Between Belief and Worship

One of the most common misconceptions of our times is the assumption that one’s affirmation of certain beliefs suffices for deliverance. It is done at the expense of neglecting and disregarding good deeds and morals.

This misconception was initially restricted to certain sects. However, it has now crept into the whole body of believers so that it is hard to condemn it.

Wrong Perspective

Notwithstanding its popularity, we must affirm that this misconception runs counter to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah.

In almost every instance of exhorting man to believe, the Qur’an asks at the same time that he should do good deeds. It is therefore evident that both are intertwined.

It is expected of every believer to do good deeds. For example,

{The believers are only those whose hearts quake with awe when Allah is mentioned, and when His revelations are rehearsed to them, it increases their faith and they put their trust in their Lord, who establish prayer and who spend of what We have provided them. These are they who are the true believers.} (Al-Anfal 8:2-4)

Tree of Faith

The Qur’an likens iman to a fruit-bearing tree with its roots deeply embedded and branches spreading out, and bearing fruit in all seasons:

{Do you not see how Allah sets forth a parable? – a good word like a good tree, its roots firmly fixed, and its branches reaching the heavens: giving its fruit at all times by the command of its Lord.} (Ibrahim: 14:24-25)

The “good tree” in the above passage obviously stands for iman. Its roots being deeply embedded signifies the faith penetrating deeply in the human nature. In other words, it is not something superficial without roots, or something that may be uprooted easily. In sharp contrast to it is unbelief that does not have any firm basis (Ibrahim 14:26).

Faith is like a strong tree that is not brought down by storms. Moreover, it yields fruit in all seasons. Its outspread branches provide shade and refuge to everyone. The allusion here is to the blessings accruing from the pious life of a believer. Those in contact with him also derive many benefits from him.

Fruits of Iman in Real Life

These benefits are manifest in practical life and bear out his faith. It helps the believer to attain exaltation and elevation, as is declared by Allah: {To Him mount up goodly words and the righteous work exalts them} (Fatir 35:10).

We learn from this verse that goodly words ascend—it is their nature—but they need support, which is provided by good deeds. Taken in this sense, faith may be compared to a vine that blooms as it gains some support—without support it cannot grow well, if at all.

Going by the above analogy, it may be held that true faith is contingent upon total obedience to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). One’s conduct should provide abundant evidence for one’s faith. If one’s claim to faith is not substantiated by one’s emulation of the Prophet’s model, one does not possess faith. It goes without saying that one who cannot prove one’s faith by this evidence cannot be taken as a believer.

The Qur’an points out,

{But no, by your Lord, they shall not really believe until they have made you (the Prophet) the judge of what is disputed among them and then find no demur in their hearts against what you have decreed and they submit with full submission.} (An-Nisaa’ 4:65)

The verse just quoted is addressed to the hypocrites who made a show of embracing Islam, as they were overawed by its fast-growing strength. However, they maintained close ties with the Jews in and around Madinah and still enjoyed some limited political power, as the Islamic state had not yet been fully established. These hypocrites, therefore, moved their cases to Jewish courts rather than to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), in the hope that by resorting to bribery and other unfair means they would be able to influence the court and secure judgment in their favor.

The Qur’an declares that this practice of theirs is contrary to their claim to faith. For faith demands that they take the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as the supreme ruler and abide by his decision. If they fail to do so, their claim to faith cannot be accepted. The Qur’an brings home this point elsewhere thus:

{The faithful are those only who believe in Allah and His Messenger and have not doubted thereafter, and have striven hard with their riches and their lives in the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere ones.} (Al- Hujurat 49:15)