More on the Difference Between Creed & Methodology

Shaikh and Dr., Abî ‘Abdil-Mu’iz Muhammad ‘Alî Farkūs (a professor in the College of Islamic Sciences at the University of Algeria) was asked,

These are some of the issues that are difficult for us. We desire our answer for them with some explanation from your eminence.

a. What is the difference between creed and methodology? Are their general and specific [matters] between them? And is the correctness of methodology necessarily inseparable from the correctness of creed?

b. What is the general rule by which we can recognize a scholar’s or caller’s exit from the methodology of the Predecessors? If he was recognized by knowledge, virtue and righteousness, and he erred in an issue or two issues concerning creed, is he then thrown off and not turned to?

We ask Allah to give you success for the service, support, and protection of His religion. Amîn.

He replied saying,

The praise is Allah’s, Lord of the worlds. And may salutations and peace be upon [the one] who Allah sent as a mercy to the worlds, upon his family, his companions and his brothers [in faith] until the Day of Reward.

As for what follows, before the answer to the first question, from what is known is that the use of the word “creed” (‘aqîdah) was not mentioned in the Book and the Sunnah, nor in the major lexicons of the language. The previous imams used what indicates it like sunnah, faith (îmân), and Divine Law (sharî’ah); and many of the imams used the two words: “belief” (i’tiqâd) and “doctrine” (mu’taqad) like Ibn Jarîr atTabarî, al-Lâlikâ’î, and al-Baihaqî.

So from the teminological aspect, the word creed, according to its general [usage], is used to indicate “what the servant ties his heart to, of truth or falsehood.” As for its restricted usage with an adjective like the term “Islamic creed”, then some of them have recognized it as “the definitive faith in Allah and what is obligated for Him regarding divinity, lordship, His names and characteristics; faith in the angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, Predestiny—its good and its evil; all of what the authentic texts came with regarding the religion’s roots, the affairs and reports of the Unseen, what the Rigtheous Predecessors came to concensus on; submitting to Allah in ruling and command, predestiny and legislation, and to the Messenger, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, in obedience, arbitration, and adherence.”

Thus, creed in Islam is opposite Divine Law, because the intent of Divine Law is the practical commandments that Islam came with regarding acts of worship and mutual conduct whereas creed is the knowledge-related affairs the Muslim is obligated to believe in his heart, because Allah, exalted is He, informed him of them by way of His revelation to His messenger, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him. The connection between them is very strong, both combining in the [meaning of] faith when [it is mentioned] individually, because it has two halves: immaculate deeply-rooted creed that resides in the heart, and another half is visible in the deed that manifests on the limbs. Thus, faith is a creed which the heart of its owner is pleased with. He indicates it on his tongue and is satisfied with the methodology that Allah made it connected to. Due to that, it has come from the statements from the scholars of the Predecessors that faith is belief in the heart, speech with the tongue, and deed with the pillars (i.e., the limbs).

Furthermore, for the confirmation of the correctness of this, it is only in accordance with a sound methodology established upon the authentic transmitted [reports] confirmed by the Book, the Sunnah, the reports mentioned from the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and the Followers[1] from the imams of guidance and the luminaries of the gloom who traversed their way, just as he, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, said, «The best of the people are my generation, then those who follow them, then those who follow them.»[2]

Thus this proper path is from the greatest of what distinguishes the People of the Sunnah and the Congregation from the People of Desires and Division; and is represented in the quest of knowledge with the divine requests for deduction by Qur’anic verses and prophetic hadîths, and [in] the [seeking of] direction through the understanding of the Companions, the Followers, and [those] from the scholars who abide by their method.

From their greatest distinguishing characteristics are their lack of opposition to the revelation by intellect, opinion, or analogical deduction;[3] their giving precedence to the legislation over the intellect, although the unadulterated intellect does not oppose the authentic text, but rather, is consistent with it; their dismissal of rhetorical interpretation of the legal texts with [different] types of metaphors; and their adoption of the Book and the Sunnah as a scale for the acceptance and dismissal [of texts].

These are the most important of the Salafî methodology’s principles and greater special qualities, which no one other than them are described by. That is because the origin of acceptance according to their opposers from the People of Desires and Heresies is the intellect which the sham of philosophy corrupted, the nonsense of the logicians, and the schemes of the theological rhetoricians.[4] So they were excessive in the intellect’s judging, rejecting the texts, opposing them with it (i.e., the intellect), and other than that from what is known from the successive generations’ school of thought.

Furthermore, from the outcomes of the proper methodology are unity of the word of the People of the Sunnah and the Congregation in their Lord’s monotheism, [in] their meeting with adherence of their Prophet, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, and [in] their conformity in the issues and matters of belief; as a single word, it does not vary no matter how [far] the places keep them away and the times vary.

Thus, the sound methodology is conducive to the sound belief. So soundness of methodology is deduced by correctness of creed for it is from the deduction of the cause by the effect, like deducing something by the existence of its effect and its (i.e., the thing’s) abscence by its (i.e., the effect’s) abscence. According to the fundamentalist jurists, it is from the analogical deduction of the indication.

The creed could be sound in some of its aspects, corrupt in some of its other [aspects]. So its correct aspect is deduced by the correctness of methodology in [that aspect], and the corrupt by the corruption of methodology in [that aspect]; similar to when one believes in the creed of the Predecessors regarding the Names and the Characteristics (i.e., Allah’s), while believing in rebellion, partisanship, and other issues.

Thus, the correctness of his creed in the Names and the Characteristics is deduced by the correctness of methodology in it, which is compliant in deduction by the Book and the Sunnah, [seeking] direction through the understanding of the Righteous Predecessors, just as the corruption of his creed in the other aspect is deduced by his leaving the Salafî methodology in it.

As for the second question, it is necessary to differentiate between one whose intent was the truth, then erred and between one who was obstinate after the truth in the issue became obvious to him; or [one who] persisted in opposing the authentic texts and confirmed or preferable evidences; or [one who] spoke without knowledge; or [one] whose heresy is established, he calls to it and defends it; or [one who] fell short in seeking the truth; or [one who] turned away from seeking it (i.e., the truth); or [one] who concealed it for reasons that hindered him and the likes of that from the [possible] situations.

So, the mistaken person in the first situation is excused, his error is forgiven, and he is rewarded; dispraise or shame are not linked to him, deficiency does not overtake him, his heretication is not permissible, nor is he to be declared a wicked person in [any] situation.

The obligation with regards to him is advice, clarifying the place of the error combined with its evidence in order to remove the doubt and establish the proof.

The obligation upon him is returning to the truth and acting by it. That is because infallibility is for the Prophets, so if every mistaken person is stripped of his salafism merely because of the error, no one from the People of the Sunnah would remain! As for the other situations, they are contrary to this.

Shaikh of Islam Ibn Taimiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, has straight speech that includes this point of view, where it deals with the issue of excommunication. He said,

… the correct thing is that whoever from the nation of Muhammad, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, came to an independant judgement intending the truth, but erred is not excommunicated; rather his error is forgiven for him.

Whoever had what the Messenger came with clarified to him, then breaks away from the Messenger after the guidance was clarified to him and follows other than the believers’ path, then he is a disbeliever. Whoever followed his desire, fell short in seeking the truth, and spoke without knowledge, he is disobedience and sinful. Then he might become a wicked person, and he might have good deeds that carry greater weight than his misdeeds.[5]

And Allah is more knowledgeable.

[1] [t] Ar. tâbi’ūn (pl. – sing. tâbi’î) – followers, adherents; referring to the second generation of Muslims, the students of the Prophet’s companions.

[2] Published by al-Bukhârî (5/258) in [the Book of] Witnesses: Chapter Do Not Be a Witness for Injustice, If Asked for That; and by Muslim (16/87) in [the Book of] Virtues: Chapter Virtue of the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, Then Those Who Follow Them, Then Those Who Follow Them; from the hadîth of ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ūd, may Allah be pleased with him. It has a [supporting] witnesss from the hadîth of an-Nu’mân bin Bashîr, may Allah be pleased with him, with this wording, except that he said «then those who follow them» three times. So the fourth generation is confirmed. [as-Silsilah asSahîhah by al-Albânî (2/320).]

[3] [t] Ar. qiyâs – comparison; analogy; deduction by analogy; deduction, logical conclusion, syllogism.

[4] [t] Ar. mutakallimūn (pl. – sing. mutakallim) – speaker, spokesperson; Muslim theologian, scholastic.

[5] Majmū’ al-Fatâwâ by Ibn Taimiyyah (12/180).

Source: Farkūs, Abî ‘Abdil-Mu’iz Muhammad ‘Alî. Majâlis Tadhkîriyyah ‘alâ Masâ’il Manhajiyyah. Cairo, Egypt: Dâr al-Imam Ahmad, 2005. pgs. 63-67.

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About Rasheed Gonzales
My name is Rasheed Gonzales. I’m a Muslim convert of Filipino descent. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, I was guided to Islam through one of my younger brothers and a couple of friends, all of whom had converted to Islam sometime before me (may Allah reward them greatly). I am married with four children (and the praise is Allah’s) and also a volunteer for the Qur'an & Sunnah Society of Canada, based in Toronto.

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