What is Faith exactly? I will defer to others in their discussion of its innateness or revelation and instead attempt to present my view of Faith’s ontological status in relation to our journey.
I want to say that Iman — Faith — is intimately tied to Deen — to judgement — to comprehension of the light within the signs, to a state of gnosis. Faith is not blind: it is the descent of certainty into the heart of the believer upon the completion of a good judgement, the completion of a righteous action, the unfolding of a proof entailed by the composite signs.
First, I assert that all signs defer to Absolute Alterity — the Face of the Beloved Other. All signs — that is, everything in the universe — submit to the Beloved.
Second, I define a judgement to be the human subject’s lived experience/perception of a configuration of signs. I’d call judgement the subject’s valuation of the signs, but in English theology, valuation is a loaded word, as it implies a transcendent space of values, meanings, for signs. And such a space is purely Imaginary: the Real is not such a space. So I prefer to call this lived experience, this judgement of configurations of signs, a form of proof or usage. Our understanding, our judgement of configurations of signs is an inhabiting proof, a usage we have found for the signs.
The subject’s life in Time — our journey — is exactly the process of making judgements.
So how can we approach the Beloved within this Life? Somehow, we need to judge in a correct fashion, after the Shariah of Right, to judge signs in a Prophetic mode, because judgement — as our life — is our only means of seeking the Beloved. They are our only means to seek the Beloved because we exist within the space of our reality: everything we do, say, think, create or perceive is a form of a logical judgement.
We cannot escape the Logic of Life, and so the closest we can be to the Beloved (two bows’ lengths can be achieved) is through using the Logic in a Prophetic — illuminated — fashion.
Now I am sure everyone has some kind of conception about how this Prophetic mode of travel — this Prophetic mode of living, of judging — might be achieved.
But any such understanding — any Islamic understanding — is based upon an axiom that there is a Beloved and that the search of the Lover for a return to the Beloved is our sole meaning in life. If we do not have faith in such a framework, the superiority of a Prophetic mode of judgement — over other modes of judgement, for example — does not follow.
This Axiom is Faith and is a precondition for Prophecy and Prophetic judgement to be possible in our lives.
Assuming such an axiom, we can call all the signs, in their deferral and submission to the Face, “Names of God” (not because they describe God, but because they derive from and are owned by God). These names of God are what constitute the universe that we judge.
Now then, if all signs — all names — submit in love to the Beloved, and, if an illuminated judgement’s purpose is to somehow manifest a mode of this submission within our life, then the purpose of Prophetic judgement — our goal in life as Muslims — is fundamentally to manifest the submission inherent in the signs. Its purpose is to ultimately, finally and absolutely, to express love for the Beloved. (Of course, this human expression is always necessarily limited because expression is capture and judgements can never capture the Other.)
An illuminated judgement is a form of love. An illuminated judgement is never made without a proof. A judgement is always a temporal derivation, an unfolding of the steps, of living through the signs, over Time.
The nature of a judgement’s proof is Temporal. And so the process of deriving an illuminated judgement is one of searching, of deriving, of living, of coming to a conclusion, of proving in Time.
The nature of our search for the Beloved is logical proof in Time.
God’s names are relational: they are how God stands in relation to our existence. We are the lovers and our relationship to the Beloved is Love. This is the relational understanding of the Christ’s assertion that “God is Love”. Our relationship to the Beloved is one that is played out through Reason, through our lives as proofs of illuminated judgement. This relationship to the Beloved is our experience of Time. This is the meaning behind the Prophet’s assertion that “God is Time”.
What is the more serious problem with Faith? Not so much whether it is innate, acquired or something to be unlocked through unveiling.
The more serious problem is the possibility of unfaithfulness!
The more serious problem is ontological: the atheist’s possibility that “Faith” is, if you will, “just another sign”, just another word, that we have (from a human’s perspective) judged — that we have configured — in relation to the sign of “Prophecy”. A subjective concept, invented by man. The unfaithful human might see things this way and say: I agree, life is a series of judgements, but there is no privileged path call illuminated judgement, there is no Prophetic line that as particularly special, except in the sense that there are religions that have judged (subjectively, not absolutely) the signs of Faith and Prophecy to stand in relation to each other.
It might further be argued that Faith in Divine Love, and the consequent reliance on the Cosmic Romance to our understanding of life as proof, is itself an artificial, imagined external valuation we assume holds over everything. That is, it is an artificial construct.
But our experience of Faith does not presume such a valuation.
On the other hand, from within the ummah, consider a seeker without the understanding of life-as-judgement, judgements-as-proofs we have just given. Such a seeker might say something like: faith of the heart is incompatible with, or at least transcends logic. But we say Faith is a property of logical proof.
Faith is the tranquility of proof. It is a property of the heart, as Faith emerges within us if we feel the presence of Divine Love in our proofs of judgement. Faith is not the belief in an external valuation that we will never be able to sense as long as we live. Faith is the feeling of the presence in our the very lives we live right now: the feeling of the Love from within the proofs I am constructing right now, as I write this to you all.
This is the nature of revelation: it is love becoming apparent to us from within the space of language, from within our own journey.
Whether Iman is innate or not is a different issue. But we feel Faith or we do not. If we feel such a Faith, then everything we have said will have sense. If we do not feel such a Faith, then our judgements and proofs literally do not have a sense at all.
Everything we have said so far, regarding the Romance, regarding judgement and proof has also been a series of judgements I have made in time through logical proof.
And what I have said, what I have judged, in effect has no value itself. Its authenticity requires Faith is present in my proofs of speech and in your listening and judging me (because listening is also a proof). If we both have Faith, then communication is possible and the light of revelation has the potential to emerge in self-reflexion.
In Faith we pass through Time from Separation to Truth:
By Time, certainly man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. (103:1-3)
Combining and weaving in their navigation toward the our Final Theorem. And all proofs are inscribed in our the book of deeds. Its success depends whether its proofs were made in good Faith or not.