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Iman (إِيمَان ʾīmān, lit. faith or belief) in Islamic theology denotes a believer's faith in the metaphysical aspects of Islam.[1][2] Its most simple definition is the belief in the six articles of faith, known as arkān al-īmān.

The term iman has been delineated in both the Quran and hadith.[3] According to the Quran, iman must be accompanied by righteous deeds and the two together are necessary for entry into Paradise.[4] In the hadith, iman in addition to Islam and ihsan form the three dimensions of the Islamic religion.

There exists a debate both within and outside Islam on the link between faith and reason in religion, and the relative importance of either. Some scholars contend that faith and reason spring from the same source and hence must be harmonious.[5]


In Arabic, iman (إِيمَان ʾīmān) pronounced [ˈʔiː.maːn] means "faith" or "recognition". It is the verbal noun of آمَنَ, "to have faith" or "to give recognition."


In a hadith, the Islamic prophet Muhammad defined iman as "a knowledge in the heart, a voicing with the tongue, and an activity with the limbs."[citation needed] Faith is confidence in a truth which is real. When people have confidence, they submit themselves to that truth. It is not sufficient just to know the truth, but the recognition of the heart should be expressed by the tongue which is the manifestation of the intelligence and at last to reflect this confidence in their activities.[6]

Hamiduddin Farahi, while explaining the meaning of imān in his exegesis, wrote:

The root of imān is iamn. It is used in various shades of meaning.[7] One of its derivatives is mu'min, which is among the noble names of Allah because He gives peace to those who seek His refuge. This word is also an ancient religious term. Hence the certitude which exists with humility, trust and all the conditions and corollaries of adherence to a view is called imān and he who professes faith in Allah, in His signs and in His directives and submits himself to Him and is pleased with all His decisions is a mu'min.[1]

The Six Articles of Faith

Faith (iman) includes six primary beliefs:[8][better source needed]

  1. Belief in the existence and oneness of God.
  2. Belief in the existence of angels.
  3. Belief in the existence of the books of which God is the author: the Quran (revealed to Muhammad), the Gospel (revealed to Jesus), the Torah (revealed to Moses), and Psalms (revealed to David).
  4. Belief in the existence of prophets: Muhammad being the last of them, Jesus the penultimate, and others sent before them [like Moses, Abraham, David, Joseph, Jacob].
  5. Belief in the existence of the Day of Judgment: in that day, humanity will be divided into two groups: that of paradise and that of hell. These groups are themselves composed of subgroups.
  6. Belief in the existence of God's predestination (qadar, 'Divine Decree') due to God's omniscience, whether it involves good or bad.

Of these, the first four are mentioned and the sixth implied in ayah 2:285 of the Quran.[3] All six appear in the first hadith of the collection Sahih Muslim, where the angel Gabriel asks to be told of iman and Muhammad replies:

That you affirm your faith in Allah, in His angels, in His Books, in His Apostles, in the Day of Judgment, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree about good and evil.[9]

Another similar narration ascribed to Muhammad is:

Ibn Abbas narrates that the Angel Jibril once asked the Prophet: "Tell me what is Islam?" The Prophet replied: "Iman is to believe in Allah, the Day of Judgment, His (Allah's) Angels, Books and Prophets and to believe in life after death; and to believe in Paradise and the Fire, and the setting up of the Mizan (scales) to weigh the deeds; and to believe in the Divine Decree, the good and the bad of it (all). Jibril then asked him: "If I do all this will I be with Iman?" The Prophet said: "When you have done all of this, you will be having Iman."[10]

Delineation in the Qur'an and Hadith

The three dimensions of Islam including iman.
The three dimensions of Islam including iman.

In the Qur'an, iman is one of the 10 qualities which cause one to be the recipient of God's mercy and reward.[11] The Qur'an states that faith can grow with the remembrance of God.[12] The Qur'an also states that nothing in this world should be dearer to a true believer than faith.[13]

Muhammad is reported to have said that he gained sweetness of faith who was pleased to accept God as Lord, Islam as religion and Muhammad as prophet.[14] He also said that no one can be a true believer unless he loves Muhammad more than his children, parents and relatives.[15][16] At another instance, he has remarked that it is this love with Allah and Muhammad after which a person can be aware of the real taste of faith.[17][18]

Amin Ahsan Islahi, a notable exegete of the Qur'an has clarified the nature of this love:

[I]t does not merely imply the passionate love one naturally has for one's wife, children, and other relatives, but it also refers to the love on the basis of intellect and principles for some viewpoint and stance. It is because of this love that a person, in every sphere of life, gives priority to this viewpoint and principle ... So much so, if the demands of his wife, children and relatives clash with the demands of this viewpoint, he adheres to it and without any hesitation turns down the desires of his wife and children and the demands of his family and clan.[19]

Islahi and Abul A'la Maududi both have inferred that the Quranic comparison of a good word and a bad word in Chapter 14[20] is actually a comparison of faith and disbelief. Thus, the Quran is effectively comparing faith to a tree whose roots are deep in the soil and branches spread in the vastness of the sky.[21]

Iman is also the subject of a supplication uttered by Muhammad to God:

O God! I have resigned myself to You and I have consigned my matter to you and have taken support from You fearing Your grandeur and moving towards You in anticipation. There is no refuge and shelter after running away from You, and if there is, it is with You. Lord! I have professed faith in your Book which You have revealed and have professed faith in the Prophet you have sent as a Messenger.[22]

The Seventy-Seven Branches of Faith

"The Seventy-Seven Branches of Faith" is a collection compiled by the Shafiʽi imam al-Bayhaqi in his work Shuʽab al-Iman. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true faith through related Quranic verses and prophetic sayings.[23][24]

This is based on the following Hadith ascribed to Muhammad:

Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said: "Iman has more than 70 branches. The most excellent among these branches is the saying of "Laa ilaaha ill Allah" (there is no God but Allah), and the smallest branch is to remove an obstacle from the wayside. And "Haya" (modesty) is an important branch of Iman."[25]

Faith and deeds

In Islam, it is essential that there exist harmony and concord between faith and deeds. Farāhī has explained this aspect in his tafsīr in the following manner:[26]

Righteous deeds are mentioned in the Qurān right after faith in the capacity of an explanation ... In the case of faith, the need for its explanation is obvious: the place of faith is the heart and the intellect. In matters of intellect and heart, not only can a person deceive others but also at times he himself can remain in deception. He considers himself to be a mu’min (believer) whereas actually he is not. For this reason, two testimonies needed to be required for it: a person's words and a person's deeds. Since words can be untrue, hence a person who only professes faith through words is not regarded as a mu’min and it was deemed essential that a person's deeds also testify to his faith.[26]

Faith and reason in Islam

The relation between reason and faith in Islam is a complex debate spanning over centuries. Ismail Raji al-Faruqi states on this subject:

As for the non-Muslims, they may contest the principles of Islam. They must know, however, that Islam does not present its principles dogmatically, for those who believe or wish to believe, exclusively. It does so rationally, critically. It comes to us armed with logical and coherent arguments, and expects our acquiescence on rational, and hence necessary, grounds. It is not legitimate for us to disagree on the relativist basis of personal taste, or that of subjective experience.[27]

See also



  1. ^ a b Farāhī, Majmū‘ah Tafāsīr, 2nd ed. (Faran Foundation, 1998), 347.
  2. ^ Frederick M. Denny, An Introduction to Islam, 3rd ed., p. 405
  3. ^ a b Quran 2:285
  4. ^ Quran 95:6
  5. ^ Islahi, Amin Ahsan. Mabadi Tadabbur-i-Hadith (tr: Fundamentals of Hadith Interpretation)[page needed]
  6. ^ Murata & Chittick 1994, pp. 36–38.
  7. ^ Quran 106:4
  8. ^ "BBC – Religions – Islam: Basic articles of faith". 19 July 2011. Archived from the original on 13 August 2018. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  9. ^ "Sahih Muslim Book 1 (Book of Faith), Hadith 1". Archived from the original on 2 March 2021.
  10. ^ Musnad Ahmad"[page needed]
  11. ^ Quran 33:35
  12. ^ Quran 8:2
  13. ^ Quran 9:24
  14. ^ Muslim, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 38, (no. 151).
  15. ^ Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 6, (no. 15)
  16. ^ Muslim, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 41, (no. 169)
  17. ^ Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 6–7, (nos. 16, 21)
  18. ^ Muslim, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 40, (no. 165)
  19. ^ Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tazkiyah-i nafs (tr: Self Purification), 119
  20. ^ Quran 14:24–26
  21. ^ Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tazkiyah-i nafs, 325.
  22. ^ Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 45, (no. 247)
  23. ^ "The 77 Branches of Faith - Shafii". Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2006.
  24. ^[bare URL]
  25. ^ Sahih Muslim
  26. ^ a b Farāhī, Majmū‘ah Tafāsīr, 2nd ed. (Faran Foundation, 1998), 349.
  27. ^ Isma'il Raji al Faruqi, Islam and Other Religions