Meta-eman is the psychological drifting of a non-Muslim person into Islam via small agreeable facts about Islam. Non-Muslims instantly agree with a fact about Islam that seems so natural, so logical, so true, humane, equitable, obvious and just.
I must emphasize these are facts – words, deeds, laws, and heroics that show high Muslim ideals. There is truth in these ideals because they actually happened and continue to be lived up to in everyday life.
These facts build a foundation, form and tone to a non-Muslim person’s understanding of Islam. As the number of these small facts accumulate in their learning, they gravitated towards Islam because of the stability and breadth of Islam’s viewpoint on everything in life. Islam touches everything in life in the best possible way, so it becomes hard to see a world without the beauty of Islam.
It is important that Islam’s viewpoint not merely meet their expectations, but also surpass their expectations. They are believing in the idyllic or equitable components of the deen because they are unlike those of other religions or philosophies. Like a fourth wall or inner conversation on belief, they are slowly negotiating their way into Islam.
Believing in one’s ability to believe in Islam comes after they look back on all the aspects of Islam they consciously support with their entire being. Once they are in this place, which I call Proto-Eman, they see Islam as a manifestation of upholding those ideals since it created those ideals in them. This is the recognition (anagnorisis) of how their belief in those ideals is connected to God and this is when they are ready to say the shahada. It may be they have been in this proto-eman state for a very long time, but never had that recognition of God occur.
That is the basic part of my theory from my past dawah work. But in parallel to this, is shaytan’s misguidance. He may make them feel weak, proud, cling to sins or tell them lies about Islam. But over time, this feeling will shrink in comparison to reliance on Allah and the immense mercy of His Messenger ﷺ. As time goes on the strength of that eman will grow and be re-worked with tarbiya and learning about the deen.
I feel this is how most dawah works but not the only way it works.
Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.