Islam at a Glance

Fundamental Beliefs

by S.D. Islahi


We gratefully acknowledge and thank Islamic Publications Ltd. 13E Shah Alam Market, Lahore, Pakistan for permission to reproduce this excerpt which is from Islam at a Glance  by S.D. Islahi © 1992
Please also see:

Concept and Meaning
Religion and Politics
Admission of the Unity of Prophethood
Islamic Law and Worship

In principle as well as in practice the teachings of Islam vary in degree of importance. There exists a natural sequence in them. Some of the teachings are like the foundations. Others are like walls and pillars: Some of them are like roofs and others are like decorative material. For a correct understanding of Islam it is necessary that the study of its teachings is made in this very sequence. We, therefore, take up first of all such teachings of Islam which are of basic importance. In religious terminology they are called "Beliefs".

One does not need any agreement to regard beliefs as the basis of religion. While beliefs are the principles, all the rest of the religion is practice. The former has, in any case, precedence over the latter. The practices is like a tree of which the beliefs are the seeds. As the existence of a tree without its seeds is not possible, likewise practice without beliefs is not possible. Therefore, unless the beliefs exist, the rest of Islam cannot be formulated.

The Qur'an says:

"But righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Scriptures and the Prophets" (2: 177).
It leads us to the conclusion that in the absence of beliefs, piety and good deeds cannot possibly exist. These beliefs (or the articles of faith) of Islam are five in number and have been mentioned in Ayat-i-Karimah and other verses of the Qur'an.

These articles of faith enjoin:

(1) Belief in Allah,
(2) Belief in. the Day of Judgement.
(3) Belief in the Prophets,
(4) Belief in the Scriptures.
(5) Belief in the Angels.
But the traditions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) reveal that in addition to the above five beliefs there is one more article of faith and [that] is fate. For instance, it occurs in the tradition that once Gabriel asked the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) "What is faith?" He replied:
"You affirm your faith in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, in the Hereafter and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree to good and evil. (Muslim: Faith).
But it does not mean that in this context the Qur'an and the tradition are at variance. It is only a difference of precision and detail. In fact, belief in fate is a part of the belief in Allah. This is why the Qur'an has not mentioned it separately. In view of certain exigencies, it has been separately mentioned by name in the traditions. As such, belief in fate is as important as belief in the other attributes of Allah and their implications.

The above mentioned six articles of faith have given shape to the entire Islamic system. But the study of these articles of faith reveals that in degree of importance they are not equal. Some of them are more important than the others. If they are broadly divided the first three of them will be found of basic importance. The remaining three articles are actually their off-shoots or logical conclusions. If the first three articles of faith are fully understood they will make the whole proposition clear