The Essance of Eman

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

In order to realize the desired meaning according to its context of any word mentioned in the Quran or Sunnah, one must  get its meaning in the Arabic language. It is necessary to  differentiate the uses of this word in various Islamic texts. It would be incorrect simply to use a meaning of any word, relating to the Syari’ah (Islamic law) arbitrarily to any time frame, but must be used it according to the time of revelation.

Eman” is one of these words that must be interpreted exactly the way Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala and His Messenger had intended. Hence, explaining the words in according to their meanings context at the time of their revelation would accord its desired meanings consistence with the Islamic terminology.

Meaning of Eman

The word “Eman,” has two basic meanings: Faith and acceptance, and adherence and implementation.

1- Faith and acceptance

The first meaning is supported by numerous evidences. Prophet Ibrahim Salla Allahu Alaihi Wasallam,  asked Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala if he could witness how He could brings the dead to life. Allah said in the Noble Quran:

He (Allah) said (to Ibrahim), “Do you not believe?” He (Ibrahim) said, “Yes, but to be stronger in faith.” [Al-Baqarah, 2:260].

Allah also mentioned the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph), Salla Allahu Alaihi Wasallam, and his brothers. They came back at night crying to their father, carrying Yusuf’s bloody shirt, saying:

“But you will never have Eman (believe) in us even when we speak the truth.” [Yusuf, 12:17].

This means, “You will never believe us and accept our claim that Yusuf was eaten by a wolf.”

Furthermore, Allah said that Pharaoh said when he was facing a imminent death by drowning:

“I believe that none has the right to be worshipped but He, in whom the Children of Israel have believed, and I am one of the Muslims (those who submit to Allah’s Will).”[Yunus, 10:90].

This means “I accept and affirm…”

I believe, or accept, is followed by a preposition that completes the meaning by explaining what the belief was in. When one says “I believe in Allah,” this means that he believes in His Names and Attributes and that he submits to His will. Likewise, when one says, “I believe in the Messenger, who calls unto Allah,” this means “I believe in the revelation sent from Allah to His Messenger.” An obvious example to the above is:

But you will never believe us, which are “you will never accept what we say.”

Another example is:

But none believed in Moses except the offspring of his people.[Yunus, 10:83].

This ayat means that a few young Israelites believed in what Moses told them; that they will escape from Egypt, become victorious, and that Pharaoh will die.

The above ayat attest to the first use of the word “Eman.” This form of speech means that Eman entails believing in what Allah and His Messenger have said. The Prophet explained The Cornerstones of Eman when he said in an authentic Hadith that Eman is:

“To believe in Allah, His Angles, His Books, His Messengers and the Last Day. And also to believe in the good or bad that Al-Qadar (Predestination) brings from Allah.” [Muslim].

2 – Adherence and Implementation.

The second common use for the word “Eman” in Islamic terminology is adherence and implementation. Implementation means to perform the group of actions such that whoever performs them is called Mu’min (believer). Also, it means to prohibit the group of actions such that whoever abandons them  is called a Mu’min.

This meaning is evident when one examines the answer the Quran provided for a question that was raised by some Muslims, and that was, “What about our brethren who died and never prayed in the direction of the Ka’abah (in Makkah)?” This question was raised after the Qiblah (direction of the prayer) was changed towards the Ka’abah from Jerusalem. Allah said, what,

And We made the Qiblah which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels (disobey him). Indeed it was great (heavy) except for those whom Allah guided. And Allah would never make your Eman to be lost. Truly Allah is full of Kindness, the most Merciful towards mankind.[Al-Baqarah, 2:143].

The scholars stated that, “your Eman” above means, “your prayer.” This means that Allah would never invalidate your pervious prayers made towards Jerusalem. He was the One who had commanded you to pray towards Jerusalem in the first place. Also, the Prophet Salla Allahu Alaihi Wasallam said:,

“Eman is sixty and some parts, the highest of which is La Ilah Illa Allah (there is none worthy of worship except Allah), and the lowest of which is removing harm from the road.” [Abu Dawud, An-Nasaie & Ibn Majah].

The Messenger has included here all actions of Islam in the meaning of Eman, from Shahadah (proclamation of faith) to the least of actions, that is, to remove harm from people’s way.

Also, many verses of the Quran joined the two above meanings when describing the believers. For example, Allah said, what means:

Innama (only) those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Those are the truthful. [Al-Hujurat, 49:15].

This ayat describes Eman with both meanings: faith and implementation. Eman is believing, without doubt, in Allah and His Messenger, giving charity and performing Jihad in the cause of Allah. Jihad is the highest graded action of Islam, and whatever is less than Jihad is no doubt included in Eman. Whoever performs Jihad in the cause of Allah will never be one who does not pray, pay the Zakat or perform Hajj. Allah described the believers in the ayat above as:

“Those are the truthful”

This means that some will falsely claim to be believers, as the ayat clearly implies when using “Innama” (which means “only”), or that they may have a different meaning for Eman, thinking that Eman is only the affirmation of belief with the tongue. Using “Innama” means that whoever is not like what the ayat described as Mu’min is not a true believer.

The following ayat is similar to the one above. Allah SWT said, which means:

Innama (only) the believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts, and when His Verses (this Quran) are recited unto them, they (the Verses) increase their faith; and they put their trust in their Lord (Alone). Who offer the prayer perfectly and spend out of that We have provided them. It is they who are the believers in truth. For them are grades of dignity with their Lord, and forgiveness and a generous provision (Paradise). [Al-Anfal, 8:2-4].

The fear of Allah, the increase of Eman in the heart and total dependence on Him are all feelings and actions performed by the heart. This means that Eman is not only the affirmation and acceptance of the heart, but also actions and feelings taken by the heart. After this comes praying and paying the Zakat, two actions that are parts of Eman.

The verse then continues:

It is they who are the believers in truth. For them are grades of dignity with their Lord, and forgiveness and a generous provision (Paradise).

 This ayat also used “Innama (only),”

Innama (only) the believers are…

Afterwards, Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala continued:

It is those who are the believers in truth.

This ayat also implies that there is false Eman. This false Eman is either an empty proclamation of faith, or a belief in myths and falsehood. From all of the above, we conclude that Eman, as defined in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger Salla Allahu Alayhi Wasallam has two meanings. First, accepting and affirming the revelation from Allah and what His Messenger has said. Second, adhering by the Commandments that Allah had ordained on those who accept the revelation.salams



The Dar of Islamic Heritage, Volume 12 Issue 2 Zulhijjah 1424 (February 2004)



About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

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