Does belief have to be absolute?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by

Answered by Shaykh Sohail Hanif, SunniPath Academy Teacher

I’ve heard people say: Belief in Islam is absolute. In your mind it should be 100% i.e. no possibility of being mistaken. If it is not 100% then you are kufr. I say: Belief is a continuum, it is impossible to ever have 100% belief, we submit because we trust rather than know.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assalamu alaykum

Thank you for asking your question.  Matters of belief are often more ‘frightening’ to enquire about considering their often ‘great’ consequences.

When it comes to belief there are two considerations; firstly what one believes and secondly the strength of one’s belief.

The first, what one believes, is the belief that must be present in one’s heart in order for one to be considered a believer and when this belief is not present, one is a disbeliever.  This is the basic belief that one must have concerning Allah and His messengers.  One must believe that Allah exists, He had no beginning, He will have no end, He is one, and that He is the creator of everything.  One must believe in the Messengers and that what they brought was completely true.  This belief must be certain; certainty meaning that if one were to be asked if one believes these facts one would say ‘Yes’.  If one’s answer would be ‘I am not sure’ then one is no longer a believer as one does not believe in these basic tenets of faith.  So the faith the returns to what one believes is not a continuum at all, there are only two options, to believe or not to believe, and not being sure is to not believe.  This is what people mean when they say that belief must be one hundred percent.

The second aspect pertaining to the strength of one’s belief is indeed a continuum.  Some people believe in Allah but this belief is not strong enough to prevent them from stealing or lying.  Others believe in Allah with such a strong belief that they are unable to do anything in their day or night except that Allah is one their minds and they are constantly aware of His looking over them.  There is clearly a difference between both groups of people yet both if asked whether they believe in the basic tenets of Islam would say, ‘Yes’.  The difference here is not in what they believe but rather in how strongly they believe it.  This second aspect of faith can, and frequently does, increase and decrease.  The strength of one’s belief increases if one adheres to the rules of the sacred law and spends one’s moments in remembering Allah and performing acts that please Him and it decreases with violating the rules of the sacred law and being heedless of Allah and performing acts that displease Him.  This fact is the link between faith and law and is the wisdom behind the many rules in the sacred law.  It is all the more important in our times to be aware of this as many are trying, in vain, to do away with the rules of the sacred law with slogans that it is ‘no longer practical’ or is ‘disadvantageous for a Muslim minority to adhere to’.  Such people might find, without realizing it, that the very faith which the sacred law was meant to protect, has departed along with the sacred law.

One last question might remain in one’s mind; what about doubts that might occur to one’s mind?  Do these render one a disbeliever?  The answer is no they do not, provided that one does not dwell on them and agree with them.  Rather the Prophet said (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him), when the Sahaba informed him that they sometimes had thoughts that they would not dare utter on their tongues, that that was faith itself.  He said this because often a person will get a thought in his head that were he to believe it he would be rendered a disbeliever.  If one, when one gets such a thought, finds it disgusting and hates it, then it is a manifestation of the strong belief in one’s heart.

And Allah knows best.

Sohail Hanif


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