The Creed of the Ahl As-Sunnat

Imam Muhammad al-Ghazali (rahmat-Allahi 'alaih) wrote in Kimya-yi saadat: "It is fard for a Muslim to know and believe primarily the meaning of the phrase La ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammadun Rasul-Allah. This phrase is called kalimat at-tawhid. It is sufficient for every Muslim to believe without any doubt what this phrase means. It is not fard for him to prove it with evidence or to satisfy his mind. Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) did not command the Arabs to know or mention the relevant proofs 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 kifaya that there should exist a few 'alims in every town. It is wajib for these 'alims to know the proofs, 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 iman, which is the knowledge of belief, and, on the other hand, they answer the slanders of the enemies of Islam." 

"The Qur'an al-karim stated the meaning of kalimat at-tawhid and Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) explained what is declared in it. All as-Sahabat al-kiram learned these explanations and communicated them to those who came after them. The exalted scholars who conveyed to us what the as-Sahabat al-kiram had communicated, by committing them to their books without making any alterations in them, are called Ahl as-Sunnat. Everybody has to learn the itiqad of the Ahl as-Sunnat and to unite and love one another. The seed of happiness is this itiqad and this unification."

 "The 'ulama' of the Ahl as-Sunnat explain the meaning of kalimat at-tawhid 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 no second 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 non-existence 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 occur to the mind or which we can imagine is He. He is unlike these. All of them are His creatures. He is not like His creatures. He is the creator of everything that occurs to the 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 Favor and in His Omnipotence. Now He is the same as He way 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- Sifat ath-Thubutiyya are eight:

  1. Hayat (life)
  2. 'Ilm (Omniscience)
  3. Sam' (Hearing)
  4. Basar (Seeing)
  5. Qudra (Omnipotence)
  6. Irada (Will)
  7. Kalam (Speech, Word)
  8. Takwin (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 next world. In the present world He is known without realizing how He is, and in the Hereafter, He will be seen in an incomprehensible way. 

"Allahu ta'ala sent prophets ('alaihimu 's-salam) 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 's-salam), 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." [Kimya' as-Saada. Muhammad al-Ghazali (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala '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 Tus, i.e. Meshhed, Persia, and passed away there in 505/1111.] 

The great scholar and Murshid-i-kamil Sayyid 'Abdulhakim-i Arwasi [He was born in Baskal'a in 1281/1864 and passed away in Ankara in 1362/1943.] (rahmat-Allahi 'alaih) said: "Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) had three tasks:

  • The first task one was to communicate and make known (tabligh) the rules of the Qur'an al-karim, that is, the knowledge of iman and of ahkam fiqhiyya, to all human beings. Ahkam fiqhiyya is composed of the actions commanded and actions prohibited.
  • The second task was to transmit the spiritual rules of the Qur'an al-karim, the knowledge about Allahu ta'ala Himself and His Attributes, into the hearts of only the highest ones of his Umma. His first task, tabligh, should not be confused with his second task. The la-madhhabi reject the second task. But, Abu Huraira (radi-Allahu 'anh), said, 'I learned two types of knowledge from Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam). I told you one of them. You would kill me if I divulged the second one. This word of Abu Huraira's is reported in the 267th and 268th letters of the Turkish book Mujdeci Mektublar, and also in those books namely Bukhari, Mishkat, and Hadiqa.
  • The third task was carried out upon those Muslims who failed to adhere to the advice and warnings concerning carrying out the ahkam fiqhiyya. Even the use of force is to be applied to get them to obey the ahkam fiqhiyya. 

After Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam), each of the four Khalifas (radi-Allahu 'anhum) accomplished these three tasks perfectly. During the time of Hadrat Hasan (radi- Allahu 'anh), fitnas and bidats increased. Islam had spread out over three continents. The spiritual light of Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) had receded away from the earth. The as-Sahabat al-kiram (radi-Allahu '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 communicating iman and ahkam fiqhiyya was assigned to religious leaders called mujtahids. Amongst these mujtahids, those who communicated iman were called mutakallimun, and those who communicated fiqh were called fuqaha. The second task, that is, making those willing Muslims understand the spiritual rules of Qur'an al-karim, was assigned to the Twelve Imams of Ahl al-Bayt (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim) and to great men of tasawwuf. Sirri (Sari) as-Saqati (d. 251 in Baghdad) and al-Junaid al-Baghdadi (b. 207/821 and d. 298/911 in Baghdad) were two of them (rahmat-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihima). 

[Scholars of Ahl-as-sunnat, learning this second task of our master the Messenger of Allah from the Twelve Imams, established the (branch of) knowledge (called) Tasawwuf. Some people do not believe in the Awliya, in karamats, in Tasawwuf. This denial of theirs indicates that they have nothing to do with the Twelve Imams. If hey had been following the way taught by the Ahl al-bayt, they would have learned this second task of Rasulullah from the Twelve Imams and scholars of Tasawwuf, Walis would have been educated among them. Not only were no such people educated among them, but also they do not believe in the existence of such people. As it is seen, the Twelve Imams are the imams of the Ahl al- bayt. And the people who love the Ahl al-bayt and follow the Twelve Imams are the Ahl as-sunnat. 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-Ghani Nabulusi, one of such great scholars, quotes the hadith ash-Sharifs showing the spiritual principles taught in Qur'an al-karim on the two hundred and thirty-third and later pages, and also on the six hundred and forty-ninth page of his book Hadiqat-un-nadiyya, 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 Tariqas, and the third one was called huquq (laws). Madhhabs that define iman are called madhhabs in itiqad. Our Prophet (sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa salam) had prophesied that Muslims would part into seventy-three groups in respect to iman, and that only one of them would be right and the others 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 wal-Jamaat. The remaining seventy-two groups, which were declared to be wrong, are called the groups of bidat, 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 disbelieves any information that has been declared clearly in the Qur'an al-karim and the Hadith ash-Sharif and that has spread 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-Sunnat and have become heretics or non- Muslims." This is the end of our quotation from Abdulhakim Effendi. 

Muslims have to keep on learning from birth to death. The knowledge which Muslims have to learn is called al-'ulum al-Islamiyya (Islamic sciences), which consist of two parts: (1) al-'ulum an-naqliyya; (2) al-'ulum al-'aqliyya.

 1) Al-'ulum an-naqliyya (also called 'religious sciences'): These sciences are acquired by reading books of the 'ulama' of the Ahl as-Sunnat. The 'ulama' of Islam derived these sciences from four main sources. These four sources are called al-adillat ash-Shariyya. They are al-Qur'an al-karim, al-Hadith ash-Sharif, ijma al-Umma and qiyas al-fuqaha'.

Religious sciences consist of eight main branches: 

  1. 'ilm at-tafsir (the science of the interpretation of the Qur'an al-karim). A specialist in this branch is called mufassir. He is a profoundly learned scholar able to understand what Allahu ta'ala means in His Word.
  2. 'ilm al-usul al-hadith. This branch deals with the classification of hadiths. The different kinds of hadiths are explained in Endless Bliss (second fascicle, sixth chapter.)
  3. 'ilm al-hadith. This branch studies minutely the utterances (hadith), behavior (sunnat) and manners (hals) of our Prophet (sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam).
  4. 'ilm al-usul al-kalam. This branch studies the methods by which 'ilm al-kalam is derived from al-Qur'an al-karim and al-Hadith ash-Sharif.
  5. 'ilm al-kalam. This branch covers the study of the kalimat at-tawhid and the kalimat ash-shahada and the six fundamentals of iman which depend on them. These are the teachings to be believed by the heart. The scholars of kalam usually wrote 'ilm al-usul al- kalam and 'ilm al-kalam together. Therefore, the layman takes these two branches of knowledge as one single branch.
  6. 'ilm al-usul al-fiqh. This branch studies the derivation of the methods of fiqh from the Qur'an al-karim and the Hadith ash-Sharif.
  7. 'ilm al-fiqh. This branch studies afal al-mukallafin, that is, it tells how those who are sane and pubescent should act on matters concerning the body. This is the knowledge necessary for the body. Afal al-mukallafin has eight categories: fard, wajib, sunnat, mustahab, mubah, haram, makruh and mufsid. However, they can be briefly classified into three groups: actions commanded, actions prohibited and actions permitted (mubah).
  8. 'ilm at-tasawwuf. This branch is also called 'ilm al-akhlaq (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 attain marifa. 

It is fard 'ain for every Muslim, man or woman, to learn kalam, fiqh and tasawwuf as much as is necessary out of these eight branches, and it is a crime, a sin, not to learn them. [Al-Hadiqa, p. 323, and in preface to Radd al-mukhtar.] 

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

Religious teachings do not change in the course of time. It is an inexcusable crime to go wrong as a result of reasoning and erroneous thinking on 'ilm al-kalam. 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. Change, improvement and progress in al-'ulum al-'aqliyya are permissible. It is necessary to develop them by searching, finding and learning them from non-Muslims, too.

The following article is quoted from the book Al-majmu'at az-Zuhdiyya. The book was complied by an ex-Minister of Education as-Sayyid Ahmad Zuhdu Pasha (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala '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 faqih. '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'an al-karim, the Hadith ash-Sharif, ijma' and qiyas. The consensus of the as-Sahabat al-kiram and the mujtahids, who came after them, is called ijma' al-Umma. The rules of the religion derived from the Qur'an al-karim, the Hadith ash- Sharif and ijma' al-Umma are called qiyas al-fuqaha'. If it could not be understood from the Qur'an al-karim or the Hadith ash-Sharif whether an action was halal (permitted) or haram (forbidden), then this action was compared to another action which was known. This comparison was called qiyas. Applying qiyas required the latter action to have the same factor which made the former action permitted or forbidden. And this could be judged only by those profound 'ulama' who had attained the grade of ijtihad.

" 'Ilm al-fiqh is very extensive. It has four main divisions:

  1. 'ibadat, composed of five subdivisions: salat (namaz), sawn (fast), zakat, hajj, jihad. Each has many sections. As it is seen, it is an 'ibada to make preparations for jihad. Our Prophet (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said that jihad 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 jihad by actions. Jihad 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 jihad to stand against the enemies in this field.
  2. munakahat, composed of subdivisions, such as marriage, divorce, alimony and many others [written in detail in our book Se'adet-i Ebediyye].
  3. muamalat, composed of many subdivisions, such as purchase, sale, rent, joint- ownership, interest, inheritance, etc.
  4. 'uqubat (penal code), composed of five main subdivisions: qisas (lex talionis), sirqa (theft), zina (fornication and adultery), qadhf (forgery) and ridda (case of becoming an apostate).

It is fard for every Muslim to learn the 'ibadat section of fiqh briefly. It is fard kifaya to learn munakahat and muamalat, in other words, those who have anything to do with them should learn them. After 'ilm at-tafsir, 'ilm al-hadith and 'ilm al-kalam, the most honourable ilm is 'ilm al-fiqh. The following six hadiths will be enough to indicate the honour of fiqh and the faqih 'rahmatullahi ta'ala alaihim ajmain':

 'If Allahu ta'ala wants to do a favor for a servant of His, He makes a faqih of him.'

'If a person becomes a faqih, Allahu ta'ala sends what he wishes and his sustenance from unexpected sources.'

 'The person about whom Allahu ta'ala says 'most superior' is a faqih in the religion.'

'Against Satan, a faqih is stronger than one thousand 'abids (those who worship much).'

'Everything has a pillar to base itself upon. The basic pillar of the religion is the knowledge of fiqh.' 

'The best and most valuable 'ibadat is to learn and teach fiqh.'

The superiority of al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) is understood also from these hadiths.

The rules of Islam in the Hanafi madhhab were transmitted through a chain beginning with 'Abdullah ibn Masud (radi-Allahu anh), who was a Sahabi. Al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih), the founder of the madhhab, acquired the knowledge of fiqh from Hammad, and Hammad from Ibrahim an-Nakhai. An-Nakhai learnt it from Alqama and Alqama, learnt it from Abdullah ibn Masud, who learnt it from Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam). 

Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad ash-Shaibani, Zufar ibn Hudhail and Hasan ibn Ziyad were al-Imam al-azam's disciples (rahimahum-Allah). Of these, Imam 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-Imam ash-Shafi'i, one of his disciples, ash-Shafi'i inherited his books upon his death, thus his knowledge increased. For this reason, al-Imam ash-Shafi'i (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) said, 'I swear that my knowledge of fiqh has increased by reading Imam Muhammad's books. Those who want to deepen their knowledge of fiqh should be in the company of the disciples of Abu Hanifa.' And once he said, 'All Muslims are like the household children of al-Imam al- azam.' That is, as a man earns a living for his wife and children, al-Imam al-azam 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-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi 'alaih) compiled the knowledge of fiqh, classified it into branches and sub-branches and set usuls (methods) for it, and also collected the knowledge of itiqad, as Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and the as- Sahabat al-kiram (ridwan-Allahi 'alaihim ajmain) had preached, and taught them to thousands of his disciples. Some of his disciples became specialists in 'ilm al-kalam, that is, in the teachings of iman. Of them, Abu Bakr al-Jurjani, one of Imam Muhammad ash- Shaibani's disciples, became famous. And Abu Nasr al-'Iyad, one of his pupils, educated Abu Mansur al-Maturidi in 'ilm al-kalam. Abu Mansur wrote in his books the knowledge of kalam taught by al-Imam al-azam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih). By contending against heretics, he consolidated the itiqad of the Ahl as-Sunnat. He spread it far and wide. He passed away in Samarkand in 333 A.H. (944). This great alim and another alim Abul- Hasan al-Ashari, are called the imams of the madhhabs of itiqad of the Ahl as-Sunnat. 

The fiqh scholars are grouped in seven grades. Kamal Pasha Zada Ahmad ibn Sulaiman Effendi (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih), in his work Waqf an-niyya, 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 ash-Shariyya) and thus derived rules. The four aimmat al-madhahib were of these.
  2. The mujtahids in a madhhab, following the principles formulated by the imam of the madhhab, derived rules from the four sources. They were Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, etc. (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim ajmain).
  3. The mujtahids of matters (masala), 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 imam. They were at-Tahawi (238-321 A.H., in Egypt), Hassaf Ahmad ibn 'Umar (d. 261, in Baghdad), 'Abdullah ibn Husain al-Karkhi (340), Shams al-aimma al-Halwani (456, in Bukhara), Shams al-aimma as-Sarahsi (483), Fakhr al-Islam 'Ali ibn Muhammad al-Pazdawi (400-482, in Samarkand), Qadi-Khan Hasan ibn Mansur al-Farghani (592), etc. (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim ajmain).
  4. Ashab at-takhrij were not able to employ ijtihad. They were the scholars who explained brief, unclear rules derived by mujtahids. Husam ad-din ar-Razi 'Ali ibn Ahmad (d. 593 A.H., in Damascus) was one of them. He (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) wrote a commentary to Al-Quduri.
  5. The arbab at-tarjih selected one of several riwayas (narrations or the opinions of mujtahids as narrated) coming from mujtahids. They were Abul'-Hasan al-Quduri (362-428 A.H., in Baghdad) and Burhan ad-din 'Ali al-Marghinani (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaiha), the author of Al-hidaya, who was martyred by the soldiers' of Genghis in the Bukhara Massacre in 593 A.H. (1198).
  6. Certain muqallids wrote various riwayas about a matter in an order with respect to their reliability. They did not include any refused riwaya in their books. Abu 'l-Barakat 'Abdullah ibn 'Ahmad an-Nasafi (d. 710 A.H.), the author of Kanz ad-daqaiq; 'Abdullah ibn Mahmud al-Musuli (d. 683), the author of Mukhtar; Burhan ash-Sharia Mahmud ibn Sadr ash-Sharia 'Ubaid-Allah (d. 673), the author of Al-wiqaya; and Ibn as-Sa'atee Ahmad ibn 'Ali al-Baghdadi (d. 694), the author of Majma' al-bahrain, are of these (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim ajmain).
  7. Muqallids incapable of distinguishing weak riwayas from genuine ones. These were counted among fiqh scholars because they were able to understand what they read and explained it to the muqallids who could not understand.

April 1998 Copyleft Hakikat Bookstore, Istanbul