Taken together, words, action and belief constitute faith. Maghrib prayer consists of three rak[ahs and if one is not included, the prayer is not Maghrib. By the same token if any of the three elements: words, action and belief is lacking, the condition is not called faith.

The nature of faith: What is faith? – Faith may increase or decrease.

Taken together, words, action and belief constitute faith. Maghrib prayer consists of three rak[ahs and if one is not included, the prayer is not Maghrib. By the same token if any of the three elements: words, action and belief is lacking, the condition is not called faith.

The truth of these three constituents; words, action and belief, which when one is missing faith is missing, is a unique aspect of the religion advocated by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). What is meant by ‘belief’ is not merely to love what is good for all people and to be free of hatred. This is something that most people would prefer, even though they may not believe in the Creator. What is meant by ‘belief’ in this context is what the mind says and does. What the mind should say is that it believes there is no deity other than God and that Muhammad is God’s messenger, and that what Prophet Muhammad told us from his Lord is the truth. The mind’s action is the love of God, His messenger and Islam. It also includes loving what God and His messenger love and to be sincere in one’s worship of God.

The ‘words’ constituent of faith is not limited to what is generally accepted as ‘good words’, such as telling the truth, speaking kindly to one’s parents, greeting people, showing the way to anyone who is lost, etc. These are matters that everyone loves, including unbelievers who deny God’s existence. What is meant by ‘words’ are those words that are special to Muhammad’s message. The most important of these are the declaration of God’s oneness and that Muhammad is His messenger, and glorification of God.

Nor is the ‘action’ constituent limited to general ‘good actions’, such as dutifulness to one’s parents, removing harmful objects from people’s way, feeding the poor and needy, supporting those suffering injustice, being hospitable to one’s guests, and so on. Again, people love such actions regardless of whether they are believers or not. What is meant here is the sort of action that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) particularly outlined, such as prayer, zakat, fasting, the pilgrimage, etc.

Good actions, that all divine messages and human nature have outlined, such as to love what is good for all people, speaking the truth, dutifulness to parents,  feeding the poor, removing harmful objects from people’s way, etc. increase faith when they are offered for God’s sake. However, their absence does not negate faith in the same way as practising them does not mean that the person doing them is a believer. All they prove is that the one who does them enjoys an upright nature. The nature that God equipped people with remains the same, close to accepting the truth:

‘Set your face steadily towards the true faith, turning away from all that is false, in accordance with the natural disposition which God has installed into man. Nothing can change God’s creation’. (30: 30)

Faith may increase or decrease and may be removed altogether. It is increased by practising what the religion prescribes and recommends and it is decreased by committing sin. It is not removed except by disbelief and associating partners with God. He says:

‘True believers are only those whose hearts are filled with awe whenever God is mentioned, and whose faith is strengthened whenever His revelations are recited to them’. (8: 2)

‘The believers may grow yet more firm in their faith’. (74: 31)

‘It is He who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers, so that they may grow more firm in their faith’. (48: 4)

No one’s belief is confirmed after one has been unbeliever except by:

- Belief, which combines the mind’s word and acceptance of the divine message with the mind’s action, which is to love God and His messenger and to love what God and His messenger love;
- Declaration by word of mouth; and
- Physical action.

Whoever mentally accepts the faith and is able to make the verbal declaration but does not do so is not a believer. Similarly, a person who mentally accepts the faith and utters the verbal declaration and is able to do the actions that are peculiar to the Islamic faith but does not do them is also not a believer.

On the other hand, whoever wants to utter the declaration, or to do the action, but is unable to accomplish his purpose falls under what God says:

‘God does not charge a soul with more than it can bear’. (2: 286)

‘God does not burden anyone with more than He has given them’. (65: 7)

If a Muslim does something that annuls his faith, whether verbal, physical or mental, his faith is totally annulled. As we have said, words, action and belief together constitute faith and are compared to the three rak'ahs of Maghrib. If a worshipper does something that invalidates his prayer in one rak[ah the whole prayer is invalidated, even though he might have prayed the other rak[ahs well, without anything to invalidate them. This does not contradict what we have said that faith increases with offering more of what Islam requires and decreases with committing sinful actions, be they less or more serious. Likewise, the fact that all of a prayer is rendered invalid by doing one thing that is contrary to it does not contradict that it is greater and better when more of its good action is done, such as longer recitation of the Qur’an, stillness and glorification of God. It is a lesser prayer, but not invalid, if one does what is discouraged, such as looking to the sky during prayer or stretching one’s arms on the floor when entering the prostration position, like dogs do. Nothing invalidates faith except what God has stated, in the same way that nothing invalidates prayer except what God has defined.