the second man did not lead him to do so. Thus, we can say that the knowledge of
the first is more complete than that of the second. For the strength of the result signals the strength of the cause, and
all these matters stem from knowledge. So knowledge of the "beloved" requires one to seek him; and knowledge of the "frightened"
requires one to flee from him. However, absence of the required results signals the weakness of the cause or prerequisite.
That is why the Prophet (pbuh) said: "One who is informed [indirectly] of something is not like the one who sees it for himself."
To illustrate this, when Allah told Moses that his community worshiped the calf, he did not throw the al-Alwah, Tablets; but
when he himself saw them practicing that, he did. This is not because Moses doubted Allah's words but because the man who
is told something, although he does not report the news of the teller, does not perceive the situation in the same way he
does if he sees it for himself. Since his mind is occupied with something else, other than what the informer said, he still
believes him. Certainly seeing something will give one a clearer understanding of the situation and this assent is better
than the other.
The fifth aspect is that works of the heart, such as love for Allah and His Messenger and fear and expectations from
Allah, are part of Iman, as proven by the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and the consensus of the pious ancestors. And people differ
widely in their performance of these works.
The sixth aspect is that overt works, as well as covert works, are part of Iman; and people also vary widely with respect
to these works.
The seventh aspect is the importance of holding Allah in remembrance and not being inattentive, since the latter opposes
perfection of knowledge and acceptance. 'Umar Ibn Habib, one of the Companions, said: "If we thank and praise Allah, our Iman
increases. However, if we neglect and forget Him, our Iman decreases." And Mu'adh Ibn Jabal used to say to his companions:
"Let us sit still for an hour so as to strengthen our belief." Allah says: "… Nor obey any whose heart We have permitted
to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires…" (18:28); and "And remind for indeed, reminding
profits the believers" (51:55); and "The admonition will be received by those who fear [Allah]: But it will be avoided
by those most unfortunate ones" (87:10-11). Hence, it is evident that the more a man remembers what he already knows,
and practices his knowledge, he will come to understand something he has never known, such as Allah's Names and Verses. This
is supported by the following tradition: "Whoever practices what he knows, Allah will provide him with understanding of what
he did not know." This is a matter that every believer will realize by himself.
It was recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari that the Prophet (pbuh)
said: "The one who holds Allah in remembrance as compared to one who does not, is like a living man as compared to one who
has died." Allah says: "And when they hear His Verses rehearsed, find their belief strengthened." (8:2). That is, hearing
of Allah's Verses increases their knowledge with what they did not know, it encourages their practice of the new knowledge,
and it reminds them of things they have forgotten. Allah says: "Soon will We show them Our Signs in the [furthest] regions
[of the earth], and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this (the Qur'dn] is the Truth…" (41:53).
That is, the Qur'an is the truth. Allah also says: "…Is it not enough that your Lord does witness all things?" (41:53).
So in the Qur'an Allah is witness to what He reported. Consequently, believers believed in this and then He showed them His
Signs in the furthest regions of the earth and in themselves, all of which confirms what the Qur'an says. Therefore, these
Signs indicate that the Qur'an is the Truth.
Allah says: "Do they not look at the sky above them? How
We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it? And the earth, We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains
standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth [in pairs] to be observed and commemorated by every devotee
turning [to Allah]" (50:6-8). So the created signs should be observed and commemorated in order to prevent one from blindness
and inattention. To illustrate, a man recites a Surah (e.g., al-Fatihah) many times; and each time he recites it, he gains
new knowledge, which in turn increases his acceptance and Iman as if the Surah was revealed at that moment. Thus, he believes
in these meanings and his knowledge and work increases. This is to be realized by everyone who reads the Qur'an attentively,
in contrast with the one who reads it absentmindedly. Thus, whenever one does what he is commanded to do, he becomes aware
of these commands and, as a result, he affirms his belief. Consequently, at that moment his affirmation in his heart establishes
what he was unaware of even when he is truthful.
The eighth aspect is that man may deny or disbelieve things, for he does not know that the Messenger (pbuh) has spoken
and ordered them. And if one knew that, he would neither deny nor disbelieve. For his heart strongly affirms that he [the
Prophet] told and commanded only the truth. It may happen that when one hears a verse or a hadith or thinks about it or someone
interprets its meaning for him or it becomes clear to him what is forbidden, then he will enter a state of new affirmation
and new belief. This increases his Iman since before this stage he is not considered as an unbeliever but simply as ignorant.
This happens in the case of many believers who ignorantly think that an affirmation or a deed is not required for Iman but
when they know the truth, they believe. Many people, including those who are conscious about religious matters, may have,
in their hearts, many detailed matters that may contradict what the Messenger brought forward. Yet, they do not know that
they are contradictory matters and, when they become aware of this, they reverse their opinions. Thus, anyone who introduces
an innovation or a saying [to the religion of Islam] or performs a wrong act, and he is a believer in the Messenger or is
aware of what the Messenger said and believes in them and does not reverse his beliefs, he is considered ignorant but not
an unbeliever. It follows then that every innovator with good intentions of following what the Messenger brought forward is
of this category. Thus, he who has knowledge of what the Messenger brought forward and acts accordingly, is better than he
who commits an error concerning this, and anyone who becomes aware of the truth after realizing his own error and acts on
it, he will be in a more preferable position than before.