Creed


`AKIDA (a.), creed; but sometimes also doctrine, dogma or article of faith; and hence `aka'id (pl.), articles of faith, is also used for "creed".

1. The Development and Use of the Form.

The documents to which the terms `akida or `aka'id are applied vary in length, and the longer ones cannot be sharply divided from the comprehensive theological treatises (e.g. al-`Akida al-Nizamiyya by al-Djuwayni). The terms, however, may usefully be taken to signify compositions where the chief interest is in the formulation of doctrine or dogma, and not in intellectual discussion or argument about it. The earliest and simplest creed is the shahada or confession of faith [q.v.], and this alone appears to be used liturgically. Though the term `akida is usually not applied to the shahada, there is a sense in which most of the later creeds are expansions of it. Sectarian discussions, however, also led to the development of doctrine, and an important source of the later creeds is the succinct formula defining the position of an individual, school or sect on some disputed point. The FikhAkbar I attributed to Abu Hanifa is a collection of such formulae, since it does not mention belief in God and in Muhammad's apostleship, but only the attitude of the Hanafi school on matters on which they rejected views of the Khawaridj, Shi`a and djahmiyya. The later creeds are usually statements of the doctrinal position of the various theological schools, orthodox and heretical, and are often the subject of many commentaries and glosses. Sometimes an `akida is intended as a catechism to be learnt by children. Creeds are often built round either the shahada (as al-Ghazali's) or the tradition, which elaborates a kur'anic formula, that faith is faith in God, His angels, His books, His prophets, etc. (as Birgewi's). Sometimes they are included in legal treatises, as introductory statements of what it is obligatory for a Muslim to believe. The development of the literary form and of its contents has been studied by Wensinck (see Bibl.).

2. The Development of Dogma.

While the statement of the faith, it seems likely, was constantly being more accurately formulated during Muhammad's lifetime, the development of dogma is generally regarded as beginning with the caliphate of `Ali and the appearance of the khawaridj and Shi`a as distinct religio-political parties, the one making justice according to the Scripture the supreme principle, while the other looked for a leader from the household of Muhammad. For at least the first two centuries of Islam religion and politics werekinextricably mingled, but the topic has not been fully investigated. The exclusiveness of the khawaridj was opposed by the inclusiveness of the Murdji'a, who refused to treat Muslims who had committed grave sins as unbelievers (and could therefore remain loyal to caliphs of whom they disapproved). As these sects had many subdivisions with differing views, there was a great variety of doctrine by the middle of the 2nd/8th century. In the second half of that century elaborate intellectual arguments about doctrine appeared, inspired partly by Greek and Christian thought. This may be regarded as the beginning of kalam or theology [q.v.]. It influenced the formulation of dogma to the extent that some philosophical terms were introduced into the theologians' creeds, e.g. when they said that God is neither substance nor accident (djawhar, `arad), or when al-Sanusi prefaces his creed by distinguishing between the necessary, the impossible and the possible. The opposition to this intellectualizing tendency, which probably always existed, found its chief exponent in Ibn Taymiyya. The statements of their position by Sufis often contain, besides their specifically mystical teaching, a section dealing with their attitude on matters of dogma.

3. The main Dogmas of Islam.

No credal statement has been accepted even by all Sunni Muslims as the standard account of Islamic dogma. The following brief account has been compiled from various creeds (chiefly those of al-Baghdadi, al-Ghazali and Nadjm al-Din al-Nasafi), though not in their precise words. Short comments have been added. For fuller details see the articles referred to below.

(a) God [see Allah] is one; there is no god except Him; He has no partner nor wife; He neither begets nor is begotten.

-- This article of faith belongs to Muhammad's Meccan period, though it was given no emphasis in the earliest passages of the kur'an. It soon became necessary, however, to insist that Muhammad's doctrine was incompatible with the vague monotheism apparently current in Mecca, which, while acknowledging God as supreme, tolerated lesser deities. Hence in the later Meccan surahs strict monotheism was vigorously proclaimed, and shirk [q.v.], the giving of partners to God, i.e. polytheism, became a serious sin. When the Muslims came into closer contact with Christians, they regarded the current interpretations of the doctrine of the Trinity as an infringement of this article of faith. This is the point chosen for emphasis in the first clause of the shahada.

(b) God exists; His existence is rationally proved from the originated character of the world.

-- When the Muslims had to defend their religion against materialists and other unbelievers, some of them offered rational proofs of the existence of God. These were given at length in the theological treatises, and came to influence the credal statements (cf. al-Baghdadi, Nadjm al-Din al-Nasafi). Some schools (cf. al-Sanusi) treated existence (wudjud) as one of God's attributes. This implied a distinction between essence and existence which was opposed by the early Ash`ariyya and Ibn Taymiyya.

(c) God is eternal; His existence has neither beginning nor end.

-- This calls for no comment except on the difficulty of translation. Arabic has no single word for "eternal". kadim (properly "old" or "ancient" and azali mean "being from eternity" or "having no beginning", while bakin and abadi mean "being to eternity" or "having no end" [cf. abad, kidam]. Consequently the renderings in European languagesksometimes puzzle the uninitiated, e.g. "priority" and "continuance" for the hypostatized attributes kidam and baka". Perhaps "pre-eternity" and "post-eternity" might be suggested.

(d) God is different from created things. He does not resemble any of them, and none of them resembles Him. He is not a body nor a substance nor the accident of a substance. He is not bounded nor limited in any way; He does not have a position in space; He may not be said to be in any direction. He sits on the throne (`arsh), but only in the sense in which He Himself intended. He is above the throne and the heavens, but at the same time is "nearer to man than his jugular vein" (kur'an, l, 16/15). He is not subject to movement or change or suffering.

-- The otherness (mukhalafa) of God is presupposed in Islamic thinking from the kur'an onward, but only gradually became an explicit article of faith; al-Sanusi makes mukhalafa one of the negative attributes of God. At an earlier period the main body of Muslims came to regard the Mushabbiha (those who made God resemble man) as unorthodox [cf. tashbih]. This was chiefly with regard to the interpretation of the anthropomorphic expressions in the kur'an, such as God's sitting on the throne and having hands and a face. At the other extreme from the Mushabbiha were those, like the Mu`tazila, who interpreted the terms metaphorically. The central position was that of those who said the terms were to be taken neither literally nor metaphorically but bi-la kayf ("without how"), i.e. without specifying their manner or modality, or, as it was sometimes expressed, "in the sense in which God intended them" when He used them in the kur'an. It was emphasized that God was not corporeal and not material, and those who held that view were sometimes called Mudjassima. From the 5th/11th century onwards the followers of al-Ash`ari and other orthodox theologians, but not the Hanabila, largely abandoned bi-la kayf and accepted metaphorical interpretations of anthropomorphic terms.

(e) God will be seen by the faithful in the world to come.

-- The article occasioned great difficulty because of God's incorporeality. The Mu`tazila and others denied the possibility of any vision of God. Dirar suggested that a sixth sense would be created. Eventually, however, it was generally agreed to accept the doctrine bi-la kayf, and to avoid any inferences from it which involved corporeality.

(f) God is eternally powerful (or omnipotent), knowing (or omniscient), living, willing, hearing, seeing, speaking.

He is so by the attributes of power, knowledge, life, will, hearing, sight and speech. These attributes are eternal; they are not God, yet not other than God. His power extends to everything, and no inadequacy or weakness characterizes Him. He knows everything, even what is concealed and secret, even the creeping of a black ant on a rugged rock on a pitch-black night.--These seven attributes (Sifat [q.v.]) received special attention from the theologians from the 3rd/9th century on. The discussion probably arose out of the question whether the kur'an was created or uncreated (see below). If the kur'an was uncreated, it was an eternal entity existing in relative independence of God's essence, even though it was His speech. For the djahmiyya and Mu`tazila this view was unsatisfactory, and they asserted that God does not possess attributes of power, knowledge, speech, etc. which are distinct from His essence. In their view it is by His essence that He knows. Opponents called thiskta`til, "stripping" (sc. God of His attributes), and the upholders of it Mu`attila. Those who held that God knows by an attribute of knowledge, neither identical with His essence nor distinct from it, are sometimes known as ‘ifatiyya, and include the Ash`ariyya and other orthodox theologians. The points at issue were discussed with much subtlety, and in al-Sanusi and al-Faddali a further distinction is drawn between God's power and His "being powerful" (kawn kadiran), etc.; the first group a reknown as Sifat al-ma`ani and the second as al-Sifat al-ma`nawiyya (perhaps to be rendered "attributes which are hypostatized concepts or aspects" and "attributes connected with hypostatized concepts"). It was doubtless because of their importance in popular religion that hearing and seeing were retained among the seven.

(g) The kur'an [q.v.] is the eternal and uncreated speech of God. This eternal speech is repeated by men's tongues, written in their copies of the kur'an and remembered in their hearts, yet it is distinct from its material embodiments.

-- The doctrine of the uncreated character of the kur'an was doubtless advanced in order to justify its position as the chief foundation of law and doctrine. The opponents, who included the djahmiyya, the Mu`tazila, and the central government of the caliphate from about 217/832 to 234/849 [cf. mihna], were sympathetic politically to certain groups of the Shi`a; and the Shi`a tended to set the imamate above the written scripture. (It is still the view of the Shi`a that the kur'an is created.) The Maturidiyya and other followers of Abu Hanifa rejected the Ash`ariyya's view that the eternal speech of God can be heard.

(h) God's will is supreme and always effective; "what He wills exists, and what He does not will does not exist". Thus He wills all things, good and evil, though He does not command or approve of all. There is no obligation of any sort upon Him, e.g. to do what is best for men, or to reward them for good works, or to command them to do only what they are able to perform. Actions are good or bad because He commands or forbids them, and not in themselves; He could, if He so willed, change what is good and bad.

-- The sovereignty of God's will in the world was thought to be impaired by the Mu`tazila's assertion of man's free will, and was vigorously re-asserted by the orthodox. The Mu`tazila also held that God was bound by our (sc. human and rational) conceptions of good and bad. Al-Ash`ari and some of his followers opposed this, maintaining that good and bad are known only by revelation. They further asserted that God may punish one who obeys Him, that He may change a faithful man into an infidel (and that therefore when one says "I am a believer" one ought to add "if God will" [cf. istithna"]), and that God may impose on men duties that are beyond their powers. The Maturidiyya took a contrary view on these and similar problems, though affirming the sovereignty of God's will against the Mu`tazila. The later and more intellectualistic theologians emphasize the supremacy of God's will at the time of events, but in the earlier and more popular creeds, the stress is on God's determination of events beforehand [cf. kadar]; and thus al-Ash`ari himself includes in his creed the doctrine that whether a man dies or is killed his death takes place at his appointed term (adjal [q.v.]).

(i) Man's acts are created by God, but are nevertheless properly attributed to man. They proceed from a power (kudra, istita`a) in the man, but this power is created by God; God does so at the momentkof the act, not before it.

--The leading orthodox theologians all try to find a middle way between absolute determinism (djabr) and absolute free will (kadar). The argument of the Mu`tazila, that God's justice (`adl) presupposed that men could properly be punished or rewarded for their acts, forced orthodoxy to deny that men were mere automata. The Ash`ariyya (and others before them--cf. JRAS, 1943, 234-47) used the vague word kasb [q.v.] or iktisab, "acquiring", to describe the relation of man to his act. They held that, though the act proceeded from a power in the man, this power was created by God at the moment of the act for this specific purpose and no other. The Mu`tazila on the other hand held that the power was created before the act and was power to do either the act or its opposite.

(j) God is also characterized by active attributes (Sifat fi`liyya), such as creating and giving sustenance.

--Some, especially the Ash`ariyya, held that God cannot be called creator, sustainer, etc. until He has created or given sustenance; as this implies the existence of originated beings, these attributes cannot be eternal. On the other hand, some, like the Maturidiyya, held that God is eternally creator, etc.

(k) Only those names (or attributes) are applicable to God which are to be found in the Kur'an and sound traditions, or are sanctioned by idjma`.--The Mu`tazila argued that names might be applied to God by inference. It is commonly held that there are 99 names [cf. al-asma" al-husna], but in fact more are found.

(l) The questioning by Munkar and Nakir, and the punishment of the tomb, are realities; so also are the signs of the end, such as the slaying of the Dadjdjal by `isa.--Between death and the resurrection on the Last Day men will be questioned in the graves by two angels, Munkar and Nakir, and rewarded or punished. Various signs of the coming of the Last Day are also mentioned. These are popular beliefs, based on Tradition and not on the kur'an, but they have been incorporated into the creeds [cf. `adjab al-kabr]. Among the Shi`a special emphasis is laid on the Return (radj`a [q.v.]), i.e. of the Mahdi and of a limited number of very good and very bad people; this is for the punishment of the latter and the glorification of the household of Muhammad (cf. D. M. Donaldson, The Shi"ite Religion, London 1933, 236 f.). This return to earth before the Last Day, though "a preliminary judgement", is to be distinguished from God's final judgement.

(m) God will judge all men on the Last Day [cf. kiyama]. The balance (mizan), the bridge (Sirat) and the pool (hawd) are realities.--The central fact of judgement is prominent in the kur'an, and the balance on which men's deeds are weighed is hinted at (cf. Wensinck, Muslim Creed, 167 ff.). The pool or basin of Muhammad, from which he quenches for ever the thirst of his followers, and the knife-edge bridge over the pit of Hell, from which the wicked fall down, come from popular conceptions. The various ideas were reconciled with one another only by the later systematizers.

(n) Certain persons, and notably Muhammad, will be permitted by God to intercede for others on the Last Day [cf. shafa`a]. Muhammad will intercede for sinners of his community.--This was denied by the Mu`tazila on kur`anic grounds, but ultimately gained general acceptance.

(o) Paradise and Hell already exist, and will continue to exist eternally [cf. djanna, djahannam]. Grave sinners of the Muslim community will bekpunished in Hell, but not eternally. No monotheist will remain eternally in Hell.--The djahmiyya and other sects held that Paradise and Hell would not be created until the Last Day and would cease to exist after a time, but the majority rejected this view. There are some divergences about the precise fate of Muslims who are sinners, but it is generally agreed that by intercession of otherwise they will eventually be released from Hell, if they enter it at all.

(p) Prayers for the dead and alms offered on behalf of them are advantageous to them.

(q) God has sent to mankind messengers (rusul) and prophets (anbiya").

The prophets are above saints and angels. Muhammad is the seal of the prophets and the most excellent of them.--The FikhAkbar ascribed to al-Shafi`i says there are 120,000 prophets and 313 messengers.

(r) Prophets are preserved (ma`Sum) from all sin by God.

--This was the view of the Maturidiyya and other followers of Abu Hanifa, but the Ash`ariyya admitted that they might commit light sins.

(s) The best of men after the prophets are Abu Bakr, then `Umar, then `Uthman, then `Ali.--This assertion of the acceptance of the first four caliphs in order is made in opposition to the Shi`a who held that `Ali was best.

(t) No Companion of Muhammad is mentioned except for good.--This was to bury the quarrels about rights and wrongs of `Uthman, of Talha and al-Zubayr, etc. It was directed mainly against the Shi`a.

(u) Unbelief (kufr), or the status of being an unbeliever, does not necessarily follow the commission of sin by a believer. --This was directed against the khawaridj, who excommunicated anyone guilty of sin.

(v) Faith is knowing in the heart, confessing with the tongue and performing works.

It increases and decreases [cf. iman].--Many others, however, notably the Ash`ariyya, said that works were not a part of faith, and that faith did not increase and decrease.

(w) Faith and unbelief are due to God's guidance and abandonment (khidjlan) respectively.

(x) (Some later creeds also contain articles about the nature of knowledge and true report, and other philosophical matters. )
(W. Montgomery Watt)



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Source: from the Encyclopedia of Islam -- 1999 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands