The true believers contrasted with pretending believers
The Majestic Quran teaches: “They ask you about the spoils of war, say the spoils belong to Allah and the Messenger. So, fear Allah and make peace among yourselves, and obey Allah and His Messenger, if you are true believers. The believers’ hearts tremble with fear at the mention of Allah, their faith grows stronger whenever His verses are recited, and they put trust in their Lord. They perform the prayer and spend from what We have provided, they’re true believers; reserved for them are lofty ranks with their Lord, and forgiveness and a generous provision” (Al Anfal: 1-4).
These verses make it clear that a true believer must have firm belief, fear and deep trust in Him. This deep faith is shown by praying regularly, and giving generously in God’s way. The outcomes and the rewards of such behaviour are mentioned as receiving high status with the Lord, His forgiveness and abundant provisions.
The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) met Harris ibn Malik and asked him, “how did you spend your morning?” He replied, “I spent my morning as a true believer”, the Messenger (peace be upon him) cautioned him and said, be careful with what you say for everything has a reality and what is the reality of your faith?” He replied, “I have abandoned the world, my night is spent in worship, I fast during the day and sometimes it is as though I am seeing my Lord on the throne, and on other occasions I see the people of paradise strolling in their gardens and I see the people of hell screaming” (Tabarani).
The Jackal that pretended to be a Peacock
Plastic fruits and ornamental objects, and taxidermy is an art of stuffing and preparing the skins of animals with life like effects. Both the plastic fruits nor the animals are real, they are fake. Rumi’s story of the jackal that fell into a vat (bucket) of dye and claimed to be a peacock makes the contrast between the real and the fake. As the jackal crawled out of the vat its colours shimmered in the sun, he was proud of himself, he had acquired a new coat that made him look like a peacock. He proudly asked the pack of jackals to bow before him, they walked around him, sniffing at him, they replied can you dance like the peacock? Can you sing like the peacock? The jackals said how can you be a peacock. The lesson is don’t pretend to be something that you are not. We call that surreal, a dream, weird and unreal.
Comparison of real and fake faith
Real faith can do miracles and overcome giant obstacles. However, fake faith just can’t do that. Let’s look at a few examples of where real faith conquered many realities of life, the love of a homeland, love of children, relatives and wealth.
Abu Talha was a well-off disciple, one day as he prayed in his palm grove, a bird chirped and gaily sang in the branches it flew about. This distracted him from his prayer so much so that he forgot how many units he had performed, Abu Taha was confused, he was embarrassed and felt guilty that his worldly possessions had distracted him from the Divine remembrance. So, he decided to give his palm grove in charity, he went to the Messenger (peace be upon him) and told him the whole story. Upon hearing this, the Messenger (peace be upon him) advised that he should give one third of it to his relatives. This is an example of real faith coming face-to-face with a reality, the love of possessions, Abu Talha’s faith was strong enough to combat this love of possessions and he did as instructed by the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Another example comes from Suhaib Ar-Rumi, a disciple who lived in Makkah. He was about to migrate to Medina with his family and the camels were laden with his goods, his relatives tried to stop him from leaving the city. They told him, “You can leave, however you cannot take your wife, children and these goods, they will remain in Makkah”. Here again a material reality came face-to-face with the reality of faith, the reality of the love of God, could Suhaib face this new challenge? History bears witness that he walked past all these things, leaving them behind and migrated alone to Medina.
Khubaib ibn Aidy was a young disciple who was captured by the people of Makkah and badly tortured. Then when he was brought to the gallows to be executed, the executioner asked him, “Would you like to be with your family and instead of you Muhammad was to be executed”. He abruptly retorted, “I cannot bear the thought of a thorn pricking the soles of my beloved Master (peace be upon him)”. Here again, we notice the reality of faith and challenging the reality of life. However, real faith can fight all the realities and overcome hardship.
Who are the real believers?
The first few verses of Surat al Anfal give a vivid description of the real believers, there are several other passages of the Quran that also list the beautiful qualities of the true believers, for example, the first 11 verses of Surat al Muminun where Allah says “The believers will succeed; those who are humbly focused in their prayers, who turn away from meaningless activities, who give zakat. who guard their modesty, sexual purity except from their spouses or their maids, in which case they are free from blame, but whoever desires sexual gratification more than this will be a transgressor. Who honour trusts placed on them and their covenant; and regularly performs their prayers. Such people are the true heirs, they will inherit Paradise, remaining in it forever“.
In addition to this, read the list in Surat al Ahzab verse 35 that mentions 9 great virtues of true believers. “The Muslim men and women, the believing men and women, the obedient men and the women, the truthful men and women, the men and the women who are patient, the men and the women who are humble, the men and the women who give charity, the men and the women who fast, the men and the women who guard their chastity, the men and the women who remember Allah much, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward“.
So, real faith is characterised by making sacrifices, fake faith refrains from sacrifices. Real faith is tough and bears the fruits of virtues as described in the above Quranic passages. Real faith is enriching and enabling, whilst fake faith has no energy or enthusiasm. So, check yourself against these criteria, do you have these virtues?