Branches of Faith Podcast Review

Branches of Faith Podcast Review – Nurulain Wolhuter

In the series of podcasts on the Branches of Faith, some leading scholars will explain the different branches of faith, as they appear in the works of the Islamic tradition. These branches include (1) branches of belief and certitude, (2) branches of spiritual works, and (3) branches of social excellence.

In this introductory session, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Bakr Ba-Dhib introduces the text, “Iqd al-Juman fi Bayan Shu’ab al-Iman” (The Necklace of Pearls in Clarifying the Branches of Faith), and its author, Imam Murtada al-Zabidi (d. 1205 AH). He also provides an historical overview of the narrations regarding these branches, explaining that his objective is to consider the way in which the scholars have accorded specific attention to these narrations since the first century AH, and the way they have gathered and collated them since the fourth century.

The book is an an abridged text dealing with the branches of faith that appear in several prophetic narrations. The author, Imam al-Zabidi, was born in Belgram in India, where he grew up and acquired his foundational Islamic knowledge. He moved to the sacred sanctuaries and thereafter to Zabid in Yemen and to Egypt, where he lived until he passed away. He was a prolific writer, authoring over one hundred books in his lifetime.

Shaykh Muhammad commences his discussion of the prophetic narrations with a narration from Abu Huraira, reported by Bukhari, in which he says the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said “faith has sixty something branches and modesty is one of the branches of faith”. He also discusses a similar narration reported by Muslim, in which Abu Huraira says the Prophet said “faith has seventy something branches, the best of it is la illaha illa Allah and the least of it is removing something from the pathway, and modesty is one of the branches of faith”. He mentions another narration as well, from Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban, in which the first two narrations are combined, such that the narration reads that faith has sixty something and seventy something branches. Ibn Hibban says the discrepancy did not arise because there was doubt about what the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, but because there was uncertainty about the number, therefore both were transmitted. Shaykh Muhammad also refers to several other narrations, which variously document the number as sixty something, seventy something, seventy-two, seventy-six and seventy-nine.

He discusses the question why the scholars were concerned with enumerating the branches of faith, and gives two answers. Firstly, they enumerate the highest one, which is by the tongue – la illaha illa Allah – and the lowest one, which is by the body – removing something from the path – to emphasise that there are many in-between, such as truthfulness and obedience to parents. Secondly, we are required to know some of the messengers and angels, but not all of them. Likewise, we do not know all the branches of faith, but we are encouraged to engage in the acts of obedience which we know.

Shaykh Muhammad’s introductory session is an insightful precursor to the series, providing the necessary detail for those seekers wishing to deepen their knowledge of the branches of faith.


Click here to listen to Episode 1 of Branches of Faith