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`AQIDAH. The Islamic creed (`aqidah) as found in the Qur’an is quite simple: the so-called five articles of faith-belief in God, angels, prophets, scriptures, and the Last Day-sum up that creed, and it was only later that more detailed formulations began to appear. Three of the five articles-the first, third, and fifth-are the principal articles; the second (belief in angels as the servants and worshipers of God) is a corrective to the preIslamic view of angels as daughters of God, and the fourth (belief in scriptures) is an important supplement to the third. Thus modern as well as classical scholars frequently maintain that the triad of God-ProphetJudgment Day constitutes the essential belief system of Islam.

The origin of the more elaborate statements of `aqidah is to be sought in the polemical environment of the period beginning within half a century of Muhammad’s death. The polemics were both internal and external. Internally, certain theological and political developments led scholars to produce creeds that were meant to refute allegedly heterodox doctrines. The insistence of the Kharijis that one guilty of a grave sin ceases to be a Muslim was predicated on the view that faith and works are inseparably linked, and that one who commits a gross violation of Islam dissolves that link. The reaction, in the form of Murji’ism, based itself on the view that it is faith that is crucial to salvation. The SunniShi`i conflict was also reflected in the creeds. The Shfis proposed the notion of imamate by designation (the view that the head of the Muslim community after the Prophet’s death was designated by God, the community having no right to elect one), and the Sunnis responded by laying it down that the imam was to be elected by the community, and that the historical order of the caliphates of Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, and `Ali was in fact the right order. The debate between the Mu’tazilah and the Asha’irah led to further additions to the doctrine. The Mu`tazilah, although not a homogenous group holding a common set of doctrines, generally denied that the eternity of the attributes of God could be distinguished from the being of God; they argued in favor of strict divine justice; they insisted on the createdness of the Qur’an on the grounds that the Qur’an was a manifestation of the divine attribute of speech, which was noneternal; and they maintained that humans possess the freedom of the will. The Asha’irah, so named for their chief spokesman, Abu al-Hasan alAsh`ari (d. 941 or 945), opposed the Mu’tazilah on all these counts. A synthesis of the Mu`tazili and Ash’ari positions was attempted by al-Maturidi (d. 944) of Central Asia.

External factors also influenced the content and language of the creeds. The need to respond to Greek philosophic thought led Muslim dogmatists to adapt their arguments using the categories and terms of a foreign thought-system. The confrontation with Christian theology led them to explain their positions with reference to such doctrines as Trinitarianism.

Abu Hanifah’s Al filth al-akbar I is taken to be the first formal statement of the Islamic creed, and in it he tries to rebut what he regarded as deviations from standard Islamic dogma. For example, the very first clause says that commission of a grave sin does not make one an unbeliever-an obvious attack on the Khariji position. More detailed and also more complex treatments are to be found in the works of al-Ash’ari, al-Bagillani, al-Juwayni, and al-Ghazali.

Three points should be kept in mind about the discussions of `agidah in the early centuries. First, the discussions represented the attempts of Muslim scholars to come to terms with their past religious, political, and intellectual history. This was especially true in the case of formulas used about the distinguished companions of the Prophet, their status relative to one another, and the disagreements (which later led to wars) that occurred among them beginning in the latter half of `Uthman’s caliphate. Second, the issues raised had not only an abstract, theoretical character but also practical and ethical dimensions. For example, the question of the relationship between faith and works had a direct bearing on religious conduct and attitudes, for if faith is sufficient for salvation, then the importance of deeds is diminished. Again, if salvation depends on faith, then it becomes unlawful-or at least difficult-to revolt against an oppressive ruler, for oppression, one could argue, does not greatly hurt the ruler’s standing as a Muslim. Third, if there was an eagerness to state clearly and effectively the correct dogma, there also was a tendency, especially in statements about God, to use the “negative approach.” Thus on the issue of whether God has a face and hands, as the Qur’an says he does, the majority view (while accepting the Qur’anic statements at their face value) insisted that this belief must be held “without asking how” (bi-ld kayfa).

The trend in the Islamic world in modern times to reject taqlid, adopt an attitude of ijtihdd, seek solutions to the pressing issues of practical life, and look to pristine Islam for guidance has led to scrutiny of the Islamic creed in its medieval formulation. Already in the eighteenth century Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab expressed dissatisfaction with the sterile intellectualism of the Muslim medieval period, but his stance was more rejectionist than critical in an objective way. In the last century Muhammad `Abduh, eager like his mentor Jamal al-Din al-Afghani to reform the traditional Muslim educational system, called for a new synthesis of reason and revelation. In so doing, he not only disagreed with a number of Ash’ari positions (e.g., determinism), but also pointed out the historical character of the early theological dogma. Thus in his Risalat al-tawhid (Treatise on the Unity of God) he refuses to get involved in metaphysical discussions (e.g., on the relationship between the essence and attributes of God) and is content to argue that reason can discover, either on its own or with the help of revelation, proofs for the validity of the essential Islamic doctrines. More recently, Hasan Hanafl, in his multivolume Min al-`agidah ild al-thawrah (From Dogma to Revolution; see especially volume I), has made a scathing critique of the medieval formulation of the Islamic creed, calling many of its articles dead weight.


Arabic Sources

`Abduh, Muhammad. Risalat al-tawhid. Translated by Ishaq Musa’ad and Kenneth Cragg as The Theology of Unity. London, 1966. Al-Kashif al-Ghita’, Muhammad Husayn. Asl al-Shi ah wa usuluha. Najaf, 1961. Translated into English as The Shia: Origin and Faith. Karachi, 1982.

Ash’an, Abu al-Hasan al-. Al-ibanah `an usul al-diyanah. Hyderabad, 1903.

Ash’ari, Abu al-Hasan al-. Maqdldt al-Islamiyin wa-ikhtilaf almusallin. 3 vols. Edited by Helmut Ritter. Istanbul, 1929-1933 Bagillani, Muhammad ibn al-Tayyib al-. Kitab tamhid al-awd’il wa-talkhis al-dald’il. Edited by `Imad al-Din Haydar. Beirut, 1987.

Ghazali, Abu Hamid al-. Kitdb gawa’id al-`aga’id. Beirut, 1983. Translated by Nabih A. Faris as The Foundations of the Articles of Faith. Lahore, 1963. Part 1, Book 2 of Ihya’ Warn al-din.

Hanafi, Hasan. Min al-`agidah ild al-thawrah. Vol. i. Beirut, 1988. Ibn Babfiyah (Babawayh) al-Qummi, Muhammad ibn ‘Ali. A Shiite Creed. Translation of Ftiqdddt al-Imamiyah by Asaf A. A. Fyzee. Rev. ed. Tehran, 1982.

Ibn Hazm, ‘Ali. Kitab al -fisal ft al-milal wa-al-ahwd’ wa-al-nihal. Cairo, 1928.

Ibn Tahir al-Baghdadi, `Abd al-Qahir. Kitab al farq bayna al-firaq. Edited by Muhammad Badr. Cairo, 1910.

Juwayni, `Abd al-Malik al-. Kitab al-irshad ild qawati al-adillah ft usul al-i’tiqad. Edited by As’ad Tamim. Beirut, 1985.

Shahrastani, Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Karim al-. Kitab al-milal wa-alnihal. Beirut, 1982.

Taftazani, Mas’ud ibn `Umar al-. Sharh al-‘Aqa’id al-Nasaftyah. Edited by Mahmud Hijazi al-Saqqa. Cairo, 1988. Translated by E. E.

Elder as A Commentary on the Creed of Islam. New York, 198o. Based on the `Aqa’id of `Umar al-Nasafi.

Other Sources

Adams, Charles C. Islam and Modernism in Egypt. London, 1933. Goldziher, Ignacz. Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Translated by Ruth Hamori and Andras Hamori. Princeton, 1981. Macdonald, D. B. Development of Muslim Theology, jurisprudence, and Constitutional Theory. New York, 1903.

Watt, W. Montgomery. “Akida.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol. 1, pp. 332-336. Ledien, 196o-. Includes a detailed bibliography.

Wensinck, A. J. The Muslim Creed. Cambridge, 1932.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/aqidah/

  • writerPosted On: October 11, 2012
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