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On Intercession and the Nature of Faith

  1. The allusion by the word ‘goodness’ is to Iman (testimony or attestation) – that is, belief in all that the Prophet (asws) has brought from his Lord. (Qastalani)
  2. The hadith implies that:

(a) Believers might enter Hellfire,

(b) Their stay therein would not be everlasting, and

(c) Major sins would not be a cause of everlasting stay in the Fire. (Qastalani)

In this hadith, the allusion is to the testimony. Now testimony cannot increase or decrease. Therefore, by the words: “weight of: ‘barley,’ ‘a grain of wheat,’ and ‘littlest of ants,’” the allusion can only be to deeds. Increase in good deeds leads to firmness of the testimony, not increase in testimony itself. Nonetheless, it can also be argued – as did Mahlab – that by the terms barley, littlest of ants, or a grain of wheat, the allusion is to attestation since the verbal testimony, ‘there is no deity except Allah,’ is not complete without the heart’s testimony.

People are of various grades in their belief in accordance with their knowledge or ignorance. He whose knowledge is little, will have an attestation of weight of a barley seed, while he who has knowledge of an upper level will be of stronger attestation. Consequently, the attestation of a heart cannot suffer decrease, but only gain increase. As for increase in testimonial strength with increase in knowledge, its evidence comes from the verse: “To, which of you then, did this cause increase in testimony?” (9: 24). This was revealed when Surah Tawbah was sent down demonstrating that strength of testimony can increase. As for increase in testimonial strength with increase in observation, it is supported by the verse: “Allah asked Ibrahim), ‘Do you not believe?’ He replied, ‘I do, but in order for my heart to be at rest.‘” (2: 260) – Ibn Battaal.

Another possible interpretation is that the man in question did not, after his declaration of belief, come up with any good deed, except for as much as the weight of a barley seed… et al (Manar al-Qari), and what destroys the belief is apostasy, that is, disbelief in Islam, or in Allah (swt), whether such disbelief is verbal or at the heart level, or through deeds. And, Ibn Hazm has defined ‘kufr’ as applicable to him who disputes one of the commandments of Allah (swt), after he has known its place in Islam: such disputation being either at his heart level or directly by his tongue; or he commits a deed which he knows as one of those which will remove him from Islam.

Subki has, however, removed the condition of ‘disputation.’ He says a man who denies an article that he knows is an integral part of Islam, is an unbeliever, whether he disputed or not. Ibn Taymiyyah added that denial of that over which there is consensus in the Ummah as an integral part of Islam also entails kufr. (`Ali b. Nayef, Al-Mufassal… Riddah)

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