I’d written some short thoughts on pieces of scrap paper during the first few days in prison when I had nothing to read, and was thus forced to do the next best thing: write.
Preference of usage of the term ‘Iman’ over ‘Aqidah’:
This is because Iman implies something which is manifested in a physical, real-world form, while ‘Aqidah refers more to a stripped down, theoretic concept that itself requires a vehicle to bring it to life. Thus, the earlier scholars would use the term ‘Iman’ in their books as opposed to the term ”Aqidah,’ which became common after the 3rd century.
The root amn means trust, safety. So, Iman, when a person has granted safety and security to these actions in the form of the belief that can at any time be transferred into such actions, is like a reserve from which there is a basal level of withdrawal (the fara’id), as well as a certain additional reserve for whatever supererogatory withdrawals are requested. The greater the reserve present in one’s account of Iman, the more a person’s actions will manifest that reserve, because when one has amassed precious wealth, he likes to spend it and feel like he has that wealth. And as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Indeed, Allah Loves to see His blessing upon His servant manifested on him.”
The Lifeboat of Prayer:
No matter what condition or degree of difficulty or tightness one finds himself, one can always reach out to Allah. Here, your phone calls are restricted, so the people you would want to speak to are not always within reach. Those who are within reach are not always those you wish to reach out to. Allah combines the positive aspects of both groups: He is always within reach, and He you always want to reach out to Him. The highest form of reaching out involves three spheres: the heart, the tongue, and the limbs – which incidentally happen to be the three loci of Iman.
This is our Salah: an amazing, intense, comprehensive expression of or desire to communicate with Allah and reach out to Him. This is why the one who cannot fulfill such a basic expression in his relationship with Allah is deemed a kafir; simply because his lack of desire to make this expression is a clear indication that he has no Iman.
In instances other than the five basic prayers, a person is given a number of additional options to reach out to Allah: supererogatory prayers, verbal dhikr, and – if the former are impossible or difficult to undertake – remembrance in the heart. Such is it possible for one to reach out to Allah any time and any place so long as there is life in his heart.
Looking around at how these people interact with each other, it becomes clear that everyone has a natural desire and instinct to interact and form bonds with fellow human beings of one category or another. It is said by linguists that the Arabic word for human (ins) comes from the word for companionship (uns). So, it is the nature of the human being – no matter how steeped in kufr – to form bonds and establish relationships with individuals and groups.
However, not all bonds are of the same quality and strength. Some bonds are formed on the basis of temporary materialistic concepts. These relations will not last as long, as their base structure was never solid from the start. In fact, many were brought here as the result of fights with girlfriends that resulted in a call to the cops to haul this suddenly abusive boyfriend away. Much like a cheap imitation of an electronics product, such relations will provide only temporary pleasure and relief from the pains and lonlieness and isolation.
The Formula of Realities:
A hadith: “Indeed, for every matter there is a reality, and the reality of faith is that a person realizes that whatever befell him was not meant to miss him, and whatever missed him was not meant to befall him.” – ‘Sahih al-Jami”
The beauty of the realities of faith is that they interesect with one another to carve out a person who can withstand storms of pressure from his environment. The ultimate reality of Qada’ and Qadar is directly intertwined with the roads of patience, gratitude, and reliance. Sabr, shukr, and tawakkul – what a beautiful combination…
It is from this combination that the most interesting and mind-boggling people walked this Earth and sustained themselves upon – the awliya’ of Allah. The Prophets Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, ‘Isa, Muhammad (عليهم الصلاة و السلام), Abu Hanifah, ash-Shafi’i, Ahmad bin Hambal, an-Nawawi, Ibn Taymiyyah, his loyal student Ibn al-Qayyim, Sayyid Qutb, and many others – they all drank from a pure, clear spring that invigorated and refreshed them, bringing them sense, intellect, power, and influence. That spring was flowing with a perfect combination of these essential ingredients: sabr, shukr, tawakkul, and belief in Qada’ and Qadar.
These individuals and their likes did not live comfortable, glamorous lives by any stretch of the imagination. There was something else that put them at ease. A man who tortured Ahmad bin Hambal revealed to us after he repented that he would hit Ahmad so hard with his whip that if he had hit an elephant with the same force, it would have collapsed and died. Yet, Ahmad remained firm and never budged from his principles, and the insightful observer notices this consistent pattern when leafing through the pages of the lives of these heroes, and knows this to be the effect of the common formula of realities that carved out these strong believers, heroes, and knows this to be the effect of the common formula of realities that carved out these strong believers.