The Creed of the Followers of the Prophet’s Tradition

            God exists, and is One, Alone and Unique, without partner or associate.

            God is beyond our understanding and imagining.

            There is nothing whatsoever comparable to God or His Attributes.

            There is no resemblance between God and any of His creatures, including humankind.  He is Ever-Existing, and Aware, without rest or respite or sleep.

            God can create without recourse to means.  It is an easy matter for Him to resurrect the dead.

            God was Ever-Existing before He created anything, whether it be living or non-living.  He was the Creator before the creation of anything that exists, and this Divine Attribute does not depend upon anything in creation.

            His Attributes are not metaphors used to describe or qualify Him, but instead are real and eternal, without origin or ending.  His Attributes fit only Him, and the traits of His creatures fit only themselves.   To be ignorant of these Attributes, or to compare the Attributes of God that have been described by God with the traits of His creatures, loses belief in His Might and Power.

            God does not depend on the knowledge or awareness of any creature, living or non-living, in order to possess any of His Attributes.  These are His without condition.

            Nothing is like Him.  He Alone is All-Hearing and All-Seeing.

            He created living beings for service to Him, and they depend upon Him completely.  He created them through His Omniscience, allotting to them their provision, destiny, and end.

            Everything happens within His Will and Determining.  It is only His Will that is causal, and not that of creatures, who can only serve Him.  What His servants desire is brought to effect only if God permits it.  What He wills comes to pass, and what He does not will, does not come to pass.

            The Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, is God’s chosen messenger and servant.  He is the last of the prophets and leader of those believers who stand before God in reverential awe, conscious of their duties to Him.  He is the foremost of the prophets, their master.  He is the one who is beloved of the Lord of all the worlds.  All claims of prophethood after his are a sign of deviance and worldly ambition.

            The Qur’ân is the Word of God, revealed by God.  It was uttered by God in a manner that is unknown to humankind.  The Qur’ân was revealed to God’s Messenger, may God bless him and grant him peace, through His inspiration.  Believers affirm it in this sense, and accept that it is the truthful Word of God.  The Qur’ân is not created in the way that the words of human beings are created.  Whoever hears the Qur’ân and claims that it is the words of a man becomes an unbeliever [i].

            Those who dwell in the Garden of Paradise are able to see God, although we do not know the exact manner of their seeing Him.

            The Covenant with God made by His servants in the world of souls is true [ii].

            The Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet [iii], may God bless him and grant him peace, is true.  He was taken by night and ascended while awake.

            We believe in the Pen and the Tablet [iv], and that everything inscribed there will come about according to God’s Will.  Even if everything in creation collaborated in an effort to prevent from happening something that God has decreed, they would not succeed.  Likewise, were they to collaborate in bringing about some occurrence not decreed by God Most High, they would also fail.  Everything that is to come about until the Day of Judgment has been written and sealed.  It cannot be changed.

            It is obligatory for the believer to know that God Most High had complete knowledge in pre-eternity of what every person will do, and that this was part of His Determining even then.  No one can change it and it is not subject to our criticism.

            The Throne and Footstool of God [v] exist.  God Most High is Independent of all things, up to and including these.

            We do not dwell on the subject of the Divine Essence or the nature of His Existence.  We do not debate the essential foundations of God’s religion.

            Whoever prostrates in the same direction as we do in the manner in which we pray [vi], accepts whatever the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) has brought, and attested to the truthfulness of whatever the Prophet has said and narrated to us — this person we call muslim (one who has submitted) and mu’min (one who has belief in Islam).

            The committing of sins by a person who meets the conditions just given never allows us to consider him a non-believer, unless he considers that which is forbidden by Islam to be permissible [vii].

            However, we do not say that sins do not harm the faith of the one who commits them.  This is because faith requires acceptance of the Oneness of God [tawhîd] and of all the other things that the believer is obligated to know and submit to.

            To be certain of our final destiny and to lose hope in the Mercy and Compassion of God are to step outside of Islam.  The best path is therefore to remain in a state between fear and hope before God Most High.

            Having once possessed faith, the servant of the Most High is considered to be without it only through its rejection, or through rejection of any of the foundational principles of the religion of Islam that it is obligatory for the servant to know and accept.

            All of the commands and principles conveyed to us through authentic and reliable means from the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) are true.

            All of the believers who fear God are the friends of God.  The most esteemed of them before God are those who are most obedient to Him and who follow the Qur’an strictly.

            Those who, in Islam, have committed major sins, do not remain in Hellfire eternally.  Their affair is for God to decide.  If He desires to, He forgives them through the abundance of His Mercy, or if He desires to, He punishes them according to His Justice.

            So long as they prostrate themselves in the direction of our prostration, we consent to pray behind those who leads us in prayer, and to offer the prescribed prayer for their funeral.  This is not contingent on whether one of them is a good person or a sinner.

            We never draw our sword to inflict harm upon one of the followers of the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) except in the prosecution of punishment or retaliation as prescribed in the sacred law.

            We do not rise in revolt against the leaders of an Islamic government, regardless of their oppressiveness, so long as their oppression does not amount to unbelief.  We do not curse them.  We do not withhold our obedience from them.  So long as they do not order us to transgress and commit sins, we consider obedience to their orders as obligatory for us in Islam.

            We follow the tradition of Islam and embrace the community of believers [viii], refraining from deviance, dissension, and novelty.

            We love those people who are just and trustworthy, and despise those who are tyrannical and deceitful.

            The duties of pilgrimage and striving in the path of God are to continue, whether under the administration of a ruler is corrupt or of one who is just.  We cannot simply abandon them due to circumstance.

            We believe firmly in the existence of the angels who record our deeds; in the Angel of Death; in the angels who question us in the grave; and in the torments of the grave.

            With regard to the Day of Judgment, we believe firmly in the resurrection; in the full accounting of our deeds; in our final reckoning before God Most High; in His rewards and punishments; in the Bridge across the Hellfire; and in the Balance.

            The Garden and the Hellfire exist already.  They have been created, and are everlasting.  God created them as destinations for people before the people themselves were created.  God places whomever He wishes in Paradise according to His Mercy, and places whomever He wishes in the Hellfire according to His Justice.  The deeds of each of us are committed according to the destination for which each of us was created, and this will be our abode.

            A person’s capability to perform an action possesses two aspects [ix].  The first of these is placed within the action itself by God Most High, by way of facilitation and direction.  The second is the ability, related to the person’s physical aptitudes, to carry out the action and bring this first aspect to completion.  A person’s accountability for actions issues from this second aspect.

            The actions of God’s servants come about through God’s creation, and the servant’s performance, of the actions.  God commands us to perform only that of which we are capable.

            Everything that occurs, occurs within God’s Will, Knowledge, Determination, and Decree.

            The prayers and charity of the living can be of help to the dead.

            God accepts supplications from His servants that address their needs.  It is impossible for any of His servants to be free of need for Him for even the smallest part of an instant.

            God possesses both Contentment with His servants, and Wrath towards them.  His Contentment and His Wrath are not like those attributed to anything in His creation.

            We love those people who are Companions of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace.  We do not love any one of them more than we love the others.  We have animosity towards those who have animosity towards the Companions of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace. 

            We accept it as a fact that after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, leadership of the community [khilâfa] was passed to Abû Bakr as-Siddîq, and then consecutively to cUmar, cUthmân, and cAlî, may God Most High be pleased with them all.

            We bear witness that those ten who were identified by name from among his Companions by the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, as those who are guaranteed Paradise, shall indeed enter Paradise.

            Those who speak well of the Companions and the chaste Wives of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, banish hypocrisy from the heart.

            We only speak well and never ill of the scholars from among the Righteous Predecessors [x] and the Righteous Successors who came after them.

            We do not consider any of the Friends of God [xi] to be superior to any of His Messengers, peace be upon them all.  Every Messenger is above the Friends of God.  We believe in the miracles of the Friends of God and the narratives about them conveyed to us through trustworthy sources.

            We believe in the signs of the Day of Arising [xii], such as the coming of the False Messiah and the descent to earth of Jesus son of Mary, peace be upon him.  We believe as well in the rising of the sun from the west and the emergence of the Beast, signs of the Day of Judgment.

            We reject belief in fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and astrologers — in short, in all who claim to have knowledge of the secrets of the unknown, and who speculate about past and future events according to assumptions that conflict with the normative rulings of Islam.

            We accept as just and correct the congruity of our belief with what is held through the consensus of the scholars of our community, and reject what departs from it as unjust and superstitious, a reason for Divine Wrath.

            The religion of God is the same in the heavens and on the earth.  God Most High has said:

            Truly the way of life with God is that of self-surrender.  [Âl cImrân 3: 19] [xiii]

 

            And He has said:

            Today I have perfected your religion for you and completed My Favor upon you and chosen for you Islam as your religion.  [al-Mâ’ida 5: 3; cf. 24: 55]

            Islam is above both excess and deficiency, steering a middle course between views that liken God to man on the one hand, and those that ascribe no Attributes at all to Him, on the other.  By the same token, Islam steers a middle course between complete despair and full confidence in our salvation in the Hereafter.

            These are the beliefs and tenets of our religion that we express through our words, and attest in our hearts.  We are far removed from those who depart from what has been stated and explained here, and we seek refuge from them in God Most High.  It is our sincere prayer to God that He may keep us steadfast on His path; that He may end our life on His path; and that He may protect us from following the beliefs and sects of those who stray from His path.


[i] Ar. kâfir.

 

[ii] This refers to the event described in the Qur’ân as follows:

            And [remember] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins, from their seed — their descendants, and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them] “Am I not your Lord?”  They said, “Yes, surely we do bear witness [to that].”  This, just in case you might say on the Day of Rising, “We were not aware of this.”  [al-Acrâf 7: 172]

 

[iii] These are the Isrâ’ and Mi’râj, described at length in the collections of hadîth and alluded to as well in the Qur’ân (al-Isrâ’ 17: 1).

 

[iv] This refers to the qalam, or Pen, which is mentioned at several points in the Qur’ân as a means by which God instructs human beings; and the lawh, or Tablet, upon which existence is inscribed.  These terms were understood by philosophers in the Greek-Islamic tradition as corresponding respectively to form and substance.  On the other hand, the major dogmatic theologian al-Ashcarî [d. 935 CE] insisted that these images are not meant to be understood literally and concretely, but instead accepted without elaboration or further inquiry [bi-lâ kayfa].  The 68th chapter of the Qur’ân is, in any case, called Sûrat al-Qalam, on account of the oath taken by the Pen in its opening verse.  The Tablet is invoked in Sûrat al-Burûj (as the Preserved Tablet, lawh mahz; see 85: 22).

 

[v] The two terms given here as Throne and Footstool are extremely inexact renderings of words used in the Qur’ân.  The Throne is al-carsh, mentioned in a number of Qur’ânic verses (e.g., 7: 54 and 9: 129).  The Throne is inscribed with the words, “My Mercy outstrips My Wrath” [inna rahmatî sabaqat ghadabî], consistent with the following verse:

            God has prescribed for Himself mercy, so that any of you who do evil in ignorance and repent afterwards and correct [their behavior], the God is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful.  [al-Ancâm 6: 54; cf. 6: 12]

            The Footstool is al-kursî, mentioned in the famous Throne Verse:

            God!  there is no deity other than Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting.  He is taken neither by slumber, nor by sleep.  To Him belongs what is in the heavens, and what is on the earth.  Who is there to intercede with Him save by His Permission?  He knows what is between their hands and what is behind their backs.  And they encompass nothing from His Knowledge save what He wills.   His Foundation [kursî] is more vast than the heavens and the earth, and He is not fatigued by preserving them.  And He is the All-High, the Sublime.  [al-Baqara 2: 255]

 

[vi] Ar. ahl al-qibla.  The qibla is the direction of prayer, facing the Kacba in Mecca.  The import of this and some of the following sections is to preclude abuse of the declaration of unbelief [takfîr] by some Muslims against others, an act that is too common in the present day in a manner having no basis or precedent in the normative creed of ahl as-sunna.

 

[vii] In other words, one who is of ahl al-qibla remains of ahl al-qibla in spite of sins.  The exception would be if that person considered the harâm to be halâl.

 

[viii] In this statement, tradition refers to the sunna of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, and community translates the word umma.

 

[ix] The author’s discussion of istitâca, or the capacity to act, addresses a somewhat abstruse point of doctrine that, for centuries, greatly vexed the foremost systematic theologians [mutakallimûn] of Islâm.  It concerns the possibility that an action can occur at all, given that the only Actor is God, not people; that God does not command people to transgression; and that transgression nevertheless occurs, together with accountability for it.  The reader is advised that this matter is interesting, and a necessary one to address in any internally consistent statement of creed [caqîda], but not essential to matters of personal direction in seeking to fulfill the divine law and seek the good pleasure of God Most High.  The nature of istitâca does not, for instance, acquit one of the obligation to offer salât, or diminish the torments of the grave — among our far more immediate concerns.  A complete discussion in English of the philosophical background of this problem, together with the solutions proposed by the schools of Ashcarî and Mâturîdî, see H. A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Kalam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), pp. 663-719.

 

[x] Ar. assalâf assalihîn.  This is on no account to be confused with the seemingly related terms Salafi and Salafiyya, used in reference to a modernist political group whose caqîda (if it can be called that) is to be rejected as departing fatally from a number of essential tenets of belief accepted in unanimity by the substantial and normative scholarship of ahl as-sunna.

 

[xi] Ar. awliyâ’ Allâh.  These are people referred to in certain contexts as saints, albeit without the common implications of this word in Christian usage.

 

[xii] The Day of Arising is yawm al-qiyâma, and its signs are well known through many sound and reliable hadîths.  We can assume concerning these signs that we will know them when we see them, and that it will be unnecessary for us to invest much of our time in searching for them.  Our own death, which is ever impending, is to be considered a preferable and more urgent preoccupation.

            The False Messiah is ad-dajjâl.  The Beast is dâbbat al-‘ard, the nature of which is debated at some length.  On such matters one might consult the Fifth Ray of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, available in many translated editions online and in print.

 

[xiii] This verse can be interpreted into English in a number of ways.  The one chosen here gives way of life for dîn, which could also have been given simply as religion.  The Arabic root of this word is the verb dâna/yadûnu.  This is important because the root meaning includes a sense of indebtedness consistent with the teaching that the dîn is a transaction under which God Most High has presented the creation to humankind, and then purchased it back, at the cost of our submission to Him [islâm], in exchange for eternal bliss in the Garden.  The word self-surrender in the version of the verse just given is islâm, which can be understood both in a historical sense as a particular set of beliefs sent down to a particular faith community in time, and in the trans-historical sense as that way of life prescribed for all communities in all times.  Both senses are contained in this word, demonstrating the tremendous and inimitable polysemy of the Qur’ân which constitutes one of the proofs of its divine origin and one of the miracles of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace.

 

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