Many times the word إيمان 'iman' is casually translated into “faith” without one having a deep understanding of what it implies. This word comes from ء م ن, which literally means “safety, security, and guarantee.” Security from our own bad thoughts, from punishment because of our sins, from committing what God has told us to stay away from, from doubt, and from living a purposeless life, etc. Another word which has the same root is أمانة 'amaanah' which is a “trust.” Anytime someone shares a secret with you, asks you to hold some money, or watch over an item, your job is to keep it secure and safe from harm. And of course, that security isn't guaranteed with simple thoughts and words, but demonstrating it with your actions; hence إيمان is coupled with عمل الصالح (see below) all throughout the Qurʾān.

The concept of عمل الصالح is many times seen as 'doing a good deed' and nothing more. The root of صالح is ص ل ح, which means to “rectify, make good, and thrive.” The bare minimum of عمل الصالح would be to do anything good, but the real goal is to take whatever action you are doing and maximize its benefit to reach all those around you. The end in all is to fix that which is broken and help it thrive to its full potential. Hence, part of increasing one's إيمان has been attributed to removing an object on a road/path, because you are taking an initiative to fulfill your faith by clearing something which could be a hindrance to others on the road.

The ancient Arabs never had one definition for a word. Each word has a story to tell, a lesson to enact, and a parable to consider. Down to even having a reason it's pronounced in a certain way. If you open an Arabic dictionary, each word has close to a paragraph in English to simply define the word! Brothers and sisters, welcome to the world of Arabic! May Allāh strengthen our إيمان and make us of those who are true to لاإله إلاّ الله محمد رسول الله.

10 Responses

  1. Awliya Islam

    Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. (Al-Asr 103/1-3)

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  2. Wiz Khalifa

    Great Article and very beneficial to those who don’t know the linguistic background behind some of these words
    Criticism: However, this article seems a bit unnecessary. You basically just talked about what iman and doing good deeds meant in Arabic. It just seemed a bit unnecessary that’s all. I think a lot of people know these things already.
    Jazakallahu Khair

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  3. Abu Sumaiyah

    I agree there is no real benefit to this article. A better title would be: A Liguistic Look at Emaan.

    Gong deeper into eman does not entail liguistic understanding. it should be about how we can implement certain beliefs and actions into our lives.

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  4. Abdul Rehman

    I found this beneficial. It would be good to get more extensive article on these subjects. Maybe you brothers are masha Allah more in knowledge so it seem not helpful. i would like that Muslimmatters will be having more detailed article also in future days.

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    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Dear Abdul Rehman, Abu Sumaiyah and Wiz Khalifa

      MuslimMatters has a diverse target audience which includes Muslim as well as not-yet-Muslims. In addition, within the Muslims there are those with varying needs and understanding of the language also. Thus, our articles need to be designed keeping all of our readers in mind.

      I invite the more knowledgeable brothers to consider expounding on this subject (or any other) by writing guest posts for us. Please visit http://muslimmatters.org/submissions/.

      JazakAllahu Khairin.
      -Aly

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  5. Ahmad

    I didn’t think about the root and meaning of Eemaan till I read this, and so am one of the target audience.

    Jazakillah Khair for the concise and comprehensive piece of work.

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