Imaam al-Barbahaaree’s “Explanation of the Creed” Part 1

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Imaam al-Barbahaaree’s “Explanation of the Creed”

His name is al-Hasan bin ‛Alī bin Khalaf al-Barbahāree, may Allaah’s mercy be upon him. He was from the major scholars of ahlus-Sunnah of his time, an Imaam of the Hanbalee scholars. He was born in the year 253AH, and died in 329AH. He acquired knowledge from a group of the senior companions of Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal (died 241AH, rahimahullaah) such as: Abu Bakr al-Marroodhee (d. 275AH), Sahl bin Abdullaah at-Tustaree (d. 283AH) and others. From his students: Ibn Battah and Abu Bakr al-Qaadi. The following is the first installment of the serialization of the explanation of his tremendous work “Sharhus-Sunnah” (Explanation of the Creed), annotated by the great scholar, Shaikh Saalih al-Fawzaan.

Explanation of the Creed

By Imaam al-Barbahaaree (died 329H). Explained by Shaikh Saalih al-Fawzaan in “It-haaf al-Qaaree bit-Ta’leeqaat ‘alaa Sharhis-Sunnah.”

Part 1, p. 39.

Introduction to the book by the Explainer: The Noble Shaikh, the Scholar, Sālih al-Fawzān

All praise is due to Allāh, Lord of the worlds – may the salutations of Allāh and His peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad, upon his family and his Companions.

The author of this book is al-Barbahāree, and his name is: al-Hasan bin ‛Alī bin Khalaf al-Barbahāree, this title being an affiliation to “Barbahār” which is a type of medicine [1], so perhaps he used to work in the field of medicines or would sell it. He was from the major Hanbalee scholars taking knowledge from those who studied under Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal, such as al-Marroodhee [2] and others. He studied thoroughly, and delved deeply into knowledge. He acquired the ‛aqīdah, fiqh and other knowledge from the great scholars [3].

The title of the book is “Sharh as-Sunnah”, (The Explanation of the Sunnah) . The intent of the term Sunnah here is The Path of the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam). The intent here is not that of the terminology employed by the Scholars of Hadīth who state: “The Sunnah is whatever is affirmed upon the Prophet from his statements, actions or tacit approvals.” Rather the intent is more general, that being: The Path of the Messenger, the Path of his Companions and the Path of the Pious Predecessors (as-Salaf as-Sālih) – and this is the Sunnah that has been transmitted and passed down, whether it be in belief, in worship, in fiqh, or in manners and etiquette. All of this is referred to as the Sunnah in a general sense.

Occasionally the author may make mention of affairs connected to fiqh such as wiping over the socks during wudhoo and  the [forbiddance of] temporary marriage for the purpose of refuting the misguided sects in these affairs. He may repeat and reiterate certain affairs for the purpose of emphasis or relevance or further elaboration, or another knowledge-based purpose. So in general it is a beneficial book.

What follows is a mention of its importance from the aspect of its age. It is from the books of the Pious Predecessors of old who lived in the era of the Great Imāms, who took knowledge from them and transmitted their pure ‛aqīdah.

The word, “Explanation..” in the title of the book means “Clarification”. It does not mean that al-Barbahāree is about to explain a specific book, or to write a commentary on a book. Rather its meaning is that he is making clear the Path of the Sunnah – this is the meaning of the title Sharh as-Sunnah.

The early scholars would entitle the books of belief “Sunnah” such as this book, or such as as-Sunnah of Imām Ahmad, as-Sunnah of his son ‛Abdullāh, as-Sunnah of al-Athram, Sharh Usool I‛tiqaad ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā‛ah of al-Lālikā’ee.

Likewise they were entitled “al-Īmān”, so some books would have chapters entitled Kitāb al-Īmān, such as is present in Sahīh al-Bukhāree and Muslim. They would include into their works chapters entitled, Kitāb al-Īmān, placing therein affairs specific to the ‛aqīdah: Belief in Allāh, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, the Pre-Decree, its good and evil.

Other books were entitled “ash-Sharī‛ah” such as ash-Sharī‛ah of Imām Ājurree ash-Shāfi‛ee. Others were entitled, “at-Tawhīd” such as Kitāb at-Tawhīd of Ibn Khuzaimah and the well-known books of Tawhīd. And they were also named “al-‛Aqīdah” which is the firm belief of the heart, by way of which one practices the Religion.

There is no differing [in subject] in these titles – these are merely different names for the same thing. There is no contention concerning these names. If the intent is known then there is no differing. So this is mere terminology and each term has its perspective, so even though the words differ, the meaning is the same.

As for those who reject this and say: “The terms ‛aqeedah and tawhīd have no evidence to support their usage – these terms are not found in the Qur’ān or the Sunnah.”

This is a doubt they put forth wishing to eradicate the ‛aqeedah – so they brought about this speech so as to remove the distinction between the Sects of Misguidance and the Sect that is upon the Straight Path – and this distinction enrages them.

Due to this they do not refute the people of falsehood – and this is the actual intent of the educated ones from amongst them. And as for the riff-raff and rabble who take from the cesspits of thinking, then they merely echo this foul speech as occurs in some newspapers and that which is referred to as ‘authorships’!

So it is not permissible for one to pay attention to these doubts and this skepticism.

So this is something that the Ummah was accustomed to, and would give importance to – distinguishing between truth and falsehood and between guidance and misguidance. However these opposers have an intent in what they say – they wish to blend all the people together into one melting pot, so that there is no longer a difference between a godless person, an atheist, a heretic, an upright believer and an innovator! They all come under the banner of Islaam for the purpose of uniting the Muslims, as they claim!

So we say to these claimants: The Muslims will never be united except upon a correct common belief, i.e. one ‛aqeedah. It was the ‛aqeedah that united the Companions whilst before they were a divided people, just as Allāh, the Most High, stated:

“And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers.” Āli ‛Imrān, 103

And what was it that united the Companions after they were divided and split except this ‛aqeedah that encompasses the meaning of the words  lā ilāha illallāhu, Muhammadun Rasoolullāh, i.e. “There is nothing worthy of worship in truth except Allāh and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allāh”?!

So nothing will unite the people except the correct and sound belief – and as for those who differ with each other in their beliefs, then they will never be united, ever.

As for differing in the affairs of juristic opinion in how to perform outward acts of worship (fiqh) where there is a possibility of understanding the proofs differently, then this does not harm unity and does not cause division and enmity. This is due to the fact that these variant juristic conclusions (ijtihād) are tolerated. As for differing in ‛aqeedah then it is not tolerated [in the Religion]. People who differ in the ‛aqeedah will never be united, ever, regardless of how hard they try, because in essence they are attempting to unite opposites, and it is not possible to unite opposing and contradictory affairs.

So if they truly wish to unite the Muslims together, then they are duty-bound to correct the ‛aqeedah first. Indeed the Messengers of Allāh, from the first of them till the last, gave utmost attention to it and would begin their call with it. So upon them is to be upon a united ‛aqeedah first and foremost. So if the ‛aqeedah is united, then the Ummah will be united – this of course if they are serious and true in their claim. However these individuals mock and belittle those who speak concerning the ‛aqeedah and call to the sound ‛aqeedah. They proclaim: “Look at him declaring the people to be unbelievers! He wishes only to divide the Muslims,” and other similar accusations.

So we say: You will never be able to unite the Muslims upon other than the correct ‛aqeedah. If the  ‛aqeedah is united, then the people will be united easily:

“It is He who supported you with His help and with the believers, and brought together their hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have brought their hearts together; but Allah brought them together. Indeed, He isExalted in Might and all-Wise.” Al-Anfāl, 62-63

“And remember the favor of Allah upon you when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” Āli ‛Imrān, 103

So nothing gathers the people together upon unity except the correct and sound ‛aqeedah which all the Messengers of Allāh came with, from the first of them till the last of them, the seal of them, Muhammad (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam):

“And We sent not before you any messenger except that We revealed to him that: There is no deity except Me, so worship Me.” Al-Anbiyā’, 25

“And indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so fear Me.” Al-Anbiyā, 52

They will not be united except upon the worship of one Lord and He is Allāh (B) – and because He is the True Lord, and others besides Him are false:

“That is because Allah is the Truth, and that which they call upon other than Him is falsehood, and because Allaah is the Most High, the Grand.” Al-Hajj, 62

So this is the point of unity of the Muslims if they are truthful. They will correct and rectify their ‛aqeedah, negating from it deviations and alien notions.

It is this that the Salaf such as al-Barbahāree and others intended in the authorship of these treatises and books, i.e. clarification of the correct belief.

When tribulations struck, and splitting and misguidance came about, they penned these works explaining the Sunnah that Allāh’s Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam), his Companions and the early virtuous generations were upon. Whoever adheres to it will be saved, and whoever opposes it is destroyed. About this Allāh’s Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam) said:

«I have left you upon clear proof, its night is like its day.» [4]

Allāh (the Most High) states:

“This day those who disbelieve have despaired of [defeating] your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islaam as religion.” Al-Mā’idah, 3

So this is what gathering together and being united is dependent upon. As for it being said: “We unite upon that which we agree, and we excuse each other in that which we disagree.”

So this is impossible to apply in matters of belief (‛aqeedah). However if differing occurs in fiqh [5] and affairs of fiqh where there is a possibility of conclusions, then this is tolerated with the proviso that it is still incumbent to follow the proofs – and this is even in affairs of fiqh, as Allāh (the Most High) has stated:

“And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allaah and the Messenger.” An-Nisā’, 59

So division of the Muslims does not come about due to them differing in affairs of fiqh in which it is possible to have an alternative understanding. For this reason within the ranks of Ahlus-Sunnah there is the Hanafee, the Mālikee, the Shāfi‛ī, and the Hanbalee. And they did not differ [in the ‛aqeedah] and all praise is due to Allāh, nor separate from each other. This is because the differing amongst them was ijtihād in fiqh, i.e. striving to reach the correct juristic opinion – each one having a viewpoint and evidences that could be used as support. As for the ‛aqeedah, then in their ‛aqeedah they were as one! The Hanbalees, the Shāfi‛ees, the Mālikees and the Hanafees have one ‛aqeedah, even though amongst their followers there are those who oppose them in the ‛aqeedah. And this opposition is found in the Hanbalees, and in the Hanafees, and in the Shāfi‛ees, and in the Mālikees. There is found amongst them those who oppose the ‛aqeedah of the Imāms. They ascribe only to the fiqh of the Imāms, and as it relates to the ‛aqeedah they oppose them. So these people are not to be counted as followers of those Imāms because they follow them in an affair (i.e. in fiqh) yet they oppose them in an affair that is more important than that (i.e. the ‛aqeedah). So they are not considered as followers of these Imāms whilst they oppose them in the ‛aqeedah.

This is what Allāh guided to by way of the Scholars such as al-Barbahāree and others in describing and illustrating the Straight Path as taken from the Book of Allāh, the Sunnah of His Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam) and the guidance of the Salaf so that the Muslims may proceed upon it. And this is from sincere advice and sincerity to Allāh (the Most High), His  Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam), His Book, to the Muslim Rulers and the general folk.

If the affair [of ‛aqeedah] had been taken lightly and had not been clarified and these works not been authored, then many people would have gone astray. So these authored works, and all praise is due to Allāh, are a blessing from Allāh (the Most High) and a proof from Allāh  upon His creation:

“That those who perished would perish upon evidence, and those who lived [in faith] would live upon evidence.” Al-‘Anfāl, 42


[1] See al-Ansāb of as-Sam‛ānee (1/307).

[2] He is Ahmad bin Muhammad bin al-Hajāj bin ‛Abdul-‛Azīz Abu Bakr al-Marroodhee. Ibn Abī Ya‛lā stated: “His mother was a Marroodhiyyah and his father was Khawāzimee (in lineage). He was foremost from the students of Ahmad bin Hanbal in piety and virtue. Our Imām was friendly with him, delighting in his companionship – he took charge of his scabbards when he died and he washed him for the funeral. He narrated from Ahmad plentifully.” Al-Marroodhee died in the year 275H. Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah (1/56), Siyar A‛lām an-Nubalā’ (13/173).

[3] Refer to his biography in Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah of Ibn Abī Ya‛lā (2/18), Siyar A‛lām an-Nubalā’ (15/90).

[4] Reported by Imām Ahmad in al-Musnad (4/126), Ibn Mājah in his Sunan (1/16 no. 43), Ibn Abī ‛Āsim in as-Sunnah (no. 49), Abu Nu‛aīm in al-Mustakhraj ‛alā Sahīh Muslim (1/36-37), al-Hākim in al-Mustadrak ‛alās-Sahīhayn (1/175), and other than these. It is narrated from al-‛Irbād bin Sāriyah (I). Abu Nu‛aīm said: “This hadīth is jayyid (good) from the sahīh hadīth of the people of Syria.” Al-Hākim stated: “This hadīth has been declared sahīh.” Al-Munziree stated in at-Targhīb wat-Tarhīb (1/47): “It’s chain of narration is hasan (good).”

[5] T.N. Differing in fiqh here refers to matters of jurisprudence connected to the outward acts of worship in which the Salaf may have differed, and not to the matters of the fundamentals (‘usool). The Companions and those who followed them from the great Imāms did not differ in the fundamentals, whether in belief, statement or action.

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