Excerpt: Lessons of Faith by Ḥakīm al-Ummah Ashraf ʿAlī al-Thānawī

Produced below is a selection from the first chapter of an upcoming translation of Mawlānā Ashraf ʿAlī al-Thānawī’s work Taʿlīm al-Dīn, which is a concise manual of Islamic precepts that cover a wide range of topics, including theology, law, ethics, mysticism, and politics. The first draft of the entire translation and its footnotes were recently submitted for editing by the translators. My contribution to the translation is confined to the first chapter (minus the footnotes) and the editing of the initial manuscript. Below ten points from the first chapter on Belief and Creed are provided for your benefit.

Belief and Creed (ʿAqīdah wa Taṣdīqāt)

Belief 1: The entire universe was initially nonexistent and came into existence by means of Allah’s origination.[1]

Belief 2: Allah is One, dependent on nothing. Neither did He beget anyone nor was He begotten from anyone. Nothing is comparable to Him.[2]

Belief 3: Allah has always been and will always be.[3]

Belief 4: There is nothing like Him. He is absolutely unique.[4]

Belief 5: Allāh is Ever-Alive. He has power over everything. Nothing can be concealed from His knowledge. He sees and hears everything. He does and says whatever He desires. Indeed He alone is worthy of worship. He has no partner. He is compassionate with His creation. He is the king (of kings). He is free of all defects. He is the one who protects His slaves from calamity. He alone is deserving of respect. He alone is the greatest. He alone creates. He alone forgives transgressions. He is magnificently mighty. He grants abundantly. He is the giver of sustenance. He expands the sustenance of whom He desires and he restricts the sustenance of whom He desires. He elevates whom He desires and degrades whom He desires. He grants honor to whom He pleases and dishonor to whom He pleases. He is just. He is lenient and tolerant. He appreciates service. He accepts supplications. He listens and is attentive. No act of His is void of wisdom. He is the one who fulfills everyone’s needs. He brought everything into existence in the beginning and will again bring them into existence on the Day of Resurrection. He alone gives life and takes it away. He is recognizable to all through His signs and attributes, yet nothing can know the particularities of His essence. He accepts the repentance of sinners. He punishes those who are worthy of it. He alone guides. He neither sleeps nor grows tired. He does not fatigue from His operation of the universe. He holds everything in His control. In this way He is perfect in all of His attributes.[5]

Belief 6: Allāh is pure of the attributes of creation. In certain places in the Qurʾān and ḥadīth where (attributes of creation) are mentioned in (relation to Allāh), one may either defer the meaning to Allāh – that He alone knows its true reality and that we should believe with conviction in them without delving into argument or further discussion – and this is the more excellent approach, or one may associate an appropriate meaning to them that makes them more comprehensible.[6]

Belief 7: Allāh knows of all the good and evil that happens in the universe before it occurs and creates them in accordance with His knowledge. This is destiny (taqdīr). In the creation of evil are obscure wisdoms that are unknown to us.[7]

Belief 8: Allāh grants His slaves the choice of good or evil, which they do (kasb) according to their own choosing (ikhtiyār). He is only pleased, however, with their choosing good deeds and is displeased with their evil choices. Slaves play no part, however, in the creation (khalq) of deeds.[8]

Belief 9: Allāh does not place a burden upon His slaves that they cannot bear.[9]

Belief 10: Allāh is not obliged to do anything (not even what is best for His creation). Whatever favor He bestows is through His mercy and grace.[10]

Footnotes

[1] Allāh is the creator of all things; He has charge of everything. (Q 39:62). It is mentioned in (Imam al-Shaʿrānī’s) al-Yawāqīt waʾl Jawāhir on the authority of Shaykh Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn ʿArabī: The truth that we believe in is that the entire universe came into existence at a point in time, even if Eternal Knowledge relates to it. (al-Shaʿrāni, al-Yawāqīt 1:49)

[2] Say, He is Allāh, the One. Allāh, the eternal. He begot no one nor was He begotten. No one is comparable to Him. (Q 112:1-4) It is mentioned in al-Yawāqīt on the authority of the Shaykh (Ibn ʿArabī): It is not permissible to say that Allāh (Glorified and Exalted be He) requires manifestation of His Names and Attributes in the realm of existence, because for Him is absolute Sufficiency. (al-Yawāqīt 1:75)

[3] He is the First and the Last; the Outer and the Inner; He has knowledge of all things. (Q 57:3)

[4] There is nothing like Him, He is the all-Hearing, the all-Seeing. (Q 42:11) It is mentioned in al-Yawāqīt on the authority of the Shaykh: “Know that Allāh (Glorified and Exalted be He) is not an essence for Whom a location may be assigned, nor is He transient whereupon eternity would become inconceivable for Him, nor is He a body in which He may have a direction or come face to face. He is far from being attributed with a direction and diameter. It is also mentioned on the authority of the Shaykh that Allāh (Glorified and Exalted be He) is different from His creation in every aspect, and He is beyond the knowledge of the entire creation. (al-Yawāqīt, 1:74) Also from the same book (1:80): “Know that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) is One according to consensus, and His status is far from being such that He resides in any place, that anything dwells in Him, or that anything may contain Him.” It is mentioned elsewhere in the same work on the authority of the Shaykh: “It is not permissible for a cognizant person to say, ‘I am Allah,’ even if he were to reach the highest levels of proximity. A cognizant person would never say that; rather he would simply say, “I am a humble slave in my progress and in my future.” (Al-Yawāqīt 1:8)

[5] Allāh: There is no God but Him, the Ever Living. (Q 2:255) Praise be to God, Creator of the heavens and earth, who made angels messengers with two, three, four (pairs of) wings. He adds to creation as He will: God has power over everything. (Q 35:1) He will forgive whoever He will and punish whoever He will: He has power over all things. (Q 2:284) There is nothing like Him, He is the all hearing, the all seeing. (Q 42:11) The Glorious Lord of the Throne, He does whatever He will. (Q 85:15-16) When you believers set off for somewhere that promises war gains, those who previously stayed behind will say, “Let us come with you.” They want to change God’s words, but tell them them [Prophet], “You may not come with us: God has said this before.” They will reply, “You begrudge us out of jealousy.” How little they understand! (Q 48:15) Our word has already been given to our servants, the Messengers: it is they who will be helped. (Q 37:171-172) Allāh: There is no God but Him, the Ever Living, the Ever Watchful. (Q 2:255) Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. (Q 2:255) Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the Worlds. The Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy. Master of the Day of Judgment. It is You we worship; it is You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path: The path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and have not gone astray. (Q 1:1-7) Al-Tirmidhī narrates that Allāh (Glorified and Exalted be He) has ninety-nine names.

[6] Your Lord, the Lord of Glory, is far above what they attribute to Him. (Q 37:180) So do not make up images about God: God knows and you do not. (Q 16:74) Those firmly grounded in knowledge say, “We believe in it.” (Q 3:7) There is nothing like Him. (Q 42:11) It is mentioned in Al-Yawāqīt on the authority of the Shaykh: “Know that it is from etiquette to refrain from interpreting the verses that contain Attributes of Allāh (Glorified and Exalted be He), and that it is obligatory to believe in them as they have reached us; without interpreting the nature of these Attributes. If we interpret it in a certain manner, we do not know whether our interpretation is the intent of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) on which we may rely, nor whether it is not what He intended, so He would refute. This is why we adhere to consigning matters to Allah in everything regarding which we do not have knowledge from Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). If we were asked, “How does our Lord become pleased, or express delight,” for example, we say that we believe in what has reached us from Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) according to His intent, and in what has reached us from the Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace), according to his intent. We consign the knowledge of its nature to Allāh and His Messenger. It is mentioned on the authority of the Shaykh: “My brother, you should adhere to consigning matters to Allāh regarding all verses of the Qur’an and hadith that contain the Attributes of Allāh (Glorified and Exalted be He), for most interpreters have been ruined (due to their faulty interpretations).” The safest of the paths is the condition of he who says: “We do not doubt…” (Al-Yawāqīt 1:134)

[7] We have created all things in due measure. (Q 55:49) Let those of you who believe in Allāh and the Last Day take this to heart: that is more wholesome and purer for you. Allāh knows and you do not. (Q 2:232)

[8] Say, Now the truth has come from your Lord: let those who wish to believe in it do so, and let those who wish to reject it do so. (Q 18:29) But he [Abraham] said, “How can you worship things you carve with your own hands, when it is God who has created you and all your handiwork?” (Q 37:95-96) If you are ungrateful, God has no need of you, yet He is not pleased by ingratitude in His servants; If you are grateful, He is pleased [to see] it in you. (Q 39:7)

[9] God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear. (Q 2:286)

[10] He cannot be called to account for anything He does, whereas they will be called to account. (Q 21:23) The Glorious Lord of the Throne, He does whatever He will. (Q 85:15-16)

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