Imam al-Ṭaḥāwī and Islamic Sunni Creed

Imām al-Ṭaḥāwī and Islamic Sunni Creed

1. What the Aqīdah is

Imām Abu Ja’far al-Ṭaḥāwī’s creedal text, a representative of the viewpoint of “Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah” has long been the most widely acclaimed and indeed indispensable reference work on Muslim beliefs.

Imām al-Subki (d. 771AH /1370 CE) the great Shāfiʿī scholar writes that the followers of the 4 schools of Law, the Hanafi-s, the Shāfiʿī s, the Mālikī-s and the Hanbali-s are all One in creed:

“All of them follow the opinion of “Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah”, the People of the Prophetic Way and the Majority of the Scholars:

They worship Allah in accordance with the creed of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari (and Abu Mansur al-Māturidī). None of them deviates from it,

save the riffraff among the Hanafi-s and the Shāfiʿī-s who adopted the Rationalist creed (al-Mu’tazilah) and those among the Hanbali-s who adopted Anthropomorphism(al-Mushabbihah).

However, Allah protected the Mālikī-s from such things, for we have never seen a Mālikī except that he was Ash’ari in creed.

Aqīdah al-Ṭaḥāwīyah contain beliefs about which there are no disagreements among the associates, neither among the Tābi‘uns, nor among the great scholars of the Islamic world, such as the imams of the 4 Madhabs and their significant followers.

In summation, the creed of al-Ash’ari (and Abu Mansur al-Māturidī) is what is contained in The Creed of Imām Abu Ja’far al-Ṭaḥāwī, which the scholars of the various legal schools have endorsed and are content with as a creed…

So, say to those fanatics among the sects, “Take heed, leave your fanaticism, abandon your heresies, and defend the religion of Islam” (Imām Hamza Yusuf)./@

Not to mention that the Creed of Imām Ṭaḥāwī is one of the primary creedal texts of the “Māturidī” school of thought, as Imām Ṭaḥāwī narrates it from the main source of the “Māturidī Theological Methodology” of the great Imām Abu Hanīfā.

Imām al-Ṭaḥāwī, as well as Imām Abu Mansur al-Māturidī, built his system according to the beliefs of Imām Abu Hanīfā, may Allah be pleased with them, they differed only in the formulations.

The Māturidī system is distinguished by a stronger synthesis between Naql (tradition) and Aql (mind). He recognized the need for rational thinking for a proper understanding of the texts.

Kalām (Islamic theology) became necessary to refute the misguided, and nowadays every Muslim is obliged to study Aqīdah - this will protect him from delusions. Aqīdah at-Ṭaḥāwīyah is the simplest and most suitable text for this.

2. Biography of Imām Ṭaḥāwī

Imām Abu Ja’far Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Ṭaḥāwī was born in 239 AH (853 CE) and passed away in 321 AH (933 CE). He is known as Ṭaḥāwī after his birthplace in Egypt.

Imām Ṭaḥāwī is among the most outstanding authorities of the Islamic world on Hadith and Jurisprudence (Fiqh).

He lived at a time when both the direct and indirect disciples of the Four Imāms of Islamic Law were teaching and practicing. This period was the greatest age of Hadith and Fiqh studies, and Imām Ṭaḥāwī studied with most of the living authorities of the time.

His first teacher was his Mother. She was knowledgeable, she directly studied with Imām Shāfiʿī, may Allah be pleased with him:

Her brother, Imām al-Muzānī, may Allah have mercy on him, is known as the most influential supporter of the Shāfiʿī Madhab in Egypt and the best student of Imām Shāfiʿī.

It is not surprising that, surrounded by such people, Imām al-Ṭaḥāwī, may Allah be pleased with him, was inclined to study religious sciences as a child. As a child, he memorized the entire Quran by heart and attended the lessons of his father, and then other scholars.

Imām al-Ṭaḥāwī deeply studied Hadith and Fiqh, he was considered one of the greatest Muhaddiths and Faqihs of his time.

Then he began to study the Hanafi Madhab under the leadership of Sheikh Abū Ja’far Ahmad ibn Abī Imrān, who later became the chief Qadi (judge) of Egypt in 270 AH/883 AC.

So, gradually, Imām Ṭaḥāwī grew increasingly interested in the works of Imām Abu Hanīfā, which led him to joining to the Hanafi tradition of Islamic law.

In 268 (882), at-Ṭaḥāwī went to Syria to further study the Hanafi Fiqh and became a disciple of Qadi Abu Hāzim Abdul-Hamid bin Ja’far, who at that time was the chief judge of Syria.

He took Hadith from a large number of sheikhs, especially those who visited Egypt at that time. He also had many prominent students.

Imām al-Ṭaḥāwī was also the author of many books in Islamic sciences, including several encyclopaedic works, of which unfortunately only a few have survived.

Imām al-Ṭaḥāwī, like Imām al- Māturidī (Abū Mansur ibn Muhammad al-Māturidī of Samarqand in Uzbekistan), was a follower of Imām Abū Hanīfā, both in Islamic jurisprudence and theology.

3. Text Introduction

The short treatise on theology written by Imām Ṭaḥāwī was titled Bayān al-Sunna wal-Jamā’ah and is commonly known as al-Aqīdah al-Ṭaḥāwīyah.

The importance of this creed lies in the fact that it corroborates the views of Imām Abū Hanīfā, the founder of the Hanafi school, that have come down to us from different sources.

Imām Ṭaḥāwī does not make an attempt to explain the views of Imām Abu Hanīfā or to solve the old theological problems by advancing any new arguments:

His sole aim was to give a summary of the views of the Imām and to show indirectly that they were in conformity with the traditional views of the orthodox school.

Imām Ṭaḥāwī's treatise, though small in size, is a basic text for all times, listing what a Muslim must know and believe and inwardly comprehend.

It can be said to represent the creed of both the Ash’ari-s and the Māturidī-s, especially the latter, given his being a follower of the Hanafi school.

The doctrines enumerated in this work are entirely derived from the undisputed primary sources of religion, the Holy Quran and the verified Hadiths, and the Ijmā, the consensus of the Ummah.

Being a text on Islamic doctrine, this work sums up the arguments set forth in those 3 sources to define sound belief of “Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah” the “Mainstream Islam” and likewise the arguments advanced in refuting the views of sects that have deviated from “Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah”.

Aqīdah al-Ṭaḥāwīyah contain beliefs about which there are no disagreements among the associates, neither among the Tābi‘uns, nor among the great scholars of the Islamic world, such as the imāms of the 4 Madhabs and their significant followers.

This text, representative of the viewpoint of Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamā’ah, has long been the most widely acclaimed, and indeed indispensable, reference work on Muslim beliefs.

Many other Islamic teachers and scholars have written many detailed comments (Sharh) to this text.