What is the definition of imaan (faith) and what is the difference between it and islam?
In general context, islam means worshipping Allah by performing rituals that He orders as the rituals that are conveyed (taught) by His messengers, since they were sent for the first time until the last day.
It comprises the treatise of Prophet Noah –peace be upon him- of guidance and truth, as with the treatise of Prophet Moses –peace be upon him-, and the treatise of Isa – peace be upon him-, Abraham –peace be upon him-, the leader of hunafa (leader of the steadfast people), as what Allah has explained in His many verses which points out that all of the earlier treatises are Islam, prostrating to Allah the Almighty.
Whereas in particular context, Islam is the teaching brought by Prophet Muhammad –peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-. Since his teaching nullified all of the past treatises, people who follows him becomes muslim, and who against him is not a muslim, because he doesn’t surrender to Allah, but to his desire.
The jews were muslims at time of Prophet Moses –peace be upon him-, just like the christians were muslims at the time of Prophet Isa –peace b upon him-. But after the prophethood of Muhammad –peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-, people who disbelieves in him is no longer a muslim.
Therefore, it is not allowed for a muslim to believe that the religion of the jews and
christians today is a correct religion that will be accepted by Allah as Islam. Moreover, people who believes that there’s religion that will be accepted beside Islam is deemed an infidel and has stepped out of Islam, since Allah the Exalted declared,
The true religion with Allah is Islam. ( Chapter Ali Imran/The Family of Imran:19)
And whoever seeks a way other than this way of submission – Islam – will find that it will not be accepted from him and he will be among the losers in the Life to Come. (Chapter Ali Imran/The Family of Imran:85)
The meaning of “Islam” in these verses is Islam as what conveyed by Prophet Muhammad –peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- to his people. Allah decreed, which can be translated as,
“This day I have perfected for you your religion, and have bestowed upon you My Bounty in full measure, and have been pleased to assign for you Islam as your religion. (Chapter Al Maida/The Table Spread:3)
This is a truly evident indication that points out how others beside this ummah, after the enjoin of Prophet Muhammad –peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- commenced, are not muslims.
Therefore, Allah will never consent of their religion nor that it will benefit them in the hereafter. We are not allowed to judge it as a straight religion. It is a major mistake to consider the jews and christians as our brothers, or that their religions today are similar to the religion embraced by their predecessors.
If we said that Islam means worshiping Allah the Exalted by carrying out its teaching, both outwardly and inwardly, then this meaning also includes the submission or obedience to Him, both inwardly and outwardly, therefore, it comprises all aspects in life, such as in creeds. Deeds. Or sayings.
But if the word Islam is paired with eeman (faith), then Islam means outwardly deeds such as the sayings or bodily deed whereas faith means inwardly deeds in the form of beliefs and deeds of the heart. The difference between these two terms could be seen in Allah the Exalted’s decree,
The Bedouins say: “We believe.” (O Prophet), say to them: “You do not believe; you should rather say: ‘We have submitted'”; for belief has not yet entered your hearts. If you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not diminish anything from the reward of any of your deeds. Surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Compassionate. (Chapter al Hujurat/The Chambers:14)
And regarding the story of the Prophet Lot (Luth), Allah the Exalted decreed,
Then We evacuated therefrom all the believers. – and We did not find there any, apart from a single house of Muslims – (Chapter Adz Dzariyat/The Winnowing winds:35-36)
Thus we can see the difference between a faithful believer (mu’meen) and a believer. The house mentioned, to outer people, is the house of believes, however, inside is, there’s the wife of Lot, who had betrayed him with her infidelity. As for anyone who went out of the country safely, those were the true believers, because faith was indeed settled inside their hearts.
We could further see clearer the difference between these terms through the hadith of Umar Ibn Khattab –may Allah be pleased with him-, in which he said that Angel Gabriel once was asked the Prophet –peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- about Islam and faith.
Then he answered, Islam is you testify that no deity that has a right to be worshipped except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, perform salah (ritual prayer), pay the zakah, fast during Ramadlan, and perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to His House (the Kabah at Mecca) if you have an ability to do so. That man said, You are right. Umar then said, We were astonished, the man was the one who asked question yet he answered it by himself. The man continued asking, Tell me what iman (belief) is! The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam said, Iman (belief) means you believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the last day (The Day of Resurrection), and believe in fate (qadar) whether it is good or bad. The man replied, You are correct.
Therefore, the absolute meaning of Islam comprises all aspects of the religion, including faith. But if it is joined with faith as terms, then Islam is defined as outwardly deeds, such as sayings and acts. Whereas faith is defined with inwardly deeds, such as creeds and deeds of the hearts.
[Rewritten from The book:”Fatawa Anil Iman wa Arkaniha”, compiled by Abu Muhammad Asyraf bin Abdul Maqshud, Indonesian edition: Question and Answers of Faith and Tawheed. Pustaka At-Tibyan]