Today I started reading, “The Book of Assistance,” by Imam Abdullah Alawi Al-Haddad. I thought I would share some thoughts on the central theme of some of the chapters. I may not be able to do it consistently but I thought I could share as much as possible with the little free time that I have. I bought the book at amazon.ca because I prefer the feel of books, however, you can read the PDF at the following website:
Thoughts about “The Book of Assistance”
Chapter 1: Certainty
What Does Certainty Mean?
Chapter 1 of The Book of Assistance is about a concept in Islam called Yaqeen (یقین), or solid conviction (certainty). Yaqeen is considered to be “the whole of faith,” and, “the soul of faith.” In other words, to have yaqeen is to have complete faith that Allah AZJ will take care of you and that He has everything under control. In this sense it is greater or stronger than iman (faith) because it is something you are fully convinced of.
The Meriam Webster dictionary defines certainty as:
- the state of being or feeling certain about something;
- something that is certain;
- a fact about which there is no doubt.
3 Types of Yaqeen in Islam
The concept of yaqeen is found in the Qur’an. The tafseer (explanation of the Qur’an) that is associated with this concept discusses three degrees of certainty. They are: Ilm al-Yaqeen, Ayn al-Yaqeen and Haqq al-Yaqeen. Each level can be described as an evolution from doubt to certainty or a journey of the soul moving towards truth.
- Ilm al-Yaqeen
Ilm means knowledge in Arabic, therefore, Ilm al-Yaqeem refers to the “knowledge of certainty,” or, an exactitude in knowing. Further to this, the word ilm has the same root word as talamoon which connects ilm specifically to science and empirical thought. At this level, yaqeen is having a firm conviction about an idea that a person has contemplated. As such, evidence from different and opposing perspectives are analyzed and a belief in an “absolute truth” is realized.
Looking at the concept from a mystical or spiritual perspective, it is when you believe in something with all your heart based on knowledge. It has been described as “the first degree of spiritual life and the last of speculative experience. Furthermore, it is connected to gnosis, which is the Greek word for knowledge and refers to mystical enlightenment or insight.
- Ayn al-Yaqeen
Ayn means eye in Arabic, as such, Ayn al-Yaqeen can be directly translated as “the vision of certainty,” and, refers to the idiom seeing is believing. The Cambridge Dictionary defines this as, believing in something you have personally seen though it “is extremely unusual or unexpected.” In this type of yaqeen a person can be certain of something because it is something the can see right in front of them. Further to this, a person will contemplate what they have seen and become more certain.
- Haqq al-Yaqeen
Haqq is the Arabic word for truth. Haqq al-Yaqeen is certainty that is gained through experience, and, a culmination of both Ilm al-Yaqeen and Ayn al-Yaqeen. This means that not only has a person gained knowledge and seen a truth before them, but there is a level of contemplation involved which brings the believer to an absolute truth. Al-Haqq is one of God’s 99 attributes. He is The Truth
The following example beautifully illustrates these concepts:
Say you meet someone and they tell you that honey is golden and sticky and sweet. You’ve never had honey before so you believe what the person tells you because they have had honey. This is Ilm al-Yaqeen. You have gotten second hand knowledge from someone who seems to be a good source. This person feels sorry for you because you have never had honey. Taking great pity on you, they buy you a jar of honey. As promised the honey is golden, and sticky. This is Ayn al-Yaqeen. You have seen honey. You now know it exists. Excited, you taste the honey. It is as sweet as the person described. This is Haqq al-Yaqeen. You have heard of honey, so you know it exists (ilm al-Yaqeen), you’ve seen it with your own eyes (ayn al-yaqeen), and, you’ve now tasted the honey (haqq al-yaqeen).
“According to Islamic aqeedah, one has the right to ‘suspect‘ within normal framework until reaching absolute belief, or yaqeen.”
Sheikh Hamza Yusuf has a video on YouTube in which he states the following,
“Certainty is not lost due to doubt. For example, if you are in prayer and you are certain of your wudu going into prayer but start to doubt it during the prayer you shouldn’t stop praying. You continue the prayer and afterwards if you are still doubtful you can redo your wudu and redo the prayer.
Yaqeen is the foundation that is not removed by doubt”
I did not come to any miraculous conclusions here but I just thought to share some notes that I took about this subject. I really encourage reading this book. It is quite a beautiful escape from the everyday hustle and bustle.
For more information you can also read the tafseer related to Surah Al Takathur (The Pilling Up) in the Qur’an.
Here are some links to the a nice tafseer that I found on this chapter: