Articles of Faith: Are Maturidies Ahlus-Sunnah?

By Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Posted: 24 Rabi-ul-Awwal 1424, 26 May 2003

Q.) A sheikh said Ahl-us-Sunnah wal Jamah are those who follows the thought of Imam ibn Taymiyyah, that is to believe in Allahs' sifat (attributes) without doing taweel (interpretation). The Ash'aris and Maturidies do taweel which is not the way of the salaf. Therefore they are not from the Ahlus-Sunnah. My question is that I follow the fiqh of Imam Abu Hanifah and I believe that I am a Maturidie. Am I not then from Ahlus-Sunnah? Please answer my question in detail. [Ansar Ali]

A.) The Maturidis and the Ash'aris are from the Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jamaa. Hereunder is a brief explanation on their beliefs regarding the Sifat of Allah.

Basically, the Ulama of Aqaaid (beliefs) are of two categories, a) The Salaf (former Ulama), b) Mutakallimeen (Ulama of Aqeedah)

Imam al-Nawawiy (RA) mentions in his commentary of Sahih Muslim, 'There are two famous Madhabs with regards to the beliefs of the Sifaat of Allah:

1) The Madhab of majority of the Salaf and a few Mutakallimeen is to believe in the reality of the Sifaat of Allah in accordance to whatever is appropriate for Allah. The apparent known meanings of those Sifaat are not meant. No Ta'weel (interpretation) should be made in the matter.

2) The Madhab of most of the Mutakallimeen and a few of the Salaf like Imaam al-Nawawiy and Imaam al-Awzaa'ee is that Ta'weel will be made.

Both these Madhabs are unanimously accepted.

Actually, our Aqeeda is in accordance with the first Madhab. The second Madhab came about because there were many misled groups in the latter times, like al-Mujassamah who believe that Allah has the same qualities as human beings. The Mutakallimeen had to refute these misled groups. To do so they made Ta'weelaat (interpretations) by stating that these verse are not in their literal sense, but indicate Power, Majesty, etc. In making Ta'weel, they did not intend to oppose the Salaf, but to oppose the misled groups. The Mutakallimeen have stated that if they were in the era of the Salaf, they would not have made any Ta'weel in the verse of Sifaat.

As for Imaam al-Maturidee (who the Hanafis generally follow in beliefs) and Imaam al-Ash'aree, they both believe in not making Ta'weel. (see Muqaddamah of Kitaab al-Tawhid of Imaam al-Maturide by Shaykh Fathullah Khaleef pgs.10-11). This is basically the view of the Ahlus sunnah Wal Jamaa. 

As for ibn Taymiyah (RA) believing in the Sifaat of Allah without Ta'weel, the Shaykh is correct in his statement. (Fataawa ibn Taymiyah vol.6 pg.213; Cairo)

As for the statement of the Shaykh that the Ahlus Sunnah are confined to those that follow the thoughts of ibn Taymiyah, this is incorrect as explained above.

The scholars of the Maturidee and Ash'ari schools of thought who came after the founders of these schools adopted the view of making Ta'weel to combat the deviated sects of their respective eras. But, these scholars knew the limits of making Ta'weel.

We advise that we maintain the belief of the Salaf, i.e. we don't make Ta'weel because:

1) This was the belief of Imaam al-Maturidee (and we are Maturidees)

2) The latter Ulama only made Ta'weel because of Dhuroorah (i.e. necessity in combating the deviated sects).

3) These Ulama who made Ta'weel, they knew the limits of Ta'weel and we sometimes might exceed the bounds which will lead us to Kufr.

We should also be aware that not all the beliefs of ibn Taymiyah are in accordance with the Ahlus-Sunnah. We should remain cautious.

Shaykh Taqi-u-ddin Ahmad ibn Taymiyah was a prominent Aalim (scholar) of Deen. Shaykh Taqi-u-ddin had his independent views on many matters based on his vast knowledge and research. It is incorrect for non-scholars and non-academics to pass a judgment especially on such learned people. They should fear Allah and abstain from engaging themselves in such discussions. Differences of opinion is a salient feature among the Ulama-e-Haqq (true scholars). And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best