Definition of Faith
“Faith”, or “belief”, etymologically means “to justify”. (Taken from “Al Mu’jam Al Wasith”, on the word: faith). According to shari’a, the meaning of faith is ‘an attitude of justifying something by heart, declaring it by words, and performing it’s consequences through deeds.' (Taken from “Ushul Iman fi Dhau Al Kitab wa As Sunnah”, page 340)
Based on that preceding explanation, it is understood that faith is not merely the domain of one’s heart, but also must be shown through his words and deeds.
The Branches of Faith
The faith comprises many branches. It is mentioned in a hadith narrated by Abu Huraira -may Allah be pleased with him- that the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said, “Faith has seventy-odd’ – or sixty-odd – branches, the best of which is saying Lâ ilâha illallâh, and the least of which is removing something harmful from the road, and modesty (Al-Hayâ’) is a branch of faith.” (Narrated by Muslim, in hadith no. 57; An Nasa’i, no. 5005; Abu Dawud, no. 4678; classed sahih by Al Albani)
Faith is a subject to addition and subtraction
All indications come from The Qur’an and Sunnah imply that faith is subject to addition and subtraction. It will be increased together with performing pious deeds, and decreased by committing sins and wickedness.
Below are several indications that reveal how the faith can be increased and decreased.
وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدًى وَآتَاهُمْ تَقْوَاهُمْ
“As for those who were led to the Guidance, Allah increases them in their guidance….” (Muhammad: 17)
Allah also decreed:
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ
زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَعَلَى رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ
“The true believers are those who, when Allah’s name is mentioned, their hearts quake, and when His verses are recited to them their faith grows, and who put their trust in their Lord.” (Al-Anfaal/The War Booty: 2)
Also His decree:
هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ السَّكِينَةَ فِي قُلُوبِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ لِيَزْدَادُوا إِيمَانًا مَعَ إِيمَانِهِمْ
“He it is Who bestowed inner peace on the hearts of the believers so that they may grow yet more firm in their faith.” (Al-Fath/The Victory: 4)
All of those verses show that a man’s faith can be increased, as well as decreased. The more righteous deeds he performs, the stronger his faith becomes, and vice versa.
The Pillars of Faith
There are 6 pillars of faith, as mentioned in Allah’s decree:
لَيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَنْ تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَكِنَّ الْبِرَّ
مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ
“Righteousness does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or towards the west; true righteousness consists in believing in Allah and the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the Prophets,….” (Al-Baqara/The Cow: 177)
While the faith on the divine decree is mentioned in Allah’s verse:
إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ
“We have created everything in a determined measure.” (Al-Qamar/The Moon:49)
Other indication that implies the existence of these 6 pillars of faith is the saying of The Prophet- may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- , in a hadith that is well known as the “hadith of Gabriel”. In the so-called hadith, the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- was asked by the angel Gabriel about the meaning of faith. He- may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- replied, “It is to believe in Allâh, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and to believe in Al- Qadar (the divine will and decree), both the good and bad of it.” This hadith is narrated by Muslim in his work, “Sahih Muslim” .
The Different Levels of Men’s faith
The degree of men’s faith are obviously different one another. The angels’ faith are no doubt different from the men’s. The prophets’ faith are clearly different from the faith of non prophets. Also, the faith of pious men are different from the faith of the wicked, and so forth.
Generally, there are 2 levels of men’s faith: men who have “absolute faith” and men who have “faith in absolute”.
1. Believers who have absolute faith
Believers who possess the absolute faith are those who truly believe in Allah, in a perfect way, perform all types of obligations and strive to perform the voluntary deeds, abandon all kinds of sins and struggle to leave behind all detested deeds, as tough as he can bear. This is the type of faith of the chosen ones among Allah’s creatures, His special creatures as the angels and the prophets.
2. Believers who have faith in absolute
The next, lower level is the believers who have faith in absolute, meaning that they have faith but, the imperfect one. Their daily life are still mixed between obedience and wickedness. They will still embedded with “faith” as long as they do not commit the nullifiers of their faith. This is the type of the majority of the mankind, since there is none of the mere human in this world that is freed from sins and wickedness. They deserve of the heaven, as Allah wish.
Allah decreed, which could be translated as, “So vie with one another in seeking to attain your Lord’s forgiveness and a Garden whose width is as the width of the heaven and the earth, one which has been prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is Allah’s bounty which He bestows upon those whom He pleases. Allah is the Lord of abounding bounty.” (Al-Hadid/The Iron: 21)
Allah will safe the dwellers of Hell who still have faith in Him, although an atom weight
The Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said, “Will be out from the Hell, one who still possess an atom’s weight faith.” (Narrated by Al Bukhari, in hadith no. 7510 and Muslim, in hadith no. 193)
In another narration, the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- told his companions about the happenings in the Hereafter, that is after Allah took out every one who has an atom’s weight of faith, next are the turns of the prophets, the angels, and the faithful believers to give intercessions. And then, Allah The Mighty declared, “My intercession is still left.” Allah took a group of the Hell dwellers. He took a group of people from the Hell after they were burnt and became like coal. then they will be thrown into the river of Al-Hayât (life) and they will spring up just as a seed grows on the bank of a rainwater stream…” (Narrated by Al Bukhari, in hadith no. 7001)
 Based on the divisions of the deeds of the body parts, men’s deeds could be classified into five parts:
Utterances of the heart, for example: to justify, to believe
Deeds of the heart, for example: love, hate, wish, intend, sad, etc.
Utterances of the tongue, for example: declaring the two sentences of shahadah
Deeds of the tongue, for example: every thing that can only be done by the tongue, for example: reciting the Qur’an, reciting remembrances.
Deeds of the limbs, for example: standing, bowing, prostrating, etc. (Taken from “Ma’arijul Qabul”, 2:17-20, cited from a footnote in “Sharh Aqidah Wasithiyah”, by Khalil Haras, page 231)