The meaning of faith: Faith is a combination of belief, statement, and deed. It entails that the heart believes firmly in Allah and His Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and everything that comes in the revealed texts, without this belief being subject to any doubt. There should then be no hesitation in expecting that the actions of the limbs will follow this belief so that the outward behavior will be in harmony with the inner belief. Allah says:
“The believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Messenger then feel no doubt but strive with their wealth and their lives in the cause of Allah. Those, they are the truthful ones.”
This firm belief has to be with respect to something beyond the observation of man. It is this belief in the unseen that some people possess to a greater degree than others, and that we find on account of it a great disparity between people. Thus, it is best for us to have a good idea of what the unseen is, and then from there begin our discussion on the pillars of faith.
The Islamic Concept of the Unseen
The unseen is defined as everything that cannot be perceived by man’s senses, including those things that remain secret from man and are only known by Allah the All-Aware, as well as those things that man has knowledge of due to his being informed of them by Allah and His Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). There are a few matters related to the unseen that man can uncover through scientific analysis and investigation, but this is merely by way of certain means that expand the capabilities of man’s senses, like telescopes and other instruments. In actuality, these matters can only be defined as part of the unseen if taken relative to man’s circumstances at a given time or place, as we shall see.
The Importance of Belief in the Unseen
Belief in the unseen is one of the special qualities of man. Animals share with man the ability to perceive with their senses, but man alone is capable of believing in the unseen. For this reason, belief in the unseen has been an integral part of faith in all of the revealed religions. The revealed texts have come with many matters that man has no way of knowing except through revelation from the Qur’ân and Sunnah. Among these matters are those that relate to Allah, His attributes, and His actions, as well as those that relate to the existence of certain things, like the seven heavens and what they contain, the angels, the prophets, Paradise, Hell, the jinn, and other matters of faith that can only be ascertained by way of information provided by Allah and His Messenger.
Classification of the Unseen
1. Matters that are absolutely and categorically unseen: These are matters that man has no way of perceiving by way of his intellect or his senses. These matters are further broken down into two categories. The first category comprises those matters that Allah has informed man about by way of His Messengers who convey to mankind what Allah has revealed to them. An example of this is what we know about the jinn. Allah says:
“Say (O Muhammad): It has been revealed to me that a group of jinn listened (to the Qur’ân) and said: ‘Verily we have heard a wonderful recitation. It guides to the right path. We believe in it, and we shall never worship anything besides our Lord’.”
The second category comprises those matters that Allah has not informed any of His creation about, not even His prophets and angels. This is what is meant by Allah’s words:
“He possesses the keys to the unseen. None has knowledge of them except for Him.”
This includes the Knowledge of the Hour when the world will come to an end, the knowledge of when, where, and how a person is to die, and some of the names that Allah has given to Himself. Allah says:
“Verily Allah has knowledge of the Hour. He sends down the rains. He knows what is in the wombs, and no soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in which land it will die.”
Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has said: “Oh Allah, I beseech you with every name that you have; those that you have given yourself, those that you have taught to some of your Creation, and those that you have kept to yourself the knowledge thereof.”
2. Matters that are unseen in a qualitative and relative way: These are matters that are unseen with respect to some of Creation, such as historical events. These events form part of the unseen with respect to those who have no knowledge of them. For this reason, Allah said to the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) after relating to him the story of the family of `Imrân:
“This is from the news of the unseen that We reveal to you. You were not with them when they cast lots as to which of them will be the guardian of Maryam, nor were you with them when they disputed.”
3. Matters that are unseen in a qualitative but not relative way: These are matters that are undetectable by the senses due to their being physically distance or because they occur in the future or on account of some other impediment. The matter remains unseen only until that impediment is removed. We see an example of this in the following verse:
Allah says when relating the story of the death of Prophet Sulaymân (peace be upon him):
“When we decreed death for him, nothing informed them (the jinn) of his death except an earthworm that was gnawing at his stick. So when he fell down, the jinn saw clearly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have remained in their humiliating torment.”
Examples of unseen matters:
1. The soul: Allah says:
“They ask you (O, Muhammad) about the soul. Say: The soul is from the affairs of my Lord, and you have not been given except a little knowledge thereof.”
2. The signs of the Hour, both major and minor: These are the events that the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed us will occur as signs that the end of the world is close at hand.
The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed us in the hadîth of Jibrîl (Gabriel): “And you will see the barefoot, destitute herdsmen competing in erecting lofty buildings.” This is among the signs that have already occurred.
Among the major signs of the Hour are what is related in the hadîth about the Antichrist and the Beast who will both be coming near the end of time.
The Pillars of Faith:
These pillars are the foundations upon which the edifice of faith is built. They all refer to matters in which a believer must have certain faith, based on the authentic textual evidence that mentions them. Also, all the religions that Allah has revealed are in agreement about these pillars. Every Messenger called his people to believe in them. Allah says:
“Allah has ordained for you the same religion which He ordained for Nûh, and that which He has revealed to you (O Muhammad) and ordained for Ibrâhîm, Mûsâ, and `Isâ; that you should establish the religion and not become divided in it.”
The faith of a Muslim is not correct unless he has certain faith in all of the pillars. This faith must be correct and free from doubt. These pillars are: belief in Allah, belief in His angels, belief in His books, belief in His messengers, belief in the Last Day, and belief in Divine decree. All of these are matters of the unseen, so belief in them is based upon the revealed texts that have reached us regarding them.