Levels of Faith

The Prophet's Mosque in Medina

How strong is your faith? Do you think you have what it takes to be a Muhsin? Or at least a Mu’min?

Or are you merely a Muslim? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

There are three levels of faith in Islam. These three levels come to us in the famous “Hadith of Jibreel.”

“What is a Hadith?”

We’ll go over the Hadith of Jibreel soon. But for now, let’s list the three levels of faith:

  1. Islam – Submitting to Allah
  2. Imaan – Faith
  3. Ihsaan – Perfection

The Hadith of Jibreel

Our understanding of these three levels of faith come from the hadith of Jibreel. This famous hadith was related by Umar Ibn Khattab and is in found in the hadith collections of Sahih Muslim.

One day when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and his hair was exceedingly black, and there were no signs of travel on him.

No one among us recognized him. He came and sat down by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and rested his knees against his and placed the palms on his hands on his thighs.

He said: “O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.”

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Islam is to testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah, to establish regular prayer, to pay zakaah, to fast Ramadaan and to go on pilgrimage to the House if you are able to.”

He said: “You have spoke the truth.”

And we were amazed at his asking that and saying that he had spoken the truth.

Then he said: “Tell me about eemaan (faith, belief).”

He said: “It means believing in Allaah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, and believing in al-qadar (the divine will and decree), both good and bad.”

He said: “You have spoken the truth.” He said: “Tell me about ihsaan.”

He said: “It means worshipping Allaah as if you can see Him, and although you cannot see Him, He can see you.”

He said: “Tell me about the Hour.”

He said: “The one who is being asked does not know more about it than the one who is asking.”

He said: “Then tell me about its signs.”

He said: “The slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, and you will see the barefoot, naked, destitute herdsmen competing in constructing lofty buildings.”

Then he departed and I stayed for a while. Then he said to me: “O ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?”

I said: “Allaah and His Messenger know best.”

He said: “That was Jibreel, who came to teach you your religion.”

“Tell Me About Islam”

The hadith above shows what Islam is. When one performs the five pillars of Islam they are exhibiting submission to Allah. A person who has Islam is a Muslim. The two words are related and come from the same Arabic root.

By performing the five pillars, a Muslim shows through their outward actions that they have submitted themselves to Allah. They have or will:

  • Taken the Shahada
  • Make the five daily obligatory prayers or “Salaah”
  • Fast during the month of Ramadan
  • Give charity, or “Zakah
  • Make pilgrimage to the Kaaba, or Hajj, at least once in their life if they’re able to.

If a person does these things, they are Muslim regardless of the true feelings they have in their heart. So, unless they make a statement or perform actions of disbelief, we must accept them as Muslim.

“Tell Me About Imaan”

To be Muslim, one only needs to perform certain actions. But that may not necessarily make them a believer, or one of the faithful. To have true faith, a Muslim must also accept the Six Articles of Faith.

A Muslim who accepts the Articles of Faith is called a Mu’min, or one who has Imaan. While it is fairly easy to spot a Muslim, it is nearly impossible to determine if someone is a Mu’min.

We can verify if a person is a Muslim simply by observing their actions and listening to their speech. But Iman, faith, is in the heart and only Allah knows what is in there.

The Six Articles of Faith are:

  1. Belief in the Oneness of Allah, or “Tawheed.”
  2. Belief in the angels of Allah
  3. Belief in the prophets of Allah. All of the prophets
  4. Belief in the Books of Allah
  5. Belief in the Last Day and the Day of Judgement
  6. Belief in Divine Destiny, or Qadr, both good and bad.

While it is possible for someone to be a Muslim yet not be a Mu’min, it is not possible for someone to be a Mu’min yet not be a Muslim.

“Tell Me About Ihsaan”

You should be grateful and thankful to Allah if you are a Muslim, and even more so if you are a Mu’min.

And if we do get to that point, we must continue to strive for perfection for that is the highest level of faith.

Ihsaan means to worship and behave as if we can see Allah. For even though we cannot see Him, He surely sees us.

This high level of perfection is called Ihsaan, and a person who reaches it is called a Muhsin. There are two types of Ihsaan. Both of them are commendable, but one is slightly better than the other.

The levels of Ihsaan are:

  • Worshipping Allah as if we can see Him
  • Being aware that Allah sees all of our deeds and acting accordingly.

The first level of Ihsan is the best as the person who reaches this level will have the utmost sincerity during the times they are communicating with their Lord. So when a person is making their prayers, they will say each word and make each movement knowing that Allah sees not just their outward actions, but their inner thoughts as well.

Because they know that Allah sees them both inside and out, their minds will be focused on the prayers (or Hajj, or charity, or fast) and they will be in fear and awe of His Might and Majesty. They will recite Al-Fatihah (the first chapter of the Quran) with conviction, and feeling, and hope, and fear.

The Muhsin will purify his or her intentions. He or she will not give charity to be seen but to please Allah. The Muhsin knows that Allah knows their true intentions.

A Muhsin is one who reaches the perfection of Islamic faith. And just like we cannot tell if someone is a Mu’min, we cannot tell if someone is a Muhsin either.

And just like it is impossible to be a Mu’min without first being a Muslim, likewise it is impossible to be a Muhsin without first being a Mu’min.

Inshallah, let us all strive and pray that Allah raises up through the different levels of faith, from Muslim, to Mu’min, to Muhsin.

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20 Responses to Levels of Faith

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  3. Just to add:
    The things that make a “Muslim” are tangible (Prayer, fasting, hajj). The ones that elevate a Muslim to a higher state are mostly intangible – Cannot be seen or touched. hence “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”. Allah says in Quran 89:29-30: And enter among My righteous servants, And enter My Paradise.

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