“Suhaib! Where do You Stand? What Kind of Muslim Are You?”

First Question

I was told that you are an athari in aqeedah. is that true? if so what books are available in regards to the difference between the athari, ashari, and salafi aqeedah?

First Answer:

In English or Arabic?

Second Question

English. However you didn’t answer the question about whether you are athari or not. My main issue is asharis and salafis calling each other deviants and not just the laymen but the ulama (ibn taymiya and ibn hajr al-haytami for example) and was wondering whether athari is accpeted by both and who are the athari ulama?

The Answer

Asalamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

I think it would be very difficult to find a monolith within any group if that’s what your looking for. Yes, I consider myself aspiring to be an Athari, and take the position articulated by al-Saffarni in al-Lum’a and, in more recent times, that of the Islamic movements and what was taught to me by my Sheikh Muhammad al-Hassan Walid al-Dido al-Shanqit, a man who memorized the Sahih Sita before he was 30 years old:

The Position of the Islamic Revival

Ahl-Sunna are three:

1. Than Athari and their Imam is Imam Ahmed
2. The Ashari’s and their Imam is Abu Hassan al-Ash’ari
3. The Maturidi’s and their Imam is Abu Masur al-Maturidi

That does not mean we can’t have spirited discussions, enlightened discourse and so on if done with sound scholarship, or under the guidance of scholars. I share your feelings on the issue and feel that most people are really burned out. The most important Athari text is the Tahawiyah, then the introduction to Aqidah found in the Epistle of Abi Zaid al-Qayrawani, the Lum’a of Imam al-Maqdasi, the works of Ibn Taymiyah and so on. I would also strongly encourage one to read Imam Hassan al-Banna’s Epistle on Aqida and the recent work of Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi “The differences between the creed of the salaf and the creed of the khalaf.”

If you want to cross check these ideas with your Ashar’i brethren then read the Jawhar al-Tawhid with the explanation of al-Bayjouri who states, “Regarding these sifaat, there are two schools, the school of the Salaf was to pass these verses, affirm them, leaving the meanings to Allah without going into explaining them.” As for the Khalaf, “They would adopt an explanation of the attribute that was fitting for Allah’s sublime majesty.” As one of my teachers told me, “They had the same destination; they just took two different paths.” Both, at the end of the day, affirm Allah’s sublime nature, that He is not like his creation and His creation is not like him. Thus, as Sheikh al-Qaradawi stated, “They agree on the general principles of creed, and differed on the secondary issues.”

The Western Muslim Dilemma

Western Muslims have failed to grasp the danger of engaging in discussions on creed as many have no knowledge to empower themselves to understand with maturity. For that reason, most are using creed as a means of identification, thereby diagnosing other Muslims, categorizing them and using that as a means to feel a sense of importance and self-worth.

This is very dangerous as the objective of creed is closeness to Allah, love and following the prophet, loyalty to the Muslim community, and standing up for the truth, being good to other not fearing those who reject Allah. These qualities are very important in the post 9/11 world where Muslims in the West are sinking into hyper liberalism, inviting lesbians to sing at their events and proud to announce the tazkiyah of Juan Cole. I’m not saying this to create any type of static, but if we are honest with ourselves, the number one component that has shaped our discourse in the West is fear. Fear of the Man and fear of each other. As Dr. Sherman Jackson told me, “Suhaib, you’ve got to reach a point in your life where you’re comfortable with yourself.” Meaning, we cannot allow fear of others to shape us. The magicians stood up to Pharaoh without a second thought. Our fear of prison, being antagonized, kicked off planes and our love for being accepted by others, caused many of us to swerve somewhat, lose our balance and do anything in our power to appear domesticated. These type of actions, taking pride in sitting with lesbians, turning away from Allah’s commands and being weak in worship are signs that our faith is in the ICU.

Where Are We Now

As an American community we need to ask, where have the current approaches to faith brought us? I’ve meet Salafi and Sufi couples who are talking divorce, friends who’s children were abandoned by the other children because they were told that their parents were deviants; I know brothers who left a Sufi order and the murids were ordered never to talk with them again!?

The Prophetic model brought enemies to the table, nurtured love in their hearts, created a community that was divided, about which Allah said, “You were enemies to another, we brought your hearts together and you became, by the blessing of Allah, brothers.” and made them into a strong cohesive society. Where are we from that? We were Muslims, learned Creed, and became enemies? Thus, was the enmity due to Allah’s blessing or His wrath?

Be careful of those who Seek to Weaken Us

We need to be careful of teachers who come to us with these things; seeking to sow the seeds of hatred between us, making us weak and open for problems. And as students of studying overseas, we must be careful in adopting everything were learn. For, indeed, we cannot take everything we’ve learned an apply it in the West.  This was my point during the ISNA speech about “A theology of complexes.” Many of these theological disputes were nurtured by intelligence agencies to weaken Muslims in the Muslim world. Low and behold, we must be weary that such ploys are not brought to the West. In order to do that, we need a commitment to live as brothers. Scholars need to interact with each other beyond simple pledges, debate issues at times, and most importantly cool their follower’s heels.

An Interesting Story

Once I sat with a Salafi teacher and I ask him, “What are you teaching the people akhi? Why are you engaging the ‘Awam in these issues?” His response, “Because the Sufi’s are attacking us, so it is kind of a back and forth thing?” I told him, “You are making the masses the subject of a theological tug of war?” He quieted and said, “I regret and asked myself, what I’m teaching the masses?” The sad thing is I’ve had the same discussion with a prominent Ashar’i sufi teacher and got the same answer. I remember hearing from one of them, “We are going back to America to destroy the Salafis!” This type of understanding is not going to bring any good to us. As a community we must censure theological bigotry and learn to accept those who fall under the general, wide understanding of Ahl Sunna. And please, don’t say Jam’ah.

Take the Good from the Muslims

I have benefited from a large number of Salafi teachers just as I have from the Sufis. I have studied with both and, while I don’t agree with everything, tried to take the good from them. “I do not declare my innocence.” as two years ago I made some very tragic mistakes in this regard. One thing I would encourage all to do, if they are serious, is to memorize the Qur’an, study the sunna, with qualified scholars and take their Aqidah from there on a general level. I remember that statement of Sh. Muhammad Hassal al-Dido about sitting with one of his teachers, “When I went to him, one of two things happened: I found him crying from the fear of Allah, or I left him crying from the fear of Allah.”

In English it is hard to find such works without one group or another using them to attack the other. Read what you can and try and sift through the group though, group attack.

A Good Compass for Creedal Studies

Know, that if you study creed and you find yourself harsh and tired with the Muslims, you have failed to achieve it purpose. If you study it and your feel humble in front of Allah, in service to others, wanting to spread its truth with wisdom and mercy, then you have done well.

Think About Your Question

To be honest, I find your question a little frightening. Instead of studying your creed to know who you are and what others are not, study creed to know your Lord, understanding Him correctly and serve Him according to the way of the Prophet and the early generations. Leave the Aqidah wars to the scholars, focus on your studies, memorize the Qur’an, the Mutun and build your knowledge base.

What Set You Banging Suhaib?

Recently a good hearted brother visited me and said, “You need to declare your loyalty to someone akhi. Folks are worried, where do you stand. You can’t be………”

A Muslim! I hope I can and ask Allah for thabat. While I will critique and offer my advice at times towards things I have learned are wrong, I hope to do so in a spirit of adab and fraternity that will help us maintain our ties as Muslims. If that means calling to the way of the Ahari, then so be it. However, let’s do so with knowledge, respect and admiration for others.

Athari Ulema:

Dr. Zakkariyah al-Sidiqi

Sh. Juma Amin

Sh. Muhamamd al-Shanqiti and his family

Dr. Muhammad Akram Nadawi

The Students of Sh. Ibrahim al-Jarah in Kuwait

Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi

and others…………….

May Allah bless us to aspire to the way of the athar, make our creed pleasing to Him alone; empowering us to stand in the face of evil and corruption


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  1. Umm Sufyaan says:

    subhanAllah an amazing article.. jazakAllah khairun

  2. abu sayf says:

    Alright then. So let’s add Jahmiya and Mutazila to the list, since they too only wanted to preserve the majesty of Allah, right?! SubhanAllah.

  3. Siswa says:

    Sh. Suhaib, would you consider shuyukh such as ibn al-Uthaymeen and ibn Jibreen as athari scholars?

    • Abdul Samad Ali says:

      Assalaamu ‘Alaikum Sidi,

      It’s shocking to see the name of Ibn Taymiyyah being included amongst the Atharis.


  4. F Owaisi says:

    As-Salam Alaykum Sidi Suhaib,

    Could you please define “Athari” for us?

    And is it the same as “Salafi” or different?

    I know that a lot of hardcore salafis love to call themselves “Athari”. However, these brothers consider would also consider you an absolute deviant for including the “Asha’ris” and “Maturidis” in the “Ahl al-Sunnah”… as they called Shaykh Dido also.

    I personally support the Ash’ari Way as that is what has worked for the Ummah for a millennium and produced it’s greatest Ulama, Awliya, Sultans, Mujahadin, Thinkers and Savants. What worked for them works for me. The Jama’ah I guess.

    Anyways, do define “Athari” for us as opposed to traditional Ash’ari and modern Salafi approaches.


    • Gibran says:

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I personally support what An-Nabi sallahualayhiwaslam and the Sahaba were on.

      Oh, and that nonsense of Asharis and Maturidis being the majority of the Ummah is a total myth.

  5. osman says:

    The greatest scholars of the past 1,400 years were Ash`ari and Maturidi (I do not have any knowledge of the Athari aqeedah); the Imams of these schools were part of the first three generations after the Prophet (S), the Salaf, and their teachings have been accepted by the past 1,400 years of `ulemaa’. The greatest scholars of the ummah, the likes of Imam Nawawi, Imam Qurtubi, Hafiz ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, Imam Sakhawi, etc., etc., etc., followed one of these schools of `aqeedah, which have existed for the past 1,400 years.

    • Umer says:

      Imam al-Tahawi was athari.

      The four Imams were athari.

      The Hanbali madhhab has remained athari throughout history (including Ibn Qudamah, Abdul Qadir al-Jilani).

      In the early days the other three madhhabs were a mixture of Ash’aris/Maturidis and Atharis.

      The Sahabah were athari.

    • Parvez Khan says:

      The majority of the scholars of the first 4 centuries followed Athari Aqeedah.

      The Tabi’un such as Mujahid, Hasan al Basri, Sa’id ibn Jubayr and Qatadah followed the theology of Athari creed.

      Also the well known scholars such as Abu hanifa, Abdul Malik, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad Shafi, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Sufyan Thawri, Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Tabari, Tahawi, Ibn Jawzi, Ibn Qutayba, IBn Qudamah, Ibn Taymiya, Ibn Qayyim, Ibn Kathir, Dhahabi and Suyuti followed the Aqeedah of Athari.

      Regarding Imam Nawawi, Hafiz Ibn Hajr Al Asqalani and Imam Qurtubi also used the manhaj similar to Athari Aqeedah. Their commentaries on hadith make it clear that they also followed Athari theology.

      • M.T. says:

        You have mentioned the names of some Imams who lived before the theology of Athari surfaced. Athari theology surfaced during the live of Imam Hanbal. Imam Abu Hanifa, and Malik lived when Imam Hanbal even was not born yet. The more you study the more you will find that all those three have more in common than differences. On one thing you may agree with one of them and on other thing you may agree with the other and they are all ok. They all believe in Allah swt, Mohammad SAW, the books of Allah swt, angles, day of judgment, life after death, and qadre and shar from Allah SWT. Only those who want to bring division in Islam are going after these meaningless things to create division among Muslim ommah. Read Quran and follow it and follow Mohammad SAW, and you will be saved.

  6. jasni says:

    This is the way forward for the best of our ummah.tq and may Allah be yr strength of guidance.

  7. Haajar says:

    Subhanallah. Why do you give yourself names when the Lord has already given us the best ‘Muslim”.
    This is of course a sign of the day of judgement. Students of knowledge, I ask Allah to guide you guys. Scholars, may Allah guide you all and preserve you, but be weary. A grave burden and responsibility has befallen you.
    The great imams of before, when a question was brought to them, would say Laa a3lam. I do not know. And to me, this was the highest level of imaan and knowledge. God bless!

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