Elevation of belief through action

We know that faith is found in varying degrees depending on the level of knowledge of the believer. And each degree of faith carries certain responsibilities and duties, and an external manifestation (behaviour) of that doctrine is necessary. As for example the belief in the hereafter requires the believer to exhort some effort on this basis, like spend in the way of Allah (swt) in the form of charity, to receive a reward in the afterlife.

Once Man sets himself on this path towards perfecting his existence, he begins a different kind of relationship with Allah (swt), in which He aids him with a personal guidance and elevates him to higher stations of faith. As for the ones that deny His blessing of faith, they are refused this special guidance, as in the verse:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّـهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ ۚ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ

Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts; and if Allah willeth misfortune for a folk there is none that can repel it, nor have they a defender beside Him.[1]

And so continues Man’s ascendance towards higher levels of existence, gradually increasing in degrees of faith, accompanied by increase in the corresponding amount of deeds and responsibilities, until the point of ‘two bows length, or nearer’ [2].

On this basis we should understand that some things which are permissible to the masses, would be forbidden to the position of Prophethood, just as the recommended deeds are mandatory for this level of belief and knowledge. A good example is the night vigil, which is recommended for the general public, yet compulsory for the Holy Prophet and his Holy Household (‘as) who possess the highest degree of awareness and closeness, and are our perfect templates to perfection:

وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَّكَ عَسَىٰ أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَّحْمُودًا

And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate.[3]

So why then is it that the Holy Prophet (saw) is able to reach such a high position through the act of night prayers, yet the average person, through the same prayer, could not? Answer: The external movements might seem identical, but the difference remains in the level of belief and knowledge. And the varying levels of belief will in turn result in varying levels of rewards, and this is evident in many of the narrations we read on fasting, pilgrimages, reading the Qur’an, etc.[4]

So, after it has become clear that good deeds strengthen correct belief and elevates it to higher existences, it should be appropriate to mention briefly the effect of wicked deeds on our belief.

According to the Qur’anic verses that touch on this subject, bad deeds play two roles in our life; first, they strengthen bad belief or doctrines, and descends this doctrine to the lowest pits of hell [5]:

إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ فِي الدَّرْكِ الْأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ وَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُمْ نَصِيرًا

Lo! the hypocrites (will be) in the lowest deep of the Fire, and thou wilt find no helper for them;[6]

It is when a person commits a sin and insists on continuing these acts, that this wicked doctrine becomes part of his existence, and eventually drags him down the path to distance from the Almighty (swt), which is the greatest loss imaginable.

________________________________________________________________

[1] 13:11

[2] 53:9 – referring to the station nobody but the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) has reached, or will ever reach.

[3] 17:79

[4] See Al Kafi, Vol.4, pg 580; Bihar Al Anwar, Vol.67, pg 283; and Mustadrak Al Wasa’il, Vol. 4, pg 250.

[5] It should be appropriate here to remind the reader that it is both the belief and the believer that have become united (known as theory of unity of the intellect (being) and the intelligible (thought) (إتحاد العاقل و المعقول), and theory of substantial motion mentioned in an earlier post) that ascend to Allah (swt) , or descend to Hell (whether it is an actual pit or not is for a different discussion).

[6] 4:145

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