Do Any of These Thoughts or Scenarios Entail Disbelief?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Questions (Q)/Answers (A):

I have some iman related concerns which I will pose in a few different scenarios, I would like to know if these entail disbelief.

Q1: If I am struggling accepting some beliefs but I WANT to believe and WANT to accept them, is it still disbelief? Is it possible to not be Muslim even if one WANTS to be Muslim?

A1: Assalamu alaikum,

I pray this finds you well.

No, that is not disbelief. A struggle in ‘processing’ a tenet of faith does not entail ‘rejection’ of that tenet. People get confused, and that is why they must have recourse to scholars to dispel their confusion.

Q2: Sometimes I may learn something new, whether about science or Islam, and it may startle me a bit or cause some doubts, or a sick feeling in my heart. However, if it’s part of the deen I still want to accept it, and if contradicts it, I don’t want to believe it. However, I may suffer a mini-crisis or doubts before reconciling and recovering. I feel this is pretty natural, and of course I desire to believe, but do those moments entail disbelief? I may have some apprehension or doubts in my heart even though I actually WANT to accept it, but naturally struggling a bit.

A2: See above answer. You are a true believer, alhamdulillah. Your fear regarding such moments is a powerful sign of your faith. Imam Muslim narrates in his Sahih collection that some of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came and asked him, “We find in ourselves [thoughts] that any of us would consider too enormous to even mention.” He (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “And you all have found it?” and they said yes. He said, “That is pure faith.” Imam Nawawi clarifies, “Considering it too enormous to mention is pure faith.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Shaykh Nuh Keller comments, “As long as one has fear and disgust for passing thoughts of unbelief (kufr) and the like and does not make them convictions, they do no harm.” [Sea Without Shore]

Q3: We should not depend on means and believe that they cause any effect on their own. However, sometimes we may ignorantly or forgetfully rely on means. Now if someone were to ask me ‘does this cause an effect on its own without Divine will’ of course I will answer no. But if I forgetfully or subconsciously believe in the means e.g.’this medicine really works’, is it disbelief?

A3: No, that is not disbelief. It is merely a state of ‘heedlessness’ (ghafla), which afflicts us all. Imam Ghazali argues that the entire Sacred Law can be seen as a remedy to ghafla. It’s a lifetime journey. May Allah grant us tawfiq.

Q4: As a result of learning about arguments from atheists and other religions, occasionally some such arguments might come into my head and then I correct myself ‘wait a minute that’s false not part of the deen’

A4: Atheist arguments have no substance or ‘content’ — they are completely fallacious. They cannot get out of the Law of Non-Contradiction when dealing with the origin of the cosmos, specifically circular reasoning or infinite regress.

Classical atheist arguments sometimes had ‘form’ though, i.e., they were presented in a convincing manner that could confuse someone not trained in logic. Modern ‘New’ Atheists though lack form as well; their ‘arguments’ are usually just ramblings of the incoherent, full of straw men and ad hominem attacks.

Q5:  I also worry if I get married about marriage becoming invalid, if not from my beliefs then from my spouse’s. For example, if I found out that my wife believes in evolution, depends on medicine or something else that goes against Islamic belief, does this mean the person is in a state of disbelief and the marriage is immediately over? What if the person only believed this due to a lack of Islamic knowledge, not knowing it was against Islamic belief? Sometimes one may say something wrong unknowingly and unintentionally. Would the marriage be immediately invalidated in such a case? I’m also concerned about myself – what if I get a severe doubt after marriage that shakes my iman, will the marriage be over?

A5: There are details to these issues. For example, many Muslims believe in medicine’s ability to heal, yet if asked if that ability is completely independent and autonomous versus based solely on Allah’s enablement, they would assert the latter. Even if their view is not the dominant Sunni orthodox position, it still would not entail disbelief.

Moreover, even for issues that are more problematic, most people do not realize the ‘implications’ of their views. A view whose ‘implication’ entails disbelief is very different from a view that is directly disbelief (what logicians call ‘by correspondence’).

Problems by ‘implication’ can be remedied by sound Islamic education. Our theologians, such as Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Abu Hasan al-Ash’ari, and others, were very clear that any Muslim who prays towards the qibla is still a Muslim. (Even Ibn Taymiyya asserted that before he passed away).

Stop worrying about falling into disbelief. Allah isn’t trying to trick us into mistakes. He is far too merciful than that. Rather study creed and spirituality under qualified scholars and focus on hope in Allah and having a good opinion of Him, as He says, ‘I am in the opinion of My servant.’ [Bukhari]

As believers, we not only pray that He protect our faith, but we also believe that He will do so.

And Allah knows best.