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FAQ in the category of Ahl-i Sunnah Sects
The true madhhabs should look at one another in the form of "Musawwiba".
Regarding the views put forward about an issue, some scholars say that only one of those views is true and that there cannot be more than one truth. However, there are also some scholars who say that there can be more than one truth.
The scholars who accept that there can be more than one true view about an issue are called "the people of Musawwiba", and the view put forward by those scholars is called "the way of Musawwiba ".
According to those who support the way of Musawwiba, all mujtahids are right and all madhhabs are true. The views and fatwas of mujtahid scholars are in accordance with the consent of Allah even if they are contrary to one another.
According to those who support that there is only one true view, only one of the mujtahids who have different ijtihads regarding an issue is right and the others are wrong. They gain rewards since they have made ijtihad but their views are not true. Only one of the views regarding an issue is in accordance with the consent of Allah, the others are not. Therefore, they are wrong.
The view claiming that there is only one true view and that the others are wrong is called "the way of Mukhattia". Displaying this way and approach is called "takhtia". Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states in his work called Sünuhat that the people of Mukhatiia say, "My madhhab is true; there is a possibility of being wrong. Other madhhabs are wrong; there is a possibility that they may be true."
Badiuzzaman Said Nursi , who adopts the way of "Musawwiba" and expresses this view in some of his books states that those who hold the view of "takhtia" might lead the majority of the people who do not have sufficient religious knowledge to wrong ways. He states that these people cannot discriminate between the interpretations about the basic conditions of the religion in the views of those who have a takhtia approach and their views about ijtihad; therefore, they can generalize the takhtia approach by mistake or due to delusions; such a practice will cause great dangers. He describes takhtia approach as an illness originating from fondness of one's self. The indication of this illness is "the monopolistic mentality", that is, the approach, "this is the only truth". He states that the people of takhtia are responsible for the occurrence of such a negative state and that they cannot see the all-encompassing and inclusive properties of the Quran and the fact that the Quran addresses all layers of the community.
For instance, in the Near East culture, eating insects is normal but it is disgusting in our culture. Which one can we say is true and which one is wrong? They are true in their own cultures.
Therefore, it is permissible to eat insects in Maliki madhhab but it is not permissible in Hanafi madhhab. Is it not more appropriate and better to say both (Hanafi and Maliki) of the decrees are right instead of saying one of them is wrong but it might be true and the other is right but it might be wrong?
The musawwiba approach disallows bigotry based on madhhabs by saying, "the decrees of all true madhhabs are true and right in terms of their own positions and conditions."
Regarding the issue of wiping (mash) the head while making wudu, according to Hanafis, it is enough to wipe one-fourth of the head, according to Shafiis, it is enough to wipe the head with one finger but according to Malikis, it is necessary to wipe the whole head. For the Muslims who live in the poles, the appropriate one is the fatwa of Shafiis; for the Muslims who live in Africa, the appropriate one is the fatwa of Malikis and for the Muslims who live in mild climates, the appropriate one is the fatwa of Hanafis.
In this case, there is not only one truth but three. The view of all three madhabs seems to be right based on the geographical conditions. Then, the true views may be more than one regarding the details of the religion. Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Difference of opinion in my ummah, that is having different madhhabs, is mercy." (see Kashfu'l-Khafa,1/64)
Another determination of Nursi about the approach of takhtia is that this approach is the origin of the feeling of having bad thoughts about others and partiality. An approach in the form of regarding all of the views and thoughts of others as wrong will eliminate the unity and fraternity in the community. It destroys solidarity, unity of hearts, mutual love and respect. There is a very essential and important duty: to have good thoughts about others, to love and to form unity.
In the religious literature, Ahl as-Sunnah means a great majority (90%) of the Islamic community that regards the Prophet (pbuh) and the Companions as their models. It is generally known as "sunnism" in short. This group is also called "Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah" because it is attached to the Sunnah and does not deviate from the spirit of jama'ah (congregation).
The signs of having the creed of Ahl as-Sunnah
1. A person needs to believe in the six principles of belief, that is, the existence and oneness of God, that He has no partners, that there is nobody like Him, and His angels, books, prophets, the states in the hereafter and that the good and the bad were created by Allah. (These principles are included in "Amantu".)
2. He needs to believe that the Quran, which is the last book of Allah, is Allah's word.
3. A believer must not doubt his belief.
4. He must believe in the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and love all of his Companions, who had the honor of seeing the Prophet alive. He must not criticize any of his four caliphs, his Ahl al-Bayt, who are his closest relatives, and his respectable wives.
5. He must not regard the believers who accept the orders and prohibitions of Allah but who ignore them due to laziness as unbelievers.
6. He must not accuse of unbelief the people who say they are Ahl al-Qiblah and believe in Allah and Hz. Muhammad but who have a wrong creed.
7. He needs to believe that the Ascension (Miraj) of the Prophet (pbuh) took place with his body and spirit.
8. He needs to believe that believers will see Allah in Paradise.
9. He needs to believe that prophets and righteous slaves of Allah will intercede on the Day of Judgment.
10. He needs to believe that boons and torture in the grave will take place in the spirit and the body and that the spirits in the grave can hear what the living people do and say.
11. He needs to believe that the karamah of saints is true.
12. He needs to believe that sending the rewards of reading the Quran, giving sadaqah, and all kinds of worshipping to the spirits of the dead would be beneficial to them, relieve their torture or remove it.
Ahl as-Sunnah is the group that is attached to the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh), the way of his Companions, adopts their religious way and method, agrees on the Book and the Sunnah, avoids disagreement and division, and depends their decrees on the Book and the Sunnah, not the mind, regarding the issues of disagreement in the religion. Those who follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) are called Ahl as-Sunnah; those who regard his Companions as fair and just and follow their methods in religion are called Ahl al-Jama'ah; they are referred to as "Ahl as-Sunnah wa'l- Jama'ah" together.
The Islamic community called "Ahl as-Sunnah wa'l- Jama'ah" has two distinctive features: to follow the Sunnah and jama'ah. The Sunnah includes the words and deeds of the Prophet (pbuh) and his approval of deeds or words along with his ethical and human attitudes. However, regarding our issue, it is not important to mark off the Sunnah in this sense and to determine which types are binding to what extent. The disagreements of the Islamic fiqh scholars on the bindingness of the types of Sunnah in terms of fiqh and the different methods of approach originating from these disagreements are all differences that occurred within the framework of Ahl as-Sunnah. The term "Sunnah" generally appears as a distinctive feature of the communities in the sense of method, way and line to follow. Accordingly, Sunnah is defined as follows: The way and method that ensures the formation of the belief system and creed of a community (ummah) gathering around a faith and creed. People agreeing on this method and applying it was called as jama'ah. (Shahristani, al-Milal wa'n-Nihal, (marginal notes of al-Fisal), I, 47) It is also used in the Quran in this sense: "Many were the Ways of Life that have passed away before you: travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who rejected Truth." (Aal-i-Imran, 3/137). "No turning off wilt thou find in Allah's way (of dealing)" (Fatir, 35/43). The sunnah mentioned in this verse means the way, method determined by Allah in the creation and management of the universe. Since forcing is not in question for Allah, this meaning is given by the word custom in the Islamic thought.
Sunnah means using the way of the Prophet as a base for the formation of the Islamic community, that is, the ummah, and following the way of the group of Companions who follow the way of the Prophet unanimously. What ensures the theoretical and practical formation of the Islamic ummah is the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Allah states in the Quran that it is necessary to be subject to the Prophet and obey him for it: "A similar (favour have ye already received) in that We have sent among you a Messenger of your own rehearsing to you Our signs, and purifying you, and instructing you in Scripture and wisdom, and in new Knowledge " (al-Baqara, 2/151). Purifying mentioned in the verse was interpreted as to learn what is haram and halal from the Quran; wisdom was unanimously accepted as the Sunnah.
The Quran accepts the decree of Allah and the decree of His Messenger as two basics for determining fard and wajib, halal and haram: "The answer of the Believers when summoned to Allah and His Messenger in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say "We hear and we obey": it is such as these that will attain felicity ." (an-Nur, 24/51)
Hz. Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whatever I have commanded you do it, and whatever I have forbidden you, refrain from it." (Muslim, 412, Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 1) To follow the Sunnah is a religious obligation. Ignoring the sunnah by saying the Quran is enough for us is a kind of treason that is the common trait of all groups of bid'ah throughout history. Hz. Prophet (pbuh) ordered us to avoid those people who will emerge in the future and who have no religious worries:"Yet the time is coming when a man replete on his couch will say, 'Keep to the Quran; what you find in it to be permissible treat as permissible, and what you find in it to be prohibited treat as prohibited." Beware! I have been given the Qur'an and something like it." (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 6, Ahmad b. Hanbal, IV, 131).
Imran b. Husayn (r.a.) addressed a man who said, 'the Quran is enough for us; there is no need for the Sunnah' as follows: 'You idiot! Can you find in the Quran the decree that the noon prayer is four rak'ahs and that it is necessary to read the Quran silently? The Quran left many things ambiguous; the Sunnah clarified them.' When Abdullah b. Masud (r.a.) said "Allah damns those who change the form of their nature", a woman asked him, "Does it exist in the Quran?" Abdullah b. Masud said, "Yes, of course. Do you not read the following verse: "So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you '' (al-Hashr, 59/7; Abdullah b. Zayd, Sunnatu'r-Rasul Shaqiqatu'l-Qur'an, p.54).
Hz. Prophet ordered us to follow his Sunnah and his Companions. The Companions are likened to stars that lead people to the true path if they are followed. He said: "Those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. You must then follow my Sunnah and that of the rightly-guided caliphs. Hold to it and stick fast to it. Avoid novelties, for every novelty (bid'ah) is an innovation, and every innovation is an error." (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 5)
The following is stated about the Companions in the Quran: "The vanguard (of Islam)― the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and (also) those who follow them in (all) good deeds― well― pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him: for them hath He prepared Gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever: that is the Supreme Felicity " (at-Tawba, 9/100) That Allah praises the Companions implies that the ummah coming after that needs to follow them and they need to be like them in order to be praised. We also see that the group of Tabiun, the generation after the Companions, are also included among those that Allah praises. The Prophet (pbuh) explains this in a hadith as follows: "The best of my followers are those living in my generation (i.e. my contemporaries) and then those who will follow the latter." (Bukhari, Fadailu's-Sahaba, 1) That the Companions are praised buy Allah and His Messenger and that the generations after that are included in this praise as long as they follow the Companions show that the jama'ah the Prophet advises people to follow in his hadiths is the jama'ah of the Companions and Tabiun.
Hz Prophet (pbuh) said, "I advise you (to follow) my Companions, then the ones following them and then the ones following them. After that, lies will be common." In another hadith, the Prophet says, "Allah's hand of mercy is together with jama'ah." (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 7) That Hz. Prophet (pbuh) advised jama'ah and that the group that would be saved from torture of Hell (firqah an-najiyah) would be jama'ah makes it necessary to determine who is included in it. Hz. Prophet (pbuh) said, "My ummah will be divided into seventy-three groups; all of them are people of Hell except one." When he was asked, who would be in this group, he said, "those who are in my way and in the way of my Companions." In another narration, he said, "jama'ah". Hz. Prophet (pbuh) stated the following in a hadith: "My ummah will not agree on misguidance. When you see a disagreement, I advise you to join the biggest group (sawad al-azam). " (Ibn Majah, Fitan. 8) Sawad al-azam is interpreted as the group that agree on adopting the method of the straight path. (Ibnu'l-Athir, an-Nihaya, II, 419).
Hz. Prophet ordered us to follow jama'ah, sawad al-azam. Jama'ah is the Companions in the first period of Islam and righteous scholars in the periods after that. When Abdullah b. Mubarak was asked who jama'ah was, he said, "Abu Bakr, Umar." When they said they died, he said, "Such and such people." When they said they died, he said, "The jama'ah of Abu Hamza as-Sakkari." (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 7) Imam Tirmidhi states the following: Scholars defined jama'ah as follows: "People of fiqh, people of ilm and people of hadith are jama'ah." (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 7). In this sense, it is not possible for the jama'ah of scholars to deviate. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Indeed, Allah will not gather my Ummah upon misguidance, and Allah's Hand is over the jama'ah, and whoever deviates, he deviates to Hellfire." (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 7)
According to the definition of Shahristani, "jama'ah is a group of people that agree on a sunnah and method unanimously." (Shahristani, al-Milal, 1, 47)
In the history of Islam, the word jama'ah became famous in the year when Hz. Hasan delivered the caliphate to Hz. Muawiya. This year was called "sanatu'l-jama'ah" (year of unity) because it ensured the unity of Muslims. When the Prophet (pbuh) died, the Muslims had a fully secured and organized social structure. However, the incidents that occurred after Hz. Uthman was martyred (d.35/656), caused some new questions to form in the minds of the Muslims. Some Companions were killed and the issue of the caliphate was on the agenda. Issues related to creed like what the state of the Muslims who were killed was and the effect of qadar on these incidents started to be talked about. After the issue of the caliphate between Hz. Ali and Hz. Muawiya and the consequent wars and battles, political conflicts started to occur between the followers of both parties. Jews, Christians and Fireworshippers started to become Muslims; the issues in their cultures; and discussions about their correspondence in the Islamic decrees started. These issues caused big dissensions due to the extremism in the parties. The majority of the Companions followed a moderate way and they tried to maintain the unity of the community by trying not to become an extreme side of the political issues. The first representatives of this group are Abdullah b. Umar (74/693); Ibrahim an-Nahai (96/714); Hasan al-Basri (110/728) and Abu Hanifa (150/767). The first person who spoke as the representative of the views of the central group by expressing his views about the groups that emerged is Hasan al-Basri. He has an important place in the formation of the principles of the ideas and creed of Ahl as-Sunnah. He put forward certain views on the issues of politics and creed of that period. He criticized the Umayyad administrators and stated that it is not appropriate to obey a cruel administrator regarding all issues. "There should be no obedience to a created being if it involves disobedience to the creator" (see Bukhari, Jihad, I; Muslim, Imara, 39; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 40, 87; Nasai, Bia, 34; Ibn Majah, Jihad, 40; A. b. Hanbal, Musnad, I, 94, 409). Acting upon the hadith above, he stated that one does not have to obey the administrator if he ordered something that would necessitate disobeying Allah. (Mas'udi, Muruj adh-Dhahab, 111, 201). Hasan al-Basri stated that it was the duty of the Muslim scholars to warn the administrators and to remind them about hellfire. However, he did not accept to oppose them by the sword (by fighting) and stated the following: If the issues you mention necessitate the torture (penalty) by Allah, people cannot change the penalty of Allah by their swords. If they are trouble, it is necessary to wait for the decree of Allah patiently.
Hasan al-Basri accepts that the authorities might be oppressors and he interpreted the phrase those charged with authority in the verse "Obeythose charged with authority among you" (an-Nisa, 4/59) as scholars by taking into consideration the advice of the Prophet (pbuh) that it is necessary to follow the scholars during the times of mischief. In the periods that followed, the scholars and Islamic jurisprudents determined the spiritual dynamics of the Islamic ummah; and people gathered around them. (Ibn Kathir, Tafsiru'l Qur'an'il-Azim, II, 303). He dismissed Wasil b. Ata, who put forward some new views about the end of those who commit major sins and the issue of qadar, from his assembly of fiqh lessons; he regarded the Kharijites' accusing some Companions of unbelief acting upon the claim that they committed major sins a sign of nifaq (hypocrisy) and refused the group of Ghulat ash-Shia (the extremists who cursed the four caliphs).
The community that followed the state of the Companions before mischief occurred and that adopted the attitude of the majority of the Companions after mischief occurred and after Muslims were divided into sects used the terms Ahl as-Sunnah, Ahl al-Haqq, Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Istiqamah, Ahl al-Hadith, Ahl al-Jama'ah, Ahl al-Hadith was-Sunnah and Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah in order to distinguish themselves from other sects. The person to use the term Ahl as-Sunnah first was Muhammed b. Sirin (d.110/728); the person to use the term "Ahl al-Haqq wal-Jama'ah" first was Abu'l-Lays as-Samarqandi (d.373/898). Beginning from the second century after the Migration, the term started to be used in the form of "Ahl al-Haqq wal-Istiqamah", "Ahl as-Sunnah wan-Naql " and "Ashab al-Hadith". In fact, this community is not a sect; it is the majority that follows the way of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions. In the periods that followed, the term "Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah" became more common and accepted since it contained the common points in the other terms. Ahmad b. Hanbal (241/855) used a similar term: "Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah wal-Athar". (Ibn Abi Ya'la, Tabaqatu'l-Hanabila, Cairo 1952, I, 31). Among the books that are available today, the term "Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah " exists in the book called "Sharhul-Fiqhil-Akbar" by Abu'l-Lays as-Samarqandi (373/898). "Ahl as-Sunnah" emerged as the movement of maintaining the integrity of the ummah and defending the Sunnah after the emergence of bid'ahs and various ideas in religion. Ahl as-Sunnah is a reaction against the sects of bid'ah and a movement of determining their place in religion, determining answers to the religious issues put forward by them and the stance of the Islamic community against bid'ahs.
Hz. Prophet (pbuh) stated the following in a hadith: "The Jews were split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects; and the Christians were split up into seventy-two sects; and my community will be split up into seventy-three sects. All of them are in the fire except one sect. It is jama'ah." (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, I; Tirmidhi Iman, 18; Ibn Majah, Fitan, 17; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 11, 332, 111, 145; Hakim, Mustadrak, IV,430). Hakim says this hadith complies with the conditions of Sahihayn (Bukhari and Muslim). Ten Companions reported this hadith from the Prophet (pbuh). Hz. Abu Bakr and. Hz. Umar stated that Muslims would be divided into such groups. (Baghdadi, al-Farq, p.8.9). As it is stated in the hadith above, Muslims were divided into sects. Hz. Prophet (pbuh) asked his ummah to avoid novelties, that they were bid'ahs and that each bid'ah will lead man to Hell. (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 5). Bid'ahs are the innovations that occurred afterwards and that the Companions and Tabiun did not do and that were not necessitated by religious evidence. A person who has a creed contrary to the creed of Ahl as-Sunnah but who is of Ahl al-Qibla is called a bid'ah person. They are the groups of Jabriyya, Qadariyya, Rafizis, Kharijites, Muattila (Mu'tazila) and Mushabbiha: Each of them is divided into twelve groups. They are seventy-two sects altogether. (Sayyid Sharif Jurjani, at-Ta'rifat, p.40. 43). Bid'ah means to believe in the opposite of the things that are known to come from the Prophet (pbuh). However, it is regarded bid'ah when it originates from a doubt and when it is based on some evidence, not because of obstinacy. Nobody who turns to the qiblah (performs prayers by turning toward the qiblah) can be accused of unbelief. If this opposition is due to an interpretation or doubt, they cannot be accused of unbelief. However, if a bid'ah person insists on believing in a bid'ah despite clear evidence, he exits the religion of Islam. For instance, not to accept resurrection or that the universe was created afterwards. If a person tries to interpret it based on a doubt, he cannot be accused of unbelief even if his doubt is wrong. For instance, the words of those who say it is not possible to see Allah because of His magnificence and glory. Nobody who turns to our qiblah can be accused of unbelief due to a bid'ah that is based on a doubt. However, denying a definite decree of the religion that is accepted among the essentials of the religion is undoubtedly unbelief. For instance, a person who does not believe that this realm was created afterwards and that the dead bodies will be revived exits the religion.
A person who denies the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr and Umar and who curses them does not exit the religion if he does so based on a doubt. A person who claims that Hz. Ali is Allah and that Jibril made a mistake exits the religion. For, it does not emerge from a doubt or ijtihad; it is denial due to his own desires. Ignorant bid'ah people like the group of Mu'tazila who do not accept that there are extra meanings on the attributes of Allah, that torture in the grave and intercession are valid, that those who commit major sins will exit hell and that Allah will be seen are not accused of unbelief but they are regarded to have deviated. For, the evidence of the Quran and sound sunnah regarding the issue is clear but Ahl al-Qiblah are not accused of unbelief. On the other hand, there is consensus that their witnessing is accepted. However, the witnessing of an unbeliever against a Muslim is not valid. The issue of regarding sins as mubah is unbelief is explained as follows: If it is due to obstinacy and without evidence, it is unbelief. Denying due to religious evidence is not excused. Allah knows the hearts of His slaves best. (Ibn Abidin, Raddu'l-Mukhtar, 1, 560, 561). Our belief related to the issues of creed is determined through definite evidence, verses and hadiths; therefore, creed is not an issue of doubt and hesitation. A person who follows a fiqh madhhab should know that a mujtahid may be wrong or right about an issue and another mujtahid may be wrong or right about another issue. However, this decree is not valid related to the issues of creed. It is not possible to say the people of bid'ah may be right or we may be right. Ibn Abidin explains the issue as follows: What is meant by our creed is the issues that are wajib to be believed by every Muslim without imitating anyone. Our creed is the madhhab of Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah. Ahl as-Sunnah are Salafis, Ash'aris and Maturidis. The last two sects are almost the same in terms of creed. There are minor differences related to a few issues. Some say the disagreement between them is related to words. What is meant by our opponents are the bid'ah people whose creed leads to unbelief and whose creed does not lead to unbelief. Examples of bid'ahs that lead to unbelief are stating that the realm was pre-eternal and denying the prophethood of Hz. Muhammad (pbuh). Examples of bid'ahs that do not lead to unbelief are claiming that the Quran is maqhluq (created) and that Allah does not will bad deeds for His slaves. (Ibn Abidin, Raddu'l-Mukhtar, 1, 48, 49,). It is necessary to try not resemble to Rafizis and the people of bid'ah and to oppose them. It is not permissible to resemble the people of bid'ah. It is not appropriate to try to be like them and to imitate their bad states. (Ibn Abidin, Raddu'l-Mukhtar,V, 472).
After explaining these general decrees about the people of bid'ah, we can deal with the issue of the emergence of the sects of bid'ah: Their first emergence is during the caliphate of Hz. Ali.
Shahristani (549/1154) divides Islamic sects into four main groups as Qadariyya, Sifatiyya, Kharijites and Shiites, stating that the seventy-three sects emerged from them. (Shahristani, ibid, 1, 15)
Ibn Hazm (d.457/1065) divides Islamic sects into five as Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah, Mu'tazila, Murjia, Shiites and Kharijites; after stating that Ahl as-Sunnah is the people of the truth and the other as the people of the wrong, he defines Ahl as-Sunnah as the Companions, the notables of Tabiun, the people of hadith and the ones who followed them. (Ibn Hazm, al-Fisal, II, 113).
Kharijites, which emerged as the first bid'ah sect during the caliphate of Hz. Ali, emerged as a political group first. Shiites emerged as a result of the agitations by Ibn Saba of Yemeni, who was a Jew, with the claim of being supporters of Hz. Ali.
The influence of Abdullah Ibn Saba in the first emergence of Shiities cannot be denied. Ibn Saba was a Jew from Yemen. He appeared to be a Muslim in order to destroy Islam from inside in accordance with the plan of Yemen Jews; he tried to put the aberrant views he took from the cultures of Jews and Fireworshippers into Islam. He is the first person to include the concepts of walayah (guardianship), wasayah (successor being appointed by the predecessor), rij'ah (returning of some of the dead people to this world) and divine right. Shiite scholars accept this destruction by Ibn Saba. An- Newbahti, a notable Shiite scholar, is among them.
Related to these incidents that became widespread in the Islamic land beginning from the second century of the Migration, the imams who emerged among these views of politics, religion, creed and fiqh in order to defend the way of Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) and his Companions systematized the creed of Ahl as-Sunnah and struggled against the people of bid'ah. Hasan al-Basri (110/128) is regarded among the first scholars who systematized this movement. It is necessary to regard Abu Hanifa among the pioneers of this school since he manifested the principles of Ahl as-Sunnah creed. Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d.333) and Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d.324), who are Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah scholars known by their different methods from salafis, had a special role in the maturation of the thought that followed the Sunnah.
Political and social conditions also played a role in the emergence of Islamic sects. In certain periods of history, Sunnism, Shiism and Mu'tazila became dominant over the others and each became the official sect of the state at certain periods. This rivalry caused, sectarian bigotry, hostility and conflicts.
In the course of time, some differences of opinion occurred among the scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah. However, the elements that all of them based their views on have been the Quran, the Sunnah and clear and sound mind in compliance with these two resources. There have been some differences of opinion related to details, not main principles. Most of these differences are based on words.
Ahl as-Sunnah was known as Ahl as-Sunnah al-Khassah at first. After that, it became known as Ahl as-Sunnah al-Aammah. In fact those who did not become involved with the issues that were not mentioned by the Quran and the Sunnah and that the Companions and Tabiun did not express their views on and who accepted the verses and hadiths as they were without interpreting them were called Ahl as-Sunnah al-Khassah, Ahl at-Tawhid and Salafiyyah. On the other hand, those who dealt with the issues of creed about which there were no verses or hadiths and no views of the Companions and Tabiun through a new method and interpreted them when it was necessary were called Ahl as-Sunnah al-Aammah, like Ash'ariyya and Maturidiyya (İzmirli İsmail Hakkı, Yeni İlmî Kelâm, p.97).
The scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah, primarily Imam Ash'ari and Imam Maturidi, and the other scholars like Imam Ghazali, Fakhruddin ar-Razi, Saduddin Taftazani, Sayyid Ali al-Jurjani and Ibn Taymiya strengthened the creed of Ahl as-Sunnah with evidences based on both reason and verses and hadiths; they struggled against Mu'tazila and other madhhabs and sects of bid'ah, rejected their ideas that were contrary to the Book and the Sunnah and refuted the aberrant, groundless and wrong views of Aristotle and the Muslim and Greek philosophers who thought like him.
In short, Ahl as-Sunnah is divided into three as Salafiyya, Maturidiyya and Ash'ariyya in terms of method. As it was mentioned above, Salafiyya is the madhhab of those who accept verses and hadiths as they are without interpreting or likening them. For instance, while interpreting the verse "Your Guardian-Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days, then He established Himself on the Throne (of authority)" (al-A'raf, 7/54), Imam Malik writes the following: "Istiwa (establishing) is known; its quality (nature) is unknown. It is bid'ah to ask questions about it." He did not interpret it or liken it to anything. (Qurtubi, Tafsir, V11,217-218) Ahl as-Sunnah al-Aammah, represented by Imam Maturidi and Ash'ari, interpreted the mutashabih (ambiguous) verses with the purpose of freeing Him from being likened to His creatures. For instance, they interpreted the phrase "He established Himself on the Throne" as "He became dominant on the Throne"; they interpreted the phrase Allah's hand as Allah's power and mercy.
There are some disagreements based on words between Maturidis and Ash'aris. The disagreements are said to be between thirteen and fifty. (Bekir Topaloğlu, Kelâm İlmi, 146).
On the other hand, madhhabs are connected with one another in terms of the issues of politics, fiqh and creed. There are different tendencies within the same madhhab. For instance, most of the Sunnis are Hanafi in terms of the issues related to fiqh and deeds. The great majority of Hanafis are Maturidi related to the issues of creed. Among Ahl as-Sunnah, most of Shafiis and Malikis are Ash'ari in terms of creed while Hanbalis are generally Salafi.
Scholars like Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafii, Ahmad b. Hanbal, Maturidi, Ash'ari, Abu Bakr al-Baqillani, Abdulqadir al-Baghdadi, Imamu'l-Haramayn al-Juwayni, Imam Ghazzali, Fakhruddin ar-Razi and Nasiruddin al-Baydawi are among the notables of Ahl as-Sunnah.
Some scholars like Ibn Taymiyya and Ibnu'l-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, who preferred the way of Salaf, tried to revive and spread the madhhab of Ahl as-Sunnah al-Khassah, known as Salafiyya in the last centuries. The majority of the Islamic world follows the madhhab of Ahl as-Sunnah al-Aammah, which is known as Ash'ariyya and Maturidiyya, regarding creed.
According to Abdulqadir al-Baghdadi, Ahl as-Sunnah consists of eight groups:
1- Kalam scholars who do not fall into the errors of ahl al-bid'ah.
2- Great mujtahid fiqh scholars including Thawri, Awzai, Dawud az-Zahiri and their followers.
3- Hadith scholars.
4- Scholars of sarf (morphology), nahw (grammar), lexicology and literature.
5- Imams of qira'ah (reading the Quran) and tafsir scholars who are loyal to the view of Ahl as-Sunnah.
6- Sufis (mystics) who are attached to Shari'ah.
7- Muslim mujahids who do not deviate from the way of Ahl as-Sunnah.
8- The people living in the countries where Ahl as-Sunnah creed is dominant (al-Baghdadi, al-Farq baynal-Firaq, p.313-318; Bekir Topaloğlu, ibid, p.109-110)
Sunnism, which forms the majority of the Islamic world, is not only a name, attribute or madhhab but also a living style, which is applied to life in full compliance with the Book and the Sunnah.
The midway in creed is the way of Ahl as-Sunnah. The main feature of the ummah of Muhammad (pbuh) is moderation. God Almighty states it as follows: "Thus have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced" (al-Baqara: 2/143).
According to a sound narration from Jabir b. Abdullah, the Prophet (pbuh) drew a line on the ground; then, he put his hand on it and said : 'This is the path of Allah. Then he drew lines to its right and to its left. Then, he said, "These are different ways, upon each of which is a devil calling to it. Then, he recited the following verse: "Verily, this is My Way leading straight: follow it: follow not (other) paths " (al-An'am, 6/153) (Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 2; Darimi, Muqaddima, 23; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 1/435). Hz. Prophet (pbuh) pointed at the deviations to the right and left in the religion and stated that the true path was the path of Ahl as-Sunnah in the middle.
Imam Tahawi summarizes the way of Ahl as-Sunnah as follows: This religion is the midway between two extremisms, between denial and embodiment, between pre-determination and determinism, between hopelessness and overconfidence, between fear and hope. Our religion is like that apparently and esoterically. The views of the aberrant ways and rejected madhabs like mushabbiha, mu'tazila, jahmiyya, jabriyya, and qadariyya that opposed Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jamaah were studied by Ahl as-Sunnah scholars and they were given convincing answers based on evidence. (Tahawi, Sharhu Akidati't- Tahawiyya, 586-588).