Six Articles of Faith

Page author: Luke Burns

This page published on: 01/01/2020

Last modified: 01/01/2020

Within Islam, there are three aspects which are generally agreed upon - these are islam (submission), iman (faith), and ihsan (perfection). In this article, we're going to focus on iman and see how it is understood in relation to Islam as a religious tradition, but it's clear from this threefold division that faith by itself isn't the whole story.

Concepts

islam 

Table of Contents

The Islamic principle of Iman, or faith, is composed of six items, which Muslims are expected to believe in order to live a devout life:

  • Allah - the existence of one god, who alone created and sustains the universe
  • Angels - messengers of Allah who can communicate with humanity
  • Holy Books - the scriptures, including the Qur’an but also elements of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and the message preached by Isa (Jesus)
  • Prophets - the messengers and prophets of Allah who came before Muhammad
  • Day of Judgement - a day on which Allah will assess the character of each person and either send them to heaven or hell
  • Predestination - Allah knows everything that will happen, although the common view is that humans still have free will to make choices

References to these six articles of faith are frequently made in Islamic publications - for example, take a look at this information page from the Enfield Islamic Centre’s website and see if you can find where the articles are mentioned: http://www.enfieldislamiccentre.org.uk/about-islam

The origin of these six beliefs go back to an event recorded in the ahadith.

AHADITH

The ahadith are texts containing reported stories about Muhammad, and are frequently used to fill in details about the life of the prophet; they also provide guidance on points not directly addressed by the Qur'an.

Full article

There are two ahadith in particular which describe an encounter between Muhammad and the angel Jibril (Gabriel). During this encounter, the angel asks for an explanation of the three different aspects of Islam (islam, iman, ihsan), and this is where the six articles of faith are clearly laid out.

You can read these ahadith online using the links below:

However, in some cases, following these beliefs - even if in accordance with islam and ihsan - can lead to issues if other beliefs or practices contradict established Islamic traditions.

We can see an example of this in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK. This group follows the same articles of faith as the rest of the Islamic world, but also believes that a man called Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who lived during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, was the prophesied return of the Messiah (i.e. saviour) and Mahdi (redeemer of Islam). Whilst this idea of a redeeming figure is a generally accepted belief in mainstream Islam, this specific individual was not acknowledged by the vast majority of Muslims.

To see this division in a real world context, take a moment now to read this account written by Waqar Ahmedi, who is speaking from an Ahmadi perspective, discussing his experiences with the Muslim Council of Britain.

Now compare this to the official position of the Muslim Council of Britain (published shortly before Ahmedi's piece) and see whether there are any interesting points regarding belief, specifically the six articles of faith, and where there might be points of disagreement: https://mcb.org.uk/mcb-updates/position-statement-the-muslim-council-of-britain-and-ahmadis/

As you can see, the critical issue here is the finality of Muhammad as the last prophet, however the Ahmadis do not technically refer to their founder as a prophet - instead he is only ever called the Messiah and Mahdi.

Why do you think this distinction still does not satisfy the conditions of the MCB?

Additional reading

If you would like to read more about the relationship between islam, iman, and ihsan, you can download and read this article: Iman in Islam: faith and practice in Islamic religion.

If you would like to read more about the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, you can visit their website here: http://www.loveforallhatredfornone.org/

Likewise, the Muslim Council for Britain can be accessed here: https://mcb.org.uk/

This article discusses some of the issues faced by Ahmadis in the UK: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/religion/2018/07/we-have-turned-blind-eye-extremism-against-british-ahmadi-muslim-community

This article is part of the following books:


Introduction to Religious Studies

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