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The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi

« بي داةن الالسن طة وا حلجاماوعيةة » المالسعماقةي



Al-AqÏdah al->a^¥wiyyah

Translated, Introduced, and Annotated by

Hamza Yusuf



Foreword: Sh. Abdullah bin Bayyah 3

Preface: Hamza Yusuf 7

Introduction: Hamza Yusuf 13

Author’s biography: Hamza Yusuf 25

License to transmit and translate (ij®zah):

Sh. Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Yaqubi 41

t r a n s l a t i o n o f t h e c r e e d o f i m a m a l - > a ¤ ® w ¬ :

Hamza Yusuf 47

Appendix a: biographies of abƒ ¤an¬fah,

abƒ yƒsuf, and al-shayb®n¬ 83

Appendix b: understanding jihad 89

Appendix c: biographies of the ten companions

Promised paradise 93

Appendix d: additional license to transmit

And translate (ij®zah ): Sh. Ahmad Jabir Jibran 107

Notes to the english text 109

Notes to the arabic text 127

Transliteration key 143

Bibliography 145

Acknowledgments 155

About the zaytuna curriculum series: Zaid Shakir 159

Index 163



A l l p r a i s e b e l o n g s to God alone, and may God’s blessings

and peace be upon our master Mu^ammad and upon his family and


Our virtuous brother in faith, the associate jurist and professor of

faith Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, has translated into English The Creed of

Imam al->a^¥wÏ—a beneficial endeavor, indeed, especially for non-

Arabic speakers. The creed is one with which the entire community


The Creed of Imam al-Tagawu  contains a general call to abandon

accusations of disbelief against others and to forgo any pretense of

knowledge about who is or is not in Paradise or in Hell; and to entrust

all abstruse and knotty matters to the Omniscient and Wise.

For these aforementioned reasons, our scholars have not only

accepted it but have added to it numerous commentaries from varying

perspectives and schools. I recommend, however, for the general

community, that it be memorized as it is, free of any speculations

about matters the true nature of which can never be comprehended

or even grasped. To use a metaphor from M¥lik [d. 179 ah/795

ce], our creed has reached all of us pure and lucid, and entered as a

groom into his bride’s chamber, welcomed without question.

Any believer who wishes to deepen his or her knowledge in this

religion should follow two courses. The first is to occupy oneself

with those matters of faith that concern the heart and its states, as

well as purification of the ego, enabling one to ascend to the degree

of spiritual excellence. The second involves a course of study of

* The Foreword was rearranged in its English translation for the reader’s benefit. It was

done with the author’s consent and remains faithful to the original text.

T h e c r e e d o f i m a m a l - > a ¤ ® w ¬


practical jurisprudence in order to acquire the divine injunctions

and rectify one’s transactions and contracts.

One should also avoid any disputation and debate about theological

matters that are predicated upon earlier philosophical

problems that may no longer serve the current religious discourse

or the materialistic intellectual challenges confronting the prevailing

cultural environment.

The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi  is written in lucid and non-technical

language and is based upon the clear proofs in the Book and the

Sunnah. It avoids complexities and doubtful matters, resembling

Ab‰ Mu^ammad b. AbÏ Zayd al-Qayraw¥nÏ’s creed [d. 386/996].

In fact, I wish that an opportunity arises for our brother, Shaykh

Hamza, to translate that also. It would not be difficult for him to do

so, given his high aspirations.

Shaykh Hamza’s translation is trustworthy because of his firm

grounding in Arabic and its rhetoric, as well as his breadth of

knowledge regarding the theology of the early scholars. As for

English, his tongue is Shakespearian. However, foremost of all, he

is noted for his research, scruples, and sincerity—God willing—and

hence is compelled to search and investigate in order to penetrate

the depths of any subject and be able to distinguish between the

essential and the incidental.

In conclusion, I pray to God, the Exalted, that He enrich our

brother, Shaykh Hamza, and us, in providence and guidance.

a b d u l l a h b i n b a y y a h



t h e p u r p o s e o f Islam is to teach humanity unity. It begins

with the unity of our Lord, that we unify Him in our understanding

and associate nothing with Him. The renowned theologian and

heresiologist, Imam Ab‰ Is^¥q al-Isfar¥yinÏ (d. 418/1027) remarked

that, “All what theologians have said concerning the unity of God

can be summed up in two statements: first, God is other than any

concept that comes to mind. Second, while the essence of God

is utterly unlike other essences, it is, nonetheless, not devoid of

attributes.”1 God’s unity is also reflected in the world, such as in the

bonds that connect the human community. At the immediate level,

this unity teaches us not only that our co-religionists are brothers

and sisters who share the same spiritual source, Abraham, but also

that we are united with our fellow men as children of Adam and

Eve, as well as with the rest of existence, as expressions of God’s

creative power. Thus, we should reach out with good will and

service not only to those who share our faith but to all humanity,

so they might see our living faith in action.

The purpose of a creed is to engender a shared understanding

through an articulation of the tenets of faith that are derived

from revelation itself. Although the modern world has generally

become skeptical of creeds, many Muslims still find refuge in their

creed from the uncertainties and chaos of life. Only very recently

have Muslims begun to fragment theologically, due to the loss of

an authoritative religious leadership. It is ironic that unlike the

skepticism fragmenting the West, it is the absolutist positions of

some contemporary Muslims regarding other Muslims that has

caused this fragmentation and attacks on other people’s faith.

t h e c r e e d o f i m a m a l - > a ¤ ® w ¬


For centuries, Muslims followed simple, concise doctrinal texts

that unified them and prevented them from falling prey to those

who would challenge the central tenets of faith. Children usually

learned the tenets by rote, and teachers did not burden them

with intricate and difficult theologies that remained the domain

of advanced students of knowledge. Some modernist voices have

introduced incidental wedge issues among the Muslim masses,

presenting them as core issues; this has resulted in common Muslims

debating rarified theological points normally relegated to a scholastic class. Most of these issues are matters best left alone.

Indeed, some are insoluble points of difference that await God’s clarification as He has promised in many Qur’anic verses. For unity to be restored, we need to first understand that unity is not

uniformity, and that diversity of opinion and understanding is an essential part of human nature and fully incorporated within the framework of traditional Islam. We must also understand the difference between the essential beliefs and the incidental ones; this is achieved by adhering to the consensual core tenets articulated by our authoritative scholars. Islam’s scholastic tradition is replete with treatises and texts that enunciate these tenets precisely and concisely. Of them all, Imam al-Tawahi’s (d. 321/933) has achieved unprecedented and widespread acceptance among Muslims.

I decided to translate Imam al Tahawi’s creed partly because the small number of existing translations were done either in an impoverished English, or, in the few cases where the Englishwas adequate, it seemed the precise meanings of the text werenot conveyed without diverting from the aphoristic style of the  author; instead, the translators used explanatory phrases or entire sentences that were not in the original. I felt the text deserved a thorough and exhaustive attempt at conveying the precision and eloquence of the Arabic in modern English prose. Furthermore,  none of the existing translations were published with a critical edition of the Arabic text, as has been provided here. The more  important motivation for my translation, however, is that this is a wonderfully unifying creed and deserves a far wider dissemination



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