Imam al-Hajjawi (d.968H/1561CE) – author of a celebrated Hanbali fiqh text, al-Iqna‘, and its abridgement, Zad a-Mustaqni‘ – wrote the following as part of his commentary to a famous Hanbali adab-poem:

يُقَالُ مَثَلُ الْإِيمَانِ كَمَثَلِ بَلْدَةٍ لَهَا خَمْسُ حُصُونٍ، الْأَوَّلُ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ، وَالثَّانِي مِنْ فِضَّةٍ، وَالثَّالِثُ مِنْ حَدِيدٍ، وَالرَّابِعُ مِنْ آجُرٍّ، وَالْخَامِسُ مِنْ لَبِنٍ، فَمَا زَالَ أَهْلُ الْحِصْنِ مُتَعَاهِدِينَ حِصْنَ اللَّبِنِ لَا يَطْمَعُ الْعَدُوُّ فِي الثَّانِي، فَإِذَا أَهْمَلُوا ذَلِكَ طَمِعُوا فِي الْحِصْنِ الثَّانِي ثُمَّ الثَّالِثِ حَتَّى تَخْرَبَ الْحُصُونُ كُلُّهَا

فَكَذَلِكَ الْإِيمَانُ فِي خَمْسِ حُصُونٍ الْيَقِينُ، ثُمَّ الْإِخْلَاصُ، ثُمَّ أَدَاءُ الْفَرَائِضِ، ثُمَّ السُّنَنُ، ثُمَّ حِفْظُ الْآدَابِ، فَمَا دَامَ يَحْفَظُ الْآدَابَ وَيَتَعَاهَدُهَا فَالشَّيْطَانُ لَا يَطْمَعُ فِيهِ،

وَإِذَا تَرَكَ الْآدَابَ طَمِعَ الشَّيْطَانُ فِي السُّنَنِ، ثُمَّ فِي الْفَرَائِضِ، ثُمَّ فِي الْإِخْلَاصِ، ثُمَّ فِي الْيَقِينِ ‏.‏

‘It has been said: The allegory of faith (iman) is as a fortress having five walls. The first [innermost] is made of gold; the second of silver; the third of iron; the fourth, baked bricks; and the fifth [outermost wall] from mud bricks. As long as the inhabitants of the fortress are diligent in guarding the clay wall, the enemy will not set its sights on [attacking] the next wall. But if they become negligent, they will attack the next wall, then the next, till the entire fortress lays in ruins.

‘In a similar way, faith is defended by five walls: certainty (yaqin), then comes sincerity (ikhlas), next up is performance of the obligations (ada’ al-fara’id), after which are the recommended acts (sunan), and lastly guarding beautiful behaviour (adab). So long as adab is guarded and defended, the Devil will not find a way in.

‘If, however, adab is neglected, Satan makes inroads into the sunan, then the fara’id, then ikhlas, and finally yaqin itself.’1

Given that ours is an age in which the distinction between halal and haram are being ever more blurred; and given our age also challenges religious conviction and seeks to undermine the foundations of revealed faith, believers must always be on their guard against this encroaching onslaught. Crucial to all this is to ensure we are well-rooted in: knowledge of God, knowledge of Self, and knowledge of Sin.

1. Sharh Manzumat al-Adab (Saudi Arabia: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 2011), 36.

8 thoughts on “Protecting the Fortress of Faith

  1. I always find it amazing the insight that the great imams were blessed with and their ability to explain such vital matters with such beautiful clarity and simplicity. May Allah grant us even a simple understanding of such vital matters.

    1. Such were people whose hearts aspired only to God’s glory and good pleasure, so He illumined their hearts and minds, and made them beacons for others. Radia’Llahu ‘anhum ajma‘in.

  2. The Prophet (SAS) CLEARLY said there would be 73 sects in Islam. So who are these devils who are telling us their beard is bigger, that there is only ONE sect??

    1. I’m not quite sure how such a comment is relevant to this actual post, Iqbal? That aside, please do read the article linked above by Qadduiri. There you’ll discover the actual intent and context of the hadith, and the fact that you’ve only caught the hadith half way! The Prophet ﷺ went on to say that seventy-two of these 73 Muslim sects are in the Fire, except one. When asked who this one saved sect was, he ﷺ said: ma ana ‘alayhi wa ashabi – “That to which I and my Companions are upon.” (You may also read an abridgement of this topic here on this blog: Splitting into 73 Sects: Are the Majority of Muslims Deviant?)

      Your half-quotation of the hadith is deeply regrettable, though perhaps excusable. Less excusable, it would seem, is the mockery of presumably people you disagree with, describing them as devils with big beards! Why such insult? Why not first ensure you have a sound understand of the matter at hand before launching into dismissive mode? Even after that, if such people are mistaken, why not try advising them first out of sincere brotherly concern.

      We all can and do err. That in itself isn’t a cause for downfall or divine disgrace. What is a cause is when there is an absence of seeking Allah’s forgiveness; a lack of humility to correct our mistakes; and a reluctance to try and cleanse our heart of undue rancour, contempt or ill-feeling we may harbour towards other believers.

      I’m sure there must have been much to wind you up and drive you to express yourself in such a manner. I believe also that this isn’t your usual temperament or attitude towards those whom you may differ with.

      May Allah guide and protect us all, and cause us to grow in love and obedience to Him, and make us all of benefit to Islam and the Muslims and humanity at large.

      Your brother,
      Surkheel Abu Aaliyah

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Usman.

      May Allah protect our faith and conviction in Him and His revealed truths, in an age of ever-increase doubts and false desires.

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