Five Fortresses of Faith

Al-Hajawi, one of the Hanbali scholars, says that it is said that the likeness of faith is a city with five fortresses. The first fortress is of gold, the second is of silver, the third is of iron, fourth is of baked bricks, and the fifth is of unbaked bricks. So long as the people of the city continue to defend at the fortress of unbaked bricks the enemy will not crave for the next fortress. So long as the people continue to defend the fortress on the outer skirts of the citadel, the enemy will not crave to attack the fortress they are after let alone the stronghold, the centre point of the citadel. However, if they neglect that fortress then the enemy will crave for the second fortress, then the third, until all the fortresses are ruined.

Likewise, he says, faith is defended with five fortresses.

What are the five fortresses of faith?

He says:

  1. Certainty (Yaqeen)
  2. Sincerity (Ikhlas)
  3. Fulfilling and carrying out all your obligations. Fara’idh that you have to do.
  4. Performing that acts of Sunnah.
  5. Guarding ones Adaab (manners and etiquettes).

Hence, he says, so long as one is mindful of his adaab, the devil does not crave for it. As soon as he is negligent of adaab, the devil then craves for the sunnah acts, and then the obligatory acts, and then the sincerity, and then ultimately the certainty of the heart.

And this is why you see, Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal said that the person who misses the sunnah prayers on a regular basis is a wicked person, whose testimony is not to be accepted in a court, he is a faasiq. But its only sunnah prayers, how can a person be called a faasiq for not performing them? Because if a person does not perform the sunnah prayers, meaning he misses them out regularly, he never prays the sunnah prayers, then most probably he misses out on his fara’idh (obligatories) every now and then. And the one who misses out his fara’idh every now and then, he is not an upright Muslim whose testimony is to be accepted in a court of law.


Transcribed from video: [Imaam Abuz Zubair] Five Fortresses of Faith



UPDATE: 02/02/2013

Came across a translation of the original with reference shared by al-Siraat

Imam Musa b. Ahmad al-Hajjawi (d.968H/1561CE). Author of the celebrated Hanbali fiqh text, al-Iqna‘ and its abridgement, Zad a-Mustaqni‘, al-Hajjawi served as mufti of the Hanbalis in Damascus during his age. He writes as part of his commentary to the adab-poem:

‘It has been said that: “The allegory of faith (iman) is as a fortress having five walls. The first [innermost] is made of gold, the second of silver, the third from iron, the fourth of baked bricks and the fifth [outermost wall] from clay bricks. As long as the inhabitants of the fortress are diligent in guarding the clay wall, the enemy will not set its sights on [attacking] the next wall. But if they are negligent in this, they will attack the next wall, then the next, until the entire fortress lays in ruins.

Likewise, faith is defended by five walls: certainty (yaqin), next is sincerity (ikhlas), then comes fulfilling the obligations (ada’ al-fara’id), after which are the recommended acts (sunan), and lastly safeguarding beautiful behaviour (adab).

Thus, so long as adab is guarded and defended, the devil will not set his sight on it. But if one forsakes it, Satan makes inroads into the sunan, then the fara’id, then ikhlas, and finally yaqin itself.”‘1

1. Al-Hajjawi, Sharh Manzumat al-Adab (Saudi Arabia: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 2011), 36.

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