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Commentary on the Creed of Islam – aqeedah Nasafiya – pdf

Book Title Commentary On The Creed Of Islam
Book AuthorEarl Edgar Elder, Taftazani
Total Pages229
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Commentary on the Creed of Islam Sa’d al-Vin al Taftazani on the Creed of Najm al-Din al-Nasafi – translated with introduction and notes by Earl Edgar Elder: Sharh-Aqida-Nafasiyya

Commentary on the Creed of Islam

Book Introduction

Just over a millennium, ago Abu ‘1-Hasan al-Ash’ari (A.D. 935) formulated the doctrinal position of orthodox Islam. He is credited with having saved the faith from corruption and having silenced the heretics.

Three cen­turies separate his death from that of Muhammad. In the time of appearance and importance, he occupies in Islam a place comparable in the history of Chris­tian doctrine to that of the Council of Nicaea.

There is something repre­sentative in these two, al-Ash’ari, the individual, and Nicaea, the church council.

In Islam creeds and expositions of dogma are written by men who thought they claim to give expression to that which is according to the Approved Way of the Prophet and the Agreement of the Muslim Community have no more ecclesiastical authority back of them than their own pens.

In the evolution of doctrinal statements, one never hears of “church” councils and their decisions but only of learned men and their convictions as to the essential truths of the Muslim’s belief.

Muhammad himself, as reflected in the Qur’an and Traditions, gave little attention to the systematic arrangement and logical presentation of the revela­tions to which he laid claim. His message was theocentric, but he was not a theologian. As long as he lived there was no necessity for a reasoned, methodi­cal statement of Belief, just as there was no need for a political constitution or a code of laws.

As the medium of instruction and guidance, Muhammad met events as they came. If necessity demanded, verses were abrogated by new ones, or a more detailed explanation left no uncertainty as to Allah’s purpose and desire.

When the Prophet died, loyalty led his followers to seek guidance from the verses of the Qur’an which he had given them although they were not yet collected into one volume. One interpretation of such verses as “This is a detailed explanation of everything” {Qur’an 12:111) and “We have neglected nothing in the Book” (Qur’an 6:38) was that this revelation through Muhammad was sufficient in itself for all times and occasions.

But the experience taught the community of Islam that even a book purporting to come direct from the Almighty and All-Wisc was not enough.

Recourse was had to the practice and commands of the Prophet, then analogies were drawn, and if guidance was still lacking one looked for the Agreement of the Muslim Community.

Orthodox Islam is accustomed to considering the days of the Companions of the Prophet and their Successors as the golden age when the use of dialectics was unnecessary. Because of their fidelity to Muhammad and be­cause throughout their lives they were in the shadow of the memory of his presence, these early Believers are pictured as relying absolutely on his authority.

The reason given then for much of the early theological controversy is that people lost their first love. Fidelity to the dead Muhammad waned be­fore loyalty to a living leader. Zeal for the faith degenerated into jealousy and party strife.

In reviewing the evolution of doctrine one might easily fall into the error of attempting to separate what in the West is designated theological speculation as being in a different category from political theory.

But in Islam oftentimes the early differences on religious matters had their origin in diverse political opinions.

The adherents of the family of ‘Ali and Fli!ima claimed the Khalifate as the legitimate right of the Prophet’s descendants. This narrow claim has been rejected by the great Sunnite majority of Islam, but the Shi’ite minority through frustration and persecution has developed a passion motive that has colored much of their thinking.

Less than three decades following the Prophet’s death there arose the Kharijites, who held that the headship of the Muslim community belonged not to some branch of Muhammad’s family, nor to a certain Arab tribe, but to the one best qualified for it.

This political revolt against the ruling powers produced theological discussions over the distinction between Belief and Unbelief, the meaning of Islam, and what actions make a man a great sinner.

To support the position that questioning about theological subjects was unnecessary there are traditions from Muhammad which discourage the discussion of dogma. Not only would he have no system of theology in his time, but for all time as well.

 Just as his utterances, as the in­strument of revelation, settled metaphysical problems during his lifetime, so they were to go on settling them for the community of the faithful who accepted him as Prophet.

The traditions regarding theological speculation which are said to have come from him not only teach the futility of divisions over matters of belief but also the inherent wickedness of schisms.

One tradition has it that he said that the Magians were divided into seventy sects, the Jews into seventy-one, the Christians into seventy-two, and the Muslims into seventy-three, only one of which would escape the Fire. The Prophet, when asked which sect this was, replied, “It is that to which I, myself, and my Companions belong.”

This attitude of mind that deprecated discussion and schism was responsi­ble in the end for the formation of a school of thought, the Murji’ite, which counseled delaying judgment as to the real faith of a professed Believer.

Because his final destiny rested with Allah, an evil-doer who professed Islam was still to be reckoned as one of the people of the qibla, that is, those who in worshiping Allah faced towards Mecca.

 This position was a result of their attitude towards the Umayyad rulers, whom they obeyed even though most pious Muslims were skeptical as to the real faith of such im­pious potentates.

Another explanation given for the rise of theological disputation is that suggested by lbn Khaldun.2

It was the result of attempts to decipher the obscure and ambiguous passages (al-mutashiibihiit) in the Qur’an. One explanation of certain verses produced a crude anthropomorphic conception of Allah; other ingenious interpretations saw in the Qur’an the embryo of a pantheistic faith.

A third reason for the development of Muslim dogmatics was the neces­sity for apologetic. Through the rapid expansion of Islam into other lands beyond Arabia it came more and more into contact with Greek and Christian thought.

Centuries before, Christian teachers had laid the founda­tion for the science of dogmatics by using such philosophical propositions as suited their purpose.

Now when Muslim parties saw in the writings of non­Muslims arguments which would defend their position they were quick to use them. The close resemblance between material that appears in the writings of John of Damascus and the Murji’ite and Qadarite 8 doctrines is proof of this.

The Kharijite doctrine that those who were guilty of great sins were no longer to be considered as true Believers is essentially that of Chris­tians who classify sins as mortal and venial.

It was in refuting the positions of the Mu’tazilite party that orthodox Islam finally came into its own and arrived at a mature expression of its Belief. Al-

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