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The Levels of Faith

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Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

It has been narrated form Nafi from Ibn Umar that he said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, "A servant's faith in Allah will never become complete until he possesses five traits: complete reliance (Al-Tawakkul) upon Allah, complete dependence (Al-Tafweedh) upon Allah (in what He has decreed), complete submission (Al-Tasleem) to all of the commandments of Allah, complete contentment (Al-Rida) with what Allah has decreed, and complete patience (Al-Sabr) due to the calamities that Allah brings forth, since verily that person who loves for the sake of Allah and hates for the sake of Allah and gives (to others) for (the sake of) Allah and holds back (giving to others) for (the sake of) Allah is one whose faith is complete." (Bihar al-Anwar)

In this narration, the Messenger of Allah has elucidated upon the various levels (that one must traverse) in order to achieve perfection in one's faith.

Some of the scholars of the discipline of Akhlaq (ethics and morality) have also mentioned roughly the same points as the stages that one must traverse on the path of Sair wa Suluk (the path that one who is trying to get spiritually close to Allah).

1. Al-Tawakkal

The first stage is to have complete reliance upon Allah. In reality, the true believer must be one who says, "Since it is through the knowledge, power, and mercy of Allah that I have been granted true faith (Eimaan) and knowledge, I will take Him alone as the one I rely upon."

2. Al-Tafweedh

The second stage is that of complete dependence upon Allah. In the previous stage, it is said that the true believer is walking on the path towards Allah which he himself has chosen. However at this stage, the true believer in reality says to Allah, "O Allah, you know better than I, and thus, I leave everything in Your hand."

The Difference between Al-Tawakkul and Al-Tafweedh

At the stage of Al-Tawakkul, a person gives precedence to everything that he feels is for his own personal benefit, and thus he sees all the limits and restrictions for his own benefit; however, in Al-Tafwidh, the person knows that he has personal benefits, but he does not see the limits; rather, he leaves them all up to Allah (to fulfill). Why does he do so? He does this because he has complete reliance upon Allah.

3. Al-Tasleem

This stage is even higher than the previously mentioned level. At this stage, personal benefit has no meaning to the person. At the stage of Al-Tawakkul, a person's personal wishes and desires were the topic of discussion; however on the level of Al-Tasleem, a person does not even consider his own personal desires.

Question: If it is truly as you say (that one who is at the level of al-Taslim does not even make known his personal needs and desires), then there is no meaning to Du'a and supplication, right?

Answer: The meaning of Al-Tasleem is not that we do not ask our needs or desires from Allah and that we do not call upon Him; rather, it means that if we have asked Him for something and our prayers have not been answered (in this world), then we must (still) submit to Him.

4. Al-Rida

The stage of Al-Rida is greater than the previously mentioned stage. It can be said that at the level of Al-Tasleem, a person still had personal wants and desires; however, he has still submitted his presence and essence and gives up his wants (to Allah). However, at the stage of Al-Rida, even within a person's own soul there is no resistance in relation to his wishes and desires, and this is the difference between Al-Tasleem and Al-Rida.

These levels mentioned form the four stages of the spiritual travel towards Allah in the hopes of attaining closeness to Him. It is very easy to explain these levels through words; however, how far is the distance of travel between each of these!

Sometimes, these levels are also known as Al-Fanaa or complete annihilation in the presence of Allah. Although it should be kept in mind that the word Al-Fanaa has two meanings of which the first is the known and rational interpretation, which is reaching to the level of Al-Rida. In this stage, a person forgets all of his own personal wishes and desires while in the spiritual presence of the Pure Essence of his Lord, and truly this is the correct meaning of the phrase Al-Fanaa which is also the agreed upon meaning in the Islamic legislations and our intelligence.

Of course, this in no way contradicts the philosophy of Du'a and requesting our needs from Allah. Thus, the person who has reached to this final stage of perfection of his/her Eimaan (true faith), meaning the stage of Al-Rida, is still in need of Du'a and supplicating to Allah.

All of these levels and stages can be achieved and reached through patience and perseverance. Principally, patience and standing firm is the root to all forms of happiness and contentment. The fifth piece of advice from the Chief of Believers Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon him) in his last will was to observe patience, which in reality acts as the guarantor to being able to perform the first four pieces of advice.

How many times have we seen that in order to reach to these levels of perfection, a person readies himself and practices these acts for the few days; however, that which is important is that he must have perseverance while treading on this path.

It has been said many times that any person who has reached to levels of Ilm (knowledge), action (upon what he has learned), and Taqwa has done so through the patience and perseverance that he displayed while on this path.

In the end of this Hadith, there is a statement made that is the same meaning of the previous sentence meaning, that is: love and hate, giving to others, and preventing from others must all be done sincerely for the sake of Allah, since all of these are signs of a person who has perfect Eimaan.

Author of this article: Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi
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