The Messenger informed Mu'adh bin Jabal, when he
was going to the land of Yemen, "You are going to a people from the People of the Book. Let the first thing that you call
them to be the worship of Allaah. If they acknowledge Allaah, then inform them that Allaah has obligated upon them five prayers
during their days and nights." [al-Bukhaaree, Muslim]
This hadith is clear. It does not require much
of an explanation. The Prophet applied this principle in his practical calling to Islam. He stayed in Makkah for thirteen
years to each the people eemaan and to educate his Companions on this point and to correct the beliefs of the people. That
is the pattern upon which the Companions were brought up.
Jundub Ibn Abdullaah al-Bajaly said, "We learned
eemaan (faith) and then we learned the Qur'aan and it increased our eemaan."
Abdullaah ibn Umar said, "We lived during an
instant of time in which one of us would receive faith first before receiving the Qur'aan and when the surahs were revealed
we would learn what they permitted and what they prohibited and what they forbade and what they ordered and what should be
the stance towards them. But I have seen many men from whom one is given the Qur'aan before eemaan and he reads it from the
opening of the Book to its closing and he does not know what it orders and what it forbids and what should be his stance towards
it. He is like someone who is just throwing out dates [i.e., he does not get any benefit from his recital]."
That is the manner in which the Prophet brought
up his companions: Eemaan first and then the Qur'aan. This is similar to what Imaam Abu Hanifa pointed out: Understanding
in the religion first (i.e. tawheed) and then understanding in the science (i.e. the sharee'ah).
The beliefs must be corrected first, then follows
all of the other aspects of the religion.
And Imaam ash-Shafi'ee said, "That a servant
meets allaah with every sin except Shirk is better say than meeting Him upon any of the innovated beliefs."
al-Aqeedah linguistically is derived from the
term aqada. In Arabic, one states, "Aqada the rope" when the rope is tied firmly. And, "Aqada the sale" or "He settled the
sale" when the person ratifies and contracts a sale or agreement. And Allaah says in the Qur'aan,
"And as for those whom your right hands
have made a covenant (Ar.,aqadat)" [al-Nisa 33]. And Allaah also says,
"But He will take you to task for the
oaths which you swear in earnest (Ar., aqadtum)" [al-Maida, 89] which means asserted and adhered to, as proven in the
"And break not oaths after the assertion
of them" [an-Nahl, 91]. If one says, "Aqadtu such and such," it means his heart is firm upon such and such.
Therefore, al-aqidah or al-itiqad according to
the scholars of Islam is: The firm creed that one's heart is fixed upon without any wavering or doubt. It excludes any supposition,
doubt or suspicion.
Imaam Abu Hanifa called this great subject al-Fiqh
al-Akbar ("The Greater Understanding") and the understanding of the religion. He called the science of law (Ar., sharee'ah)
the understanding of the science. Many scholars of Islaam use the word tawheed for all matters that a person must believe
in. This is because the most important of these matters is the basic tawheed that is contained in the phrase, "There is none
worthy of worship except Allaah."
Tawheed, according to them, may be divided into
two categories: tawheed of cognition and affirmation and tawheed of purpose and deeds.
Tawheed of cognition and affirmation is the tawheed
of the Oneness of the Creator and the tawheed of His Names and Attributes [i.e. He is Unique in His being the only Creator
and the only One with His names and attributes]. Tawheed of purpose and deeds s tawheed of lordship or that none should be
worshipped except Allaah [i.e., He is the only One worthy of worship].
The scholastic theologians (Ar., kalaamiyoon)
- and what will explain to you who the scholastic theologians are - call this great subject "the root of the religion" and
they call the law "the branches of the religion". This is their terminology. We also have a dispute with them in this matter
but this is not the place to discuss it. all of them give it a name or adjective according to their needs.
But what is the name the Qur'aan gives to this
The Qur'aan gives the grave matter the name eemaan.
Allaah says in the Qur'aan,
"And thus We inspired in You (Muhammad)
a Spirit of Our command. You did not know what the Scripture was, nor what the Faith was. But we have made it a light whereby
We guide whom We will of our bondmen..." [al-Shura, 52].
The general concepts that the heart of the believer
must be firm about are the "pillars" of this faith. But one will not be called a believer just by knowing and understanding
these pillars but he must come to the level where he submits and implements what is described, in the hadith of Gabriel, as
Islam. Eemaan, in this manner, incorporates Islam.
If eemaan was simply knowing the facts in one's
heart, then its companion would be equal to Satan and Pharaoh [Note: The Satan was the most knowledgeable of his Lord but
he was destroyed because of his pride and envy. And Pharaoh, even though he claimed to be the lord, knew that the lord is
Allaah and that none has the right to be worshipped but Him. Allaah says,
"He said: In truth you know that none sent down
these portents save the Lord of the heavens and the earth as proofs..." [al-Isra, 102]. - Although they knew the truth, they
did not put it in practice by turning their 'ibadah to Allaah Alone].
In the hadith of Gabriel, the Prophet explained
the pillars of this faith in which every human must believe, when he was asked, "What is eemaan?", he said, "To believe
in Allaah and His angels and His books and His messengers and the Last Day and predestination of good and evil."
It is a must for every person to know these pillars
and to learn them with a correct understanding and to believe in them in the manner that he pious forefathers understood and
believed in them, in the same manner that the Companions of the Prophet believed and understood them, as well as their Followers
and those who followed on their path. This includes the four Imaams, Sufyan Al-Thauri, Sufyan ibn Uyaina, Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak
and others similar to them, as well as Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhaaree, Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj, Shaikh al-Islam ibn Taymiya
and al-Hafedh ibn al-Qayyim. And scholars similar to them who followed the same manner of understanding and believing in these
This is the first obligation upon the responsible
human being. There is no difference of opinion on this question among the scholars whose opinions are worth following. Imaam
Abu-Hanifa said, "The understanding of faith is better than understanding of the science." What he meant by faith is tawheed
and what he meant by science is the sharee'ah. He put the understanding of tawheed before the understanding of the sharee'ah.
And Shaikh al-Islam al-Haruwi al-Ansari (d. 481
AH) stated at the beginning of his book, Itiqad ahl al-Sunnah, "The first obligation upon the slave is the knowledge of Allaah.
This is proven by the hadith of Muadh, when the Prophet said to him, 'You will come to a people from the People of the
Book. The first thing that you should call them to is the worship of Allaah. If they gain the knowledge of Allaah, then tell
them that Allaah obligates upon them five prayers during the day and night...' "
From this premise did the great scholars of Islam
precede. Ponder, for example, what Imaam Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhaaree did in his book al-Jami al-Sahih, which is the most
authentic book after the Book of Allaah; one will see that from his detailed knowledge and understanding of this religion,
this great Imaam began his book with "The Beginning of Revelation" and then he followed it with chapters on faith, followed
by the chapters on knowledge. As if he means, may Allaah have mercy on him, to point out that the first obligation upon a
human being is faith or Eemaan and the way to attaining faith is knowledge. And the source of faith and knowledge is revelation.
So he began by showing how the revelation occurred and what it was like. Then he followed by mentioning faith and knowledge.
This arrangement is no accident; by it he makes some important points.
This is the sum of what we wish to mention and
what we wish to raise our voices about. The matter of aqeedah is the first priority. Faith and knowledge are the means of
attaining it. And the source of knowledge and faith is the Book and Sunnah.