By Mufti Muhammad Saeed
The Creed system of Islam has been established by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Yet, sometimes a false interpretation of the verses by some scholars may lead to the formation of wrong principles in the Creed system.
It is an established fact that Allah Almighty has founded all religions upon revelation. Among all sort of revelations, those which pertain to the articles of faith are of paramount importance. The faith which a Muslim embraces will determine his fate on the Day of Judgment; his salvation or damnation will depend on its correctness or falseness respectively. The Holy Prophets (peace be upon them) were sent with no other purpose than to make the true faith known, and to show people the path that would lead them to their Creator. The last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did the very same, i.e. reveal the true faith to all mankind. That was the only cause of discord between him and his opponents.
The whole dispute was regarding the definition of true faith that is acceptable to Allah. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said that it was a must to acknowledge Allah as being single in His Person, and in all His Attributes; and to believe in the life hereafter where all men would be paid according to their good or bad deeds done in this earthly life. His opponents constantly denied these, for they knew full well that in accepting those creeds they would be obliged to believe in the whole set of beliefs that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was inviting them to. The companions (ra) of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) accepted the true faith with all their heart and soul, and fashioned their life accordingly; for that they were distinguished by Allah for His special bounty, and were exalted in His Esteem. In the Quran, the fact of the opposition of the infidels, and the acceptance by the companions (ra), is mentioned in many places.
This truly Divinely revealed Creed, once entrusted to the companions (ra), was preserved and handed down to the succeeding generations; the first recipients being Tabi‘un (those who had seen the companions (ra)), followed by Taba Tabi‘un (those who had seen Tabi‘un). Then it came into the trusted hands of Imam Abul Hasan Ash’ari and Imam ul Huda Imam Abu Mansoor Matureedi, who were universally acknowledged as its rightful trustees. They described the faith of Muslims regarding the Divine attributes in clear and unambiguous words; that the attributes of Allah should always be considered apart and distinguished from those of human beings. These should not be probed into, and left to Allah for their real meanings. This Creed is denominated as Attanziah Ma’atafweez, and is adopted by the whole Ummah in general and Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat in particular. In the later times, due to some peculiar circumstances, the eminent scholars of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat adopted another aspect of the same Creed; that while keeping the Divine Traits separate and unique from those possessed by human beings, these can be given some interpretation which should be in keeping with the Quran and Sunnah.
Scholars accept the validity of this aspect of the Creed, and call it as Atta’weel ma’ atanziah. Both above mentioned aspects of the Creed are owned by Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat, and it is hoped that Allah would distinguish them on the Day of Judgment for adopting and following it. In every era, there have been those who tried to make the Creed controversial because of their deficiency of knowledge, but this had been the way with Allah that He had been raising the defenders of the true Creed in all times. The first Caliph Abu Bakr (ra) defended the Creed of the finality of prophethood after the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Caliph Ali bin Abu Talib (ra) kept the belief in oneness of God pure by inflicting severe punishments upon those who tried to defy it. Imam A’zam Nauman bin Thabit made his contribution by delivering the precious Fiqhu Akbar (Great Jurisprudence) into the hands of Muslims. Imam Malik came down very hard upon those who tried to explain the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) pertaining to the Divine Attributes in the light of their reasoning. Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal preferred to endure the agonizing tortures of lashing rather than allowing any sort of alteration in the true Creed.
Abu Bakr Muḥammad ibn al-Ṭayyib al-Bāqillānī (died 403 Hijrah) wrote a remarkable book in the elucidation of the Creed of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat. He refuted the false arguments of those ignorant people who wanted to defile the pure waters of the spring of true faith. He wrote:
“Every Muslim must believe that Allah is above and beyond everything that is imperfect or is liable to perish. No such defect can be attributed to Him. It is also an essential part of the Islamic Creed that Allah cannot be limited to any place or direction; if limited, He would necessarily be reduced to the state of being defective. Moreover, Allah is above the defect of moving from place to place, for movement is the characteristic of creation, and Allah has declared in the Quran, Chapter 25, Surah Shoorah, v.11, “Nothing is like Him”. He has also said in Chapter 30, Surah Ikhlas, v.4, “And equal to Him has never been anyone.” Since the imperfection of things is manifested in their various attributes, Allah is very far from bearing any shade of resemblance to His creation. In answer to the quotation of the verse of Quran, Chapter 16, Surah Taha, v.5, “The Rahmān (Allah, the All-Merciful) positioned Himself upon the Throne”, and the supposed implication that ‘positioning’ would necessitate the existence of a body, and hence Allah having a body, we would say that although we recognize the absolute veracity of the said verse and others like it in Quran, we vehemently deny the existence of any body for Allah. His ‘positioning on the Throne’ cannot be compared with the positioning of any of the creation. Allah is not confined or limited to any place, for He existed before He created space; and after its creation He was still there where He was before its creation. Once Abu Uthman al-Maghrabi asked his servant Muhammad Mahboob, “If someone asks you where that God is whom you worship, what will you reply?” The servant replied, “I will say that Allah has always been, and will always be”. He asked another question, “What would you say if you were asked where your God was when He created time.” “I would reply”, the servant said, “where He is at present. That is, He has always been, and is not confined to any place”. Abu Uthman al-Maghrabi said, “I was somewhat inclined to believe that Allah was confined to a place. But since I have come to Baghdad, and this belief of mine has been obliterated from my heart, I have written to my friends that I have re-embraced Islam”.
There are people who have either not studied the Creed of Islam, and if they have studied it, do not know how in the past people have gone astray with regard to the Divine Attributes; their state of affairs is such that they flock to anybody’s flag who invites them to any creed on Allah’s earth. They have fallen into the mortal error of believing literally in whatever is mentioned in Quran and Hadith regarding the Divine Attributes; which naturally leads them to denounce the Ash’aris, the Matureedis and all the generations of scholars.
It was in the fifth century of hijra, when Sheikh ul Hanabla, Abu Abdullah Hasan bin Hamid, his friend Qadhi Abu Ya’la Muhammad bin Hussain and Ibn Zaghoni declared the concept of a body for Allah. The eminent scholars of the time severely repudiated them, and Imam Abdur Rahman bin Ali al-Juzi chastised them with the following statement:
“You people have disfigured and defamed the Hanbali school of thought so much that anybody who claims to be a Hanbali is automatically thought to be a believer in a body for Allah. Your second crime is to extol and elevate Yazid bin Muawiah (ra) simply on account of your prejudices, knowing fully that the founder of our school of thought in religion, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, had even decreed laanat (the state of being cut off from Allah’s blessings for ever) upon Yazid. Abu Muhammad Attameemi, after being exasperated with the excesses of some of your scholars said, ‘You have blemished the true face of the Hanbali school of thought so deeply that even the waters of the oceans would not be sufficient to wash it clean.”
Imam Ibn Juzi was a great preacher. The excellence and effect of his sermons was such that at the end of them, people would repent from their sinful ways. Those who reformed their lives due to his preaching number not in the thousands, but in the hundreds of thousands. He preached the true Creed of Attafweez ma’ Atanziah, and expounded the point of view of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat as stated by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, “ We believe in the veracity of all the verses of the Quran and also Hadith in which the Divine Attributes are mentioned, but we do not probe into their meanings and details”. In his great book Dafa’ Shubhatu Tashbbiah, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal severely chastised those scholars of Hanbali school of thought who had tried to defile their Creed. In the very beginning of his book, he addresses those erring scholars in these words:
“When the false scholars were followed by other people, I told them and their followers, ‘Being Hanbali (those who follow the school of thought of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in Islamic law) you have always followed the footsteps of whole generations of scholars who have passed before you. You are Muqallid (those who follow the articles of Creed set by the early great scholars). Your Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said the same when he was being tormented by agonizing lashes, ‘How can I accept the Creed that is not mentioned in the Quran and Hadith?’ Therefore, beware of the innovations that have made their way into your Creed. You claim that the literal and apparent meaning of the words in Hadith should be taken as such. That is why when you read the words of Allah’s feet in Hadith; you literally mean the feet (a part of body). The same thing happened with the Christians. When it was said that the Prophet Isa, (Jesus Christ, peace be upon him) was the spirit of Allah, they literally understood from it that this spirit was a Divine Attribute of Allah which had entered Maryam (Mary).”
Although the whole book is worth reading, this small extract is sufficient for those whose intellect is not muddled and who are concerned about the preservation of their faith. This is the foremost duty of scholars of Islam, to endeavor to keep the true Creed of religion pure by purging it of all impurities. They are not forgetful of their duties as they know they would be held accountable by Allah for that. Imam Raazi, who belonged to Ash’aria school of thought, wrote Asas Uttaqdees fil Ilm Ulkalam with the same spirit of fulfilling his duty. Much criticism was leveled against this book – like Naqzu Asas Uttaqdees – but Ash’arah and Matureedi did not let their focus shift because of this and continued preaching the true religion. For a long time this Ummah has ignored the teachings of the Quran. If they had only truly understood them, there would not have been any difficulty in accepting the true Creed. Imam Raazi, who had spent his entire life in the pursuit of philosophy and dialectic, in his last days beautifully summed up his life experience.
“I have delved deep into the arguments and intricacies of dialectic and philosophy, but at the end reached the conclusion that no real benefit came out of them; as I have not seen any sickness cured or thirst quenched by these. Therefore, the surest and shortest path leading to Allah is through the Quran. In order to testify for Allah read, “Ar-Rahmān (Allah, the All-Merciful) positioned Himself on the Throne”, “Every true and pure statement tends towards Allah”, and “Nothing is like Him”. Every man who has undergone the experiences which I have gone through will inevitably reach the same conclusions.”
Reference to a book entitled Dafa’ Shubah min Shubah Tamurud authored by Imam Taqi Uddeen Abu Bakr bin Muhammad al-Hussaini is pertinent here as in it Imam Taqi Uddeen defends Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal against certain false doctrines which had been maliciously attributed to him by some ignorant people. He unveiled their deceit and showed Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal to be far from believing in any spurious beliefs. He has also severely criticized some of the Hanbali scholars and showed them to be in the wrong.
In the sub-continent, Hazrat Mujjadid Alfi Thani Ahmed Sirhindi and Hazrat Shah Wali Ullah Adhelwi advanced and elucidated the Creed of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat. They have repeatedly emphasized the need to refer to the articles of faith mentioned in Quran and Hadith, and those extracted by the leading scholars. In order to understand the Islamic Creed, the letters by Mujjadid Alif Thani are quite self-sufficient. Except at one point he has adopted the Creed of the Matureediah. Only in case of the Ma’rafatullahi (comprehension of Allah), he has taken to the Creed of Ash’arah, and has supported it with some arguments. If one is concerned about one’s salvation, and for that purpose intends to learn and act upon the true faith of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat, the above-mentioned letters would suffice. In his letters he has generally instructed people to keep away from the innovations in Creed and practice.
The leading scholars of this Ummah have put the greatest emphasis upon following the Sunnah (way of life) of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and avoiding any innovation in religion. If someone is fortunate enough to follow the Sunnah, but is a stranger to the secrets of the world of the Sufia (Islamic mystics), he nevertheless deserves congratulations. On the other hand, if he is familiar with the mystic experiences but deficient in the following of Sunnah, no such distinction is worth noticing. Imam Khwaja Ubaid Ullah Ahrar said, “If we can feel the mystic experiences, but are not fortunate enough to adopt the Creed of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat, we are at total loss. On the other hand, if we follow the Creed of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jammat but have never had any mystical adventure, nothing is lost”.
In the light of above discussion, when we study the teaching of Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, we find him meeting the criterion of a true preacher who focused on purification of faith and at the same time offered solutions for the moral and intellectual decline of the Turks in particular, and the Muslims around the globe in general.
In the words of
the learned reviver of the 13th century hijrah, Said Nursi: “The greatest danger facing the people of Islam at this time is their hearts being corrupted and belief harmed through the misguidance that arises from science and philosophy. The sole solution for this is noor (light); it is to show noor (light) so that their hearts can be reformed and their belief saved.” (The Flashes, 105)
The great Imam Said Nursi also says: “Faith is not just a brief and imitative confirmation. There are levels and development from a seed to a tree, from the reflection of sun in a mirror to the reflection of sun on the sea and to the sun itself. There are so many truths of the faith, and so many truths of the Divine Names of Allah and the pillars of belief related with the truths of the universe that the utmost level of all sciences, knowledge and human perfections is faith. (Staff of Moses (PUH), 243)
Yes, imitative faith is easily defeated by doubts. There are many levels of verified belief, which is much stronger than imitative faith. Among them, ‘ilm al-yaqeen resists the thousands of doubts with the power of its numerous proofs, whereas imitative belief sometimes gets defeated by only one doubt. ‘Ayn al-yaqeen is another level of verified belief that has many degrees. There are levels of manifestations of it, perhaps as many as the Divine Names. Someone with this belief reaches such a level that he can read the universe just like reading the Holy Qur’an. And another level is haqq al-yaqeen. It has many levels too. Even if armies of doubts attacked the one with this level of belief, they could do nothing to him.” (Staff of Moses (PUH), 243)
The great scholar of his time Imam Nursi truly followed the aforementioned stages of verified faith in his own preaching and teachings. He devoted his entire life to communicating the message of Islam, calling people to live by the morality of Islam and working with all his might to establish the unity of Islam.
He performed a unified role with his speeches and articles and was unjustly accused in 1909 on the claim that he participated in the March 31 incidents. He spent 30 years of his life in prison and in exile and faced great persecution, but even then, he continued advocating the unity of Islam.
Said Nursi believed that faith and Islam had been the objects of the attacks launched in the name of so-called science and logic, therefore he concentrated in the Risale-i Nur on proving the truths of faith in conformity with modern science through rational proofs and evidence, and by describing the miraculous aspects of the Quran that relate primarily to our century.
Let me add that Turkish Muslims managed to maintain their religion despite the most despotic regimes of the past decades due to the efforts of Said Nursi.
The greatest contribution of Said Nursi is exhibited in the Risale-i Nur [a commentary which expounds the truths of the Qur’an] by maintaining that science’s breathtaking discoveries of the universe’s functioning corroborate and reinforce the truths of religion. An insight into the Risale-i Nur commentary leads us to the conclusion that it is uniquely fitted to address not only all Muslims, but indeed all of mankind for several reasons.
The reason for this claim lies in the fact that it is written in accordance with modern man’s mentality, a mentality that, whether Muslim or not, has been deeply imbued with materialist philosophy: it specifically answers all the questions, doubts and confusions that this causes. It gives answers to all of the ‘why’s’ that mark the questioning mind of modern man.
Also, it explains the most profound matters of belief, which formerly only advanced scholars studied in detail, in such a way that everyone, even those to whom the subject is new, may understand and gain something without it causing any difficulties or harm.
A further reason is that in explaining the true nature and purposes of man and the universe, the Risale-i Nur shows that true happiness is only to be found in belief and knowledge of God, both in this world and the Hereafter. And it also points out the grievous pain and unhappiness that unbelief causes man’s spirit and conscience, which generally the misguided attempt to block out through heedlessness and escapism, so that anyone with any sense may take refuge in belief.
The verified faith forms the basis of Islamic unity. Imam Nursi had contemplated the contours of verified faith in his accomplished teachings manifested in Quranic commentary under the title of Risale-i Nur. The present day disarray in the ranks of Muslim Ummah warrants serious discourse in the light of the teachings of Said Nursi. His success story, despite all the odds, is a beacon of light for the disunited Muslim world and in my humble opinion the only way forward for the revival of Khilafah.
As a humble student of Said Nursi’s teachings I am obliged to conclude that he not only focused on the purification of faith, but he also put great effort into finding the real cause of the Muslims’ backwardness in the field of science and technology. His great commitment towards promotion of the Quran and Sunnah did not bar him from taking part in political activities. His personality is a unique combination of a successful man of this world and of the hereafter. He opened the door of worldly success with the key of religion. The present day preachers lack this approach in their teaching, which is the basic cause of them not being able to attract the modern day fellow being towards the Divine religion.
No doubt, in the contemporary age, the teachings of Imam Nursi can serve as a binding force to forge greater unity in the ranks of the Muslim Ummah which today stand in disarray due to non-purified faith.