By Abu Ja'far At-Tahawi Al-Misri
In The Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
'Imam Tahawi's al-'Aqidah, representative of the viewpoint of Ahl As-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa'at, has long been the most widely acclaimed, and indeed indispensable, reference work on Muslim beliefs, of which this is an edited English translation.
Imam Abu Ja'far Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Salamah bin Salmah bin `Abd al Malik bin Salmah bin Sulaim bin Sulaiman bin Jawab Azdi, popularly known as Imam Tahawi, after his birth-place in Egypt, is among the most outstanding authorities of the Islamic world on Hadith and fiqh (jurisprudence). He lived 239-321 A.H., an epoch when both the direct and indirect disciples of the four Imams: Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Ash-Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal - were teaching and practicing. This period was the zenith of Hadith and fiqh studies, and Imam Tahawi studied with all the living authorities of the day. He began as a student of his maternal uncle, Isma'il bin Yahya Muzni. a leading disciple of Imam Shafi'i. Instinctively, however, Imam Tahawi felt drawn to the corpus of Imam Abu Hanifah's works. Indeed, he had seen his uncle and teacher turning to the works of Hanafi scholars to resolve thorny issues of Fiqh, drawing heavily on the writings of Imam Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani and Imam Abu Yusuf, who had codified Hanafi fiqh. This led Imam Tahawi to devote his whole attention to studying the Hanafi works and he eventually joined the Hanafi school.
Imam Tahawi stands out not only as a prominent follower of the Hanafi school but, in view or his vast erudition and remarkable powers of assimilation, as one of its leading scholars. His monumental scholarly works, such as Sharh Ma'ani al-Athar and Mushkil al-Athar, are encyclopaedic in scope and have long been regarded as indispensable for training students of fiqh.
Al-'Aqidah though small in size, is a basic text for all times, listing what a Muslim must know and believe and inwardly comprehend.
There is consensus among the Companions, Successors and all the leading Islamic authorities such as Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal on the doctrines enumerated in this work. For these doctrines shared by Ahl As-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa'at owe their origin to the Holy Quran and consistent and confirmed Ahadith - the undisputed primary sources of Islam.
Being a text on the Islamic doctrines, this work draws heavily on the arguments set forth in the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah. Likewise, the arguments advanced in refuting the views of sects that have deviated from the Sunnah, are also taken from the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah.
As regards the sects mentioned in this work, a study of Islamic history up to the time of Imam Tahawi would be quite helpful. References to sects such as Mu'tazilah, Jahmiyyah, Qadriyah, and Jabriyah are found in the work. Moreover, it contains allusions to the unorthodox and deviant views of the Shi'ah, Khawarij and such mystics as had departed from the right path. There is an explicit reference in the work to the nonsensical controversy on Khalq-al -Qu'ran in the times of Ma'mun and some other `Abbasid Caliphs.
While the permanent relevance of the statements of belief in al-'Aqidah is obvious, the historical weight and point of certain of these statements can be properly appreciated only if the work is used as a text for study under the guidance of some learned person able to elucidate its arguments fully, with reference to the intellectual and historical background of the sects refuted in the work. Such study helps one to better understand the Islamic doctrines and avoid the deviations of the past or the present.
May Allah grant us a true undersanding of faith and include us with those to whom Allah refers as
'those who believe, fear Allah and do good deeds'; and `he who fears Allah, endures affliction, then Allah will not waste the reward of well-doers.'
-Iqbal Ahmad A'zami