Is Faith Created

Question: Is Iman something that Allah created, or has it always existed?


Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Dear questioner,

Thank you for your important question.

This is a non-fundamental discussion and not something that defines whether or not someone is a Muslim.

The position of the Maturidis is that Allah has eight essential attributes and his omnipotence, will, and existentialism (takwin). Omnipotence makes existentialism possible, His will chooses, while His attribute of existentialism actually brings something into existence. It may be described with different terms based upon what it relates to; it may be called ‘giving life’ if it connects to that, ‘taking life’ if it connects to that, ‘providing,’ ‘withholding,’ etc. These latter names are mere descriptions of the attribute existentialism. (al-Nibras, Farhari)

Based on this, if we look at faith as Allah’s giving success to a particular slave to believe in Him, then His giving success was never created. It is part of His attribute of existentialism. (Nadhm al-Fara’id, Zadah)

If we compare this with the Asha’ari analysis of Allah’s attributes, we see that it is not really that different. Allah’s guiding a slave is the created effect/connection of Allah’s uncreated attributes of will and omnipotence. (Hashiyat al-Bajuri ‘ala Jawharat al-tawhid) That is to say that Allah’s omnipotence and will were never created; their potential to be used for guiding and granting faith in the heart of a particular slave was never created, but the actual connection between the slave and the potential of guiding him is created. Farhari even mentions a position ascribed to Imam Maturidi that the relationship between Allah’s attribute of existentialism (granting faith in this case) is not beginningless eternal. (al-Nibras, Farhari)

Both schools are basically saying the same time in slightly different ways. Allah doesn’t change; Allah has beginningless eternal attributes, Allah creates our actions, and Allah has graced us with faith.

When we look at our actions, such as believing in Him, we can label them as uncreated because Allah’s potential of creating them never “began” and is not limited to time. Still, we can also label them as created from the point of view of our time-locked acquisition of these deeds (kasb), and they’re occurring in time.

Because this is not an essential point of creed and (arguably) largely semantic, we shouldn’t linger on it too much.

Rather, we should thank Allah for guiding us to believe in Him before we ever were. As one poet put it:

I loved Her before She had ever shown Herself.
My heart called Her from the Mount of Sinai.
She loved me before I ever was.
O you who have lost all sense of self, understand what I am saying!

(The feminine pronoun is referring to the Divine Presence.)

Abu Yazid al-Bustami said, ‘At the beginning of my journey, I completely misunderstood four things. I thought I remembered Him, that I was beholding Him, that I loved Him, and that I was seeking Him. By the end, I realized that His remembering Me preceded by remembering Him, that His recognizing Me preceded my recognizing Him, that His love was older than my love, and that it was His seeking me that made me seek Him.’ (Hilyat al-Awliya’, Abu Nu’aym al-Isfahani)

We should not busy ourselves with trying to explain the minutiae of how Allah works. Rather, we should cultivate our faith by expanding how we can express it, thank Him for the success we have and ask Him for more.

I pray this helps.

[Ustadh] Farid

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years, he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.