Introduction to Aqidah

Bismillah.

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَى وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ؛ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ شَهِيدًا.
All praise belongs to Allah who sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religions, and Allah is enough as a witness.

وَأَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ؛ إِقْرَارًا بِهِ وَتَوْحِيدًا.
And I testify that there is no god except Allah alone who has no partners.

وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ تَسْلِيمًا مَزِيدًا.
And I testify that Muhammad is His servant and messenger. May Allah send salawāt and abundant peace on him and his family.

Introduction

What are sects?

It is part of human nature that humans never agree. Religion is no exception, and even the true religion is no exception. As a result, even Islam has divided into a number of sects despite the fact that a majority of Muslims have maintained a generally orthodox understanding of the religion.

The fact that there will be sects is proven by what Allah said in the Quran ⟪And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ.⟫ (11:118). It is also reported that the Prophet (SAW) said, “My ummah will divide into seventy-three sects.” (Sunan Tirmidhi)

In all these sects, there is one sect that is saved and aided by Allah until the Day of Judgement.

This is proven by Allah saying ⟪It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion⟫ (48:28). The Prophet (SAW) also said, “There will continue to be one group from my ummah manifest [on the truth] until the command of Allah (i.e. the Day of Judgement) comes to them while they are manifest [on it].” (Sahih Bukhari)

As a result, sects in Islam can broadly be divided into four categories:

  1. The correct group: This is often a minority of people.
  2. Those who have mild bidah (deviation): This combined with the first category is the majority of people.
  3. Those who have major bidah: This is a minority of people, like the twelver Shias.
  4. Those who have kufr (disbelief) due to extreme bidah which leads them out of Islam.

We will discuss the meaning of deviation in more detail in another section, but for now, it can be understood as a major issue of belief which leads to contradiction with the Quran, strong Sunnah, or other source of Islamic information.

All people aim to be part of the first category, the people who are upon the correct belief. It is inevitable, however, that a lot of people fall into the second category by mistake or due to a deficiency or bias in their learning. We hope, pray, and expect that Allah guides us to the first category and forgives those of us who fall into the second.

As for the third category, it refers to major deviations of belief which can be verified and checked by reading the Quran or mass-transmitted Sunnah without requiring too much research or contemplation. It is possible those who are born into that sect or inducted into it while they are ignorant might require research and contemplation, but the faults of those deviations would be visible after that research and contemplation.

Since they are never the majority of Muslims, even looking at the understanding of the majority or following the default beliefs the people of Islam follow will save a person from falling into that type of deviation.

As for the fourth category, it refers to people with beliefs that are egregiously outside the fold of Islam.

When we say “people” in these definitions, we do not mean ignorant laymen. Rather, we mean people who study and hold opinions on these matters of belief after understanding. Many laymen have no idea about sects. If they have the basic affirmative obligations as will be elaborated, we hope they will enter Jannah.

I said above ⟪one sect that is saved and aided by Allah until the Day of Judgement⟫ alluding to the aforementioned hadith about the existence of a group of people manifestly on the truth until the Day of Judgement.

This refers to the first category: the correct group.

This raises the question: Is only the first category “saved”?

The answer is: No.

An example is someone who wrote a book on good deeds and manners and said it is a description of the actions of the “people who enter Jannah.” In the book, the writer would describe an ideal Muslim who does good deeds, avoids evil deeds, and repents whenever he makes a mistake. However, most people do not reach that level! Does that mean most Muslims do not enter Jannah? That would be a complete misunderstanding.

Rather, this is a description of the people of proper beliefs such that they earn Jannah with the mercy of Allah. However, it is possible there are people who do not meet the standard completely but are saved due to their good deeds and Allah’s forgiveness, while it is also possible some people meet the standard of beliefs completely but are destroyed due to their evil deeds.

So, the “saved” sect is named that due to the nature of its beliefs leading to salvation, not due to its beliefs necessitating salvation nor due to the lack of those beliefs necessitating damnation.

What is Ahlus-Sunnah?

The sect which is correct according to us is called Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah which is often shortened to the moniker Sunni.

The phrase Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah translates to “The People of Sunnah and Jama’ah.”

Sunnis, as the full name suggests, subscribe to two concepts which other groups either neglect or deny:

  1. The Sunnah: The practice and teachings of the Prophet (SAW) as preserved in the traditions of the scholars and in the hadith.
  2. The Jama’ah: It literally means “congregation.” The purpose of this part of the name has debate. [1]

This contrasts with sects like the Khawarij who emphasized using the Quran with little to no deference to the teachings of the Prophet (SAW) or the companions of the Prophet (SAW) and advocate rebellion and civil war whenever some Muslim rulers do not follow Islam completely.

It also contrasts with sects like the Shias who emphasized the status of the family of the Prophet (SAW) alone as the true teachers of the religion without much emphasis on the Sunnah.

Is being in a sect allowed?

Allah commands us in multiple places of the Quran to avoid being disunited and instead to hold on to the guidance of Allah.

He says: ⟪And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it.⟫ (3:103)

He also says: ⟪He has ordained for you of religion what He enjoined upon Noah and that which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what We enjoined upon Abraham and Moses and Jesus – to establish the religion and not be divided therein.⟫ (42:13)

He also criticizes the previous nations for splitting into many sects.

He says: ⟪Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects – you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah; then He will inform them about what they used to do.⟫ (6:160)

He also says: ⟪Do not be of those who associate others with Allah [Or] of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has.⟫ (30:31-32)

So, the default is that we are commanded to be united and not divide into sects. The meaning of not dividing is that we hold on to the guidance of Allah even if other people leave the guidance of Allah.

Some people misunderstand this prescription of the Quran and imagine that the prohibition of dividing into sects is a prohibition of naming sects that already exist in reality. However, the prohibition of dividing into sects is a prohibition of creating sects and dividing away from the truth that people are already upon.

If half of people believe one belief and the other half believe another belief, there are de-facto two sects. It does not matter whether you give each group a name. The problematic thing, the division of sects, has already happened. So, it is up to you to choose the true belief, and there is no harm in taking the name of a sect that already exists if you know it is true.

If someone comes along and decides he believes neither of the two beliefs, he creates a third sect, even if he does not name his sect anything and pretends to call himself “just Muslim.” If that person believes one of the two beliefs, he is part of that sect even if he calls himself “just Muslim.”

The point is that the prohibition of dividing into sects has nothing to do with naming sects that really exist. Rather, the prohibition is of people not splitting away from the truth and creating sects as a result. The group who stay on the truth are not responsible for this division, and they are completely allowed to name themselves a good name to identify themselves.

Iman and Categories of Beliefs

Iman, often translated as faith, is to hold a belief in something and often refers specifically to major beliefs of the religion. Aqidah, often translated as creed, is the subject that discusses matters of iman due to the existence of different beliefs that arose after the Prophet (SAW).

Issues of belief can be divided into two categories: 1) Obligatory and 2) Non-obligatory. Non-obligatory beliefs are not relevant in the subject of aqidah. Aqidah is concerned with obligatory beliefs.

There are two categories of obligatory beliefs:

  1. Affirmative beliefs: A person is obligated to learn them and believe in them.
  2. Evidentiary beliefs: A person is not obligated to learn or investigate them but is obligated to believe in them when presented the evidence.

Affirmative beliefs are those beliefs which a person is actually obligated by Allah and the Prophet (SAW) to know. We can know a belief is affirmative either by one of them saying it is obligatory to know them or by its constant repetition in the Quran in a way that indicates obligation. The main source in this subject is the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) were he lists the six pillars of iman. All affirmative beliefs are subbranches of the six pillars.

An example of an affirmative obligation is knowing that Allah is one. Allah says very clearly ⟪Say: Allah is one.⟫ (112:1) There is no room for doubt that this belief is affirmatively obligatory.

Evidentiary beliefs are those beliefs where the intention of Islam is not directly that people need to know them. Rather, the obligation of knowing them mostly stems from the fact that the sources of Islamic teachings are very clear in affirming those beliefs. As a result, someone who does not believe those beliefs is impugning his belief in the sources of Islam, like the Quran and the Prophet.

An example of an evidentiary belief is believing that Musa (AS) was a prophet of God. Is it a main purpose of Islam that a person knows Musa (AS) was a prophet of God? Of course not. However, is it absolutely clear in the Quran that Musa (AS) was a prophet of God? Yes.

So, a person who denies Musa (AS) is a prophet of God is not failing to fulfill an affirmative obligation but his denial after evidence impugns his belief in the Quran. As a result, his denial after evidence would be disbelief.

Calling this second type evidentiary is not to mean the first type of belief is not believed based on evidence. Rather, every belief is based on evidence, either direct or indirect. However, the meaning is the obligation of the second type comes after hearing evidence from the Islamic sources while the first type is inherently obligatory to learn about and believe.

Many evidentiary obligations are extremely important and useful to know even if they are not affirmatively obligatory.

To mirror the divisions of mistaken sects, obligatory beliefs, both affirmative and evidentiary, can be divided into three categories:

  1. Critical beliefs (Fardh): When the stakes of not fulfilling the obligation reach the level of kufr. A person can risk leaving Islam.
  2. Major beliefs (Wajib): When the stakes of not fulfilling the obligation reach the level of major bidah.
  3. Minor beliefs (Wajib): When the stakes of not fulfilling the obligation reach the level of minor bidah.

The exact boundaries between these categories are blurry.

As a result of these divisions of beliefs, deviation can be divided into three types as well:

  1. Critical deviation: Falling outside the bounds of Islam.
  2. Major deviation: Risking being outside Islam or being majorly sinful.
  3. Minor deviation: Risking being sinful.

Sources of Knowledge

This section is not directly part of aqidah but a good precursor to understanding the subject of aqidah.

Belief is to know something is true with reason. It does not refer to blind faith, and it also does not refer only to logically proven faith. As long as someone knows something is true for any good reason, even if it is simply his intuition, that is belief. I will mention some proofs briefly in this article, but there is no obligation to know these specific proofs.

The primary sources of knowledge are three: 1) reasoning (through the intellect), 2) observation (through the senses), and 3) the fitrah (intuition). There are many secondary sources of knowledge which derive from the primary sources in different ways, but the most important one in the subject of aqidah is: naql (testimony and transmission).

Any knowledge or claim a person has based on the sources of knowledge can either be: 1) dhanni (probabilistic) or 2) qat’i (definitive). Qat’i knowledge is that which leaves no real room for doubt. Dhanni knowledge is that which does leave room for doubt, and it can range from strong to weak. It is possible for dhanni knowledge to be strong enough not to leave any room for reasonable doubt.

Qat’i knowledge can require different levels of thought and consideration to come to it. Some things can be obvious, like 1+1=2. Other things might require thought and consideration before the truth becomes evident.

Reasoning can be qat’i if the argument is clear and without any doubtful premise or deduction. Observation can be qat’i if nothing obscured the observation or made it doubtful. Intuition can be qat’i if there is no doubt in this intuition. Naql (testimony and transmission) can be qat’i if it has been mass-transmitted generation to generation with too many people in each generation for there to be any doubt of collaboration or lying.

Sources of Aqidah

There are four major sources of aqidah:

  1. Reasoning and Intuition (Fitrah)
  2. Quran
  3. Sunnah
  4. Consensus of the Muslim scholars

Why do we believe in these four sources of aqidah?

As for reasoning and intuition, that is self-evident and already an aforementioned source of knowledge. With reasoning and intuition, it is possible to determine there is one God.

As for the Quran and Sunnah, we believe in them because of the proofs of the prophethood determined through reasoning, intuition, historical testimony, and observation.

As for the consensus of the Muslim scholars, that is a source of religious knowledge because of proofs in the Quran and Sunnah.

That is a summarized version of how these sources are derived, but more explanation of each of these steps will be given in their places.

How strong is each source?

Each of these sources of aqidah, regarding any given belief claim, can be either dhanni or qat’i and of different strengths within those two.

We discussed the strength of reasoning and intuition before.

As for the Quran, it comes to us through mass-transmission, so there is no room for doubt in its transmission. It would be qat’i if the meaning and interpretation of the passage is completely clear. If there is room for doubt in the interpretation and others are viable, it would be dhanni.

As for the Sunnah, it does not all come through mass-transmission. So, it would only be qat’i if 1) it is mass-transmitted, and 2) its meaning is clear.

As for consensus, it would be qat’i if it is proven that consensus exists in the topic without doubt.

Something only becomes part of obligatory aqidah when it is qat’i in one of those sources.

For example, reasoning, the Quran, the Sunnah, and the consensus of the Muslims all indicate that Allah is one God. Another example is that the Quran, Sunnah, and consensus all indicate that angels were created by God as servants for Him. Another example is the mass-transmitted Sunnah indicates that every Muslim with faith in his heart will be taken out of Hellfire.

Pillars of Iman

There are six main topics of iman: 1) Allah, 2) His angels, 3) His scriptures, 4) His messengers, and 5) the resurrection after death, and also 6) Iman in divine decree, its good and its bad. These topics are derived from the Quran and Sunnah.

Allah says ⟪Righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets⟫ (2:177) and ⟪He created everything and decreed a destiny for it.⟫ (25:2)

The Prophet (SAW) said, “[Iman is] that you to believe in Allah, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, and the Last Day and that you believe in divine decree, its good and its bad.” (Sahih Muslim)

These are the main topics of affirmative aqidah. If someone knows the affirmative obligations within these topics, they have what they need to enter Jannah. That is because the Prophet (SAW) limited iman to these six pillars. However, there are more topics in evidentiary aqidah, and we will discuss them in their places.

Affirmative Obligations

Affirmative belief in Allah: We believe Allah is one god; there is no partner to Him. He depends on nothing else, and He holds complete power. He has no children, and He has no parents. No one compares to Him in His greatness and perfection. He decides whatever He wishes, and no one can overrule Him. He is ever-living, always existed, and will always exist. He knows, hears, and sees everything. He created the world and everything in it, and He is never tired by upholding it. To Him everything belongs, and to Him we return. He punishes those who deserve it, and He is also forgiving and merciful to those who repent and try. He alone deserves all worship.

Affirmative belief in the scriptures: We believe Allah revealed His words in scriptures throughout history, and the Quran is the speech of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). We believe the Quran contains nothing false and all of it deserves belief.

Affirmative belief in the messengers: We believe Allah sent messengers who received revelation and scripture to teach mankind, and the messenger sent to us for our time was Muhammad (SAW). We believe no teaching of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) about the religion of God is false and all of it deserves belief. We believe in the five pillars of Islam: 1) The testimony of faith, 2) prayer five times a day, 3) fasting in the month of Ramadan, 4) Zakah, and 5) the pilgrimage to Makkah.

Affirmative belief in the resurrection: We believe people’s deeds are recorded, and everyone will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement. Then, each person will be judged based on his good and bad deeds to enter either the reward of Paradise or the punishment of Hell. Those who believe in God, follow His messenger, and do good deeds will enter Paradise, and those who disbelieve in God and His messengers or do evil deeds will face punishment. As for those who repent from their sins in life, Allah is forgiving and merciful.

Affirmative belief in the angels: We believe Allah created angels that serve Him. He also created a devil that tries to tempt humans.

Affirmative belief in divine decree: We believe everything, good or bad, is under the control of Allah. To Him belongs all decision in the creation. Allah allows bad things to happen for wisdom known to Him. The life of this world is only a temporary stop and test before the true life in the hereafter. We believe humans have been given choice to obey or disobey, and following God’s commands leads to good deeds, and disobeying His commands leads to bad deeds. No creature has a right to disagree with God’s commands.

That is the totality of affirmative aqidah. Anyone who believes the above has fulfilled his basic obligation. No other detail is required in the same way.

Elaboration of the Affirmative Obligations

This section will discuss each of the affirmative obligations mentioned above in more detail, either explaining things that need elaboration or adding evidentiary aqidah.

If I say “We believe,” that should be understood as an obligation. All affirmative obligations are clearly specified as affirmative. If I do not specify an obligation is affirmative, it is evidentiary. The text within ⟪⟫ is also affirmative, since that is taken from the above section on the affirmative obligations.

Belief in Allah

This subject, belief in Allah, is often termed tawheed (i.e. asserting oneness) because a large part of it is related to the oneness of God.

⟪We believe Allah is one god; there is no partner to Him.⟫ [2]

The proof of God existing is both intuition and reasoning. As for intuition, it is part of the natural human fitrah to believe in the existence of God.

As for reasoning, the existence of God can be derived through several arguments. One example is:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. The universe has a cause. This can be called the first cause.

The arguments and premises can be fleshed out, explained, and defended in different ways, but this is not the place to go into that.

As for there being one God and not multiple gods, there are many arguments to prove this. The simplest is the fact that there is no evidence to believe in more than one god. Anyone who claims multiple gods needs to bring evidence like the evidence for one God was brought.

Another argument is that the universe being seamless and consistent throughout removes the possibility of independent powers controlling it.

⟪He depends on nothing else, and He holds complete power.⟫ [3] [4]

We affirmatively believe that Allah has no needs, meaning He only does things because He wishes to do them. We also affirmatively believe that Allah has the power to do all things.

Some people say: Allah has the power to do contradictory or rationally impossible things.

This view is a mistake that no scholar supported, and it is necessary for logical consistency to know that Allah being completely powerful means He has the power to make all rationally possible things happen. His power does not extend to the rationally impossible, since they are not even real or “things” for His power to include them. This knowledge is necessary for logical consistency but not obligatory in the religious sense.

To understand why we say this while believing in miracles, we need to understand the types of possibilities. Possibility (and impossibility) is of two types: 1) Rational and 2) Natural.

Rational impossibility is when a concept is inherently contradictory. This is when there is an actual logical problem in the very sentence or idea such that it makes no sense in itself.

An example of this is “a triangle with four sides.” The very word triangle means a three-sided shape. Saying “a three-sided shape with four sides” is a contradictory statement which has no meaning. So, a rational impossibility is a string of words that cannot hold any meaning because of an inherent contradiction in what the words indicate.

A natural impossibility is when a concept contradicts the laws of nature we normally see in our world but contains no inherent contradiction.

For example, staffs cannot normally or naturally turn into snakes, but there is no inherent contradiction in the idea. No part of the normal definitions of staff (a large stick) or snake (a long creature that slithers and has teeth, scales, etc.) entails a staff cannot be turned into a snake. So, the string of words “staff turning into a snake” holds real meaning to comprehend which is not inherently contradictory. The only issue is the fact that we do not normally see staffs turning into snakes in our world and it is not within normal human capability.

Since we believe Allah is able to do all rationally possible things and since a natural impossibility is not rationally impossible, there is no doubt it is within Allah’s power to turn a staff into a snake. After all, who decided the normal way things work in our world except Allah? Then, how can the creator of that pattern not decide to change it whenever He wishes?

On the other hand, rational impossibility is not a created rule. Rather, it is the fact that the very concept you put into words is inherently nonsensical. It is no different to asking if God can do “blablabla.”

This is how you respond to someone who asks whether God can create a rock too heavy for Him to lift. He is asking for “a rock that cannot be lifted by someone who can lift everything.” It is a string of words he created with no sensible meaning. It is a rational impossibility and not what we mean when we call Allah all-powerful.

⟪He has no children, and He has no parents.⟫ [5]

⟪No one compares to Him in His greatness and perfection.⟫ [6]

We affirmatively believe Allah is perfect and not imperfect like creation. However, there is more discussion on the exact meaning of comparison and the limits of it, but that is part of evidentiary aqidah. This will be discussed in another article on the subject of the Sifaat Controversy.

⟪He decides whatever He wishes, and no one can overrule Him.⟫

Anyone who says God is an inanimate or impersonal object is not a Muslim.

⟪He is ever-living, always existed, and will always exist. He knows, hears, and sees everything. He created the world and everything in it, and He is never tired by upholding it.⟫

We believe God is not inside our world; that is rationally impossible. We also believe there is no such thing as God incarnating into any form in the world. Rather, everything in the world is created by God.

⟪To Him everything belongs, and to Him we return.⟫

Some people claim they own themselves and have more right over themselves than God, and no one who believes that is a Muslim. We believe God owns us and His decisions are more rightful than our own decisions about ourselves.

⟪He punishes those who deserve it, and He is also forgiving and merciful to those who repent and try.⟫

It is neither appropriate to lose complete hope in God’s mercy nor to lose all fear in God’s punishment.

⟪He alone deserves all worship.⟫

Worshiping anyone other than Allah is considered shirk, and it takes a person out of Islam. Worship can range from extreme veneration to devoted prayer for help, like how non-Muslims pray to Jesus or Krishna. As Muslims, we worship and pray only to Allah alone.

Belief in Scriptures

⟪We believe Allah revealed His words in scriptures throughout history⟫

The affirmative obligation is to believe in the general concept of scriptures being revealed without the affirmative obligation to specify the scriptures. However, the evidentiary obligation is to believe in the existence of scriptures mentioned in the Quran. Allah states that He gave some prophets scriptures: Ibrahim, Musa, Dawud, and Isa (AS). He also names some scriptures clearly like the Torah and Injil.

It is necessary for logical consistency to believe the books that exist today called the Torah and Injil may contain some content from the original scriptures but they are not truly what was revealed to those prophets. However, they can be called Torah and Injil still because they are the best existing versions of those books, not because they are authentic.

There is no obligation to believe in the content of any of those scriptures since there is no authentic access to them.

⟪We believe the Quran contains nothing false and all of it deserves belief.⟫

We affirmatively believe the content of the Quran is true. This should not be misunderstood as saying everything in the Quran is affirmatively obligatory to believe. Rather, it is only affirmatively obligatory to believe the fact that the Quran as a whole is true.

We also believe in every clear verse in the Quran and do not interpret verses of the Quran metaphorically without evidence. The obligation of belief can be fardh or wajib depending on the clarity of the verse and other related factors. Almost all evidentiary obligations in most pillars of faith are simply parts of this obligation to believe in the content of the Quran.

Some people metaphorically interpret clear parts of the Quran because it does not fit with their understanding of science or philosophy. That is a false and deviated view.

Some people claim Allah said false or misleading things in the Quran because of the audience at the time, and that is a false and deviated view.

Belief in Messengers

⟪We believe Allah sent messengers who received revelation and scripture to teach mankind⟫

We affirmatively believe in the general concept of prophets being sent and that Allah sent prophets in history.

We believe in the prophethood of the figures explicitly confirmed as prophets in the Quran: Adam, Idris, Nuh, Hud, Salih, Ibrahim, Lut, Ismail, Ishaq, Yaqub, Yusuf, Ayyub, Shuaib, Musa, Haroon, Dawud, Sulaiman, Ilyas, Al-Yasa’, Yunus, Dhul-Kifl, Zakariyya, Yahya, Isa, and Muhammad. May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon all of them.

We believe Isa (AS) was only a prophet of God, neither a son of God nor God in human form.

There are also some figures in the Quran not explicitly confirmed as prophets, like Khidr and Uzair. There is no obligation to believe in the prophethood of those figures but we believe all information Allah clearly told us about them.

As for figures neither mentioned in the Quran nor Sunnah but in other sources, there is even less obligation about them.

The difference between the titles of prophet and messenger is an interesting discussion, but it has no obligations related to aqidah.

Some people believe miracles can only happen to prophets, however, we believe it is possible for non-prophets to receive miracles like the sleepers in Surah Kahf.

Some people do not believe in miracles, either claiming they are metaphors or claiming they have naturalistic explanations. However, we believe in the clear accounts of miracles, like the Prophet Musa’s staff turning into a snake and him splitting the sea, and we believe in them as real breaks of the laws of nature.

We believe the prophets were the best and most pious people of mankind and no one can be superior to any prophet in status.

Some people attribute major sins and lies to the prophets, but we believe the prophets never lied about the religion of God and did not fall into major sins.

Among the evidence for that is the fact that Allah repeatedly calls the prophets trustworthy and says He would strongly punish any prophet who would even dare attempt to lie about His religion. Another evidence is that the Muslim groups also agree that the prophets were free of major sins and did not lie about the religion of God.

The agreement or consensus of the Muslims is a source of aqidah because Allah says in the Quran ⟪And whoever opposes the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows other than the way of the believers – We will give him what he has taken and drive him into Hell, and evil it is as a destination.⟫ (4:115)

If all the believers follow a certain view, that would be ⟪the way of the believers⟫. So, when it is the case that the Muslim groups agree on a certain view, that view is proven correct by virtue of their agreement.

Note that when Allah describes a group with multiple qualities then states they go to Paradise or to Hell, it does not necessarily mean each quality by itself would lead to Paradise or Hell, but it means those are a group of good qualities we should imitate or bad qualities we should avoid respectively.

⟪The messenger sent to us for our time was the Prophet Muhammad⟫

The proof for any prophet is established with five criteria:

  1. The person claims to be a prophet
  2. That person receives miracles (i.e. something humans cannot do)
  3. The miracles are authentically proven
  4. That person does not teach something entirely impossible to attribute to God, like claiming he is god incarnate or a child of god
  5. The religion attributed to that prophet is authentic to him and his direct followers

The Prophet (SAW) fulfills all the five criteria. He received many miracles. Among the miracles he received are the prophecies that always come true. Another miracle he received is the Quran and its challenge. He also received many physical miracles which are mass-transmitted.

As a result of the proofs of prophethood, we are required to believe in the Quran that he brought and the Sunnah that he taught.

Some people believe in a prophet after Muhammad (SAW), but it is obligatory to believe the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was the final prophet as clearly mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah.

Some people believe the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was only sent to the Arabs or he was not a universal messenger, but we believe that he was a messenger for all of mankind and that they are all required to believe and follow him.

Some central details of the Prophet (SAW)’s life are obligatory to believe in. For example, the Prophet (SAW) was an Arab descendant of the Prophet Ibrahim through his son Ismail. He was born in the city known as Makkah today, and both his parents died before he reached adulthood. He lived his early life in Makkah, never reading or writing books, and He became a prophet and preached to the people of Makkah for many years before moving to the city known as Madinah today. In Madinah, he continued to teach his message until he passed away and was buried there.

⟪We (affirmatively) believe no teaching of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) about the religion of God is false and all of it deserves belief.⟫

We affirmatively believe the general fact that everything the Prophet taught about the religion was true. We also affirmatively believe the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) deserves to be followed in his commands and teachings.

The commands of the Prophet (SAW) reach us through hadith. So, let us discuss the concept of hadith in brief, although this will contain some repetition from the sections on the sources of knowledge and aqidah.

Ahadith are transmitted reports about the Prophet (SAW)’s sayings and actions. They are of two types: 1) mutawatir (mass-transmitted) and 2) ahaad (not mass-transmitted).

A mutawatir report is when so many people in each generation transmit a report that there is zero possibility of collaboration or coincidence.

A report can be mutawatir in either 1) words or 2) meaning. A report is mutawatir in words when multiple people mass-transmit the exact same statement of the Prophet (SAW). A report is mutawatir in meaning when multiple different reports from the Prophet (SAW) with different words giving the same message are mass-transmitted when considered altogether.

We believe in the content of mutawatir reports if we hear them and are shown the evidence of them being mutawatir, but it is only obligatory to believe the general concept that authentic ahaad reports should be accepted. As for believing in specific ahaad reports, that is not part of aqidah.

However, if someone does not give value to ahaad reports at all and accepts or rejects them based on his feelings, he has violated an obligation of aqidah.

Those are the general principles of when a hadith needs to be accepted. However, this article already lists important information from mutawatir reports that many people reject, so all relevant mutawatir information is already written here and you have no need to investigate further.

⟪We believe in the five pillars of Islam: 1) The testimony of faith, 2) prayer five times a day, 3) fasting in the month of Ramadan, 4) Zakah, and 5) the pilgrimage to Makkah.⟫

The detailed explanation of the five pillars and how to fulfill them is not a part of aqidah. It is the concern of fiqh.

Belief in Resurrection

⟪We believe people’s deeds are recorded⟫

People’s deeds are recorded by two angels, one on the right and one on the left.

We believe there are signs for the Day of Judgement that will happen before it. Among those signs is that the Prophet Isa (AS), the son of Maryam (AS), will physically return to earth. We believe that he will return literally, not figuratively, and that he will defeat the Dajjal (the anti-Christ). This will all be before the Day of Judgement.

⟪Everyone will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement⟫

We believe that, when a person dies, he stays in his grave or resting place until the Day of Judgement and that Allah will make that grave a place of punishment or a place of rest and comfort for him.

We believe that the world will be destroyed for the Day of Judgement and all living things will die, then, everyone will be resurrected in soul and body.

⟪Then, each person will be judged based on his good and bad deeds to enter either the reward of Paradise or the punishment of Hell.⟫

We also believe that Paradise is a garden where Allah has prepared a lot of reward, some of which He described to us, and some of it we will only know when we get there. Allah says ⟪They will have whatever they want therein, and we have more.⟫ (50:35)

Some people believe Paradise is metaphorical or that there is no food or marriage in Paradise, but we believe the contrary.

We also believe that Hell is physical torture in fire and other punishments.

May Allah protect us from Hell and grant us Paradise.

⟪Those who believe in God, follow His messenger, and do good deeds will enter Paradise, and those who disbelieve in God and His messengers or do evil deeds will face punishment.⟫

We believe Paradise is eternal reward, and Hell is an eternal punishment to those who enter it for the crime of unrepentant kufr or shirk.

However, every crime other than kufr or shirk only receives temporary punishment. So, a Muslim who commits sins may enter Hell if his sins are bad enough, but we believe he will eventually be forgiven by God and allowed into Paradise.

We also believe that Allah does not punish people if they did not receive the message of God. It is possible those people will be tested again on the Day of Judgement to decide their final destination.

⟪As for those who repent from their sins in life, Allah is forgiving and merciful.⟫

We believe every sin, including shirk and kufr, can be forgiven if someone repents. Repentance is to stop doing a sin and regret having done it.

We also believe that shirk and kufr cannot be forgiven if someone dies without having repented from them. Other sins, even if someone dies without repentance, can be forgiven or will at least get temporary rather than eternal punishment.

Belief in Angels

⟪We believe Allah created angels that serve Him.⟫

We believe in the angels mentioned in the Quran: Jibril, Mikaeel (AS), the angels that record our deeds on the right and left, and the angel of death. We believe Jibril (AS) brought the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

⟪He also created a devil that tries to tempt humans.⟫

We believe there are creatures called Jinn whom Allah created with fire and that the devil is a Jinn. Some of the Jinn are good and some are evil, like humans are good and evil.

The first devil was Iblis who disobeyed God and was thrown out of the sky, and he has followers among the evil Jinn. It is necessary to know that Iblis and his associates hate mankind and wish to mislead us from the correct path. Whoever follows their temptations will join them in their destination of Hell. Whoever seeks refuge in Allah from them, they cannot touch him.

There was a difference of opinion about whether Iblis and the Jinn are a category of angels or not, so that is not part of aqidah. However, the best view is: The Jinn are another species different from angels, and they are given the ability to do evil unlike the angels.

Belief in Divine Decree

⟪We believe everything, good or bad, is under the control of Allah. To Him belongs all decision in the creation.⟫

Allah has complete power, and nothing can overpower Him. Hence, there is no doubt that nothing in the universe happens except because Allah allowed it to happen. If He had not allowed it to happen, it would not have happened.

Allah is also the ultimate creator who creates everything in the universe and its power and effects. So, everything that happens in the universe is created by Allah.

Allah also knows everything, past and future. So, everything, including what people would do, was already known to Allah before He created the universe. With this knowledge, He wrote all the events in a register.

Hence, we believe everything happens under the permission of Allah, everything is created by Allah, and Allah always knew everything that would happen.

We believe Allah guides people, so we seek His guidance, and Allah misguides wrongdoers, so we seek protection from misguidance.

⟪Allah allows bad things to happen for wisdom known to Him. The life of this world is only a temporary stop and test before the true life in the hereafter.⟫

It is not appropriate for a believer to lose hope in the plan of Allah. This life is a test, both its enjoyment and its suffering, and the true destination is the life of the hereafter.

⟪We believe humans have been given choice to obey or disobey⟫

Some people think Allah’s knowledge and creation of everything means there is no ability for humans to choose, however, Muslims believe that humans have been given an ability to choose between good and evil. We do not believe there is a contradiction between this and God’s divine decree because no part of knowledge or creation is to force someone to pick a certain action. This is not the place to discuss the details of the reconciliation between divine decree and free will.

The underlying reality of divine decree is that it is a secret of Allah in His creation. It has not been shown to an angel near Him nor to a prophet He sent. Delving and investigating deeply into it is a cause of loss, a ladder to deprivation, and a degree of transgression.

Some people think humans being given a choice in a physical sense means they deserve to always have a choice to do evil. Because of this false belief, these people think it is incorrect for any authority to prevent people from evil deeds. This view is entirely false, baseless, and obligatory to oppose.

Allah gave people choice in a physical sense, but they do not inherently deserve to always keep that choice, and it is possible for a government or authority to limit people’s choices. It is no different to the fact that Allah has given people a physical choice to murder or steal but it is still possible for an authority to limit that choice.

⟪Following God’s commands leads to good deeds, and disobeying His commands leads to bad deeds⟫

It is obligatory to believe that God is ultimately wise, knowledgeable, and good and that there is no one who knows good and evil more than Him. Hence, we believe that no one’s personal judgement stands in the face of God’s commands and decisions. God’s commands are always supreme and the final judges of good and evil.

This means a person can hold no ideology over the teachings of the religion of God. Every ideology we hold must submit to Islam if Islam teaches something in that subject. In the presence of Islam, our prior beliefs must vanish like they are stars when the sun is in the sky.

⟪No creature has a right to disagree with God’s commands.⟫

Those who know something is God’s command but reject His decision and question His wisdom, believing that they know better, are disbelievers.

Other Obligations

This section will discuss other topics which have evidentiary aqidah in them. There is no affirmative aqidah here.

Companions of the Prophet

The following are beliefs that separate Sunnis from Shias.

Some believe there always needs to be a divinely appointed leader to guide people, but we believe that the Quran and Sunnah are enough as direct sources of divine law and that there is no need for such a divinely appointed leader. The proof is the lack of any indication in the Quran or Sunnah that there will always be divinely appointed leaders to follow.

They believe that there are infallible and divinely guided leaders (Imams), but we believe there is no revelation after the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) at all. We believe there is no such thing as infallible or divinely guided people after the Prophet (SAW).

The proof is the complete lack of mention in the Quran or Sunnah of any divinely guided or infallible people we need to know other than the prophets and the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the seal of prophets and, by extension, the seal of divine revelation.

We also believe the close companions of the Prophet (SAW) were pious people who did their best to follow the Prophet (SAW) after him. Other people wrongly believe they were mostly hypocrites. The proof is the praise for them in the Quran and Sunnah.

We believe the best man after the Prophet (SAW) was Abu Bakr (RA), then Umar (RA), then Uthman and Ali (RA). They were all early followers of the Prophet (SAW) who stayed with him through thick and thin, and there is no doubt about their piety and sincerity. They are all promised Paradise.

The proof is the fact that the senior companions and Muslims decided to chose them in this order and Allah tells us to follow the path of the believers.

Some people believe only the family of the Prophet (SAW), namely Ali (RA) (who was his son-in-law and cousin) and Ali’s children, should have become leaders after the Prophet (SAW), but we believe leadership in Islam is not tied specifically to the Prophet’s close family. We also do not believe the Prophet’s family are inherently superior due to being his family. There can and have been people superior to them due to their piety.

The proof is the complete lack of evidence in the Quran or clear evidence in the Sunnah that they were supposed to be leaders. If it was something important and obligatory, the Prophet would have clearly commanded it with no room for interpretation.

That being said, we believe in loving and respecting the Prophet (SAW)’s close family including all his wives. Hurting them intentionally and wrongly is like hurting the Prophet himself.

Some people accuse the wives of the Prophet (SAW) of being corrupt or hypocrites, especially his wife Aisha (RA), but we believe the wives of the Prophet (SAW) were chosen by God and the Prophet (SAW), and they were pious and sincere people. We believe Aisha (RA) was beloved to the Prophet (SAW), and she was a great teacher of the Prophet’s Sunnah after he passed away. Whoever slanders and hurts the wives of the Prophet (SAW) hurts the Prophet himself.

We love and respect the companions of the Prophet (SAW) in general, especially those who were with him in the battles of Badr and Uhud, the battle of Tabuk, and many of his other expeditions, and those that served him in his life and death. This includes Anas ibn Malik, Abu Hurairah, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Jabir ibn Abdullah, and many others who taught the Sunnah. The proof is Allah and the Prophet’s praise for the people of Badr, Uhud, and Tabuk and those who stayed with the Prophet in difficult times.

We do not attribute bad intentions to any of the companions. We say about the disagreements and wars that occurred many decades after the Prophet (SAW) that the companions on each side were sincere and did not intend evil. It is possible for two good people to fight due to misunderstanding and sincere disagreement. None of the companions, even when involved in war, accused each other of being disbelievers.

The proof is that Allah says ⟪If two groups among the believers fight, make peace between them⟫ (49:9). He indicates the possibility of two believing sides battling each other.

Liberalism

The scholars of Islam differed whether Allah gave us the ability to determine morality to some extent, but they do not differ about the superiority of Allah’s knowledge of morality.

In the face of God’s law and the Prophet’s commands, there is no amount of feelings and human intuition in morality that holds any value. Islam and its laws will always hold supreme. How can this not be the case when people’s morality changes every decade as quickly as dress and hairstyle?

Some people believe in the harm principle: “As long as you do not harm people, you can do whatever you want.”

It is obligatory to believe this principle is false because crimes are of two kinds: one type is crimes against God and His laws and another type is crimes against other humans. We believe both types of crimes matter and are important in morality. So, a person who commits a crime against God or breaks His laws can be as morally wrong as him committing a crime by harming another person (if not more morally wrong).

We believe that adultery is one of the worst crimes a person can commit short of murder. Fornication is the crime of an unmarried person sleeping with someone who is neither his wife nor concubine. We believe anyone who does that is also guilty of one of the greatest crimes possible.

We also believe anyone who has physical romantic relations of any kind (including kissing or holding hands) with someone without a lawful relationship is sinful.

The reason for that is Allah is the Most Wise. He has informed us that adultery and fornication are some of the greatest sins along with murder and disbelief. Allah knows what crimes will corrupt society if left unpunished, and He knows the best punishment to give to deter them.

It is also obligatory to disbelieve in the harm principle as applied to government: “A government should not restrict anything that doesn’t harm other people.” This is incorrect because Islam prescribes punishments for crimes that do not harm people directly.

Secularism

We believe Allah is the one who knows best how we should act in every part of our life, from how we worship in our homes to how governments should run. That is why Islam provides guidance in all aspects of life. It is not limited to private life.

Those who limit religion to private life do so because of different reasons, including their inferiority complex to secular countries or their assumption that technological superiority also means moral superiority or thinking their religion is unproven or having doubts about its veracity. We believe our religion is fully true and we do not doubt its veracity. We also do not believe having technological superiority at a certain time of history indicates a system is inherently superior.

Allah says ⟪If a wound should touch you – there has already touched the [opposing] people a wound similar to it [in the past]. And these days [of varying conditions] We alternate among the people so that Allah may make evident those who believe and [may] take to Himself from among you martyrs – and Allah does not like the wrongdoers⟫ (3:140)

We believe Allah’s law is the superior law and that no human, group of humans, or government has the right to overturn His laws despite how much they think it is wrong.

We also believe that the general laws of God are applicable until the Day of Judgement even if certain parts may not be applied in different circumstances. An example of that is how the punishment of stealing is not applied in times of famine.

We believe in all the punishments prescribed by Islam, including physical punishments like lashing for the fornicator. We also believe in punishments prescribed in the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), like stoning for the married adulterers. There are two reasons for that belief: 1) the fact that Allah knows best what punishments would be most beneficial to society and 2) He is the owner of all humans and their bodies. So, even if humans think in their limited judgement that something is not good, Allah’s judgement is always better and stronger.

Punishments for fornication and adultery also have a standard of proof (four witnesses) that is difficult to fulfill, but that does not mean the punishments do not exist. We believe they are completely fair when applied properly.

It is obligatory to believe that there is no unlimited freedom of religion prescribed in Islam contrary to the system of liberal democracies. That is because Allah knows best what each group of people deserves in terms of rights and privileges, and He is the one whose commands we listen to. We listen to Him even if that goes against our idea of what should happen.

At the same time, the lack of unlimited freedom of religion does not mean we persecute every non-Muslim religious group. Rather, they are treated properly according to God’s law.

Due to how the modern world works, there are many optional parts of Islam which are not in play anymore, and laws pertaining to those things are no longer used. There is no harm in the fact that those laws are not applicable because that is different from the laws being obsolete or discarded. We believe the laws still exist and would apply if the situations they apply to started existing again. An example is slavery. There are many laws related to slavery which would apply to slavery if it exists, but it does not exist today.

We do not believe in armed rebellion against Muslim rulers due to sins they commit, but we believe in advising them when they do wrong and disobeying them when they command evil.

Women

Allah does not teach complete equality between men and women, but they are (In sha Allah) equivalent in their value and benefit to society and in their honor in the eyes of Allah if they both put in the same effort.

Allah says: ⟪O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.⟫ (49:13)

We believe that women are obligated to wear the headscarf in front of non-family members, and that is to cover their hair and bodies except their faces and hands. As for veiling the face, that is not a matter of agreement and thus not part of aqidah.

We believe that women are recommended modesty in all their actions more than men are recommended the same because of the difference between men and women.

It is not possible to reject the command reported from the Prophet (SAW) that heads of state should only be men based on a pre-existing belief that women should have the same rights as men. The same applies to all commands like this in the Quran and Sunnah.

God has the right to define the roles of men and women according to His infinite wisdom and understanding of the two of them, and He has no responsibility to explain every decision to us.

Allah says: ⟪Men are qawwāmūn over women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth.⟫ (4:34) Qawwāmūn contains both the meanings of authority and responsibility for care.

We believe the husband is the shepherd and leader over his family and his wife is the shepherd over her children and household when her husband is away.

We believe the husband is financially responsible for his family in a reasonable way and his family, including his wife, is required to obey him in a reasonable way.

Those are general concepts about the organization of the family, but there can be exceptions to these concepts in exceptional or extreme situations.

We believe a man is allowed to marry up to four wives at a time with the condition that he treats them equally as much as reasonably possible. It is impossible to feel the same amount of love for multiple people, but it is possible to equally divide time and money between them. That being said, a man would be rewarded if he avoids marrying multiple wives to avoid hurting his wife. Despite four being the normal limit, we believe the Prophet (SAW) had an exception and married more than four wives.

LGBT

We believe that romantic homosexual relationships between two men or between two women are categorically forbidden in Islam because of the clear story of Lut (AS) in the Quran. Anyone who has feelings like this should be patient and pray to Allah.

We also believe that it is not allowed for people to change the creation of Allah only due to their psychological state, so a person who is male biologically should stay a man and a person who is female biologically should stay as a women, and he or she should be patient and pray to Allah.

Science

We believe there is never a true contradiction between science and the Quran or Sunnah when they speak about the visible, natural world. Any perceived contradiction can be resolved with a proper understanding of the Quran or Sunnah or science.

As for when the Quran and Sunnah speak about unnatural or miraculous historical events, there is no need for them to conform to natural laws because reality is not limited to the natural laws. Allah can create miracles that break those laws if He wishes to. Many miracles like these are mentioned in the Quran.

We believe that Adam (AS) is our ancestor and that he was created by God from clay without parents. We do not believe we are descendants of evolution from other animals. Whether evolution exists in other than this, whether human-like creatures existed before Adam (AS), and when Adam (AS) was in history are all not matters of obligatory aqidah. However, it is obligatory to believe Adam (AS) was not born of parents and that he was our ancestor.

We believe the Prophet Nuh (AS) preached to his people for 950 years and his people were destroyed by a flood. Whether this flood was local or global is not a part of obligatory aqidah.

We believe the Prophet Musa (AS) preached to the Pharaoh and showed him many miracles including his staff turning into a snake. The exact Pharaoh or exact year Musa (AS) lived in is not part of aqidah.

The same applies to all the prophets and their stories. We believe in what the Quran tells us about them, but we are not obligated to believe extra interpretations of those stories or Biblical information about those stories.

We believe Allah created the universe and everything in it. The method and process He used in creating them is not part of aqidah, and science can help us understand that.

Conclusion

Kufr and Shirk

Kufr linguistically means “disbelief” or “ingratitude.” In technical terminology, (major) kufr is disbelief which takes a person outside the bounds of Islam and makes him a non-Muslim.

Except when someone is a new convert to Islam or is learning Islam, not believing in any of the main affirmative obligations of belief leads to kufr or major bidah. As for the evidentiary obligations, a person who firmly disbelieves in any of them even after being shown the evidence is at risk of kufr or major bidah. I have listed all the obligations in this article that people doubt.

There is a minority view that leaving prayer is kufr because the Prophet (SAW) said, “Between kufr and iman is abandoning prayer.” (Sunan Tirmidhi) The majority understands this to mean the greatness of the sin is almost like kufr, not that it is kufr in itself.

Shirk means “association.” In technical terminology, it is to associate partners with Allah in a way that takes a person out of Islam. Shirk is of three types:

  1. Believing in a god other than Allah. For example, the Hindus believe in hundreds of gods.
  2. Worshiping someone other than Allah. For example, Catholics pray to Mary (AS) even though they do not consider her god.
  3. Attributing divine attributes to other than Allah. For example, some people claim their religious figures have complete power over the universe or are all-knowing.

A person who commits kufr or shirk intentionally and without ignorance leaves the fold of Islam.

A person who is truly ignorant and falls into either of these things could be forgiven by Allah, but Allah knows best. On the other hand, accidents and forgetfulness are always forgiven since they are not in a person’s immediate control.

A person who jokingly says something clearly kufr or shirk with no room for doubt in its implication also falls into kufr.

A person who gets thoughts should not concern himself with those thoughts or panic because of them. Thoughts only increase the more you worry about their existence. Rather, passing thoughts are not accountable. What is accountable is firmly held belief.

Some people have strange obsessive thoughts that make them imagine everything they do or think is kufr or shirk, and there is no doubt this is nonsense. Any time a concern of Islam becomes obsessive, know that it is from shaitan and not truly from the law.

Takfir

Takfir is the act of declaring another person to either have committed kufr or to have left the fold of Islam.

Takfir of people who do not even claim to be Muslims (like Christians or Jews) is obvious and obligatory. Meaning, it is required to consider them non-Muslims since they do not even consider themselves Muslim. But, takfir of people who claim to be Muslims requires more discussion.

It is a dangerous subject because the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “When a man says to his brother, ‘O disbeliever!’ then at least one of them is such.” (Sahih Bukhari) Meaning, the danger of false takfir is so grave that the sin of being wrong is almost like you have accused yourself of being a disbeliever.

At the same time, takfir is important when it is clear someone or something is kufr in order that the truth is not hidden from people.

Takfir of claimed Muslims can either be 1) against individuals, 2) against beliefs, or 3) against entire sects.

The first type should be left to scholars who understand the issue and can speak to the individual or verify his belief and knowledge level. Leaving it to the scholars is necessary when his kufr or shirk is unclear or requires further judgement. If it is in some very clear part of the religion which requires no analysis (like Allah being one or the Prophet Muhammad being a prophet), there is no need to leave it to a scholar.

The second type of takfir, against beliefs, should not be misapplied to individuals and sects. You might find many scholars declaring a certain belief kufr or a certain action shirk or you may even personally come to this judgement with research. However, the judgement of a belief or action should not be automatically applied to individuals since ignorance and mistakes are possible by individuals.

In the same way, this article labelling something an obligatory belief does not necessitate you takfir everyone who is mistaken in that topic!

The third type is like the first type and should be left to scholars. However, when the scholars make a judgement on a specific sect, it is allowed for non-scholars to extend that takfir to everyone under that sect. For example, the group called Ahmadis or Qadiyanis who believe in a prophet after the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has been considered non-Muslim by the scholars. Hence, every individual among them is included in that judgement without needing specific scholarly judgement.

We only takfir people because of kufr or shirk and do not takfir people for their sins as long as they have iman. This is the case even if the sins are as evil as murder and adultery.

Difference of Opinion

There are many parts of Islam where the Quran and Sunnah are not clear and there is room for multiple interpretations. Any view within the possible interpretations is acceptable in those cases.

This is the case with almost all the differences between the four schools of fiqh: the Hanafis, the Malikis, the Shafi’is, and the Hanbalis. So, a person can follow any of them and he would be fine in terms of aqidah.

Other Discussions in Aqidah

There are a few other discussions in aqidah which this article may have alluded to.

The first major discussion is the discussion of the different attributes of God mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah. Some groups argued that many of those attributes are metaphorical. This can be termed the Sifaat Controversy, and I will write another article on it In sha Allah.

The Sifaat Controversy is where the three groups, Athari, Ashari, and Maturidi, mainly split. I decided not to detail it here because it is not very relevant in the modern day.

Another major discussion is the discussion of new religious rituals, innovation in the religion. Some groups attempted to argue that it is allowed to create new actions and rituals as long as they are within the general guidelines of Islam. This can be termed the Bidah Controversy, because bidah is the Arabic term for innovation.

Another common discussion is the Ibadah (Worship) Controversy. Some groups attempt to argue that it is allowed to call to dead saints for help and venerate their graves and that this is not worship at all and does not fall into polytheism. I decided not to discuss it here because this practice has lost popularity. However, I will write an article on this in the future.

Final Advice

In this article, we have discussed the essential obligations of aqidah and the theoretical underpinnings of this important subject. It is crucial to embrace and understand the core beliefs of aqidah as explained. There is no essential obligation in aqidah I know of that I did not include in this article.

However, as a Muslim and seeker of knowledge, continuous learning is key in order to protect yourself from false beliefs. You can strengthen your faith and increase your knowledge by studying the proofs of the existence of God and the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Learning other controversial subjects in evidentiary aqidah, like the Sifaat Controversy, is neither important nor unimportant. But, it should never come at the cost of your relationship with God, your concentration in your worship, your closeness to the Quran, your manners with people, your excellent treatment to your family, and your devoted care for fellow Muslims. It is reported that the Prophet (SAW) said, “I was sent to perfect good character.”

If you do delve into those subjects, that is where you will find bitter debate between sects like Atharis and Asharis. So, whenever learning aqidah from any source, analyze the arguments and evidence, keep in mind the perspective the teacher is coming from, recognize if he has biases in how he presents subjects, and hear different sides of an argument. No one can be free of biases in what he believes, but an excellent teacher should teach with strongly reasoned arguments from the sources of aqidah while honestly representing the other side.

Finally and most importantly, always seek Allah’s guidance to keep you on the correct path and to keep you away from deviation. I do not know a better helper than Allah nor a better guide than the Book of Allah.

The purpose of aqidah is to provide you with the basic obligations of faith. The fruits of your faith are in how you worship Allah and how you treat other people in preparation for the Day of Judgement. It would defeat the purpose to neglect that while learning this subject. That is why Allah teaches us the following supplication.

رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ
Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.

رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ جَامِعُ النَّاسِ لِيَوْمٍ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ
Our Lord, surely You will gather the people for a Day about which there is no doubt. Indeed, Allah does not fail in His promise.

(Quran 3:8-9)

  1. Some take it to mean “majority,” indicating the idea that Sunnis maintained majority until today. Others take it to mean “political unity,” indicating the idea that Sunnis generally do not support the idea of rebelling against the Caliph. Others take it to mean “united.” Others take it to mean “the companions,” indicating the idea that Sunnis follow the consensus and judgements of the companions of the Prophet (SAW). Others take it to indicate how Sunnis side with the four major Caliphs and then later accepted the legitimacy of the Umayyad Caliphate.
  2. Allah says ⟪Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One.”⟫ (112:1)
  3. Allah says ⟪Allah is the Eternal Refuge⟫ (112:2) and ⟪O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, while Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy.⟫ (35:15)
  4. He also says ⟪Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.⟫ (2:109)
  5. Quran 112:3
  6. Allah says ⟪Nor is there to Him any equivalent.⟫ (112:4) and ⟪There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing.⟫ (42:11)

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