47 – THE CREED OF THE AHL AS-SUNNA

Imâm Muhammad al-Ghazâlî ‘rahmatullâhi ’alaih’ wrote in Kimyâ-yi sa’âdat: “It is fard for a Muslim to know and believe primarily the meaning of the utterance, Lâ ilâha il-l-Allah, Muhammadun Rasûlullah. This utterance is called Kalimat attawhîd. It is sufficient for every Muslim to believe without any doubt what this utterance means. It is not fard for him to prove it with evidence or to satisfy his mind. Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ did not command the Arabs to know or mention the relevant proof-texts or to search and clarify any possible doubt. He commanded them to believe only and not to doubt. It is enough for everybody also to believe briefly. Yet it is fard kifâya that there should exist a few scholars in every town. It is wâjib for these scholars to know the proof-texts, to remove the doubts, and to answer the questions. They are like shepherds for Muslims. On the one hand, they teach them the knowledge of îmân, which is the knowledge of belief, and, on the other hand, they answer the slanders of the enemies of Islam.”

“The Qur’ân al-kerîm stated the meaning of Kalimat at-tawhîd and Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ explained what is declared in it. All the Ashâb-i-kirâm learned these explanations and conveyed them to those who succeeded them. The exalted scholars who conveyed to us what the Ashâb-i-kirâm had taught them, by committing them to their books without making any alterations in them, are called Ahl as-Sunna. Everybody has to learn the i’tiqâd of the Ahl as-Sunna, and to unite, and to love one another. The seed of happiness is this i’tiqâd and this unification.”

“The scholars of the Ahl as-Sunna explain the meaning of the Kalimat at-tawhîd as follows: Men were nonexistent. They were created later. They have one Creator. He is the One Who has created everything. The Creator is One. He does not have a partner or a likeness. There is not another creator. He has been ever-existent; His existence did not have a beginning. He will be ever-existent; there is no end to His existence. He will not cease to exist. His existence is always necessary. His nonexistence is impossible. His existence is of Himself. He does not need any means. There is nothing that will not need Him. He is the One Who creates everything and makes it go on existing. He is not material or a thing. He is not at a place or in any substance. He does not have a shape and cannot be measured. It cannot be asked how He is; when we say ‘He,’ none of the things which come to our mind or which we can imagine is He. He is unlike these things. All of them are His creatures. He is not like His creatures. He is the Creator of everything that comes to mind and of every illusion and of every delusion. He is not above, below, or at one side. He does not have a place. Every being is below the ’Arsh. And the ’Arsh is under His Power, under His Omnipotence. He is above the ’Arsh. Yet this does not mean that the ’Arsh carries Him. The ’Arsh exists with His Favour and in His Omnipotence. Now He is the same as He was in eternity, in eternal past. He will always be the same in the everlasting future as He had been before creating the ‘Arsh. No change occurs in Him. He has His own Attributes. His Attributes called as-Sifât ath-Thubûtiyya are eight: Hayât (life) ’Ilm (Omniscience), Sam’ (Hearing), Basar (Seeing), Qudra (Omnipotence), Irâda (Will), Kalâm (Speech, Word) and Takwîn (Creativeness). No change ever occurs in these Attributes of His. Change implies deficiency. He has no deficiency or defect. Though He does not resemble any of His creatures, it is possible to know Him in this world as much as He makes Himself known and to see Him in the Hereafter. In the present world He is known without realizing how He is, and in the Hereafter, He will be seen in an incomprehensible way.

“Allâhu ta’âlâ sent Prophets ‘’alaihimu-s-salâm’ to His human creatures. Through these great people, He showed His human creatures the deeds that bring happiness and those which cause ruination. The most exalted Prophet is Muhammad ‘’alaihi-ssalâm’, the Last Prophet. He was sent as the Prophet for every person, pious or irreligious, for every place and for every nation on the earth. He is the Prophet for all human beings, angels and genies. In every corner of the world, everybody has to follow him and adapt himself to this exalted Prophet.”[1]

The great scholar and Murshid-i-kâmil Sayyid ’Abdulhakîm-i Arwâsî[2] ‘rahmatullâhi ’alaih’ said: “Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ had three tasks: the first one was to communicate and make known (tabligh) the rules dictated in the Qur’ân al-kerîm, that is, the knowledge of îmân and of the Ahkâm fiqhiyya, to all human beings. The Ahkâm fiqhiyya is composed of the actions commanded and actions prohibited. His second task was to transmit the spiritual rules of the Qur’ân al-kerîm, the knowledge about Allâhu ta’âlâ Himself and His Attributes, only into the hearts of the highest ones of his Umma. His first task, tabligh, should not be confused with his second task. The lâ-madhhabî reject the second task. But, Abû Hurayra ‘radiy-Allâhu ’anh’ said: ‘I learned two types of knowledge from Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’. I told you one of them. You would kill me if I divulged the second one’. This statement of Abû Hurayra’s is reported in the 267th and 268th letters of the book entitled Maktûbât, and also in those books namely Bukhârî, Mishkât, and Hadîqa. The third task was to enforce Muslims’ obedience to the Ahkâm-i-fiqhiyya from those Muslims should they fail to listen to the advice and admonitions of Islam. When necessary, enforcement would be had recourse to.

“After Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’, all the four Khalîfas ‘radiy-Allâhu ’anhum’ accomplished these three tasks perfectly. During the time of Hadrat Hasan ‘radiy-Allâhu ’anh’, fitnas and bid’ats increased. Islam had spread out over three continents. The spiritual light of Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ had receded away from the earth. The as-Sahâbat al-kirâm ‘radiy-Allâhu ’anhum’ had decreased in number. Later, no one was able to do all these three tasks together by himself. Therefore, these tasks were undertaken by three groups of people. The task of teaching îmân and ahkâm fiqhiyya was assigned to religious leaders called mujtahids. Amongst these mujtahids, those who taught îmân were called mutakallimûn, and those who taught Fiqh were called Fuqahâ. The second task, that is, making those willing Muslims understand the spiritual teachings of the Qur’ân al-kerîm, was assigned to the Twelve Imâms of Ahl al-Bayt ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaihim’ and to great men of Tasawwuf. Sirrî (Sarî) as- Saqatî (d. 251 in Baghdad) and al-Junaid al-Baghdâdî (b. 207/821 and d. 298/911 in Baghdad) were two of those great men of Tasawwuf ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaihimâ’.

[Scholars of Ahl-as-sunnat, learning this second task of our master the Messenger of Allah from the Twelve Imâms, established the (branch of) knowledge (called) Tasawwuf. Some people do not believe in the Awliyâ, in karâmats, in Tasawwuf. This denial of theirs indicates that they have nothing to do with the Twelve Imâms. If they had been following the way taught by the Ahl-i-Bayt, they would have learned this second task of Rasûlullah from the Twelve Imâms and from scholars of Tasawwuf, Walîs would have been educated among them. Not only are there no such educated people among those objectors, but also they deny the existence of such educated people. As it is seen, the Twelve Imâms are the imâms of the Ahl-i-Bayt. And the people who love the Ahl-i-Bayt and follow the Twelve Imâms are the Ahl assunnat. For being an Islamic scholar it is necessary to be an inheritor of the Messenger of Allah in these two tasks of his. In other words, it is necessary to become specialized in both these two branches of knowledge. ’Abd-ul-Ghanî Nablusî, one such great scholar, quotes the hadîth-i-sherîfs showing the spiritual principles taught in Qur’ân al-kerîm in the two hundred and thirtythird and later pages, and also in the six hundred and forty-ninth page of his book Hadîqat-un-nediyya, and writes that denying this fact is sheer ignorance and lack of good luck.]

“The third task, having the rules of the religion done by force and authority, was assigned to sultans, i.e. governments. The sections of the first class were called Madhhabs. Sections of the second one were called Tarîqa, and the third one was called Huqûq (laws, jurisprudence). Madhhabs that define îmân are called Madhhabs in i’tiqâd. Our Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ta’âlâ ’alaihi wa salam’ had stated that Muslims would part into seventy-three groups in respect to îmân, and that only one of them would be right and the others would be wrong. And so it happened. The group that was given the good news of being on the right path is called the Ahl as-Sunnat wa-l-Jamâ’a. The remaining seventytwo groups, which were declared to be wrong, are called the groups of bid’a, that is, heretics. None of them are disbelievers. All of them are Muslims. But, if a Muslim who says he belongs to one of the seventy-two groups denies any information that has been declared clearly in the Qur’ân al-kerîm and the Hadîth-isherîfs and that has become widely known among the Muslims, he becomes a disbeliever. There are many people today who, while carrying Muslim names, have already dissented from the Madhhab of the Ahl as-Sunna and have become heretics or non- Muslims.” This is the end of our quotation from Abdulhakîm Efendi. Muslims have to keep on learning from birth to death. The knowledge which Muslims have to learn is called al-’ulûm al- Islâmiyya (Islamic sciences), which consist of two parts: (1) al- ’ulûm an-naqliyya; (2) al-’ulûm al-’aqliyya.

1) al-’Ulûm an-naqliyya (also called ‘religious sciences’): These sciences are acquired by reading books of the scholars of the Ahl as-Sunna. Islamic scholars derived these sciences from four main sources. These four sources are called al-adillat ash-Shar’iyya. They are al-Qur’ân al-kerîm, hadîth-sherîfs, ijmâ’ al-Umma and qiyâs al-fuqahâ’. Religious sciences consist of eight main branches:

  1. i) ’Ilm at-tafsîr (the science of explaining the Qur’ân al-kerîm). A specialist in this branch is called He is a profoundly learned scholar able to understand what Allâhu ta’âlâ means in His Word.
  2. ii) ’Ilm al-usûl al-hadîth. This branch deals with the classification of hadîths. The different kinds of hadîths are explained in Endless Bliss (second fascicle, sixth chapter.)

iii) ’Ilm al-hadîth. This branch studies minutely the utterances (hadîth), behaviour (sunna) and manners (hâls) of our Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ta’âlâ ’alaihi wa sallam’.

  1. iv) ’Ilm al-usûl al-kalâm. This branch studies the methods by which ’ilm al-kalâm is derived from al-Qur’ân al-kerîm and hadîthi- sherîfs.
  2. v) ’Ilm al-kalâm. This branch covers the study of the Kalimat at-tawhîd and the Kalimat esh-shahâda and the six fundamentals of îmân which depend on them. These are the teachings to be believed with the heart. The scholars of Kalâm usually wrote ’ilm al-usûl al-kalâm and ’ilm al-kalâm together. Therefore, the layman takes these two branches of knowledge as one single branch.
  3. vi) ’Ilm al-usûl al-fiqh. This branch studies the derivation of the methods of Fiqh from the Qur’ân al-kerîm and hadîth-i-sherîfs.

vii) ’Ilm al-fiqh. This branch studies af’al al-mukallafîn; that is, it tells how those who are discreet and pubescent should act on matters concerning the body. This is the knowledge necessary for the body. Af’al al-mukallafîn has eight categories: fard, wâjib, sunna, mustahab, mubâh, harâm, makrûh, and mufsid. However, they can be briefly classified into three groups: actions commanded, actions prohibited and actions permitted (mubâh).

viii) ’Ilm at-tasawwuf. This branch is also called ’ilm al-akhlâq (ethics). It describes not only the things we should do and should not do with the heart but also helps the belief to be heartfelt, makes it easy for Muslims to carry out their duties as taught in ’ilm al-fiqh and helps one to attain ma’rifa. It is fard ’ayn for every Muslim, male or female, to learn Kalâm, Fiqh, and Tasawwuf as much as is necessary out of these eight branches, and it is a crime, a sin, not to learn them.[3]

2) al-’Ulûm al-’aqliyya (also called ‘experimental sciences’): These sciences are divided into two groups: technical sciences and literary sciences. It is fard kifâya for Muslims to learn these sciences. As for Islamic sciences, it is fard ’ayn to learn them as much as is necessary. To learn more than is necessary, that is, to become specialized, in Islamic sciences is fard kifâya. If there is no ’âlim who knows these sciences in a town, all of its inhabitants and the government authorities will be sinful.

Religious teachings do not change in course of time. It is an unexcusable crime to go wrong as a result of reasoning and erroneous thinking on ’ilm al-kalâm. In matters pertaining to Fiqh, the variations and facilities shown by Islam can be made use of when one has the excuses permitted by Islam. It is never permissible to make alterations or to make reforms in religious matters with one’s own opinion or point of view. It causes one to go out of Islam. Changes, improvements and progress in al-’ulûm al-’aqliyya are permissible. It is necessary to develope them by searching, finding and learning them from non-Muslims as well.

The following article is quoted from the book Al-majmû’at az- Zuhdiyya. The book was compiled by an ex-Minister of Education named as-Sayyid Ahmed Zühdü Pasha ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaih’:

“The word ‘fiqh’, when used in Arabic in the form of ‘faqiha yafqahu’, that is, in the fourth category, means ’to know, to understand’. When it is used in the fifth category, it means ‘to know, to understand Islam’. A scholar in ’ilm al-fiqh is called Faqîh. ’Ilm al-fiqh deals with the actions which people should do and those which they should not do. The knowledge of Fiqh is obtained from the Qur’ân al-kerîm, from hadîth-i-sherîfs, from Ijmâ’, and from Qiyâs. The consensus of the as-Sahâbat al-kirâm, and the mujtahids who came after them, is called ijmâ’ al-Umma. The Islamic teachings derived from the Qur’ân al-kerîm, from hadîth-i-sherîfs, and from the ijmâ’ al-Umma, are called Qiyâs alfuqahâ. If it could not be understood from the Qur’ân al-kerîm or from hadîth-i-sherîfs whether a certain act was halâl (permitted) or harâm (forbidden), then that act was compared to another act which was known. This comparison was called qiyâs (analogy). Applying qiyâs required the latter act to involve the same factor which made the former act permitted or forbidden. And this could be judged only by those profound scholars who had attained the grade of ijtihâd.

“ ’Ilm al-fiqh is very extensive. It has four main divisions:

  1. i) ’ibâdât, composed of five subdivisions: salât (namâz), sawm (fast), zakât, hajj, jihâd. Each has many sections. As is seen, it is an ’ibâda to make preparations for jihâd. Our Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ said that jihâd against the enemies of Islam was of two kinds: by actions and by words. It is fard to learn how to make and use new weapons in preparation for jihâd by actions. Jihâd is done by the State. It is fard for the people to join in the jihad by obeying the State laws and orders. Nowadays, the attacks of our enemies through publications, motion pictures, radio broadcast and every means of propaganda – the second kind of war – has tremendously increased, and it is also a jihâd to stand against the enemies in this field.
  2. ii) munâkahât, composed of subdivisions, such as marriage, divorce, alimony and many others [written in detail in the fifth fascicle of Endless Bliss].

iii) mu’âmalât, composed of many subdivisions, such as purchase, sale, rent, joint-ownership, interest, inheritance, etc, (also dealt with in the fifth fascicle, and partly in the sixth fascicle.)

  1. iv) ’uqûbât (penal code), composed of five main subdivisions: qisâs (lex talionis), sirqa (theft), zinâ (fornication and adultery), qadhf (false accusation of incontinence), and ridda (case of becoming an apostate).[4]

“It is fard for every Muslim to learn the ’ibâdât section of Fiqh briefly. It is fard kifâya to learn munâkahât and mu’âmalât; in other words, those who have anything to do with them should learn them. After ’ilm at-tafsîr, ’ilm al-hadîth and ’ilm al-kalâm, the most honourable science is ’ilm al-fiqh. The following six hadîths will be enough to indicate the honour of Fiqh and the Faqîh ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ alaihim ajma’în’:

‘If Allâhu ta’âlâ wants to do a favour to a slave of His, He makes a Faqîh of him.’

 ‘If a person becomes a Faqîh, Allâhu ta’âlâ sends what he wishes and his sustenance from unexpected sources.’

 ‘The person about whom Allâhu ta’âlâ says ‘most superior’ is a Faqîh in the religion.’

‘Against the Satan, a Faqîh is stonger than one thousand ’âbids (devout worshippers).’

‘Everything has a pillar to base itself upon. The basic pillar of the religion is the science of Fiqh.’

‘The best and most valuable ’ibâdat (act of worship) is to learn and teach Fiqh.’

The superiority of al-Imâm al-a’zam Abu Hanîfa ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaih’ is understood also from these hadîths.

The teachings of Islam in the Hanafî Madhhab were transmitted through a chain beginning with ’Abdullah ibn Mas’ûd ‘radiy-Allâhu ’anh’, who was a Sahâbî. Al-Imâm al-a’zam Abû Hanîfa ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaih’, the founder of the Madhhab, acquired the knowledge of fiqh from Hammâd, and Hammâd from Ibrâhîm an-Nakhâ’î. An-Nakhâ’î had learned it from Alkama and Alkama had learned it from ’Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, who had learned it from Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’.

Abû Yûsuf, Imâm Muhammad ash-Shaybânî, Zufar ibn Hudheil and Hasan ibn Ziyâd were al-Imâm al-a’zam’s disciples ‘rahimahumullah’. Of these, Imâm Muhammad wrote about one thousand books on Islamic teachings. He was born in 135 A.H. (752) and passed away in Rayy, Iran, in 189 (805). Because he was married to the mother of al-Imâm ash-Shâfi’î, one of his disciples, ash-Shâfi’î inherited his books upon his death, thus his knowledge increased. For this reason, al-Imâm esh-Shâfi’î ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaih’ said: ‘I swear that my knowledge of Fiqh has increased by reading Imâm Muhammad’s books. Those who want to deepen their knowledge of Fiqh should be in the company of the disciples of Abu Hanîfa.’ And once he said: ‘All Muslims are like the household children of al-Imâm al-a’zam.’ That is, as a man earns a living for his wife and children, al-Imâm al-a’zam took it upon himself to find out the religious knowledge which people needed in their affairs. Thus, he spared the Muslims from a lot of work.

Al-Imâm al-a’zam Abu Hanîfa ‘rahmatullâhi ’alaih’ compiled the knowledge of Fiqh, classified it into branches and sub-branches and set usûls (methods) for it, and also collected the knowledge of i’tiqâd, as Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ and the as- Sahâbat al-kirâm ‘ridwânullâhi ’alaihim ajma’în’ had preached, and taught them to thousands of his disciples. Some of his disciples became specialists in ’Ilm al-kalâm; that is, in the teachings of îmân. Of them, Abû Bakr al-Jurjânî, one of Imâm Muhammad esh-Shaybânî’s disciples, became famous. And Abû Nasr al-’Iyâd, one of his pupils, educated Abû Mansûr al-Mâturîdî in ’Ilm alkalâm. Abû Mansûr wrote in his books the knowledge of Kalâm taught by al-Imâm al-a’zam ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaih’. By contending against heretics, he consolidated the i’tiqâd of the Ahl as-Sunna. He spread it far and wide. He passed away in Samarkand in 333 A.H. (944). This great scholar and another scholar Abu’l-Hasan al-Ash’arî, are called the imâms of the Madhhabs in i’tiqâd of the Ahl as-Sunna.

The Fiqh scholars are grouped in seven grades. Kemâl Pâsha Zâda Ahmad ibn Sulaiman Efendi ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaih’, in his work Waqf an-niyyât, explained these seven grades as follows:

  1. The mujtahids of Islam constructed the methods and the principles of deriving rules from the four sources of the religion (al-adillat esh-Shar’iyya) and derived rules thereby. The a’immat al-madhâhib (the four Imâms of Madhhabs) were four of them.
  2. The mujtahids in a Madhhab, following the principles formulated by the Imâm of the Madhhab, derived rules from the four sources. They were Imâm Abû Yûsuf, Imâm Muhammad, etc. ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaihim ajma’în’.
  3. The mujtahids in matters (mas’ala), for the matters that were not dealt with by the founder of the Madhhab, derived rules by using the methods and principles of the Madhhab. Yet in doing this, they had to follow the imâm. They were at-Tahâwî (238-321 A.H., in Egypt), Hassâf Ahmad ibn ’Umar (d. 261, in Baghdad), ’Abdullah ibn Husain al-Karkhî (340), Shams al-a’imma al- Halwânî (456, in Bukhârâ), Shams al-a’imma as-Sarahsî (483), Fakhr al-Islâm ’Alî ibn Muhammad al-Pazdawî (400-482, in Samarkand), Qâdî-Khân Hasan ibn Mansûr al-Farghânî (592), etc. ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaihim ajma’în’.
  4. As’hâb at-takhrîj were not able to employ ijtihâd. They were the scholars who explained brief, unclear rules derived by mujtahids. Husâm ad-dîn ar-Râzî ’Alî ibn ’Ahmad (d. 598 A.H., in Damacus) was one of them. He ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaih’ wrote a commentary to al-Qudûrî’s Mukhtasar.
  5. The arbâb at-terjîh selected one of several riwâyas (narrations) coming from mujtahids. They were Abul’-Hasan al- Qudûrî (362-428 A.H., in Baghdad) and Burhân ad-dîn ’Alî al- Marghinânî ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaihâ’, the author of al-Hidâya, who was martyred by the hordes of Jenghiz in the Bukhârâ Massacre in 593 A.H. (1198).
  6. Certain muqallids wrote various riwâyas about a matter in an order with respect to their reliability. They did not include any refused riwâya in their books. Abû ’l-Barakât ’Abdullah ibn ’Ahmad an-Nasafî (d. 710 A.H.), the author of Kanz ad-deqâ’iq; ’Abdullah ibn Mahmûd al-Musûlî (d. 683), the author of Mukhtâr; Burhân ash-Sharî’a Mahmûd ibn Sadr ash-Sharî’a ’Ubaydullah (d. 673), the author of al-Wiqâya; and Ibn as-Sâ’âtî Ahmad ibn ’Alî al- Baghdâdî (d. 694), the author of Majmâ’ al-bahrain, are a few of them ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaihim ajma’în’.
  7. Muqallids incapable of distinguishing weak riwâyas from genuine ones. They were counted among Fiqh scholars because they were able to understand what they read and explained it to the muqallids who could not understand them.

[1] Kimyâ’ as-Sa’âda. Muhammad al-Ghazâlî ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaih’ was one of the greatest Islamic scholars. He wrote hundreds of books. All his books are very valuable. He was born in 450/1068 in Tûs, i.e. Meshhed, Persia, and passed away there in 505/1111.

[2] He was born in Başkal’a in 1281/1864 and passed away in Ankara in 1362/1943.

[3] al-Hadîqa, p. 323, and in preface to Radd al-muhtâr.

[4] Please see the tenth chapter of the sixth fascicle of Endless Bliss.

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