The Methodology of Ahlus Sunnah in Establishing Islamic Beliefs
Excerpted from Aqeedah Fillaah
By Shaykh Umar Sulayman Al-Ashqar
Translated and annotated by A. Idris Palmer
Are we to have Iman in the Punishment of the Grave? Or the Howdh, or the Meezan, etc., all of which are aspects of Islamic belief? And what can we affirm among these things and what can we deny?
1–The scholars of the Pious Predecessors have stated that everything which Allah has informed us of, or His Messenger (ﷺ) has informed us – which has reached us via an authentic narration – is obligatory to have Iman in it and total trust (tasdeeq). They make no distinction between mutawatir or ahad; if it is authentic, one must affirm one’s beliefs on them both without differentiation. Allah ta’ala says: “And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, leave it, and fear Allah, Indeed Allah is severe in punishment.” [Al-Hashr, 59:7] Imam As-Suyuti (رحيمه الله) states in Miftah Al-Jennah: “Whoever rejects an authentic hadeeth, be it in statement or in action, as a binding proof, has disbelieved and has stepped outside of the fold of Islam and will be raised with the Jews and Christians or whichever disbelieving sect that Allah wills.”
2–A second group is weak in distinguishing between authentic and weak narrations from the Messenger (ﷺ), and they take any narration as a proof, even if it is weak or fabricated. For example, Paradise is at the feet of mothers; and Seek knowledge even unto China – both weak hadeeths. “…We have gone from the lesser Jihad to the greater Jihad or I am the House of Wisdom and Ali is its Gate – both fabricated hadeeth. It is obligatory therefore, for one to verify the authenticity of a hadeeth before using it as a proof, whether for ‘aqeedah or sharee’ah; as one could attribute to the deen of Allah what is not of it, and thereby establish one’s deeds on false principles.
3–A third group makes it a point to reject scriptural evidence, i.e. Qur’anic texts, as well as hadeeths which affirm certain aspects of Islamic belief; they allege that “scriptural proofs cannot establish certitude and do not help one to achieve desired Iman nor do they confirm anything in ‘aqeedah.” Such people occupy themselves in even denying established truth: “Scriptural proof is a wide field which allows many abrupt changes without leading to any conclusion.” This is a statement so absurd that one shouldn’t even waste time in refuting it, as it is in total contradiction to the understanding of the consensus of the Ummah. If the science of the Qur’anic texts were a wide field which allows abrupt changes, how then could it be the Speech of Allah to mankind? And how could ‘aqeedah not confirm anything regarding the Speech of Allah and His Messenger? Glorified is Allah from such a preposterous lie.
4–A fourth group comprise those who reject as evidence authentic ahad hadeeths in aspects of ‘aqeedah. They only use the Qur’an and mutawatir hadeeths as evidence. They never affirm any belief from either the Qur’an or hadeeth unless it is a definite scriptural text. If it is not (by their definition) a ‘definite scriptural text’ they consider it impermissible to use as evidence. The scholars of the past have spoken about this type of belief, and some of the scholars of usool have quoted them. Such a belief is spreading currently among some Muslims, to the point that such people forget the truth and begin to make outlandish claims. The scholars both past and present have not flagged in speaking out about the corruption and error of such a belief, and exposing the misunderstandings of its adherents.
The textual proof for accepting Al-ahad hadeeth as authoritative Shariah evidence
A number of texts have been written on the obligation of using al-ahad hadeeths as authoritative sharee’ah evidence for establishing Islamic beliefs, among them the statement of Allah ta’ala:
1) “It is not befitting for the believers to go out (in Jihad) all together, of every group of them, a party (ta’ifah) should go forth from among themselves that they (who are left behind) be taught the deen of Islam, that they may admonish their people when they return to them, so that they may guard themselves (from evil).” [At-Towbah, 9:122]
This verse urges the clans, kinfolk and the believing people of various regions and lands to send forth a party from every group in order to have people understand their faith so that they in turn may return to their people and admonish them. In fact, the word ta’ifah in Arabic means to designate one or more persons, whereas those “(who are left behind) be taught the deen of Islam” includes their understanding both ‘aqeedah and ahkam; nay, understanding their ‘aqeedah is more important than understanding ahkam. Imam Abu Haneefah in Fiqh Al-Akbar and Ash-Sha’fai’ in his Risalah, and others have also elaborated on this point. Abu Haneefah states in Fiqh Al-Akbar: “This verse shows clear proof for the obligation of accepting al-ahad hadeeths in matters of ‘aqeedah.”
2) “O you who believe, if a sinful person (faasiq) comes to you with any news, verify it…” [Al-Hujuraat, 49:6] This verse shows proof that if a person is not sinful, he must be taken as trustworthy if he comes with news, as it is not obligatory to verify the report as it is understood that the reporter is trustworthy.
3) What is related in the Sunnah regarding the explanation of the verse, “…of every group of them, a party should go forth…” It is authentically narrated in Al-Bukhari from Malik ibn al-Huwirth who said, “We came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and we were youths of equal ages and we stayed with him for twenty nights. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was very gentle and when he realized our longing for our families, he asked us about those whom we left behind. When we informed him, he said, Go back to your families and stay with them and teach them and order them to do good deeds.” If this is not an example of accepting hadeeth al-ahad for issues of ‘aqeedah, then this example has no meaning.
4) In both Sahih Muslim and Al-Bukhari, the people of Yemen once greeted the Prophet (ﷺ), and said to him, “Send us a man who will teach us the Sunnah and Islam,” He thereupon took Abi ‘Ubaydah by the hand, saying “This is the most trustworthy of this Ummah.” If the testimony of one narrator were not sufficient, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), would not have dispatched other sahabah–singularly–as representatives to various lands. Such as Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mu’adh ibn Jabal and Abi Musa Al-Ashari as narrated in the hadeeths in Al-Bukhari, Muslim and other texts. And there is no doubt that these men understood Islamic beliefs in totality.
Exposing the misunderstandings
A clear difference exists between those who assert that authentic proofs benefit one’s Islamic beliefs and those who allege that al-ahad hadeeths, scriptural texts and mutawatir hadeeths which are not ‘definite’ do not benefit one’s Islamic beliefs. Those who allege the latter base their arguments on conjecture (dhunn). And conjecture is not permissible to use as evidence in this area, as based on the statement of the Most High:
“They follow nothing but a guess and their own desires.” [An-Najm, 53:23] and the statement: “Indeed conjecture is no substitute for the Truth.” [An-Najm, 53:28] And other verses in which Allah censures the mushrikeen who follow conjecture. The above verses refute the pretext of such people as the speculation in the verses is not referring to ‘giving someone the benefit of the doubt.’ As the texts refute and reject arguing by conjecture in issues of belief.
This is the type of speculation which Allah censures in His saying, “They follow nothing but a guess” which means doubt, conjecture and speculation, all of which are defined in ‘An-Nihaayah’, ‘Al-Lisan’, and other classical Arabic dictionaries. “Dhunn: Doubt which you perceive about something, to assert and judge by it.” This is the type of doubt about which Allah reproaches the mushrikeen, and which He confirms by His statement, “They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie.” [Al-An’am, 6:116]
Therefore, to entertain doubt is falsehood, which is nothing more than baseless precaution and speculation. Because when conjecture was proscribed for the mushrikeen, this was conjecture in its general sense, which would mean it is not permissible to use it for ahkam either. Just as Allah makes vile the mushrikeen practice of following conjecture, and then completely forbids it. Allah does not differentiate between ‘aqeedah and ahkam. As Allah shows clearly in various Quranic verses that the speculation which the mushrikeen follow includes statements of ahkam as well: “Those who took partners (in worship) with Allah will say, If Allah had willed we would not have taken partners (in worship) with Him, nor would our fathers, and we would not have forbidden anything (against His will). Likewise belied those who were before them, (they argued falsely with Allah’s Messengers) till they tasted of Our Wrath. Say: Have you any knowledge (proof) that you can produce before us? Verily you follow nothing but guess and you do nothing but lie.” [Al-An’am, 6:148]
Refutation of those who claim that al-ahad hadeeth are not acceptable in ‘aqeedah
The scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have from the earliest times refuted those who do not accept al-ahad hadeeths in ‘aqeedah. To summarize some of their positions:
1–The statement that alleges that al-ahad hadeeths are not reliable in ‘aqeedah, is the statement of a heretical innovator; it has no basis at all in the sharee’ah. And every statement which is similar to this is similarly rejected.
2–Their statement regarding the essence of ‘aqeedah [i.e. that al-ahad hadeeth have no Shareeah pretext] and that their path, that is that ‘aqeedah advances the idea of decisive proof, [mutawatir hadeeths] and prohibits one from taking al-ahad hadeeths in ‘aqeedah, has no evidence at all.
3–If one could find a decisive proof, it would have to be proof that al-ahad hadeeths are not reliable evidence for ‘aqeedah based on the understanding and explanation of the Companions and likewise, those who came after them from the Pious Predecessors.
4–This position contradicts the erudite methodology which the Companions were upon; as on many occasions, when they accepted a narration from the Messenger (ﷺ), they did not ask him to assert its authenticity nor reject the statements of their brothers with the argument that the hadeeth which he narrated was hadeeth al-ahad.
5–The proofs which verify the obligation of taking proofs from the Qur’an and the Sunnah includes beliefs (‘aqa’id) and legislative rulings (ahkam). To categorize these proofs by separating legislative rulings from beliefs when they are ahad, is to categorize where there is no categorization.
6–Allah ta’ala ordered His Messenger (ﷺ) to clarify the Message. It is well known that the clarity of the Message establishes the proof on the Messenger, and by it one attains knowledge. If the narration of one person could not result in the transmission of beneficial knowledge, reports conveyed by al-ahad would not have occurred. Indeed, it is proof that by al-ahad one acquires beneficial knowledge.
7–An inescapable fact regarding this concept of invalidating the acceptance of hadeeth al-ahad under any circumstances in matters of ‘aqeedah, is that it is an idea which developed long after the time of the Companions who heard narrations directly from the Prophet (ﷺ); because the hadeeths which reached people before the time of textual compilation came by way of ahad narration. As for those hadeeths which came by way of mutawatir narration, they are few; nay, they are lesser than a few.
8–This saying which claims that one does not act upon al-ahad hadeeths, In reality includes both ‘aqeedah and action; as by not accepting al-ahad in matters of belief negates the hadeeth itself. How then could one accept al-ahad for ahkam?!
9–The scholars of al-usool (the fundamentals of belief) never expressed agreement on this statement–as Shaykh Shaltoot alleges. Al-Imam Malik, Ash-Shaf’aee, the companions of Abu Hanifah, Dawud ibn Ali and his companions like Ibn Hazm are all in agreement that al-ahad narrations contain beneficial knowledge. Among those who have written about this include Hussain ibn Ali Al-Karabeesi, Al-Haarith ibn Asad Al-Mahasabi and Al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la of the Hanbalees.
The Islamic beliefs which are affirmed by hadeeth al-ahad
Before we finally disprove the allegations of this issue, we will cite the summary of Islamic beliefs which are rejected by such people as a consequence of them being based on al-ahad narrations.
1–The narrations regarding the Prophethood of Adam (عليه السلام) and other Prophets whose Prophethood is not cited in the Qur’an.
2–The superiority of our Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) over every Prophet and Messenger.
3–His (ﷺ) supreme intercession on the Day of Gathering.
4–His (ﷺ) intercession for those of his Ummah who committed major sins.
5–His (ﷺ) miracles–every one that is enumerated in the Qur’an–amongst which includes the miracle of the splitting of the moon, as it is related in the Qur’an along with the explanation of the verses, including rejecting clear, authentic hadeeths which cite the splitting of the moon.
7–His (ﷺ) distinctive characteristics, of which As-Suyuti has compiled in his book, Al-Khasa’is Al-Kubra.
8–The certainty that the ten people guaranteed Paradise [Al-Ashura Al-Mubasharoon] are among the dwellers of Paradise.
9–Iman in the questioning by the two angels, Munkar and Nakeer in the Grave.
10–Iman in the Punishment of the Grave.
11–Iman in the Contraction of the Grave.
12–Iman in the Meezan (Scales of Balance) on the Day of Resurrection.
13–Iman in the Sirat.
14–Iman in his (ﷺ) Howdh (pond) and that whomsoever drinks from it will never desire thirst again.
15–The entrance of seventy thousand people from his (ﷺ) Ummah, without any reckoning.
16–Iman in everything which has been authentically narrated in hadeeths regarding the description of the Day of Resurrection, the Gathering and the Resurrection and all its characteristics not mentioned specifically in the Qur’an.
17–Iman in Al-Qadha’ and Al-Qadar, its good and its bad, and that Allah ta’ala has written for every person his good or his evil, his prosperity or his adversity.
18–Iman in the Pen which wrote the measure of everything.
19–Iman that those who commit major sins will not be in the Fire forever.
20–Iman that the souls of the martyrs are contained in green birds in Paradise.
21–Iman that Allah has prohibited the earth to consume the bodies of the Prophets.
22–Iman that Allah inspires the angels to inform the Prophet (ﷺ) of the salaams conveyed by the people of his Ummah.
23–Iman in every aspect of the Signs of the Hour, such as the appearance of the Mahdi, the descent of Isa (عليه السلام) and the appearance of the Dajjal, etc.
Not every one of these beliefs is narrated via hadeeth al-ahad, on the contrary, among them are mutawatir hadeeths. However, such people who reject these beliefs are devoid of knowledge of the Sunnah–both collectively and individually–as they believe in rejection of every one of these beliefs. Nevertheless, the hadeeths narrating the appearance of the Dajjal, the Mahdi and the descent of Isa ibn Maryam are all mutawatir hadeeths as the scholars of hadeeth have clarified.
What is more catastrophic is that such people even reject beliefs which are narrated via mutawatir, (yet are narrated in the Qur’an)–by alleging that the proofs of these texts are non-conclusive as we previously mentioned regarding the statements of Shaykh Shaltoot. Thus they refuse to affirm that the Muslims will see their Lord on the Day of Resurrection even though the Qur’an clearly affirms this: “Some faces that Day shall be Nadhirah (shining and bright); Looking at their Lord (Allah)” [Al-Qiyaamah, 75:22-23] Mutawatir hadeeths also affirm this occurrence.
The Islamic ruling on those who reject al-ahad narrations
As-Safarani narrates a statement from Ishaaq ibn Raahwiyyah who pronounces kufr on one who rejects al-ahad narrations. Others from the Salaf such as Imam At-Tahawi, Al-Barbahari, Ibrahim ibn Ahmed ibn Shaaqila and others share this view. However, it is safer to say that whoever takes a path that rejects authentic hadeeths of the Messenger (ﷺ), which affirm Islamic beliefs, is proceeding on a path of clear error. And one fears that such a person who deviates due to his rejection of these hadeeths, Allah will afflict him with misguidance: “And let those who oppose the Messenger’s commandment, (i.e., his Sunnah, legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements, etc.) beware, lest some Fitnah (disbelief, trials, afflictions, catastrophes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant, etc.) befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them.” [An-Nur, 24:63]
 By definition, mutawatir hadeeths are those which are narrated by such a large number of people, that it is impossible for them to have unanimous agreement on a lie from the beginning of a chain of narration to its end. Al-Ahad refers to those hadeeths of a slight degree lower than mutawatir.
 See Al-Islam, ‘Aqeedah, wa-Shareeah, by Shaykh Mahmood Shaltoot, p. 53.
 They mean by ‘definite scriptural text’: the Qur’an and mutawatir hadeeths. Yet ‘definite scriptural text’ implies that it does not carry an alternative meaning; i.e. it does not require any explanation.
 Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 9, no. 352, p. 266.
 Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 1292-1293.
 See Al-Hadeeth Hujjah bi Nafsi and Wujub Al-Akudh bi Ahadeeth Al-Ahad fil Aqa’id wal-Ahkam, both by Shaykh Nasiruddin Al-Albani, see also Al-Usool Al-Itiqaad by Shaykh Umar Sulayman Al-Ashqar.
 Surah Yunus, 10:36 & 66.
 This is ‘aqeedah.
 This is ahkam.
 Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, pp. 341-458, no. 543-694.
 Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1230, no. 5655.
 Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, no. 556, p. 350-352; vol. 8, p. 369-371, no. 570-571; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 133-135, no. 381-396.
 Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, pp. 369-373, no. 569-574.
 Al-Qamar, 54:1-2; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, pp. 533-534; vol. 5; pp. 132-133; vol. 6, pp. 364-366; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 1467-1468, no. 1230-1231.
 Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1462, no. 6707.
 Al-Imraan, 3:131 & 133; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, pp. 304, 305 & 312.
 They are: The four Rightly Guided Khalifs, i.e., Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman & Ali; Talhah ibn Ubaydullah, Zubair ibn Al-Awwam, Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Sa’id ibn Zaid, Abdurahman ibn Auf, & Abu Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah. See Sahih Al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim.
 Al-An’am, 6:61, Az-Zumar, 39:42.
 Al-An’am, 6:93; At-Towbah, 9:101; Al-Muminoon, 23:100; As-Sajdah, 32:12; Ghafir, 40:46; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 1, p. 141; vol. 2, pp. 210-213, 220, 225-226, 249-250, 254-260; vol. 4, pp. 57-58, no. 77; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, no. 6857-6870, pp. 1489-1491.
 Al-An’am, 6,:160; Al-Kahf, 18:105; Al-Anbiya, 21:47; Al-Muminoon, 23:102-103; Al-Zilzal, 99:7-8; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 6, no. 253, p. 225; vol. 9, p. 489-490, no. 343; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 113, no. 343.
 Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, no. 577.
 Al-Kauthar, 108:1; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, pp. 378-386, no. 58; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 1236-1240, no. 5680-5712.
 Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, pp. 359-361, no. 549-551; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, pp. 140-142.
 Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, pp. 347-348, no. 529; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1463, no. 6708-6709.
 Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 1391-1394.
 Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, p. 388; Sunan Abu Dawood, no. 4700.
 Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, pp. 119-21, no. 355-361; Sunan Abu Dawood, no. 4839.
 Al-Baqarah, 2:153; Al-Imraan, 3:169-171; Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, no. 4651, p. 1047-1048.
 Sunan Abî Dâwûd no.1047, Sunan al-Nasâ’î no. 1374, and Sunan Ibn Mâjah no. 1636
Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 114-119, no. 346-354.
 Shar’ Al-Aqeedah Tahawiyah, vol. 1, p. 343; Iqamatul Burhan fil Rudd ala man Ankar Khurooj al-Mahdi wal Ad-Dajjal wa Nuzool al-Masih fi Akhir az-Zaman, pp. 8-10.