Islamic Creed in a Secular World

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Muslims often struggle to explain the crises of faith evident in the coming generation. “They need to pray more” or “they’re being ungrateful” are common, dismissive answers, which reduce crises into a damaging platitude. What is prayer without knowledge? What is gratitude without awareness of whom one should thank? These questions affirm that Muslims today face the loss of our connection with ‘aqida (Islamic creed).

Ignorance of Islamic creed contributes to the modern Muslim’s sacrifice of what should be his core principles. Islamic creed (including theology at large) is perceived to be an esoteric, abstract philosophy, with no place outside of intellectual circles. In reality, creed forms the foundation of a society’s worldview and ideology by defining justice and answering questions regarding the purpose, origin, and direction of life.

An opening chapter of poetry in al-Murshid al-Mu’een by Abu Muhammad Ibn ‘Ashir, one of the most celebrated Islamic jurists, succinctly describes the necessities of our creed. Ibn ‘Ashir separates our rational propositions (knowledge that need not be known by empirical or religious propositions) into three categories:

  1. the necessarily true: that which cannot be denied under any circumstance (example: that Allah is eternal).
  2. the inconceivable: that which cannot be truly rationalized in any way and the opposite of the necessarily true (example: that Allah is not self-sufficient).
  3. the conceivable: that which may be true, without contradicting the necessarily true (example: that Allah may create life on another planet).

Ibn ‘Ashir states that the first thing incumbent upon the able believer is to know what is necessarily true about Allah, the messengers, and their attributes. In Dr. Asadullah Yate’s translation of Ibn ‘Ashir’s text, the first verse of the book of basic creedal principles reads,

it is necessarily true that Allah exists and that this existence is from before [the beginning of time], and likewise that He possess [eternality], and absolute independence universally. [1]

The intellect deduces that this is necessary because it is inconceivable that the universe created itself from an equilibrium of non-existence. After establishing Allah’s existence, we must know that He is eternal and pre-eternal, meaning He has neither beginning nor end, as having a beginning necessitates the existence of an original creator and subjects us to innumerable logical absurdities, including an infinite regress of creators. Time is intertwined with space and, as the creator of both time and space, Allah cannot be subject to nor limited by either. These basic principles sufficiently dismiss questions (such as, “Who created God?”) espoused by the average atheist, and establish Allah’s limitless sublimity in preparation for the subsequent necessary attributes that Ibn ‘Ashir describes: power (qudra), will (irada), knowledge (‘ilm), life (haya), hearing (sam’), speech (kalaam), and sight (basar).

Establishing Allah’s limitless power and will illuminates how activists, the oppressed, scholars, etc. do and should conduct themselves. Allah is the sustainer of all existence, and is thus all-powerful. Knowing He has absolute control over all affairs, the oppressed turn to Allah and place their trust in Him; the activist accepts that only the All-Powerful is capable of true justice, and no protest, petition, lobby, or fundraiser will be effective without the approval of the All-Powerful Lord. This Divine approval produces fruits from our efforts and raises our standing on the Day of Resurrection.

Introducing this knowledge and allowing it to internalize in the hearts of people naturally wards off despondency and passiveness before Allah and produces a resilient society with unmatched conviction. Only those who are ignorant of the limitlessness of Allah’s knowledge do not submit to Allah’s superiority and their own human deficiency. Internalizing that Allah’s knowledge is unlimited protects the believer from doubting the faith when confused about something. Rather, he will rightfully doubt his own intellect, resolving the trend of ‘disagreeing’ with Allah or knowingly holding heterodox beliefs. The Enlightenment that produced secular-liberal modernity established the anthropocentric conception of life, putting man at the center of all things and knowledge. Subtle heresies, including the belief that what can be known will be known eventually by scientists and that truth is not discovered, but articulated by the human mind alone, permeated human thought. Creed is a necessary fortification against these wayward beliefs that result in man worshipping himself.

The endless life, hearing, speech, and sight of Allah are intertwined with our experiences as Muslims. He is no less alive than we are. Rather, He is living, beyond humans in every sense. Allah’s eternal and perfect hearing and sight establish the intimacy of His life relative to our existence. Namely, we learn that He sees every event in every corner of the universe, including the implosion of a star millions of lightyears away and the electrons around a cluster of protons and neutrons. He hears every whisper, conscious and subconscious thought, and movement throughout the entire universe and beyond. With knowledge about Allah as powerful as this, the Muslim has no excuse but to exhibit impeccable character at every moment in his life. A Muslim is the one who recognizes that every action, thought, and interaction may serve as proof for or against his salvation, motivating him to cultivate virtuous conduct.

Knowledge of Islamic creed allows us to see theology as more than just abstract and theoretical thinking; rather, we see it as something that intimately affects our daily lives. Often overlooked, creed is one of the most useful sciences to transform the dying hearts of Muslims around the globe, and as such, every Muslim that possesses this sacred knowledge must transmit it to another blessed soul. There is no other gift truly as invaluable.

To begin your journey of studying the Islamic sciences, visit this Dropbox drive (where you’ll find a specific folder on creed) and follow the instructions within.

Works Cited:

  1. Ibn Ashir, Abdul Wahid, and Asadullah Yate. Al-Murshid Al-Mueen: The Concise Guide to the Basics of the Deen. Diwan Press, 2012.

Disclaimer: Material published by Traversing Tradition is meant to foster scholarly inquiry and rich discussion. The views, opinions, beliefs, or strategies represented in published articles and subsequent comments do not necessarily represent the views of Traversing Tradition or any employee thereof.

Wassim Hassan is currently a medical student as well as a student of traditional Islamic disciplines. He has focused his traditional training on the study of Kalam. His general interests include Islam, Western Philosophy, Bioethics, Translation Studies, the Arabic Language, and science.

4 thoughts on “Islamic Creed in a Secular World

  1. قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالْإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَن تُشْرِكُوا بِاللَّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَن تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

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