Iman has different grades to the point that Abu Bakr had more Iman than the rest of the ummah combined. Iman is made of components like love, hope, fear…deeds of the heart. Can we say that Abu Bakr had more love for Allah than the rest of Ummah combined because loving Allah is the main component of Iman? Does something similar happen with idolatry? Can we say that Iblis has more idolatry than the rest of the infidels combined? Does something similar happen with the other deeds of the heart? Can we say that the Prophet had more love for Allah than the rest of the ummah combined? Can we say that the prophet had more hope in Allah than the rest of the ummah combined? Can we say that Iblis has more hatred toward Allah than all evil creatures combined? Can we say that Iblis has more hatred towards Muslims than all evil creatures combined? Is something like this even possible?
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
There are degrees in people’s religious devotion and practice. This is explained in the famous of Hadīth of Jibrīl. The hadith explains the stations of Islām, Īmān and Ihsān. Many scholars explain that the station of Īmān is higher than Islām, and Ihsān being the highest station out of them all.
The degrees of the believers is also explained in the following verse of the Qur’ān:
“Then We have given the Book for an inheritance to such of Our Servants as We have chosen: but there are among them some who wrong their own souls; some who follow a middle course; and some who are, by Allah's leave, foremost in good deeds; that is the highest Grace” (Fātir:32)
All the three groups mentioned in the above verse are Muslims, but their degree is not the same.
The first group who wrong themselves (Zālimun Linafsihi) are the ones who are careless about doing some obligatory actions, and who commit some forbidden action.
The second group who follow the middle course (Muqtasid) are the ones who fulfil their obligations and avoid things that are forbidden, but they may neglect some good deeds and do some things which are disliked.
The third group who are the foremost in doing good deeds (Sābiqun Bi’l Khayrāt) are the ones who do obligatory actions and things which are encouraged, and who avoid doing unlawful and disliked actions and avoid some actions which are permissible. (Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr Vol. 6 p.546)
In addition to the above general categories, there are also other levels. For example, the Prophets of Allāh are of the highest degree. The Prophet Muhammad is the best among all the prophets. After the Prophet, the Sahabah have the highest degree. The scholars agree that among the Sahabah the best is Abū Bakr, then Umar, then ‘Uthman, then Ali and then the rest of the ten promised paradise. There are also other ranks and degrees.
The narration you referred to above, is a statement that is authentically attributed to ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattāb who said:
“Were the īmān of Abu Bakr to be weighed on one side of a scale and the faith of the people around the whole world on the other side, the faith of Abu Bakr would outweigh the faith of all the people around the world.” (Al-Baihaqi)
We learn from such narration the status of the pious servants of Allāh and their degrees. Our focus should not be on the quantity of their devotion but rather the quality. Furthermore, learning about the pious servants of Allāh should motivate us to follow their examples.
The disbelievers are also of variant types and degrees. For example, Abū Tālib’s disbelief is not like that of Abū Jahl. While the former defended the Prophet, the latter actively opposed the Prophet and Islām. Therefore, it is possible for some disbelievers to be worse than others.
The Qur’an also mentions that certain disbelievers my display more hatred towards the Muslims than others but some may even sympathise with Muslims:
“Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly” (Ma’idah: 82)
Finally, it is not beneficial to try and simply quantify people’s Imān or Kufr. It is sufficient for us to know that people are of different degrees with regards to Imān or Kufr.
Only Allah knows best
Written by Imam Abdul-Malik Sheikh
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham