al-Asha`ira – The Ash`aris

EARLY HERESIES IN ISLAM – An Introduction

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent. All praise belongs to Allah the Lord of the worlds. Blessings and peace upon the Elect One in all creation, the Beloved Intercessor, our Master Muhammad, and upon his Family and Companions.

Allah has made Islam the Perfect Religion. He said: “Today I have perfected your Religion for you.” (5:3) He has decreed that it shall be preserved intact until the end of time: “It is We Who sent down the Remembrance and it is We Who will certainly preserve it.” (15:9) To this end He has created for the Seal of Prophets – after whom there is no prophet – a following of rightly-guided successors and truthful inheritors. He has named them: “Those who are firmly established in knowledge” (3:7) and has elevated them in degree above the ignorant and the transgressors by saying: “Are those who know and those who do not know equal?” (39:9) “Allah will exalt those who believe among you, and those who have knowledge, to high ranks.” (58:11)

 

ALLAH’S VICTORIOUS GROUP AND THE ENEMIES OF TRUTH

Allah has made those inheritors of Prophetic knowledge the means whereby He guards His Remembrance and His Religion from manipulation and change forever, as the Prophet (saw) said: “There shall not cease to be a group in my Community who shall have the upper hand and stand for truth until the end of time.” [1] He declared them invulnerable to the wrong of their enemies when he said, in another narration: “That group shall remain in charge of Allah’s Order, unharmed by those who oppose them, until the coming of Allah’s order.” [2] In the chapter of his Sahih in which he cites this hadithImam Bukhari states: “These are the People of Knowledge.”

Allah proclaimed for His Friends (awliya’) protection from fear and grief when He said: “Allah’s Friends! Truly no fear shall there be for them, nor shall they grieve.” (10:62) The assembly of those Friends of Allah are the elite of the true adherents of Islam in its pristine purity, known today, as in former times, as “Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a” or the “People of the Way of the Prophet (saw) and the Congregation of his Companions (ra).” In their ranks are found the truthful saints (al-siddeeqeen), the martyrs (al-shuhada’), the righteous (al-saliheen), the Substitutes (al-abdal), and the great imams of scholarly endeavor (ijtihad). These are the Victorious Group mentioned by the Prophet in the hadith cited above.

It was the task of these Friends of Allah in every age to repel from His Religion the harm of those who would hijack it by means of innovated beliefs and deviant doctrines, as we were warned that this would happen by the hadith of the Prophet (saw): ” My Community shall divide into seventy-three sects, all of them in the Fire except one: those that cling to my Sunna and that of my rightly-guided successors after me.” [3] The division he spoke of is in the foundations of belief, not in the branches of the Law, since the latter was described by the authorities as a blessing. [4] This struggle was explicitly mentioned in the hadith: ” Verily, Allah has, for every innovation plotted against Islam, a Friend (walee) to defend it and say its proofs.” [5]

Thus in the first century, the Companions (ra) of the Prophet (saw) refuted the proponents of determinism, or necessitarianism, or predestinarianism, or fatalism known as the “Jabriyya,” then those who indefinitely postponed the affirmation that major sins were punishable, known as “Postponers” or “Murji’a,” and the proponents of absolute free will, or libertarianism, known as the “Qadariyya.” They also fought those who would remove or add something in the fundamentals of the Religion such as the deniers of the Purification-Tax (al-zakat), the followers of the pseudo-prophet Musaylima, and the multifarious sects of “Separatists” or “Khawarij” who considered themselves the holiest of people and the only true Muslims in creation. [6]

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