Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahiim
In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate
FAITH AND ACTION
By Fatima Fleur Nassery Bonnin
It is commonly believed that faith is either something that
one has or has not. This is a simplistic understanding of
faith. There are various degrees of attainment to faith. It
is therefore a productive practice for each and every person
to deliberately question their level of faith so that they
do not misguide themselves. The 'whisperer' (satan) in all
of us very much enjoys making us believe untruths about ourselves
so that we stay misguided.
There is a level of faith that corresponds with our belief
and stays only in our mind, and there is a level of faith
that is reflected in our deeds and actions. It is this second
level of faith that is true faith.
Faith in the outer level is the belief in God the Creator
of heaven and earth, and it pretty much ends there. Religion
is having faith in God, as well as practicing certain actions
connected to the faith. If religion is used only as habitual
practice, it becomes a ritual devoid of meaning. If it is
only a belief without practice, then it is an ideology and
no benefit derives from it.
A community which does not believe in the Creator, nor in
eternal life, nor in the journey of the soul and the unseen,
such a community lives a life of being preoccupied with benefitting
only from what is here in this life, since they believe it
comes to an end.
On the other hand, the community that believes that there
is a super power (given various names) that runs the universe,
and if it is pleased with people, it turns the events of life
in their favour and if it is not pleased, works against them,
and it does not believe in the return or the life in the hereafter,
such a community lives a life according to pleasing such a
power so that they benefit from the result.
But the community that believes the universe and everything
in it has a Creator and the return is to Him, and believes
that life in this world is a period that comes to an end for
the body, but the soul keeps on living and does not end in
death, such a community behaves, lives and acts in a certain
way in accordance with that belief. These are the people on
the straight path to God.
"Verily unto our Sustainer do we return" -
The quality and purity of faith is shown in your action.
If you want to know about your faith, examine your actions.
Who is behind the action?
God says in the Qur’an, addressing the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh):
"It was not you who threw the pebbles at the enemy,
when you threw, it was Allah who threw" - Qur’an
Prophet Jesus (pbuh) says:
"Split a piece of wood, I am there. Lift up the
stone, and you will find me there." - The Gospel
of Thomas, Verse 77
What does all this mean? If the action is the action of God,
then what is the role of man? How does one know the difference
between one's own action and the action of God?
God has created human beings as His reflection and His vicegerent.
“Behold thy Lord said to the angels: I will create
a vicegerent on the earth” - Qur’an 2:30
This means God works through human beings. It is His Will
that moves from will to manifestation in action through human
beings as a vessel.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an that not a leaf moves without
His Knowledge and His Will. Therefore nothing takes place
without His Will. But since the outer actor is the human being,
when the action is performed, the action takes the colour
of the man's personality (nafs). Therefore man performs
the action according to who he thinks he is. The more of the
man's attachments to certain outcomes, desires, purposes etc,
in the action, the less of God's action. The less of man's
colouring in it, the more of God's.
Saints and Awliya have no part of themselves in their actions
because their personalities (nafs) have been annihilated
in God and they have become a vessel for God's action. On
the other hand, the actions of non-believers and ego driven
people are fully coloured by themselves. The rest of the people
fit somewhere in between according to the purification of
their self or nafs.
Since we live in a physical realm of cause and effect, the
nuances of the colouring of one's action has effects and consequences.
The freer the action is from the person's colouring, the closer
to the action of God. This is how some saints and Awliya were
able to do extraordinary things because it was not their action.
It was mainly God's action.
The question to ponder upon is: how can man, having been
given such a potential, be so out of touch with it? The answer
is that man takes himself or his self as real and is pre-occupied
by it. If you observe your inner chatter and pay attention
to your intention behind the actions in day to day life, you
will see that as soon as an idea comes to you to do something,
it gets hijacked by how to do it in order to get the result
you desire, what to do to get the most out of it, how to affect
or handle the people involved and how to impress others so
they think what you want them to think, and the list goes
on. This is what is known in psychology as the fragmentation
of the personality.
The same is true also in the realm of imagination. As soon
as there is an idea, the personality rushes to it and takes
it on and drives it. If one has pleasure seeking personality,
the imaginal situation becomes imbued with pleasurable action.
If one has fear driven personality, the imaginal situation
is moved through the fear-based hypothesis. If one is a problem
solver, it takes the colour of the problem that needs solving
etc. Thus any type of personality puts its mark and colouring
on the action or idea and therefore in this world of cause
and effect it will bring the effect accordingly. This is only
on the physical dimension. On the level of soul the action
also gets swayed according to the purity of the soul.
God has put a lot of emphasis on good action (amilu saalihat)
throughout the Holy Qur’an. The reason is twofold. First, true
faith is shown in the action. Secondly, if the action was
not the criteria, then we could fool ourselves to think we
have real faith. To say it more accurately, the satan in us
would fool us and make us err.
It is important to know that with real faith comes the responsibility
of action. Therefore when you see people talk about faith
but they don't live it, you would know that it is a superficial
faith or more accurately it is a belief.
To summarise: the test of the faith is in the action. If
our faith is strong and real, our nafs would become purified
and our action will be closer to the action of God. Ultimately
the actor and the act is God.
May Allah (swt) guide us to such a path through His Grace
and grant us the station of nearness, (tagarob).
* * * * *
Since the righteous man is accepted by God
his hand in all actions is the hand of God
The hand of imperfect man is the hand of Satan
since he is in the trap of demands of deception
Rumi, Mathnawi, I:1610-12
Do not hang about the thievish nafs and its work
whatsoever is not God's work is naught, naught
Moulana Rumi, Mathnawi, II:1064