Ruling on saying, ‘I am a believer, inshaa’ Allaah’
Fatwa No: 300694

Question

Assalaamu alaykum. My question is about saying, 'I am a believer, in shaa' Allaah.' I heard or understood from a statement that it is ok to say that because the person does not know whether his faith is accepted or not. So what I understand from that is that a person may say the two testimonies of fatith and fulfill his obligations, like the prayer and such, but he does not know what his real state is. I mean that he might be a believer in the sight of Allaah or a disbeliever because, as mentioned, he does not know whether his faith is accepted by Allaah or not. Others say that you become a disbeliever if you doubt about your faith because faith is (only valid) when accompanied by certainty and determination. So is my understanding correct; I say the two testimonies of faith, pray five times a day, fast in ramadan, and so on, but I do not know whether I am a believer in the sight of Allah or not because, as I said, the person does not know whether his faith is accepted by Allaah or not?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

The preponderant view is that istithnaa’ (saying: ‘inshaa’ Allaah’, i.e. 'if Allaah wills') when speaking about one's faith/belief) - saying, 'I am a believer, 'inshaa’ Allaah’.' - is permissible as long as the one who says it does not doubt his belief; (rather, he says it) because he does not know whether his righteous deeds have been duly performed and accepted by Allaah or not, as a way of denouncing self-praise, or due to other acceptable considerations that will be highlighted in the following lines. However, it is impermissible to make istithnaa’ about belief due to doubt because this contradicts the genuine essence of belief in the first place (i.e. firm conviction with no room for doubts). One of the due conditions for the validity of the testimony of faith (proclaiming that there is no deity worthy of worship save Allaah) is certainty that negates every doubt. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allaah and His Messenger and then doubt not...} [Quran 49:15]

Imaam Al-Aajurri  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

Among the qualities of the people of Truth, as underlined by the scholars, is making istithnaa' when speaking of belief - saying, 'I am a believer, inshaa’ Allaah - without intending any doubt pertaining to belief - may Allaah safeguard us - but because of fear of praising themselves by ascribing perfect belief to themselves. They do not know whether they are worthy of being called true believers or not. Whenever a scholar was asked, 'Are you a believer?' He would answer, 'I believe in Allaah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, Paradise, Hellfire, and so on.’ Whoever utters such a declaration of faith while truly believing in it in his heart is a believer. Making istithnaa' by saying, ‘inshaa’ Allaah’ means that he does not know whether he is worthy of the description that Allaah gave to the true believers or not. This is the practice of the Companions  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  them and those who followed them in guidance; they held that istithnaa’ is not made regarding words and belief in the heart but, rather, that it is made regarding deeds that require true belief.” [Ash-Shareeʻah: 2/656]

Majmoo’ Al-Fataawa (8/427) reads:

Istithnaa’ when speaking about belief was reported on the authority of Ibn Masʻood  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him and other scholars among the early Muslim generations, not because of doubt in what they must believe in (because such doubt entails kufr [disbelief]); rather, they made istithnaa’ out of fear that they had not fulfilled the required obligations of true belief. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {And they who give what they give while their hearts are fearful because they will be returning to their Lord.} [Quran 23:60] The Prophet, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, commented on this verse, ‘They are those who fast, perform prayer, and give charity while they fear that their Lord will not accept it from them.’ They also made istithnaa’ because they do not know whether they would die as true believers or not; they did not know what their final stage of life would be, knowing that faith benefits the person when he dies while adhering to it. They also made istithnaa' out of fear of self-praise and other similar acceptable considerations. The same applies to the person who adds the clause ‘inshaa’ Allaah’ to statements about righteous deeds; like saying, ‘I performed prayer inshaa’ Allaah,’ and the like, because he does not know if he performed these acts as due nor whether they will be accepted by Allaah or not ...

As-Saffaareeni  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

Sulayman ibn Harb used to interpret this as to mean that one performs acts of worship and does not know whether they will be accepted or not. Shaykhul-Islaam (Ibn Taymiyyah) said, 'The acceptance of the good deeds and acts of worship depends on whether they are duly performed as Allaah commanded or not. If one carries out the acts of worship as He commands, then He will accept them; however, none can be certain that his deeds and acts of worship are accepted because he cannot say for sure whether he  performed them exactly as due. Allaah, The Exalted, says (what means): {And they who give what they give while their hearts are fearful because they will be returning to their Lord.} [Quran 23:60] ʻAa’ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her asked the Prophet, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, 'Does the verse refer to the one who commits adultery, steals and drinks alcohol, and is fearful (of punishment)?' He, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, answered, 'No, daughter of Abu Bakr! Rather, it concerns a man who fasts and gives charity and prays, but he fears that those will not be accepted from him.' Imaam Ahmad said, 'I interpret the hadeeth of Ibn Masʻood about making istithnaa' when speaking of belief as such: belief consists of both words and deeds; when the person performs the acts of worship, it is feared that he has not performed them as due. Therefore, I like making istithnaa’ when speaking of belief - saying, 'I am a believer, inshaa’ Allaah.'' Al-Maymooni cited the previous statement with the following wording, 'I prefer saying, 'I am a believer, inshaa’ Allaah,' and I hope to be a believer,' because the person does not know whether he cleared himself of his liability from the obligations bound on him as due or not. Many similar statements by Imaam Ahmad to the same effect were reported, as well as statements by the righteous predecessors.''” [Lawaami’ Al-Anwaar Al-Bahiyyah: 1/436]

Shaykh Ibn ʻUthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

The ruling on istithnaa’ when speaking about belief entails a detailed account rather than a general one.

Firstly, if the istithnaa’ is based on the person’s doubts about the existence of faith in his heart in the first place, then this is definitely prohibited; rather, it constitutes kufr because belief entails certainty and doubt negates it.

Secondly, if the istithnaa’ is based on fear of self-praise and affirming genuine belief to oneself in words, actions, and conviction, then this is, in fact, obligatory so as to avoid the prohibition in this regard.

Thirdly, if the istithnaa’ is intended to be a means of seeking blessing by mentioning the will of Allaah or to clarify the reason behind his faith and conviction (as it is definitely by the will of Allaah), then this is permissible. The istithnaa’, in this case, for the purpose of clarifying the reason, does not contradict the existence of faith. There are examples of such istithnaa’ in the Quran and Sunnah; Allaah Almighty says (what means): {...You will surely enter Al-Masjid Al-Haraam, if Allaah wills, in safety, with your heads shaved and (hair) shortened, not fearing (anyone)...} [Quran 48:27] The supplication for visiting the graves reads, ‘Peace be upon you, inhabitants of the dwellings who are of the community of the believers. We, if Allaah wills, shall join you.’ Hence, it becomes clear that it is incorrect to issue a general ruling on istithnaa' when speaking of one's faith; rather, the above mentioned details should be taken into account.

Allaah Knows best.

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