What is Certainty? What is its significance in Islam?
15:99وَاعْبُدْ رَبَّكَ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَكَ الْيَقِينُ
15|99|And worship your Lord in order to attain certainty.
In Arabic the word for certainty is “Yaqeen”. It is used many times in the Quran, but what does it mean?
According to the Oxford dictionary :
Certainty is a position held by an individual, a Firm conviction that something is the case.
So when a person is certain about a matter, they have no doubt about it. For example, if a person is certain that their shoes are brown, then they are sure, there is no doubt present that the shoes are any other colour.
This does not mean that the shoes are actually brown however. As mentioned, certainty is a property held by the individual, so it’s like an opinion on a matter. So a person can be certain about something, but wrong. They maybe certain their shoes are brown , but in fact they are red. Perhaps they have a colour perception issue, or the lighting is such that they misjudged the colour.
If someone said the shoes are necessarily brown, this is different. Something being necessarily true is an objective truth. It is true even if no one believes it or is aware of it.
So someone can be certain of something and be wrong. Equally they can have doubt about a necessarily true notion and be wrong.
For example, if we have a person who is not very good at maths, and we give them a maths problem. They maybe certain they have the answer correct, but it can still be wrong. We can then tell them, this complex formula is necessarily true and will give you the correct answer, but that person may doubt it.
102|5|If you knew with knowledge of certainty.
102|7|Then you will see it with the eye of certainty.
1. Ilm al Yaqeen – yaqeen based on knowledge. For example, seeing smoke signifies fire even if we can’t see the fire. Similarly wet grass early in the morning indicates dew while we can’t see it ourselves.
2. Ayn al Yaqeen – yaqeen based on seeing i.e. we know something is burning when we actually see the fire.
3. Haq al Yaqeen – yaqeen based on feeling. We will be convinced there is fire when we feel its burning or warmth.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has bestowed us with two yaqeens in this world, ilm al yaqeen and haq al yaqeen. The Qur’an is ilm al yaqeen, we have no doubt about it whereas the disbelievers desire Ayn al Yaqeen, they want to see everything with their eyes before they can accept and believe in it.
6|109|They swear by God, with their most solemn oaths, that if a miracle were to come to them, they would believe in it. Say, “The miracles are only with God.” But how do you know? Even if it did come, they still would not believe.
What is the position of Certainty in Islam?
H 1534, CH 22, h 1 Abu Ali al-Ash’ari has narrated from Muhammad ibn Salim from Ahmad ibn alNadr from ‘Amr ibn Shamir from Jabir from abu ‘Abd Allah AS, who has said the following:
“Abu ‘Abd Allah AS, once said, ‘O brother from Ju’f (name of his tribe) belief is superior to Islam and certainty is superior to belief. Nothing there is dearer than certainty.”
So from this statement, we know that Islam is at the bottom, then comes Iman, then Yaqeen.
H 2873, CH 165, h 8 It is in the advice to al-Mufaddal who has said the following:
“I heard abu ‘Abd Allah AS, saying, ‘One who has doubt or Zann (better than doubt and less than certainty) and lives with one of them (such conditions), Allah turns his deeds fruitless. The authority and proof for (existence of) Allah is clear authority and proof.’”
Living without doubts and niggling issues of faith eats away at your good deeds.