Islamic Studies

"Suhaib! Where do You Stand? What Kind of Muslim Are You?"

First Question

I was told that you are an athari in aqeedah. is that true? if so what books are available in regards to the difference between the athari, ashari, and salafi aqeedah?

First Answer:

In English or Arabic?

Second Question

English. However you didn’t answer the question about whether you are athari or not. My main issue is asharis and salafis calling each other deviants and not just the laymen but the ulama (ibn taymiya and ibn hajr al-haytami for example) and was wondering whether athari is accpeted by both and who are the athari ulama?

The Answer

Asalamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

I think it would be very difficult to find a monolith within any group if that’s what your looking for. Yes, I consider myself aspiring to be an Athari, and take the position articulated by al-Saffarni in al-Lum’a and, in more recent times, that of the Islamic movements and what was taught to me by my Sheikh Muhammad al-Hassan Walid al-Dido al-Shanqit, a man who memorized the Sahih Sita before he was 30 years old:

The Position of the Islamic Revival

Ahl-Sunna are three:

1. Than Athari and their Imam is Imam Ahmed
2. The Ashari’s and their Imam is Abu Hassan al-Ash’ari
3. The Maturidi’s and their Imam is Abu Masur al-Maturidi

That does not mean we can’t have spirited discussions, enlightened discourse and so on if done with sound scholarship, or under the guidance of scholars. I share your feelings on the issue and feel that most people are really burned out. The most important Athari text is the Tahawiyah, then the introduction to Aqidah found in the Epistle of Abi Zaid al-Qayrawani, the Lum’a of Imam al-Maqdasi, the works of Ibn Taymiyah and so on. I would also strongly encourage one to read Imam Hassan al-Banna’s Epistle on Aqida and the recent work of Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi “The differences between the creed of the salaf and the creed of the khalaf.”

If you want to cross check these ideas with your Ashar’i brethren then read the Jawhar al-Tawhid with the explanation of al-Bayjouri who states, “Regarding these sifaat, there are two schools, the school of the Salaf was to pass these verses, affirm them, leaving the meanings to Allah without going into explaining them.” As for the Khalaf, “They would adopt an explanation of the attribute that was fitting for Allah’s sublime majesty.” As one of my teachers told me, “They had the same destination; they just took two different paths.” Both, at the end of the day, affirm Allah’s sublime nature, that He is not like his creation and His creation is not like him. Thus, as Sheikh al-Qaradawi stated, “They agree on the general principles of creed, and differed on the secondary issues.”

The Western Muslim Dilemma

Western Muslims have failed to grasp the danger of engaging in discussions on creed as many have no knowledge to empower themselves to understand with maturity. For that reason, most are using creed as a means of identification, thereby diagnosing other Muslims, categorizing them and using that as a means to feel a sense of importance and self-worth.

This is very dangerous as the objective of creed is closeness to Allah, love and following the prophet, loyalty to the Muslim community, and standing up for the truth, being good to other not fearing those who reject Allah. These qualities are very important in the post 9/11 world where Muslims in the West are sinking into hyper liberalism, inviting lesbians to sing at their events and proud to announce the tazkiyah of Juan Cole. I’m not saying this to create any type of static, but if we are honest with ourselves, the number one component that has shaped our discourse in the West is fear. Fear of the Man and fear of each other. As Dr. Sherman Jackson told me, “Suhaib, you’ve got to reach a point in your life where you’re comfortable with yourself.” Meaning, we cannot allow fear of others to shape us. The magicians stood up to Pharaoh without a second thought. Our fear of prison, being antagonized, kicked off planes and our love for being accepted by others, caused many of us to swerve somewhat, lose our balance and do anything in our power to appear domesticated. These type of actions, taking pride in sitting with lesbians, turning away from Allah’s commands and being weak in worship are signs that our faith is in the ICU.

Where Are We Now

As an American community we need to ask, where have the current approaches to faith brought us? I’ve meet Salafi and Sufi couples who are talking divorce, friends who’s children were abandoned by the other children because they were told that their parents were deviants; I know brothers who left a Sufi order and the murids were ordered never to talk with them again!?

The Prophetic model brought enemies to the table, nurtured love in their hearts, created a community that was divided, about which Allah said, “You were enemies to another, we brought your hearts together and you became, by the blessing of Allah, brothers.” and made them into a strong cohesive society. Where are we from that? We were Muslims, learned Creed, and became enemies? Thus, was the enmity due to Allah’s blessing or His wrath?

Be careful of those who Seek to Weaken Us

We need to be careful of teachers who come to us with these things; seeking to sow the seeds of hatred between us, making us weak and open for problems. And as students of studying overseas, we must be careful in adopting everything were learn. For, indeed, we cannot take everything we’ve learned an apply it in the West.  This was my point during the ISNA speech about “A theology of complexes.” Many of these theological disputes were nurtured by intelligence agencies to weaken Muslims in the Muslim world. Low and behold, we must be weary that such ploys are not brought to the West. In order to do that, we need a commitment to live as brothers. Scholars need to interact with each other beyond simple pledges, debate issues at times, and most importantly cool their follower’s heels.

An Interesting Story

Once I sat with a Salafi teacher and I ask him, “What are you teaching the people akhi? Why are you engaging the ‘Awam in these issues?” His response, “Because the Sufi’s are attacking us, so it is kind of a back and forth thing?” I told him, “You are making the masses the subject of a theological tug of war?” He quieted and said, “I regret and asked myself, what I’m teaching the masses?” The sad thing is I’ve had the same discussion with a prominent Ashar’i sufi teacher and got the same answer. I remember hearing from one of them, “We are going back to America to destroy the Salafis!” This type of understanding is not going to bring any good to us. As a community we must censure theological bigotry and learn to accept those who fall under the general, wide understanding of Ahl Sunna. And please, don’t say Jam’ah.

Take the Good from the Muslims

I have benefited from a large number of Salafi teachers just as I have from the Sufis. I have studied with both and, while I don’t agree with everything, tried to take the good from them. “I do not declare my innocence.” as two years ago I made some very tragic mistakes in this regard. One thing I would encourage all to do, if they are serious, is to memorize the Qur’an, study the sunna, with qualified scholars and take their Aqidah from there on a general level. I remember that statement of Sh. Muhammad Hassal al-Dido about sitting with one of his teachers, “When I went to him, one of two things happened: I found him crying from the fear of Allah, or I left him crying from the fear of Allah.”

In English it is hard to find such works without one group or another using them to attack the other. Read what you can and try and sift through the group though, group attack.

A Good Compass for Creedal Studies

Know, that if you study creed and you find yourself harsh and tired with the Muslims, you have failed to achieve it purpose. If you study it and your feel humble in front of Allah, in service to others, wanting to spread its truth with wisdom and mercy, then you have done well.

Think About Your Question

To be honest, I find your question a little frightening. Instead of studying your creed to know who you are and what others are not, study creed to know your Lord, understanding Him correctly and serve Him according to the way of the Prophet and the early generations. Leave the Aqidah wars to the scholars, focus on your studies, memorize the Qur’an, the Mutun and build your knowledge base.

What Set You Banging Suhaib?

Recently a good hearted brother visited me and said, “You need to declare your loyalty to someone akhi. Folks are worried, where do you stand. You can’t be………”

A Muslim! I hope I can and ask Allah for thabat. While I will critique and offer my advice at times towards things I have learned are wrong, I hope to do so in a spirit of adab and fraternity that will help us maintain our ties as Muslims. If that means calling to the way of the Ahari, then so be it. However, let’s do so with knowledge, respect and admiration for others.

Athari Ulema:

Dr. Zakkariyah al-Sidiqi

Sh. Juma Amin

Sh. Muhamamd al-Shanqiti and his family

Dr. Muhammad Akram Nadawi

The Students of Sh. Ibrahim al-Jarah in Kuwait

Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi

and others…………….

May Allah bless us to aspire to the way of the athar, make our creed pleasing to Him alone; empowering us to stand in the face of evil and corruption


About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


  • Salam,

    I have a comment and a question if I may!

    The comment being “اختلاف العلماء رحمة” “the disagreement or healthy argument of scholars is a blessing” since with the Ijtihad of each, a layman such as myself can have options to choose from the answers which makes the most sense and is more comfortable to me. All ofcourse within the paradigm of Islam and done by scholars with good credentials.

    The question ties into the comment. I, again as a lay person, do not even know what mathhab I subscribe to or whether I even should. Honestly, I go about searching for an answer through Fiqh Al-sunnah or Tafseer Ibn-Katheer or Qutub but without knowing which school of thought one sucbscribes to. Is this wrong on my part? should I declare my self a Shafi’i or a Hanbali or something?? I didn’t think that this existed in our Islam and that the efforts of the scholars, may Allah reward them all for their efforts, are again Ijtihad on each’s part and we are to take what feels right in one’s heart.
    Please inform!

    Jazakum Allah khair!

  • Subanallah, its heart warming to read such a piece in which you can read the genuine love for Islam and Muslims between the lines. I hate it when Muslims fight and bicker about who is right and who is wrong, its almost like we have lost our ultimate aim to learn to love Allah by getting to know him (acquiring knowledge ) and him loving us in return inshallah. May Allah bind our hearts and truly makes us love each other for his sake. Jakallah khayr

  • Wow i didnt know Sh Bin Bayyah and Qaradawi were Athari (i thought Sh
    Qaradawi was Ash’ari)

    One quick Question: why did u say Ahlus Sunnah and exclude Jama’ah?
    (wallahi its an honesty question)


  • Salaam’Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi

    Imam, thank you for this most beneficial post. I said it once and I’ll say it again, I love you big guy! Imam when will you be visiting us in the UK next?


  • A beautiful quote I relate to our aqida wars as Imam Suhaib calls it:

    “By the eighteenth century…Jewish scholarship was dead. In its place came empty discussions about matters that had no practical connection with the desperate needs of the masses of Jews. Pilpul, these discussions were called – empty, nonsensical arguments over minute points of the Talmud that have no relation at all to the world. Jewish scholars became interested in showing other Jewish scholars how much they knew, how many texts they could manipulate. They were not in the least bit interested in teaching the masses of Jews, in communicating their knowledge and uplifting the people. And so there grew up a great wall between the scholars and the people….”

    From page 100 of “the unforgettable bestseller” The Chosen (1967) by Chaim Potok

  • Salaam ‘alaikum Sh. Suhaib,

    While probably not that important, I was under the impression that Sh. Qaradawi had declared himself (and most of the ulema) Ash’ari in creed.

    In his talk on the life of Sh. Muhammad al-Ghazali al-Azhari, rahimahullah (from the Ikhwan website he stated-

    “Al-Azhar, like most religious schools and universities, follows the Ash”ari school of Aqeedah. I know that our Salafi brethren do not like this, but I would like to say that the whole Muslim Ummah follows the Ash”ari school. So, has the whole Ummah gone astray? Azhar, Zaituna, Al-Qaraweyah, and Dupand of India are all Ash”aris. All religious schools in the world are Ash”aris. So, Sheikh Al-Ghazaly was an Ash”ari. He just was not fanatical about it. He studied the Ash”ari school during his primary, secondary, and college years. His book, The Aqeedah of the Muslim, was written with a Salafi spirit and an Ash”ari breath. One can notice the Ash”ari touch in the way he defined and organized the chapters of the book. Nobody would be able to avoid this Ash”ari touch. He, moreover, took the opinion of applying both logic and scripts in Aqeedah. I would like to respond to what Dr. Fahmi Jud”an said. Logic is the foundation of scripts. Without logic we cannot accept the scripts. Proof of Prophethood is based on logic. Therefore, if we do not endorse logic, we cannot prove Prophethood or revelation. This is why Al-Ghazaly, and Ash”aris before him, said that logic is the foundation of scripts. A further reason behind his statement is that Ahadeeth coming from a single chain are not a strong enough evidence for proving Aqeedah….”

  • BARAKALLAHU FEEK! This is a much need piece and I really appreciate what you said. May Allah (swt) use us to bring victory to His Deen, and not replace us! Ameen!
    May Allah show us the Truth and bless us in following it, and may He show us falsehood and distance us from it! Ameen! May Allah make all of us firm upon His Deen! Ameen!

  • Sallamu Alakum

    Thank you for this article B. Suhaib. For a few months now I have been entertaining the idea in my mind of what creed do i feel comfortable ‘fitting’ into. Considering I have great admiration for Ghazzali, most of my life I have adapted my views to his standards. I knew this was immature and narrow of me, but it made me comfortable. After running into this matter of creed in Reza Aslan’s book “No God but God” I started wondering and pushing myself to dentify with a creed. And for a while it was truely bothering me. Naturally i was gravitating towards Ashar’i not only because it presented a lot of views that made sense in my head, but because Al Ghazzali was affiliated with it!
    My point is, you posted this article at a very good time (subhanallah). I dont know why I have this tendency to feel obliged to narrowly fit myself into a school of thought or into a creed within a school of thought. At one point i feel compelled to call myself a Sufi, at another Shaf’i, or even more erratic an Ashar’i! Your article was a wake up call though.
    I am not sure how i attained this precarious attitude I have when it comes to Islam, I just hope its something I can shake off with time.


  • Asalamu alaykum,


    Welcome akhi and thanks for stopping by and commenting. The axiom states that “the school of the masses is the scholar they are asking.” Another axiom says, “The questioner is on the madhab of the scholar being questioned.”

    Inshallah, you are fine akhi and there is not need to complicate things. Just make sure that you, “Ask the people who know if you don’t know.” If you are not able to do that, and the best you can do is consult books, then “Allah does not burdern a person more than he can handle.”


  • Assalaamualayakum wa rahamtullah.

    1. It would be great if someone could work to translate Imam Hassan al-Banna’s Epistle on Aqida and the recent work of Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi “The differences between the creed of the salaf and the creed of the khalaf.” Do you know if either of these works are currently being translated?

    2. Is there a difference between an Athari and a Tafwidi Ashari (like Imam Al-Nawawi)? The Asharis are not monolithic.

    3. What is the main difference between a Salafi and an Athari?

  • Assalamu alaykum,

    humble student, where does Shaykh Qaradawi declare himself Ashari in the piece that you quoted? He is making a case for Shaykh al-Ghazali’s adherence to the Ashari school by saying that all the major institutions of the world are Ashari, including al-Azhar. This does not necessarily mean that Shaykh Qaradawi himself also adheres to the Ashari school. At the most, it shows his acknowledgement and respect for the school.

  • As-Salam Alaykum,

    As a Salafi, my main issue against many Asharis in the West is that most of them defend the belief of calling on other than Allah [swt], i.e. istighatha to the dead. I hate them for this. There is no other word to describe my feeling towards them but hate. I hate them for destroying my beautiful religion. I don’t get offended when they do taweel or tafweed, but to call on other than Allah [swt] is offensive to me as a Muslim. I believe this is a belief of mushrikoon and they should be labeled as such.

    I would love to give up the Aqeedah Wars, but not so long as they continue to preach this batil belief. SunniPath itself has a fatwa about calling to the dead for help being ok, and SunniForum people quote a fatwa where it is said that the dead come back to life to aid the living. What kind of nonsense is this? How can we unite with them when they teach such filthy beliefs?

    a moderate Salafi

  • Sallamu Alakum,

    J, I can understand your frustration with practices you dont necessarily agree with brother, but please remember Allah (swt) has stated in the Quran that it is beyond your authority as a Muslim to label other Muslims as mushrikin. This practice that many Muslims indulge in today is contrary to the practice that Allah (swt) has laid out in the Quran:

    Be not among the Mushrikun i.e., those who create differences in Deen (Isalm) and become sects. Each (sectarian) party quite content with itself (that it is following the correct path).” (30:32)

    So be content with your own practices, period! do not try to label or distance yourself from other Muslims…this is Allah’s realm of authority.

    Allah (swt) also states:

    As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did. (6:159)

    So leave it to Allah to judge. OUR job as Muslim’s is to practice Islam to the best of our ability and to preserve unity.

    A moderate MUSLIM,


  • salaam ‘alaikum ahaque,

    Sh. Qaradawi is himself an Azhari and states that “the whole Muslim Ummah follows the Ash”ari school.” It stands to reason that unless he’s indicated otherwise, he includes himself in this description.

    But as I said in the beginning of my comment, it’s probably not that important to which school he adheres since we take our aqidah from our actual teachers and by actually studying, not by making taqlid.

  • Asalamu alaykum,


    I hope you are well and keeping warm in N.J. I appreciate your last point. Aqidah needs to be learned. As for Sheikh Yusuf, he clearly states in his book on the differences between the Khalaf and the Salaf that he is on the way of the salaf.


  • Asalaam Alaikum,

    When so many Muslims are being butchered and starved around the world I find it hard to believe that this conversation is taking place.

    Wa salaam Alaikum wa rahmutullah

  • As-Salaamu-Alaikum,

    I was born a Muslim in the US and I struggle to understand the point in the different Islamic “sects” and “cliques”. I have always had the understanding that Islam is a religion of PEACE and UNITY…. How can one Muslim say that “There is no other word to describe my feeling towards them but hate. I hate them for destroying MY beautiful religion.”? This is an absurd statement. How can we as Muslims come together during these desperate times in society when we cannot even have peace within our own communites? It’s time for us to realize that there is only ONE judge (Allah, SWT) and we need to stop being so negative on one another and learn all that you can from all Muslims before our short time on this earth is over. How can someone say MY religion as if the revelation was not sent down to ALL people?
    May Allah show us the right path to success, Insha’Allah. Ameen!

    • Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      The dividing line is shirk. Calling upon the dead is shirk. I think that was what the brother was saying.

      Surely you wouldn’t like someone who claimed they were a Muslim but also worshipped Shiva and Vishnu.

  • Br. Ibrahim Abdullah:


    Perhaps you should look at the fact all the articles before this one have consecutively been about raising awareness about our brothers and sisters in Gaza, as well as the ones after, even before you made your comments.

    We need to stop finding reasons to be upset and complain for no reason.

    In fact, the discussion that is brought up in this article is one of the reasons for the religious division and petty infighting amongst the Ummah’s scholars (some) and students, and one of the many things keeping us from uniting and focusing on those issues that matter.

    The sooner we can heed the advice in this post about getting past creedal differences and uniting to solve real problems and unite around ISLAM as our common identity, the sooner the boot of oppression can be lifted from the necks of the Ummah’s most vulnerable members.

    wa salam

    From “

  • “Shirk is allowed under the guise of “difference of opinion.” ”

    True some people misuse that word, and others limit differences of opinion and do not accept them if they come “other scholars” (even if they unlabelled 🙂 ) only when it comes from salafis (if they are salafi) and sufi (when they are sufi), which to me is also playing games.

    Bottom line there are details in the Aqeeda of boths schools that do not take you out of the fold of Islam, we should all accept this. While salafis are too easy to use the word “bid’ah” and “shirk” (this is not an attack it is a reality) others (sufis) tend to overlook certain problematic areas (either by saying this is the “traditional view” or down playing bid’ah talk)

    If we really cared about Aqeeda in a prioritized manner there would be more scholars writing to refute the new anti-religious movement (Sam Harris and his likes), newcons, extreme seculars, and modern day philosophy rather than criticising rare practices and sects that died. As usual instead of focusing on the positive message of sheikh Suhaib we have to divert the topic into unnecessary details (Yes they are unncessary because the article is discussing an overal look on Aqeeda not a detailed discussion of a point, which is perfectly fine when that is the scope of the post)

  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Ust. Omar:

    I found your last point telling:

    “If we really cared about Aqeeda in a prioritized manner there would be more scholars writing to refute the new anti-religious movement (Sam Harris and his likes), newcons, extreme seculars, and modern day philosophy rather than criticising rare practices and sects that died. As usual instead of focusing on the positive message of Suhaib we have to divert the topic into unnecessary details (Yes they are unncessary because the article is discussing an overal look on Aqeeda not a detailed discussion of a point, which is perfectly fine when that is the scope of the post)”

    Our community is sunk in the past. All groups have a tendency to romantize certain historical epics, cling to them, use them as a means for identity, master what they think their arguments were and get polarized. Thus, instead of finding competent scholars able to take on people like Dawkins, Harris and others, we are busy discussing issues that have long since past. I remember sitting in a lesson on the Jawhara and the Sheikh began to talk about the M’utazlites. Wallahi, during his talk I felt as though the M’utazlities were down the street teaching in a local mosque. Many of the comments written on this post were deleted because of the harsh nature of their tones and not the beauty of their contents. Sad, but I’ve come to realize that we are more comfortable arguing about the past, then we are in engaging our future.

    I would like to encourage our brothers and sisters to practice greater equality with each other. I know a large number of Ash’aris and Sufis who do not do bidd’a at graves nor commit acts of shirk. One of the dangers of both dawas is they take the worst possible example of each other and present it as the norm. As one scholar was asked, “Is visiting the graves bidda?” His response, “No and Yes…………..It is a rewardable act if one does it according to the Sunna of the Prophet [sa] and it is a bidda is one invents something that the Prophet was not upon. Thus, if one goes on knowlege, then no. And if one acts upon ignorance, then yes possible.”


  • As-Salam Alaykum,

    This is my last message, insha-Allah.

    I want to say clearly that I love and respect many Sufis. I did not mean to imply that *all* Sufis do those things. Deobandis are Sufis, and yet they consider all of this (i.e. Istighatha to the dead) to be Shirk/Haram.

    Anyways, I will hold my tongue since I am not good with manners. I want to unify just like everyone else.

    Forgive me for any trouble.

    Fi Aman Allah,

  • AsSalamu ‘Alaykum, Imam Suhaib

    If one wishes to study Aqeedah; whether its the Athari, Ashari, or the Maturidi creed, to what extent should we study creed till? Is it proper to start discussing the attributes Allah (SWT) speaks about in the Qur’an and hadith yet which are disputed about within the three about creeds? (Such as hands, eyes, fingers, shins, etc?)

  • Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim

    As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlah,

    Thank you for your post. It was a very pleasant read, even though I do not fully agree with it.

    Human beings, including Muslims, will always have differing opinions on a multitude of issues. This idea that a lot of Muslims have today, of uniting and casting all these differences aside, is a beautiful dream, with the keyword being “dream”. It has not happened for over a thousand years, and I doubt that our iman-less era will change that. The cliché “I am not a cynic, I am a realist” could be inserted here.

    I am sure that I will continue to condemn anthropomorphism, people whom praise Ibn Taymiyyah as “Shaykhu l-Islam”, and the like. Not because my intention is to divide the Muslims, but simply because I consider these things, and others, to be wrong. Relativism–that there is no right or wrong, explicitly or implicitly–is not pragmatically applicable, since we, as human beings that are not adhering to philosophies such as nihilism, have a sense of what is correct and what is not. Do we have to fight? Call each other names? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, it is one of several likely outcomes–we are an emotional cast! People with radically different ideas, were both claim The Truth, are inclined to fall into arguments, and they easily become heated. This is how it is, at least with common folks.

    The best I can do, is to train myself spiritually and thus psychologically, so that I will not fall into petty bickering over issues that I really should not bother with; but, if I do fall into said bickering, I will at least remain calm and cool, throwing up a “salam, akhi” with a big smile. If I do not, well, then I hope that Allah Ta’ala will forgive Abdu l-Ghaffur, and I am weak.

  • Assalam Alaikum,
    Thank you for that wonderful answer.


    Can you tell me where I can find Imam Hassan al-Banna’s Epistle on Aqida in english please. 🙂
    His, Maududi’s, Qutb’s and Muhammed Iqbal’s works are my favorite. And I never read anything of theirs dealing with Aqida.

    Thank you

  • @ The Ghazali Blogger

    If you scroll up, some brothers posted links for Imam Mustafa ‘Umar’s translation and another translation provided by Young Muslims of Imam Hassan al-Banna’s book.

  • Jazaakallahu khayr for the beautiful post,

    In our community we have been trying to rise up and above the stereotypes and name calling to an informed discourse but I have been finding it really tough to break the shell of many individuals who I feel are really afraid to challenge and verify their own beliefs and stances and are comfortable being part of Group A IE being against Group B.

    Its like the first brand of Islam they came in contact with has absolutely no possibility of being wrong and they dont even want to judge others by what they say/do but instead will, just as you stated, give extreme examples and act like its the norm.

    Wallahi I have people in charge of Masajid out here who will not even give a person a chance to speak, but they hear that they are ‘sufi’ so they must be grave worshipping bidah propagation machines who we must stay away from. They refer to certain books on character as ‘sufi’ books as if the word sufi is a curse word.

    I am really at a point where I dont know what to do any more. I think about the saying of Imam Ibn al Qayyim I read once where he said that one of the tricks of Shaytan is that he makes you have enmity towards someone who could really benefit you. I know for a fact that the community is losing out on clear benefit and is isolating itself from the mainstream.

    Though im mostly venting, any advice would be much appreciated 🙂


  • I love this post. However (and this is related to a previous comment I posted in an old article), at the end of the day, the layman needs to commit to a position.

    I believe the position you’ve described in your post is the best position for a layman to hold and to avoid all these subjects of theological debate. However, the core problem is that this position, the position of ‘moderacy’ is being disputed itself on whether it falls under Ahlus-Sunnah.

    What if a group says that Ahlus-sunah is one, therefore it cannot contain the ash’ariyyah and the maturidiyyah? And what if this group churns out slogans like ‘baatil is baatil’ and ‘there is no matter of dispute in aqidah, there is only ONE aqidah!’?

    Now these people claim to be ‘atharis’, but they would definitely dispute the conclusions you’re drawing from al-Saffarini’s quote, and have wildly different conclusions about the Maturidis and Ash’aris. And they would definitely argue with the way the scholars you’ve listed treat the texts (my other comment in the Shaykh Akram Nadwi post explains this), although my heart is definitely inclined to those scholars (and your) position. You have to believe as they do in order to fall under their definition of Ahlus-Sunnah, which is THEIR athari aqidah. And they believe that they have decisive proof-texts to bolster this case that they are the true atharis, and the true Ahlus-Sunnah, the ‘saved sect’.

    I guess I am kind of advocating the position that these people need to be dealt with, so that the layman can take the moderate position and free themselves from the pitfalls of delving into theological debate so they don’t have to stick with the salafis OR the ash’aris or maturidis, and be comfortable with reasonable certainty that they’re following the right path.

    The position you are advocating is very subject to the debate you’re seeking to avoid, because of these slogans that this group keeps churning out.

    I guess the question I’m asking is, how does one avoid all this mess, since even ‘safe’ positions are being labeled as ‘bid’ah’ by certain groups?

    I do agree that people contribute to the confusion when they respond because other people are attacking, which forces attacks that cause the other side to attack back. This doesn’t help at all, and ‘safe, middle-ground’ positions help avoid this ‘attack/defense’ mess. But claiming safe positions are ‘safe’ is a claim in an of itself that will be disputed by groups who hold themselves to be correct and that their position is the most textually supported position.


  • Oh, and the reason I bring up defending the athari position (well the position Imam Suhaib holds) is because in order for Muslims to succeed in the west, we need to put an end to laymen meddling in internet forums and debates between the salafis and the ash’aris. This position is the best position to hold and it keeps people away from disputing with each other while allowing one to confidently practice and not worry about what others are doing/saying about them, so that we can protect our interests in the West.


  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Ust. Ahmed:

    Many thanks for your valuable comments. It is your concerns that have constantly persuaded me to refrain from discussing these issues. However, inundated with constant emails interested in my theological positions weakened my once firm foundation, cracked my walls causing my answer to leak into the public square. That being said, I think it is important to draw on classical works that promoted some type of respect and civility between those who claim to be Ahl-Sunna. I think it somewhat idealist, as well as unrealistic, nor desired to think that some how all Western Muslims are going to read this and jump on board. What we don’t need is another group of ideologues forcing their slogans and understandings on others. But, what we do need is inspiration, role models and a sincere commitment to an ethical foundation that will enable us to differ, but love and work together.

    For that reason, it is important, for those who feel this responsibility, to choose normative Islamic sources, embedded in the classical period that garner an admiration and respect from most Muslims. In short, authority. Those sources should reflect a civil minded approach to the issues, can be critical, but should do so with respect, lack of unfounded assumptions. They should reflect a longing for the sweetness of truth, without the bitterness of bigotry. That is my approach and I would not force it on others. However, I’m putting it in the public square hoping to benefit from good folks like yourself, increase my understanding and chart my way upon my return to the West. An example of this is the quote above from al-Bayjouri’s Hashiyah on the Jawhara which is an Ashari text. There you will find him clearly recognizing the school of the salaf as “Aslam” and the school of the Khalaf as “Ahkam.” The same can be said for the Iljam of al-Ghazzali and other works on creed.

    Finally, I think it wise that we avoid a discourse rooted in animosity, hatred and unfounded unfair claims [Applying the Richard Dawkins approach towards religion by choosing the worst possible examples and presenting them as the norm. Time and time I’ve seen all groups doing this “The other side of Sufism” and “The Wahabiyah” are all texts that present the most extreme archetypes as being normal.” Bringing that discourse to a culture rooted in hyper competitiveness, religious puritanism, USA and so on will not be good. There is a famous usoli axiom that says, “The abnormal is memorized but never applied to anything.”

    The challenge is a personal one: to adopt a set of understandings while maintaining respect and admiration for those who fall under the general scope or orthodoxy. This, in short, means feeling a personal commitment towards being just and kind with others. I’m in no way trying to create a new click or group think, nor do I think I have such an influence. My challenge is within my own sphere is to try and, hope that Allah, will bless me to practice insaf with others. At the same time, when I teach I feel a responsibility to choose authors and discourses that are not going to destabilize our communities and create the type of havoc we’ve seen, especially amongst the converts. While I personally have no issues engaging someone on issues of creed, I feel that such issues, the usual ones, are not of the like that lead to heterodoxy. Therefore, at least for the masses, they are not that important and should not be addressed in my humble opinion. There is an important answer on this website by Sh. Shanqiti where he addresses Aqidah studies and the masses. I certainly hope people will read it, think about it and comment.


  • “While I personally have no issues engaging someone on issues of creed, I feel that such issues, the usual ones, are not of the like that lead to heterodoxy. Therefore, at least for the masses, they are not that important and should not be addressed in my humble opinion.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. However, I think the biggest obstacle in this issue is that people (like me) fear of being on the wrong understanding, and since it’s a creedal issue, and creed is often touted as absolutely decisive.

    When someone bombards us with loads of quotes saying “this is what the salaf believed”, should one just say “I do not how to interpret and study these quotes” and ignore the issue and go about one’s daily business?

    The reason for the harsh slogans and hyper competitiveness is because they say “the truth is one, the truth is one!”, and people like certainty and decisiveness.

    I know I like certainty, because I had my own journey through modern philosophy and that led me kind of towards a traditional understanding of Islam that seemed very logical. Now it seems that the very notion of what I hold traditional is being attacked, and then I just get downright confused. And I guess this goes with a lot of laymen who choose to trust the classical ‘ulema, because their idea of what is ‘classical’ is being questioned, which is why some people show apparent ‘fanaticism’ towards their shuyukh.

    At the end of the day, people (including me) need some kind of axiom to counter these debates, something like “let your sincerity guide you” or “follow your heart”.

    And if someone says “sincerity is looking at the proof texts of theological details”, one should respond “I think it’s more sincere that I be afraid to interpret the prooftexts and comment on theological details with the risk of affecting my faith and practice”.

    But I’m not so sure about that line of thinking myself. 😛


  • as-salaamu-‘alaykum,

    Also, is there a way to contact Shaykh Akram Nadwi myself? Since he is a hadith scholar, I would definitely like to put some issues to rest, since, it seems that his scholarship has led him to his conclusions in ‘aqidah.


  • Assalaamu Alaykum one and all

    Just want to add that I was at the Zaytuna RIS retreat in Toronto last week and Imam Zaid Shakir said they are planning a debate between Muslims and Athiests like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins (don’t know if it’s those two in particular). I don’t know who would be on the debating panel on the Muslim side.

    I think it is happening in February, and I remember hearing Florida but it maybe Toronto afterall.

    But agreed, we should be turning our deabtes on these guys and writing books. They aren’t coming with anything that new philosophically speaking so it shouldn’t be that hard for someone to write something strong refuting them.

  • Asalamu alaykum,


    “I wholeheartedly agree. However, I think the biggest obstacle in this issue is that people (like me) fear of being on the wrong understanding, and since it’s a creedal issue, and creed is often touted as absolutely decisive.”

    This cannot be said for the issues that most of our orthodox schools differ over. In fact, it is well known that the companions [ra] differed on the minor issues of creed as well as the great Imams and other scholars of the earlier periods. Think about what I wrote above:

    “While I personally have no issues engaging someone on issues of creed, I feel that such issues, the usual ones, are not of the like that lead to heterodoxy. Therefore, at least for the masses, they are not that important and should not be addressed in my humble opinion. There is an important answer on this website by Sh. Shanqiti where he addresses Aqidah studies and the masses. I certainly hope people will read it, think about it and comment.”



  • as-salaamu-‘alaykum,

    Jazakallahu khairun for your comment. I will most definitely ponder over what you said.


  • Assalamu Alaikom
    Brother Suhaib , I hope I am not mistaken, but from what I have read and heard so far, I am pretty sure that,inshallah, you will be a prominant figure in the Ummah of this age in the near future, inshallah.
    May Allah Give you “ikhlas” and Twafiq” and protect you from “Ojb” and “Kibr”.
    Regarding the issue of Aqidah, I find your answeres truly to the point, bringing these debatable issues to the masses was a huge mistake, when I was in early twenties of age I really had hard times trying to find the right path in regard to creed, while my faith was going down, if it wasing for the guidance of Allah first and formost and the help of one of my brothers I would have become sort of unreligious !
    because these issues were making me tired and skeptical , and didn’t do anythihng to strengthen my iman. Alhamdulillah, I am better now in this matter, I hope.
    It is really amazing how the muslim masses and scholars are focusing on these issues and forgeting about the spirit of this deen and the present conditions of the ummah!
    I remember once when I was younger and I was influenced by the teachings of one of the sectors when I become hateful to all other muslims because I thought they were on the wrong path, at that point I realized that I AM the one who is on the wrong path, because a true muslim, can not hate anyone unless he or she is a true enemy of God, so how come I hate my brothers and sisters in Islam ?!.
    At that point I decided to chaneg and I asked Allah almighty for guidance, which I am still looking for.
    Thank you and jazaka alllahu khairan

  • Divide and Rule is a powerful policy of the ruling classes and shaitan. Divisions based on race, sex, ethnicity, religion, class are used to sub divide the people and make them fight/envy each other. If they united, let go of their petty differences, they would ID their real enemy. The real enemy distracts them and weakens them through divisions.

    Muslims need look at their recent history. The Ottomon Khalifah was not perfect, but it was better than the current situation of the Muslims. The Arabs rebelled against the Khalifah encouraged by the European powers, this led to the breakup of Muslim unity and today the Arabs and non Arab Muslims are completely in the hands of the non Muslim powers.

    The strenghth of the Ottomons was based on Islam, their tassawuf, their Islamic trade, and policies.

  • As salaam alaikum,

    Respected Shaykh, can you tell us a little more about the esteemed Shaykh Muhammad al-Hassan Walid al-Dido al-Shanqiti. Where is the Shaykh based? and how can one study with him? and does he have a website or any books available?

    Jazaakallahu Khair, wa salaam alaikum.

    Abu Zayd

  • The Ash’arees and Maturidees are from Ahl us Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah

    Answered by: A group of scholars and authors.

    Date: 06/1427/09.


    What is the ruling on working with the opponents to the creed of Salaf as-Salih, such as the Ash’arees and Maturidees and those who follow their way, and cooperating with them in matters of goodness and piety and general affairs? Is it forbidden to work with them no matter if the administration was in our control and they work under our auspices, or if it was under their control? Are they from seventy-two misguided sects, and is working with them considered from the realm of allegiance with other than the believers?


    All praise is for Allah, and may the Salah and Salam be upon the Messenger of Allah. In response to this we say: The Ash’arees and Maturidees have opposed what is correct when they performed Ta’weel of the Divine Attributes of Allah the Exalted, however, they are from Ahl us Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah and not from the seventy-two misguided sects except those who go into extremes among them in denial and agree with the Jahmiyyah- where his ruling would then be like those of the Jahmiyyah. As for the remainder of the Ash’arees and Maturidees, then they are not like that, and they are excused for their Ijtihaad even if they erred in the truth. It is permissible to work and cooperate with them in piety, righteousness and goodness. Take Ibn Taymiyyah, who studied under many of the scholars of the Ash’arees, nay, he even fought under the banner of the Mamlooks-the rulers of that time-and the generality of them were Ash’arees, nay, the military leader of that time, the brave Nuruddin al-Zanki the martyr as well as Salaahuddin al-Ayoobi were both Ash’arees, as has been stated by Imam adh-Dhahabi in his Siyar ‘Alam an-Nubala. And there were many besides them from the scholars, military leaders and people of rectification. Many of the scholars and Imams of the Muslims were Ash’arees and Maturidees such as; al-Bayhaqi, al-Nawawi, Ibn al-Salah, al-Mizzi, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, al-Iraqi, al-Sakhawi, al-Zayla’i, al-Suyuti, and indeed, all of the explainers of (Sahih) al-Bukhari were Ash’arees and many besides them. So with this, the people benefited from their knowledge and admitted their virtue and leadership in the Deen while believing them to be excused for what they made Ijtihaad in and erred. May Allah forgive them and pardon them. The Khalifah al-Ma’mun was a Jahmee Mu’tazilee, as well as Mu’tasim and al-Wathiq, they were misguided Jahmees, however, none of the Imams of Islam delivered Islamic legal verdicts to the effect that it was not allowed to follow them in prayers and fighting under their banner in Jihad. So no one, for example, gave a legal verdict stating that it was not allowed to fight with al-Mu’tasim on the day of al-Amuriyah, despite the large numbers of Imams in those times such as: Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ali ibn al-Madini, Yahya ibn Ma’in and their likes from the major Imams in the third generation of the Hijrah. We have not heard any of them forbidding working with these people or preventing (others) from following them or fighting under their banners. So, it is an obligation that we observe the manner of the Salaf as-Salih with the opponent, and Allah knows best. May Allah send Salah and Salam upon Muhammad and his family and companions


    Dr, Abdul Aziz ibn Abdul Fattah al-Qari’ (former head of the faculty of the Qur’an at the Islamic University)
    Dr. Muhammad ibn Nasir al-Suhaibani (teacher at the Prophets Masjid)
    Dr. Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ghunayman (former head of the department of higher studies at the Islamic University who added to this fatwa the following:

    ” This is a correct and upright answer that a Muslim cannot take but it. The differences have not ceased taking place among the ranks of the scholars, yet that was not a cause for separation and the hearts differing. And the story of the companions when they went to Banu Quraydhah is well known and famous as well as others.”

  • Assalam walaikum,

    My question: Why we are making such our ‘preferences/viewpoints’ (Athari, Ashari, Maturidi, etc) into sects? Did the Sahaba(RAZ) divided themselves into sects/groups?

    Now, as to my knowledge (please correct me if I am wrong) –
    Maturidi -belief (iman) does not increase nor decrease but remains static; it is piety (taqwa) which increases and decreases.
    Ash’ari – It was a taqlid (“faith” or “imitation”) based view which did not assume that human reason could discern morality. This doctrine is now known as occasionalism.
    Athari – believe in textual interpretation of Holy Quran to avoid delving into extensive theological speculation.
    Mu’tazili – who believed that Holy Quran was ‘created’ i.e. part of Khalq(creation). (not prevailing today)
    Zahiri – Literalists (not prevailing today, though some Salafis follow them)

    After this division of Schools of Theology, we have division based on ‘Schools of Law’ viz. Hanafi • Shafi`i • Maliki • Hanbali

    Then, we have two major sects, Shia and Sunni.
    Even in Shia, there are various sub-sects, viz. Twelvers, Zaidi, etc.
    just like Sunni.

    And this goes on, each professing their viewpoint/stand is correct, (let me rephrase), that their viewpont IS ONLY correct.

    Now, consider this scenario, as we all muslims know that Isa(Jesus) AS, is going to come and also Imam Mahdi (AS).
    Then, after that, there will be peace all over the world. Everyone is going to become Muslim and everywhere there will be justice.

    But, still after some time, people are going to go corrupt and corrupt like none before. On such people will Qiyamah will come, as mentioned in Hadeeth that “…Qiyamah will be upon the worst of the people”.
    Who are these people? which faith do they belong to? Aren’t they all Muslims?
    Why this is going to happen????
    Note: There is no Dajjal as he had been already been killed by Isa(Jesus) AS.

    My bottom line is making a person Muslim, Athari/Ashari, Hanafi/Shafi, Sunni/Shia, etc. will not save him/her. But making a person good can only save. And each person can make himself/herself only good and not others. Others he/she can only convey the message and thats it.

    Ofcourse, I believe in Allah and thank God Almighty that I am Muslim. But, a writing of ‘Muslim’ on my passport, etc. will not save me from Hell or take me to Heaven. It is my good/bad deeds that will; and Ofcourse, the most important of all, the Good Grace of AllahuAkbar.

  • Bismillah

    Assalam 3aleykum wr wb,

    where can i get textual proof (in english) that the works of Ibn Taymiah do match with the other mentioned aqeeda books? I have read an english translation of the Aqeeda Al-Wassitiyah by Sheikh Ibn Taymiah from a site which promotes also Kitab At-Tauheed from Muhammad Abdul Wahhab. According to what i have read i can still find “Tajseem” in there. Is that the authentic Aqeeda of Sheik Ibn Taymiah ( i have never read the arabic book – maybe you can help us to get the real meaning in english). I have read that some claim to be Salafis but do not keep it like the way of salaf -e.g. they go into explaining. Example: An arm of a robot is not like an arm of an human. hand of allah is not like the hand of a human. They really try to give Allah a form by insisting on the words given in the qur'an and ahadith! And say nothing is like him-he is the all-seer, all-hearer. But they actually do cut the qur'an in pieces and do Kallam which does not fit into the boundaries of qur'an and sunna as the prophet muhammad a.s.s said that we should not focus on how allah looks like. And we do know from historical proofs that even in judaism and christianity – shaytan's influence led people to worship bodies – e.g. creation. Please help us to understand the aqida works of Sheikh ibn Taymiyah. May allah bless all who seek for the truth. ameen. wa salaam

  • Alright then. So let’s add Jahmiya and Mutazila to the list, since they too only wanted to preserve the majesty of Allah, right?! SubhanAllah.

    • Assalaamu ‘Alaikum Sidi,

      It’s shocking to see the name of Ibn Taymiyyah being included amongst the Atharis.


  • As-Salam Alaykum Sidi Suhaib,

    Could you please define “Athari” for us?

    And is it the same as “Salafi” or different?

    I know that a lot of hardcore salafis love to call themselves “Athari”. However, these brothers consider would also consider you an absolute deviant for including the “Asha’ris” and “Maturidis” in the “Ahl al-Sunnah”… as they called Shaykh Dido also.

    I personally support the Ash’ari Way as that is what has worked for the Ummah for a millennium and produced it’s greatest Ulama, Awliya, Sultans, Mujahadin, Thinkers and Savants. What worked for them works for me. The Jama’ah I guess.

    Anyways, do define “Athari” for us as opposed to traditional Ash’ari and modern Salafi approaches.


    • Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I personally support what An-Nabi sallahualayhiwaslam and the Sahaba were on.

      Oh, and that nonsense of Asharis and Maturidis being the majority of the Ummah is a total myth.

  • The greatest scholars of the past 1,400 years were Ash`ari and Maturidi (I do not have any knowledge of the Athari aqeedah); the Imams of these schools were part of the first three generations after the Prophet (S), the Salaf, and their teachings have been accepted by the past 1,400 years of `ulemaa’. The greatest scholars of the ummah, the likes of Imam Nawawi, Imam Qurtubi, Hafiz ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, Imam Sakhawi, etc., etc., etc., followed one of these schools of `aqeedah, which have existed for the past 1,400 years.

    • Imam al-Tahawi was athari.

      The four Imams were athari.

      The Hanbali madhhab has remained athari throughout history (including Ibn Qudamah, Abdul Qadir al-Jilani).

      In the early days the other three madhhabs were a mixture of Ash’aris/Maturidis and Atharis.

      The Sahabah were athari.

    • The majority of the scholars of the first 4 centuries followed Athari Aqeedah.

      The Tabi’un such as Mujahid, Hasan al Basri, Sa’id ibn Jubayr and Qatadah followed the theology of Athari creed.

      Also the well known scholars such as Abu hanifa, Abdul Malik, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad Shafi, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Sufyan Thawri, Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Tabari, Tahawi, Ibn Jawzi, Ibn Qutayba, IBn Qudamah, Ibn Taymiya, Ibn Qayyim, Ibn Kathir, Dhahabi and Suyuti followed the Aqeedah of Athari.

      Regarding Imam Nawawi, Hafiz Ibn Hajr Al Asqalani and Imam Qurtubi also used the manhaj similar to Athari Aqeedah. Their commentaries on hadith make it clear that they also followed Athari theology.

      • You have mentioned the names of some Imams who lived before the theology of Athari surfaced. Athari theology surfaced during the live of Imam Hanbal. Imam Abu Hanifa, and Malik lived when Imam Hanbal even was not born yet. The more you study the more you will find that all those three have more in common than differences. On one thing you may agree with one of them and on other thing you may agree with the other and they are all ok. They all believe in Allah swt, Mohammad SAW, the books of Allah swt, angles, day of judgment, life after death, and qadre and shar from Allah SWT. Only those who want to bring division in Islam are going after these meaningless things to create division among Muslim ommah. Read Quran and follow it and follow Mohammad SAW, and you will be saved.

  • Subhanallah. Why do you give yourself names when the Lord has already given us the best ‘Muslim”.
    This is of course a sign of the day of judgement. Students of knowledge, I ask Allah to guide you guys. Scholars, may Allah guide you all and preserve you, but be weary. A grave burden and responsibility has befallen you.
    The great imams of before, when a question was brought to them, would say Laa a3lam. I do not know. And to me, this was the highest level of imaan and knowledge. God bless!

  • Seriously, is Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradwi an Athari? I am a layperson. I am not Ashari or Athari. Just asking because of curiosity.

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