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Prerequisites to Understanding the Correct Creed

Five essential points which will steer the new Muslim towards the straight path of true Islām.

So make yourself patient upon the Sunnah, and stop where the people stopped, and say what they said, and refrain from what they refrained from. Travel upon the path of your righteous Salaf, for verily sufficient for you is what was sufficient for them.

A Censure of the Intellect

Imām Abū al-Muḍaffar al-Samʿānī said:

“Know that the methodology of the people of the Sunnah is that the intellect does not obligate something upon a person, nor does it raise something from him. It does not determine something to be permissible or impermissible for him, nor good or bad. If the person who heard it does not want, it does not obligate anything upon anyone, and it does not have a reward or punishment.” 1

He also said:

“The people of the Sunnah say: ‘The foundation of the Religion is following (al-Ittibaa`), and the intellect is subservient.’ So if the foundation of the Religion was upon the intellect, the creation would have been in no need of Revelation, nor of Prophets, and the meaning of commanding and prohibiting would be false, and whoever wished could have said whatever he wished.” 2

From ʿAbdullāh Ibn ʿUmar who said:

“Indeed, my brother and I were sitting in a gathering. When the elders from the Companions of the Messenger of Allāh came, they sat by one of the doors from his (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) doors. We hated to divide between them so we sat in a room. When they mentioned an āyah [3] from the Qurʾān, they argued about it until the raised their voices. So the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) came out angry. Indeed his face was red. He flung dust at them and said: ‘Slow down o people! Nations before you were destroyed because of this, due to their differing about their prophets and due to abandoning parts of their books for other parts. Verily the Qurʾān was not sent down denying itself, rather it affirms itself. So whatever you know from it, then act upon it, and whatever you are ignorant of from it, then refer it to someone who is knowledgeable about it.'” 4

Imām Aḥmad said:

“So we refer the Qurʾān to One who is knowledgeable about it, to Allāh the Blessed and Exalted. So He is the most knowledgeable about it.” 5

Imām al-Samʿānī said:

“Indeed, they make their intellects callers to Allāh, and they take them at the level of messengers concerning what is between them. So if a person says: ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allāh and my intellect is the Messenger of Allāh’, it will not be objectionable to the people of rhetoric (kalām) by way of its meaning.”6

ʿAbdullāh Ibn Masʿūd said:

“Follow and do not innovate, for indeed you have been sufficed, and every innovation is misguidance.” 7

The Salaf’s Position on Rhetoric [kalām] and Argumentation:

Imām al-Baghawī said:

“So the scholars from the people of the Sunnah are united upon the prohibition of quarrelling and argumentation, and upon driving others away from the discussion of theological rhetoric (kalām) and from learning it.”8

Imām al-Shāfiʿī said:

“That a slave meets Allāh with everything He forbade except shirk is better for him than theological rhetoric. Indeed I have seen things from the people of kalām (theological rhetoric) that I do not think a Muslim would say.” 9

He (raḥimahullāh) also said:

“Whoever manifests nationalism or theological rhetoric and calls to it, then he has apostated from the testimony (shahādah). That the servant meets his Lord the Mighty and Majestic with every sin except shirk is better than meeting Him with something from desires (ahwā`). 10

Imām Aḥmad said to al-Mu’taṣim during the days of the trial:

“I am not a person of argumentation or theological rhetoric (kalām). I am only a person or narrations and reports.” 11

The Way of the Salaf is the Best Methodology and the Moderate Path

Allāh says:

“The first predecessors from the Emigrants and the Helpers and those who followed them in goodness – Allāh is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens underneath which rivers flow. They will abide therein forever. That is the greatest achievement.”
[Sūrah al-Tawbah, 9:100]

Imām al-Awzāʿī said:

“Adhere to the narrations from the Salaf, even if the people oppose you and beware of the opinions of men, even if they beautify it with their speech. So indeed the matter is young and you are from it upon a straight path.” 12

He also said:

“So make yourself patient upon the Sunnah, and stop where the people stopped, and say what they said, and refrain from what they refrained from. Travel upon the path of your righteous Salaf, for verily sufficient for you is what was sufficient for them.” 13

Opposing the Way of the Salaf is Misguidance

In describing the path of the Salaf in creed (I’ʿitiqād), Shaykh al Islām Ibn Taymīyyah said:

“Whoever looks into the words of the famous imāms from the Salaf concerning this topic will come to know that they were the most accurate in discernment regarding this topic, due to authentic texts and unadulterated intellects. He will see that their statements are established upon the texts and the intellect. Due to this, they were united, not differing, established, not deficient. Those who opposed the Salaf and the imāms did not understand the reality of their statements. So they did not know the reality of the texts and the intellects, so they started to go in different directions and they started to differ about the Book, so they became opponents of the Book. Indeed Allāh the Exalted said:

“And Indeed those who differ about the Book are in extreme dissension.”
[Sūrah al-Baqarah, 2:176]” 14

Imām Abū Ḥātim al-Rāzī said:

“A sign of the people of innovation is their hatred of the people of narrations (Ahl al-Athar). A sign of the heretics (Zanādiqah) is that the call the people of the Sunnah, Ḥashawiyyah (the Worthless Ones), wanting thereby to nullify the narrations. A sign of the Jahmiyyah 15 is that they call the people of the Sunnah, Mushabbihah. 16 A sign of the Qadariyyah 17 is that they call the people of narrations Mujbirah. 18 A sign of the Murjīʿah 19 is that they call the people of Mukhālifah (Opponents) and Nuqsāniyyah (the Deficient Ones). A sign of the Rāfidhah 20 is that they call the people of the Sunnah, Nāṣibah. 21 However, the people of the Sunnah are not deserving of any name except one and it is absurd to gather them upon these names.” 22

The Imām, the Ḥāfiẓ – Muḥammad Ibn Sinān al-Wāṣitī said:

“The Mushabbihah are those who go beyond the ḥadīth. So as for those who speak with the ḥadīth, then they do not increase upon what they hear. So these are the people of the Sunnah. They only believe what the ḥadīth comes with, these are the believers. They believe in what the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) came with, and the Book and the Sunnah. 23

The Prohibition of Using Terms That are Not Found in the Qurʾān or the Sunnah in Matters of Creed

Shaykh al Islām Ibn Taymīyyah said:

“Verily the great imāms used to forbid the usage of doubtful innovated general terms. In them, the truth is covered with falsehood, along with that, it causes doubt and differing and tribulation (fitnah) which are in opposition to the narrated terminology, and those terms whose meanings have not been fully explained. So whatever is narrated can be made familiar, and whatever is known can be made known. As Imām Mālik said: ‘If there is little knowledge, futility becomes manifest, and if there are few narrations, the desires increase.’ So if a word is neither textually proven nor is its meaning known to the intellect, then it is useless and full of desires.” 24


[1] It was mentioned from him by his student, Ismāʿīl Ibn al-Faḍl in al-Ḥujjah (82/B). Imām Abū al-Muḍaffar al-Samʿānī was a major scholar of ḥadīth and fiqh, who died in 498H.
[2] See al-Ḥujjah (85/A)
[3] Aāyah – A Sign of Allāh, a number of His Words occurring together in the Qurʾān.
[4] Related by Aḥmad in his Musnad (no. 6802) by way of Abī Ḥāzim from ʿUmar Ibn Shuʿaib from his father from his grandfather. Abū Ḥāzim is Salmah Ibn Dīnār who is reliable. Its chain of narrators is good.
[5] Related by Ḥanbal Ibn Ishāq in al-Miḥnah (p. 45) from Aḥmad.
[6] See al-Ḥujjah (83/A).
[7] An authentic report, it was reported by Aḥmad in al-Zuhd (p. 162), Wakīʿ in al-Zuhd (no. 315), Dārimī (no. 211). It was also reported by Ibn Naṣr in al-Sunnah (p. 23), and by Mujāhid in al-Sabʿah (p. 46), and by Ibn Ṭabarānī in al-Sunnah (no. 104), and al-Bayḥaqī in al-Madkhal (no. 204).
[8] Sharḥus Sunnah (1/216).
[9] Reported by Ibn Abī Ḥātim in Ādāb al-Shāfiʿī (p. 182), it is authentic.
[10] Related by Ismāʿīl Ibn al-Faḍl in al-Ḥujjah (7/B), and it is authentic.
[11] Reported by Ḥanbal Ibn Ishāq in al-Miḥnah (p. 54) from Imām Aḥmad.
[12] Related by al-Bayḥaqī in al-Madkhal (no. 233) with an authentic chain of narrators.
[13] Related by Ismāʿīl Ibn al-Faḍl in al-Ḥujjah (6/A-B) with an authentic chain of narrators.
[14] Dar Taʿāruḍ al-ʿAql Wa-al-Naql (2/301).
[15] Jahmiyyah – The followers of Jahm Ibn Ṣafwān, the student of Ja’ad Ibn Dirham, both of whom were executed for their apostasy in the time of the lesser tābiʿīn. Among their beliefs is that they deny the Attributes of Allāh and declare the Qurʾān to be created.
[16] Mushabbihah – Those who declare that Allāh is like His creation and that the Attributes of Allāh are like those of the creation. This was first propagated by Maqaatil Ibn Sulaymān al-Khurasaanee, during the era of the tābiʿīn.
[17] Qadariyyah – They are also followers of Jahm Ibn Ṣafwān. This sect was founded by Ma’abad Ibn Juhanī in Baṣrah at the end of the era of the Companions. They deny Allāh’s Qadar (Pre-Decree) and believe that man creates his own actions which are free of the Will and Power of Allāh.
[18] Mujbirah or Jabariyyah – They hold the belief that people have no free will and are not responsible for their own actions, rather they are forced.
[19] Murjīʿah – They uphold the belief of irjāʿ (to hold that sins, major or minor, do not affect faith and that īmān neither increases nor decreases). The first to call to this belief was Gheelān Ibn Abī Gheelān al-Qadarī. He was executed in 105H. They claim that actions are not part of faith and that people do not vary in faith and that faith does not increase or decrease.
[20] Rawāfiḍ – They are extreme Shīʿah who call themselves Ithnā Ashʿariyyah (the Twelvers) or Jaʿfariyyah. This sect was formed by ʿAbdullāh ibn Saba, a Jew who appeared during the caliphate of ʿUthmān. He claimed to have love for ʿAlī and the family of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). They curse the Companions and declare them to by disbelievers, especially Abū Bakr, ʿUmar, ʿUthmān and the wives of the Prophet. They also believe that the Qurʾān is incomplete.
[21] Nawāṣib – Those who have hatred towards ʿAlī and the family of the Prophet.
[22] Related by Ibn al-Ṭabarī in al-Sunnah (1/189) and see (p. 182).
[23] Related by Ismāʿīl Ibn al-Faḍl in al-Ḥujjah (32/B) with an authentic chain of narrators.
[24] Dar Taʿāruḍ al-ʿAql Wa-al-Naql (1/271)

Prepared by Maaz Qureshi

Published: May 28, 2007
Edited: August 9, 2022

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