The Methodology of Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama’ah

The following text is excerpted from Imam Tajuddin al-Subki’s (r.a) explanation of the creed of Ibn Hajib.

Know, that Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama`ah, people of the Muhammadan tradition are all in agreement upon one Creed regarding what is obligatory, permissible, and impossible (for Allah), even if they differed regarding the methods and fundamentals that arrive to that.
In general, they [Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama`ah] are three groups, as ascertained by copious study of all of the sources (istiqra’):

1. The people of Hadith: Their basic fundamentals are the revealed proofs (adillah alsam’iyyah), by that I mean the Book (Qur’an), the Sunnah, and the Ijma’ (consensus).

2. The people of rational investigation and thought:  They are the Ash`aris and the Hanafis 1 [the Maturidis]. The Shaykh of the Ash`aris is: Abul Hasan al-Ash`ari (r.a). The Shaykh of the Hanafis is Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (r.a). They are in agreement regarding the fundamentals of the sam’iyyat (revealed knowledge) that the intellect can only deem as rationally possible, as well as the areas wherein the two (rational and revealed knowledge) are combined. They are in agreement in all areas of creed except in the issue of takwin2 and the issue of taqlid [in `aqidah].

3. The people of ecstatic experience (wajd) and unveiling, and they are the Sufis:  Their fundamentals are the fundamentals of the people of rational investigation and Hadith in the beginning, and that of unveiling and inspiration (ilham) in the end.

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1- In Mu’id al-Ni’am wa-Mubid al-Niqam Imam Taj al-Din al-Subki says: And these Hanafis, Shafi’is, Malikis, and virtuous Hanbalis,- Allah be praised – are one hand in matters of creed, none (of them) departing from that save the lowly ones from the Hanafis and Shafi’is that joined ranks with the people of ‘Itizal, and the lowly ones of the Hanbalis that joined ranks with the people of Tajsim. And Allah has spared the Malikis for we have not seen any Maliki except that he was an Ash`ari in creed..

2-  Takwin: lit; Creation. This refers to the difference between the Ash`aris and Maturidis concerning Allah’s creation. 1) takwin according to the Ash`aris is an Attribute of action, is not eternal and enters into existence 2) takwin according to the Maturidis is from the Attributes of eternity.

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