First Quarter: On Acts of Worship
Book 2: Foundations of Belief
What is essential of a believer is to know who you are in connection to having faith in your Lord and His Messenger and the other crucial components of belief (or articles of faith) that serves as the foundation for a creed. Because we are Allah's (God's), and to Him is our return as we always affirm when a person dies. This statement is to remind us of the reality of our existence, not to pity the dead.
As explained in the introduction, the Ihya book's essence is the realization of faith as a knowledge that is lived and acted upon to improve our connection to Allah (God), the state of the heart in every action and inaction.
Imam Al Ghazali structured this chapter into four;
1-The Islamic creed,
2-Stages of our belief,
3-Understanding belief with certainty,
4-Exposition on the relationship between belief and submission.
On how faith is nurtured, Imam Al Ghazali explains that one has to confirm the truth that the messenger (i.e., Prophet Muhammad) has come with. The least of faith is acceptance of what has been transmitted by inculcating it, studying or knowing (in details) the creed comes next, and it is only needed to help you answer the questions of why you believe in what you believe, but it does not really help in nurturing your faith, as Imam al-Ghazali argues.
Faith is nurtured by
- Acts of being in submission to Allah (God), following the Prophet's lifestyle or models, and striving in your act of devotions.
- Dhikr that is - being in a state or doing acts that will remind you of God, which may be in the form of chanting words of praises or meditation or recitation of scripture).
- Inculcating praiseworthy traits and ridding off blameworthy traits as these are the ways to grow consciousness, making the heart stay alive and connected to witness and experience the reality of the belief as long it remains steadfast and consistent.
"We bestowed aforetime on Ibrahim his rectitude of conduct, and well were We acquainted with him. (as to his belief in the Oneness of Allah)" [Surah Al Anbiya 21:51]
Imam al Ghazali, in his autobiography (Deliverance from Error), explains, after checking all the sciences (which he mastered before the period of seclusion), that the science on the purification of the heart is the most important of all sciences that genuinely leads to Allah (God). You could be a great theologian or intellectual who understands or has proofs of faith but may not be living it; because what you profess outwardly may not be your inward reality, even though the people and the law will and must judge you by what you profess outwardly.
The indoctrination of the creed is like planting the tree. In the first few years, you will not notice anything, but it begins to sprout after that. If the foundation is not good in the first place, you will not have a good tree. So, people portray or come out with what they have built for themselves over the years. The things they have nourished their souls with; Read, Study, Their addictions, Entertainment, and all of those things people do to escape their emptiness. And many a time, the beauty of inward form dominates the physical form. Meaning, even if you are ugly physically, people see only beauty because of your inward state.
The reader can relate to someone they know or have met, who captures their heart, not because of their physical beauty but their wisdom and good character regardless of who they are or whether their beliefs contradict yours.
Allah (God) 's essential attributes as codified in the orthodox Islamic belief are the bare minimum of what is necessary for us to accept on Allah's attributes (God). These essential attributes in summary are;
- He necessarily is existent: The existence of Allah is the most obvious thing in this creation. The fact that this world is a created realm because it is temporary (changing).
- He is without beginning and has no end. The opposite of having no beginning is coming into being, and that is Inconceivable of God. To say something brought Him to the existence leads to an infinite regress.
- He is Self-subsistent. He is absolutely need free; He is not contingent
- God is Absolutely One.
- He is all-powerful, willful, knowing, living, seeing, hearing, and speaking
- He is Dissimilar to created things
The other part of Islamic orthodoxy creed is to believe in Prophethood. That he has sent Prophets & Messengers to teach, warn, and tell us about our salvation and matters of the unseen. This includes the belief in all the activities after death, the grave's punishment, resurrection details, judgment day, paradise, and hellfire; and to believe in the Angels.
May God grant us the understanding of what is necessary to know of Him and enter us into His mercy.