Reflection No. 112 on Q 22:11 – Degrees of Faith

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ حَرْفٍ ۖ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ ۖ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انْقَلَبَ عَلَىٰ وَجْهِهِ

Wa-minan-naasi man-ya‘budullaaha ‘alaa Harfin, fa-in aSaabahu khayru-niTma-anna bih, wa-in aSaabathu fitnatu-ninqalaba ‘alaa wajhih

And among men is he who serves Allah (standing) on the verge, so that if good befalls him he is content, but if a trial afflicts him he makes a turnabout. Suratul Hajj (No. 22), Ayat 11

People have varying degrees of faith. Some submit completely to God, accepting whatever He has decreed for them. Some have no faith at all, always questioning God’s will with skepticism and doubt. But there is a group that is in between, who has faith when things go well but it diminishes when they are tried with difficulties and unpleasantness. Not only does it diminish, but according to this verse, they change completely, turning their faces away from God.

It is questionable if this type of weak faith is faith at all. Is it conditional faith that only believes in God if He gives what is desired and expected from Him? Is it selfish faith, where faith in God is used to attain desires of this world? As believers we need to ask ourselves and see what type of faith we have, to find out if we fall in the category described in the verse above.

Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi in Tafsir Namune narrates the story behind the revelation of this verse. During the time of the Holy Prophet (s), the dwellers of the desert would come to him and accept Islam at his hands. When they returned to their homes, if their fortunes increased, with their livestock multiplying, sons being born, crops flourishing, then they would think that faith in God had brought them good fortune. But if things didn’t go so well, and their animals died, their crops withered, etc. they would attribute it to the faith they had accepted and they would turn their backs on it. This is the faith that is described as being on the edge. People of all times could be guilty of having a similar type of faith.

Faith is only genuine faith if we submit wholly, immerse ourselves in love and trust in God, not stand on the brink and only dabble our feet in it.  Imam al-Sadiq (a) says; Know that no servant from His servants truly believes until he is pleased with what Allah does to him, and with him, from what he [the servant] likes and what he dislikes.  That truly is the meaning of faith.

Sources: Tafsir Namune, Aytaullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (ed).
Mizanul Hikmah, Muhammadi Rayshahree