What is ‘Aqeedah?
Praise be to Allah.
Aqeedah refers to those matters which are believed in, with certainty and conviction, in one’s heart and soul. They are not tainted with any doubt or uncertainty.
The Arabic word ‘aqeedah stems from the root ‘aqada, which conveys meanings of certainty, affirmation, confirmation, etc. In the Qur’an, Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Allah will not punish you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He will punish you for your deliberate oaths (bimaa ‘aqqadtum al-aymaan)…” [Surah al-Maa’idah (5):87]
The verb paraphrased here as “deliberate oaths” is ‘aqqada/ta’qeed, which refers to when one has determination in the heart. It may be said in Arabic, ‘aqada’l-habl (the rope was tied), i.e., it was pulled tight together. The word i’tiqaad (belief) is also derived from this root, and has the meaning of tying up and making strong. The phrase a’taqadtu kadhaa (I believe such and such) means: I am convinced of it in my heart; this is a rational conviction.
In Islam, ‘aqeedah is the matter of knowledge. The Muslim must believe in his heart and have faith and conviction, with no doubts or misgivings, because Allah has told him about ‘aqeedah in His Book and via His Revelations to His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
The principles of ‘aqeedah are those which Allah has commanded us to believe in, as mentioned in the ayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books and His Messengers. They say, ‘We make no distinction between one and another of His Messengers’ – and they say, ‘We hear, and we obey. (We seek) Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the return (of all).’”[Surah al-Baqarah (2):285]
– and as defined by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the famous hadith which describes how Jibril came to him and asked him about Islam etc.: “Iman (faith) is to believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, the meeting with Him on the Last Day, His Messengers, and the Day of Resurrection.”
So in Islam, ‘aqeedah refers to the matters which are known from the Qur’an and sound ahadith, and which the Muslim must believe in his heart, in acknowledgement of the truth of Allah and His Messenger.
[Source: Sharh Lam’ah al-I’tiqaad by Ibn al-Uthaymeen, and al-‘Aqeedah fi-Allaah, by ‘Umar al-Ashqar]
‘Aqeedah and Its Importance
‘Aqeedah is what a person takes as a religion. It is said, ‘he has a good ‘aqeedah’ meaning, ‘protected from doubts.’ ‘Aqeedah is an action of the heart, which is to believe and affirm something in the heart.
The Meaning of ‘Aqeedah in the Shari’ah: It is the belief in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day and belief in al-Qadar (Predestination) – its good and evil. These are called the Pillars of Iman (faith).
The Shari’ah is divided into two parts: Beliefs and Actions
Beliefs are issues, which are not related to how an act is performed, like belief in the Rububiyah (Lordship) of Allah, the obligation to worship Him (alone), and the belief in the rest of the aforementioned pillars of Iman. These are called Asliyah – the basic foundation.
Actions are issues related to how actions are performed like Salaat (prayer), Zakaat (charity) and Sawm (fasting) and other rulings with regards to actions. These are termed as Far’eyyah – the branches, because their soundness or corruption is based upon the beliefs.
Thus, the correct ‘aqeedah (belief) is the foundation upon which the religion is based and with it, the actions are set aright, as the Most High, said, ‘So, whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.’ [Surah al-Kahf (18): 110]
And indeed, it has been revealed to you (O Muhammad), as it was to those (i.e., Prophets) before you, ‘If you join others in worship with Allah, (then) surely (all) your deeds will be in vain, and you will certainly be among the losers.’ [Surah az-Zumar (39): 65]
‘So, worship Allah (alone) by performing religious deeds sincerely for His sake. Surely, the religion is for Allah only.’ [Surah az-Zumar (39): 2-3]
These verses, and the numerous narrations that have been related concerning their meaning confirm that actions are not accepted unless they are free from Shirk (polytheism). Therefore, it was the main concern of the Messengers (may peace be upon them) to rectify the beliefs first and thus, the first thing, they called their nations to, was the sole worship of Allah and abandonment of worship to anything other than Him. As He, the Most High, says, ‘And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming), ‘Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid the Taghoot (everything that is worshiped other than Allah).’ [Surah An-Nahl (16): 36]
The first thing that every Prophet addressed his people with was, ‘Worship Allah! You have no other Ilah (deity worthy of being worshiped) but Him.’ [Surah al-A’raf (7): 59, 65, 73, 85]. It was said by Nuh (peace be upon him), Hud (peace be upon him), Saleh (peace be upon him), Suhaib (peace be upon him) and all the other Prophets (peace be upon them) to their nations.
The Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stayed in Mecca for thirteen years, after (he was bestowed with) Prophet-hood, calling people to Tawheed, and rectifying their ‘aqeedah, because it is the foundation upon which the entire structure of the Deen stands.
The Duaat (callers to the religion of Allah) and those who seek to guide others in every age have followed the example of the Messengers and the Prophets, who initiated their call with Tawheed and correction of ‘aqeedah and subsequently, they would focus upon the remaining commandments of the Deen (religion).
Principles of Aqeedah
1. Everything which is in accord with the Book and the Authentic Sunnah is accepted by them and everything which is in opposition to it is treated as false by them.
The first thing which distinguishes the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah from all those besides them is the methodology with which they acquire their sciences (of the Deen) and the source of the Truth from which they derive their beliefs, concepts, actions of worship, dealings (with the people), their mode of conduct and their manners. The source of Knowledge and Truth in all the various branches of knowledge with the Ahl us-Sunnah is the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). No words other than the words of Allah come first and no guidance other that the guidance of the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) comes first.
2. There is no one who is free from making mistakes (in the Deen) except the Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
The Ahl us-Sunnah do not regard anyone as being safe from error as regards the Deen except the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The scholars are not free from making mistakes but rather the words of everyone can either be accepted or rejected except those of the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Therefore the words and statements of the scholars of the Ahl us-Sunnah by necessity follow or are in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and do not precede or go ahead of it.
3. The Ijmaa’ (concensus) of the Salaf us-Saalih (Pious Predecessors) is regarded as a Shari’ah proof which is necessary to hold on to for those who come after them.
And the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah believe that the most knowledgeable of the creation as regards the Deen of Allah after the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) are the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and the Salaf us-Saalih. Whatever they united/agreed upon from any of the affairs or matters of the Deen is free from being wrong and it is not [permissible] for anyone to leave it. Their Ijmaa is a Shari’ah proof which it is obligatory to hold on to for those who come after them. All those who stick to their Ijmaa are [therefore] those who adhere strictly to their Jamaa’ah (group).
4. They do not accept or affirm any speech or Ijtihaad (Jurisprudence) except after having thrown it against these three sources: The Book, the Authentic Sunnah and Ijmaa’ of the Salaf.
The Ahl us-Sunnah hold on to the [Sunnah] which the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came with and adhere to the [Jamaa’ah] of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and they are the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and whoever follows their way and adopts their methodology. They do not accept any Ijtihaad or any speech regardless of whom it comes from except after having referred it to the Book, the Authentic Sunnah and the Ijmaa of the Salaf.
5. They do not contradict the Qur’an or the Sunnah with their ‘Aql (Intellect) or opinions or analogies.
And (therefore) the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah do not rely upon, follow or cling except to the knowledge and the practice of the Salaf us-Saalih and whoever takes from them, sticks to their jamaa’ah and travels upon their trail and binds (and restricts) himself to their principles/foundations. And this is because the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) learnt the tafsir (explanation) of the Qur’an and the Hadith from the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), then taught it to the Taabi’een but did not put themselves before Allah and His Messenger with an opinion, ones taste, ones intellect, sudden enlightenment (like that of the Sufis) or other such things.
6. The Jamaa’ah (The Group that is united upon the Truth, which the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came with, in terms of speech and action) is the means of Deliverance in this life and in the Hereafter.
The Ahl us-Sunnah therefore, hold fast to the Jamaa’ah of the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) turning away from the places of separation and difference, clinging tightly to the totality of the Book, the Sunnah and Ijmaa (unanimous agreement of the companions), whilst being far from the places of obscurity and unclarity (in the Book and the Sunnah) which separates and divides the united. And (this is because) the Jamaa’ah in (their estimation) is the means of Deliverance in this life and the Hereafter.
7. They do not make obligatory the acquaintance with a particular type of knowledge upon he who is incapable and which is befitting for the capable person only.
And the Ahl us-Sunnah believe in what the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came with in its entirety, however, they differentiate between the one who is capable and the one who is not with regards to knowing what the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came with in a detailed way. And this is a mighty principle: many trials have befallen (the Ummah) due to absence of its understanding.
May Peace and Blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, upon his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and all those who follow in their footsteps until the Day of Resurrection. Ameen.
[The additional text in italics after each point is a summary of the words of Ibn Taymiyyah in his Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa]
Sources for the ‘Aqeedah (1)
The ‘Aqeedah has two fundamental sources, they are:
1. The Book of Allah – the Most High (the noble Qur’an)
2. What is authentic from Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Since the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) does not speak from desires, rather his words are Revelation sent down. And the Ijmaa (concensus) of the Salafus-Saalih (Pious Predecessors): A source based upon the Book and Sunnah (2).
As regards to the uncorrupted fitrah (natural state) and the sound and correct aql (intellect) then they will agree with and conform to the Book and the Sunnah and will be able to arrive at the general principles of ‘aqeedah, but not its details. So the sound and correct aql and fitrah affirm Allah’s existence and that He is Most Great and that it is essential to obey and to worship Him; and that He has the Attributes of Greatness and Majesty. Likewise, the sound aql and the uncorrupted fitrah realise the necessity of there being Prophets and the sending of Messengers; and that there has to be Resurrection and requital of actions; etc-in general, but without the specifics and details.
However, as for other matters and the rest of the matters of the Ghayb (Unseen), then their is no way to find them out in detail, except by way of the Book and the Sunnah (the revelation) otherwise it would not be from the Unseen.
And contradiction between a clear text of the Book and the Sunnah and sound and correct ‘aql cannot be imagined and is in fact an impossibility. So if there appears to be a contradiction between the two then the Revelation is given precedence and is decisive (3) since it comes from the one who is infallible (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), whereas the aql (intellect) of a person is not infallible. Indeed, the aql is the deficient perception of humans, and it is open to misconception, error, forgetfulness, desires, ignorance and inability – thus it is certainly deficient.
Its Principles and Methodology
1. The source for ‘aqeedah is the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Ijmaa (concensus) of the Salaf (pious predecessors).
2. Everything that we have with us authentically reported from Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), then we have to accept it – whether it has been related in mutaawatir or ahaad form. (5)
3. That which we refer back to in order to understand the Book and the Sunnah are those texts which explain others; and the understanding of the Salafus-Saalih (the pious Predecessors (6) and those scholars who followed their minhaj (methodology) and then what is correct from the language point of view. However, we do not reject something established due to a language meaning.
4. All the fundamental principles of the Deen were explained by the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). That which was not considered part of the Deen at that time can not be considered part of the Deen later.
5. Submission to Allah and His Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) both inwardly and outwardly. So we do not oppose anything from the Book, nor from the authentic Sunnah with qiyaas (analogy), personal views, kashf (intuition), nor the saying of any Shaykh or Imam, etc.
6. Correct and sound ‘aql (reasoning or intellect) agrees with authentic naql (text) – these two agree with each other – and what is qat’ee (definite) from either of them can not contradict the other. If there is an apparent contradiction, then the text is given precedence.
7. It is imperative and obligatory to adhere to the textual and Shari’ah wordings in matters of ‘aqeedah and to avoid innovated terms and wordings. As regards wordings which contain more than one meaning and may be correct or incorrect, then the meaning should be ascertained; so if the meaning is correct then it is affirmed with a Shari’ah wording. However, if the meaning is incorrect, then it is rejected.
8. Infalliblity (i.e. being masoom) is established for Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Ummah as a whole is also masoom (infallible) and protected from uniting upon error and misguidance. However, as for the individuals of this Ummah, then they are not masoom (i.e. they err and make mistakes). So whenever there is a difference amongst the scholars, then we refer it back to the Book and the Sunnah along with making an excuse for the one who has erred and is mistaken; since he is from mujtahidoon (those Scholars who are qualified to extract rulings from the Book and the Sunnah) of this Ummah.
9. In this Ummah there are some who are muhaddath (addressed) with ilhaam (inspiration (i.e. inspired without receiving revelation, since that has ended with the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)). Good dreams are true and are a part of Prophethood. Likewise, truthful intuition is a true fact and is considered as being one of the karaamat (miraculous occurrences) with the condition that it conforms to and agrees with the Revelation. However, such dreams and intuitions are neither a source for deriving matters of ‘aqeedah nor Shari’ah.
10. Argumentation about the Deen is something censured, whilst debating in a good manner is something prescribed. However, there are certain matters which it is not permissible to debate and argue about. It is obligatory to withhold from speaking about those matters which one has no knowledge of and to refer knowledge of it back to Allah.
11. It is essential and obligatory to adhere to the same methodology of the Revelation when refuting. So an innovation is not refuted with another innovation, negligence and falling short is not refuted with extremity, nor is extremity refuted with negligence.
12. Every newly invented matter in the Deen is a bid’ah (innovation). Every bid’ah is going astray and misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Fire.
(1) From Mubaahith fee Aqeedah Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah (p.28)
(2) Refer to Al-Itisaam (2/252) of ash-Shatibee.
(3) Refer to Sharhul-Aqeedat-Tahaawiyah () of Ibn Abil-‘Izz al-Hanafi. And refer also to Dar’Taarudil-Aqlmaan-Naql (1/88-280) of Ibn Taymiyyah and indeed, refer to the whole book as it is very beneficial in this matter.
(4) Mujmal Usool Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaah fil -Aqeedah ()
(5) Shaykh Mahmood at-Tahhaan said in tayseer Mustahlil-Hadeeth () about the definition of mutaawatir:
Technically: “That which is related by such a large number of people,that it is impossible that they have invented a lie. Its conditions: i) That it be narrated by a large number of people, Scholars differ about the actual number required, ii) that this number found in every level of the chain, iii) that it is impossible that they could have gathered together upon a lie.”
Refer to Nuzhatun-Nadhr fee Tawdeehi Nukhbatil-Fikr(p.57) of al-Haafidh Ibn Hajjar and Tadreebur-Raawee(2/177) of as-Suyotee.
Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar says in Nuzhatun-NaNadhr(p.71) about the definition of the aahad hadith: “It is that which does not fulfill the conditions of the mutaawatir.”
And the aahaad narrations constitute the majority of narrations, whether in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim, or in the collections of other than them.
(6) From the clearest sign and greatest testimony of a persons truly following the path of the Salafus-Saalih is clinging firmly to their sayings and their judgments with regards to ‘aqeedah, which have been preserved in the earliest books of ‘aqeedah and manjah and from these twelve principles have been derived. So from the earliest of these books are:
1) Kitaabul-Eemaan by the Imaam and mujtahid, Abu ‘Ubayd al-Qaasim ibn Salaam (d.224H)
2) Kitaabul-Eemaan by the Imaam Ib Abee Shaybah (d.235H)
3) Usoolus -Sunnah and Ar-Radd ‘alal Jahmiyyah waz-Zanaadaqah by the Imaam of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jammah Ahmad bin Hanbal (d.241H)
4) Khalq Afaalul-Ibaad, Kitaabul-Eeemaan and Kitabut-Tawheed (the last two being part of al-Jamius-Saheeh ) by Imaam al-Bukharee (d.256H).
5) As-Sunnah by the student of Imaam Ahmad, Abu Bakr al-Athram (d.273H)
6) Kitaabus-Sunnah (being part of the sunan) by the faqeeh and Imaam Ibn Abu Dawood as -Sijistaanee (d.275H)
7) Al-Ikhtilaaf fee Ladfh war-Radd ‘alal-Jahmiyyah by Imaam Ibn Qutaybah (d.276H)
8) Ar-Radd ‘alal Jayhmiyyah by Imaam ad-Daarimee (d.280H)
9) As-Sunnah by the qaadee and haafidh, Ibn Abee ‘Aasim (d.287H)
10) As-Sunnah by the haafidh, Abdullah ibn Imaam Ahmad (d.290H)
11) As-Sunnah by the qaadee and muhaaddith AbuBakr al-Maroozee (d.292H)
12) As-Sunnah by the student of Imaam Ahmad al-Marwaazee (d.292H)
13) Sareehus-Sunnah by the mujtahid, mufassir and Imaam Ibn Jareer at-Tabaree (d.310H)
14) Kitaabut-Tawheed wa Ithbaat Sifaatur-Rabb by the faqeeh and Imaam, Ibn Khuzaymah (d.311H)
15) Aqeedatut-Tahaawiyyah by the Imaam Abu Jafar at-Tahaawee (d.321H)
16) Al-Maqaalatul-Islamiyeen, Ar-Risaalah ilaa Ahlth-Thaghr and Al-Ibaanah ‘an Usoolid-Diyaanah by Imaam Abdul-Hasan al-Asharee (d.324H)
17) Aslus-Sunnah by the haafidh and Imaam, Abu Haatim ar-Raazee (d.327H)
18) Sharhus-Sunnah by the Imaam of Ahlus-sunnah wal-Jammah in his time Imaam al-Barbaaharee (d.329H)
19) Kitaab us-Sunnah by the qaadee, Abu Ahmad al-Asaal (d.349H)
20) Ash-Shareeah by the faqeeh and Imaam, Abu Bakr al-Aajuree (d.360H)
21) Itiqaad Aimmatul-Hadeeth by the faqeeh and Imaam, Abu Bakr al-Ismaeelee (d.371H)
22) Kitaabus-Sifaat and Kitaabun-Nuzool by the haafidh, the Imaam ad-Daaraqutnee (d.385H)
23) Al-Ibaanah ‘an Sharee’atil Firqatin -Naajiyah and Sharhul-Ibaanah ‘an Usoolis-Sunnah wad-Diyaanah by the haafidh, the faqeeh,Imaam Battah al-Akbaree (d.387H)
24) Kitaabut-Tawheed and ar-Radd’alal-Jahmiyyah both by the haafidh and Imaam, Ibn Mandah (d.395H)
25) Al-Usool Itiqaad Ahlus-Sunnah Wal Jamaah by the haafidh and faqeeh, Imaam al-Laalilkaee (d.395H)
26) Al-Wusool ilaa Maarifatil-Istiwaa by Imaam Abu ‘Amr at-Talamankee al-Andalusee (d.429H)
27) Al-Itiqaad by Abu Nuaym al-Ashbaanee (d.430H)
28) Rissaalah fee Ithbaatil-Istiwaa by Imaam Abu Muhammad al-Juwaynee (d.438H)
29) Aqeedatus-Salaf Ashaabul-hadeeth by the haafidh and Imaam, Abu Uthmaan as-Saboonee (d.449H)
30) Al-I’tqaad alaa Madhabis-Salaf Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaah by Imaam al-Bayhaaqee(d.457H)
31) Dhammul-Kalaam by the haafidh and faqeeh, Shaykh ul-Islaam Abu Ismaeel al-Harawee (d.481H)