The Proper Belief in Allah

The proper belief in Allah is without a doubt the first aspect on the road to self-purification and the key to real success and happiness in this life and in the Hereafter. Allah says, “He has certainly succeeded who has purified himself” (87:14). The Quranic commentators note that this is referring first to purifying oneself from shirk (associating partners with Allah) and kufr (disbelief).356 It has been narrated that ibn Abbaas explained this verse by saying, “Whoever purifies himself from shirk.”357

Indeed, it has been deviations from the correct belief in God that has misled most of humankind. In other words, for much of humankind today, it is not the case that they do not believe in God but it is the case that their belief, based on their own whims and desires or their choice to blindly follow others, is distorted and not based on any true source of knowledge concerning God. For example, many people today believe that as long as a person is a “nice” person and does not do harm to others, God would never be displeased with such a person and they will enter Paradise or achieve some kind of bliss.358

Thus, having the proper belief about God does not even enter into the equation, as long as the person is a “nice” person. Actually, a person could be a devil worshiper or a believer in one hundred idols yet all of that does not seem to matter. Although one may commonly hear such ideas expressed, all such thoughts are simply the people’s own suppositions about God. They are false and have no proof to support them.

In reality, the acceptance of this fact—that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, the first statement of the testimony of faith—is the first step in becoming a Muslim and on the road to purification of the soul, purifying one’s beliefs and one’s heart from any form of shirk or associating partners with Allah.

Associating partners with Allah is a great form of wrongdoing. In particular, one is completely wronging one’s own soul and dignity by submitting to and worshiping beings that do not deserve a human’s worship whatsoever. Allah has stated in the Quran, while quoting Luqmaan, “Indeed associating [partners with Allah] is a great wrongdoing” (31:13).

On the other end of the spectrum there is the committing of shirk, which includes all of the other beliefs prevalent in the world today. This includes the other “monotheistic” faiths of Judaism and Christianity. Those who commit shirk go to an extreme for which, in truth, there is no excuse. Their own souls and beings know that their shirk is completely repugnant and that they are following it only to satisfy some lowly desires. Hence, Allah will forgive any sin except shirk. Allah says, “Allah does not forgive that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgives whatever is less than that for whom He pleases; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed” (4:48; see also 4:116).

Those who commit shirk are deserving of an eternal damnation as it was their intention to forever remain along the path of their false beliefs. Hence, Allah has forbidden His pleasure and paradise for them, saying, “Whoever joins others with Allah, Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrongdoers be no one to help” (5:72).

Once again, therefore, without this first step of purification—the purification of one’s beliefs at least to the extent of removing all forms of shirk— nothing else will be of any avail. The heart must be purified first with tauheed before one can truly move on to anything else. If that is not done first, then all of the following steps will be in vain. Any deed that is not done purely and solely for the sake of Allah will be in vain and rejected by Allah. A hadith states that Allah has said, “I am the most self-sufficient and am in no need of having a partner. Whoever does a deed for My sake as well as for someone [or something] else will have that action rejected by Me with the one he associates [with Allah].”359

356 For the explanation of this verse and why it must be in reference to disbelief and idolatry, see al-Fakhar al-Raazi, Al-Tafseer al-Kabeer (Beirut: Daar Ihyaa al-Turaath al-Arabi, n.d.), vol. 31, pp.146-147. Cf., also, Jalaal al-Deen al-Suyooti, al-Durr fi al-Tafseer al-Mathoor (Beirut: Daar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 1990), vol. 6, p. 567-568.

357 Quoted in al-Tabari, vol. 15, p. 156.

358 This author has heard this statement from numerous people who are adherents of Christianity, Judaism and, amazingly, Islam.

359 Recorded by Muslim.