‘Our Beliefs’ – Our Aqeedah
What we believe as Muslims is very clear and simple – it is summarised succinctly in the Shahadah – One God, Allah and the Finality of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). This forms the core belief for all Muslims across the globe. The diversity of the Ummah comes from the detail of the Shahadah – ie – This One God – what is He like? What do we know about Him? Likewise the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) – what are our beliefs towards him? Was he just an ordinary person like me and you? What was special about him? These and many more questions of detail arise from the very first statement.
From the time of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) till now there have been scholars, Imams and shaykhs that have tried to help Muslims in all times to build a true picture and understanding of both Allah and his blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). In Islam this subject is known as Aqeedah.
In order to get a clearer understanding of aqeedah and its importance, I would like to first present an overview of the faith of Islam as given to us in the famous Hadith Jibreel. The narration in full can be found here http://40hadithnawawi.com/index.php/the-hadiths/hadith-2.
Essentially what the first three questions that the Angel Jibreel asked the Blessed Messenger (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) point to what I refer to as the Three I’s:
The Iman aspect is WHAT MUSLIMS BELIEVE – essentially the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) summarised this as the 6 Articles of Faith, what we learn as the Imaan mufassal (Description of our Creed or faith):
- Belief in Allah
- His Angels
- His Prophet
- His Divine Books
- The Last Day of Judgement (and Resurrection)
- Predestination (Good and Bad is from Allah)
The scholars have tried to explain the details of each of the above 6 aspects in much depth. Sunni Islam is a simple label given to those that are not Shia but in reality the term used in the books of Aqeeda is the “Ahlu Sunnah wal Jamaat” – the people of the Sunnah and the Mass of Muslims. It is not a sect or divide it is the mass of the population of Muslims who adhere to the Prophetic example and are in general agreement with the majority of the Muslims across the globe.
There are two main teachers or ‘schools’ of this group where we learn the details of the individual aspects of our faith – these are:
- Imam Abu Mansur Maturdi
- Imam Abul Hasan Al Ashari
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) himself praised the tribe of the Ashaa’irah in hadith. He said about them: “If they were in a certain location and some fell short in their supply of food, they would get together, join what food every individual had, then distribute the sum equally among all of them.” Al-Hakim related the Prophet, in praising them, said:
“منهم أناو مني هم”
which means: “They are from me (follow my methodology), and I am from amogst them, (pleased with their action.”
In Surat al-Ma’idah, Ayah 54, Allah said:
“O People who Believe! Whoever among you reneges from his religion, so Allah will soon bring a people who are His beloved ones and Allah is their beloved, lenient with the Muslims and stern towards disbelievers – they will strive in Allah’s cause, and not fear the criticism of any accuser; this is Allah’s munificence, He may give to whomever He wills; and Allah is the Most Capable, the All Knowing.
This verse refers to a group of people, guided by Allah, who love Allah, and Allah loves them. It is narrated, at the time this verse was revealed, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) pointed at Abu Musa al-Ash’ariy and said: “Those are His people” -an explicit reference to the tribe of the Ashaa’irah-to whom Imam Abul-Hasan al-Ash’ariy belonged.
Going back to the Hadith e Jibreel – the Islam aspect is WHAT MUSLIMS DO – i.e. the five pillars of Islam.
- Shahadah – Testimony of Faith
- Salaah – 5 daily prayers
- Sawm – Fasting in the month of Ramadhan
- Zakah – Charitable dues – (2.5% of your annual disposable income)
- Hajj – Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Makkah and Madina.
The area of Islamic literature that deals with the details of all the above acts of worship is FIQH or Jurisprudence – it is basically all the detail rulings of each aspect of worship – the do’s and don’ts. In this field there are four main schools which we call the schools of law or the 4 madhabs:
- Maliki School – lead by Imam Malik bin Anas, lived in Madina. (93AH-179AH)
- Hanbali School – lead by Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (164 A.H. – 241 A.H)
- Shafi’ School – lead by Imam Muhammad bin Idris al-Shafi, lived in Egypt (150A.H.– 204 A.H.)
- Hanafi School – by Imam A’zam Nu’man bin Thabit Abu Hanifa, who lived in Iraq (l80 A.H. – 150 A.H.)
With the third question the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked by Jibreel about IHSAAN. The response was, “That you WORSHIP Allah as you see Him and if you cannot see Him, know that He sees you.”
This is basis of the spiritual aspect of Islam which is known as Tassawwuf or Sufism. It is a vast subject in itself but in a nutshell its aim is to elevate your worship of Allah and your Love of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to such a level that Allah and His Rasool are all that matter in your life. It helps us to cleanse and purify our thoughts and minds. The inner dimensions of worship, the essence, some say of Islam.
This subject has been explained firstly and foremostly by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) himself and thereafter by His Companions and then those that came after. It is essentially a practical aspect of Islam so pious saints and scholars from across the globe taught, embodied and modelled the Prophetic way to their followers, students and disciples. The teachers or initiators of the Sufi methodologies are too numerous to enlist but some of the main Sufi orders that are well established here in the UK are as follows:
These and many others are known as a tareeqah (which literally means, way). So each individual tareeqah guides people to Allah and His Prophet in their own specific and special way.
The two areas above – Fiqh and Tassawwuf are two branches that are intertwined and go hand in hand. They both compliment each other and cannot and should not be separated. Imam Malik summarises the interdependency in the following way:
“He who practices Tasawwuf without learning Sacred Law (fiqh) corrupts his faith, while he who learns Sacred Law without practicing Tasawwuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true.”
In summary then the practice and beliefs of Islam are brought to us through all three aspects: the Creed and Faith (Aqeedah), the Worship (Ibaadah, detailed in the Fiqh) and the spirituality which leads to the perfection of our faith (ihsaan/tassawwuf).