The Issues Pertaining to Imaan and Refutation of the Murji’ah

The Issues Pertaining to Imaan and Refutation of the Murji’ah
Author: Imaam al-Asbahani
Source: (Trans. Abu Iyaad)


The false beliefs of the Murji’ah include:

ONE: The belief that Imaan is affirmation of the heart only (tasdiq), meaning that one need only to affirm the existence of Allaah, His Tawheed, the message of His Messengers and related matters in his heart.

Amongst the adherents of this belief are those who include the actions of the heart – which is the majority of the Murji’ah and also those who do not include the actions of the heart in the definition of Imaan – and this the view of Jahm Ibn Safwaan and his followers.

The position of the Jahmi type of Murji’ah who do not include actions of the heart in the definition of Imaan, is also described as ‘ma’rifah’ meaning acquaintance only. What is meant here that one only need to have knowledge of Allaah, His Messenger etc. to be considered a believer.

TWO: The belief that Imaan is proclamation of the tongue only, this is the view of the Karraamiyyah.

THREE: The belief that Imaan is affirmation of the heart and proclamation of the tongue only.

Some proofs for this:

The statement of Shaikh ul-Islaam in Kitab ul-Imaan: “The Murji’ah were of three views: The first was that Imaan is merely what is in the heart. Most of them believed that works of the heart contribute to Imaan, as indicated in the book of Abu al-Hassan al-Ash’ari. He also mentioned many other sects whose listing would be lengthy, although the author states that he has mentioned most of their statements. This view does not include works as part of Imaan. This was the opinion of Jahm and of those who followed him, such as as-Salihi, who, along with his followers, were great supporters of him [Jahm]. The second view states that Imaan is a mere utterance of the tongue. This position was not known prior to the opinions of the Karramiyyah sect. The third view states that Imaan is tasdiq, assent, of the heart and a saying of the tongue. This was the most well-known position among them. Indeed, this was the prevailing belief among the jurists and the worshipers of the Murji’ah.”

And from the Imaam Wakee Ibn al-Jarraah ar-Ru’usi who said: “Ahl us-Sunnah are the ones who say Imaan consists of speech and action. The Murji’ah say Imaan is speech (only)! And the Jahmiyyah say Imaan is acquaintance (ma’rifah)!” (Al-Laalikaa’ee reports in as-Sunnah (1837) and al-Aajurree in ash-Sharee’ah, no.342)

So in summary we have the following:

Based upon these false assumptions, the view of these stray sects with respect to the various issues related to Imaan can be understood. Some of the false beliefs arising from these assumptions include:


  • That Imaan is constant – it cannot increase or decrease.
  • What naturally follows from the point above, that the Imaan of all those tasked with obedience to Allaah (Angels, Prophets, and Muslims in general) is equal, their being no disparity between any of them.
  • That sins can do no harm whatsoever to Imaan, and cannot cause it to diminish.
  • That one must be certain that he is a perfect Believer, complete and perfect in his Imaan.
  • That the most vile of disbelievers and rejectors can be considered to be Believers, such as Iblis, Fir’aun and others.
  • That the hypocrites are considered perfect believers due to the mere utterance of their tongues.


It is in light of the above, that we come to know firstly, the falsehood of the beliefs of the Murji’ah and secondly that the Salafis are free from Irjaa both its beginning and its end.

Two of the important issues raised below include the increase and decrease of Imaan and also the differentiation between Islaam and Imaan, which is actually a vitally important point that needs to be understood when the context of our discussion leads on to other matters such as the futility of performing takfir on account of sins, and declaring those guilty of major sins to be disbelievers.

The Text

The Imaam and Establisher of the Sunnah Abul-Qasim al-Asbahani said in explanation of the beliefs of Ahl us-Sunnah concerning the issues of Imaan (in al-Hujjah Fee Bayaan il-Mahajjah):

“Imaan, in the legislative sense (i.e. Sharee’ah usage) is a term which signifies all of the acts of obedience, both internal and external.

The Ash’aris say that Imaan is assent, tasdiq, and that actions follow on from it, but are not from Imaan itself.

The benefit of [the existence of] this difference is that the one who is devoid of actions and commits the forbidden acts, will not have the name of ‘believer’ applied to him absolutely and it is said in this regard that he is deficient in faith, since he has neglected some parts of it. And in the view of those (i.e. the Ash’aris) the name of ‘believer’ can be applied to him absolutely because [in their view] Imaan signifies assent, tasdiq and such a person has fulfilled this.

Our evidence for this is the saying of the Exalted:

Verily the Believers are those whose hearts tremble when Allaah is mentioned… (Anfal 8:2)

Up to His statement:

…they are the Believers in truth. (Anfal 8:4)

So he described them with the real and true Imaan due the presence of these actions. And the Most High said:

And never would Allaah cause your Imaan to be lost (Baqarah 2:143)

Meaning, your prayer. So he applied the term Imaan to the prayer, yet it is an action.

What also gives evidence to this is what is reported from Abu Hurairah – may Allaah be pleased with him – that he said, “The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) said: Imaan consists of seventy odd branches” and in another narration, “sixty odd branches: the most superior of them being the declaration that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and the lowest of them being the removal of something harmful from the path. And modesty is a branch of Imaan”

[What also constitutes our evidence is that] the one who is compelled into Imaan, his entrance into Imaan is correct and acceptable. Because if Imaan was something unique to the heart [alone], his entry into Imaan would not have been correct, since that is not possible with compulsion. It can be attained from the perspective of the outward sayings and deeds. And because Imaan is actually what constitutes the deen (religion) of a Muslim, and the deen is a term that signifies acts of obedience, then likewise [is] the Imaan that is characteristic of him. And also [the fact that] the term ‘perfect in faith’ cannot be applied to the one who abandons fasting, zakaah, and who commits the obscene acts.

Issue: [Increase and Decrease in Imaan]

And it is possible for Imaan to increase and decrease. Its increase is by performance of the acts of obedience and its decrease is by abandoning them and doing acts of disobedience. This is in opposition to the one who says that Imaan is [merely] the knowledge of the heart and its assent and that these two are indicatives, and that increase and decrease cannot take place in the case of indicative matters.

And it is reported from Ibn Abbaas, Abu Hurairah and Abu ad-Dardaa – may Allaah be pleased with them, “Imaan increases and decreases”. So when he neglects some of it and performs the forbidden acts then he has neglected some of the actions of Imaan. Hence, it is permitted that Imaan be described with increase and decrease.

Issue: [Is the Imaan of the Mukallifeen Equal?]

And the Imaan of all those tasked (with obedience) from amongst the Angels, Prophets – and those besides them such as the Martyrs and Truthful ones – is not equal. Rather they excel one another to the extent of their level in performing acts of obedience. This is in opposition to the one who says that Imaan is [merely] the assent, tasdiq, of the heart and that superiority only takes place with respect to knowledge and the variety in its evidences! And we have already mentioned that acts of obedience are from Imaan. It is also known that people excel each other in the acts of obedience. So some of them increase over others, hence it is necessary that superiority be acquired with respect to it.

Issue: [The Difference Between Islaam and Imaan]

And Imaan and Islaam are two terms referring to two [distinct] meanings. Islaam is a term that refers to the two Shahadahs (testimonies of belief) and assent, tasdiq, of the heart. And Imaan is a term that signifies all of the acts of obedience. This is in opposition to the one who says that Islaam and Imaan are the same.

And the evidence for the difference between them is the statement of the Most High:

Verily the Muslims, men and women, the Believers men and women… (Ahzab 33:36)

So he placed Imaan after Islaam (next to it) and something is not placed straight after itself. So it is known from this that Imaan has a meaning which extends that of Islaam.

What gives evidence to this is the hadith of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab – may Allaah be pleased with him – and the saying of Jibreel (alaihis-salaam): “Tell me about Islaam” … and then he said: “Tell me about Imaan”. So this gives evidence to the separation (in meaning) between the two.

What has been reported from ‘Amir bin Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas, from Sa’d from the Prophet (sallallaah alaihi wasallam) also gives evidence to this. The Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) gave something to a group of men but left one of them out. So Sa’d said to him, “You gave to them yet you left him out? By Allaah I consider him to be a Believer!” The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) said, “Or a Muslim?!”

So he differentiated between Islaam and Imaan.

And we already mentioned that Imaan is a term that signifies all of the acts of obedience and that Islaam is a term that signifies the two testimonies along with the ease of the heart (i.e. its acceptance). So when it is like this then it is obligatory to differentiate between them.

Issue: [Excepting oneself from having perfect Imaan, Istithnaa]

And is disliked for the one who has acquired Imaan that he should say, ‘I am a believer in truth!’ or ‘I am a [true] believer in the sight of Allaah’. Rather he should say, ‘I hope I am a beliver’ or ‘I am a believer if Allaah wills’ or ‘I believe in Allaah, His Angels, Books, and His Messengers’. And none of this is from the angle of doubtfulness in his Imaan, but it is from the aspect that he cannot be absolutely sure that he has fulfilled every single thing with which he has been order and has left everything that he has been forbidden from. This is in opposition to the one who says that when a person knows from himself that he is a believer, it is permissible for him to say ‘I am a believer in truth!’

And the evidence for the impossibility of making this absolute claim [of perfect Imaan] and the necessity of making exception (istithnaa) is the consensus, ijmaa’, of the Salaf.

It was said to Ibn Mas’ud – may Allaah be pleased with him: “This person claims that he is a Believer? He replied, “Ask him whether he is in Paradise or in Hellfire?” So they asked him and he replied, “Allaah knows best”. So Abdullaah [Ibn Mas’ud] said to him, “If only you had entrusted the affair of this life as you have entrusted the affair of the Hereafter [to Allaah]!

And because it has already been established that Imaan is characterised by all the acts of obedience and the abandonment of the prohibited matters, then in that situation a person cannot be resolute that he as fulfilled all that is binding upon him and has avoided all that has been prohibited to him. Therefore, it is no possible for him to know that he is a Believer who is deserving of reward.





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