Aqeedah عقيدة refers to those matters which are believed in, with certainty and conviction, in one’s heart and soul. They are not tainted with any doubt or uncertainty.
The Arabic word ‘aqeedah stems from the root ‘aqada, which conveys meanings of certainty, affirmation, confirmation, etc. In the Qur’aan, Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"Allaah will not punish you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He will punish you for your deliberate oaths (bimaa ‘aqqadtum al-aymaan)…" [al-Maa’idah 5:87]
The verb paraphrased here as "deliberate oaths" is ‘aqqada/ta’qeed, which refers to when one has determination in the heart. It may be said in Arabic, ‘aqada’l-habl (the rope was tied), i.e., it was pulled tight together. The word i’tiqaad (belief) is also derived from this root, and has the meaning of tying up and making strong. The phrase a’taqadtu kadhaa (I believe such and such) means: I am convinced of it in my heart; this is a rational conviction.
In Islam, ‘aqeedah is the matter of knowledge. The Muslim must believe in his heart and have faith and conviction, with no doubts or misgivings, because Allaah has told him about ‘aqeedah in His Book and via His Revelations to His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
The principles of ‘aqeedah are those which Allaah has commanded us to believe in, as mentioned in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
"The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allaah, His Angels, His Books and His Messengers. They say, ‘We make no distinction between one and another of His Messengers’ – and they say, ‘We hear, and we obey. (We seek) Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the return (of all).’" [al-Baqarah 2:285]
- and as defined by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in the famous hadeeth which describes how Jibreel came to him and asked him about Islam etc.: "Eemaan (faith) is to believe in Allaah, His angels, His Books, the meeting with Him on the Last Day, His Messengers, and the Day of Resurrection."
So in Islam, ‘aqeedah refers to the matters which are known from the Qur’aan and sound ahaadeeth, and which the Muslim must believe in his heart, in acknowledgement of the truth of Allaah and His Messenger.
The entire universe, in the way it is created and the way it is controlled, bears witness to the oneness of Allaah:
“Surely, His is the creation and commandment. Blessed is Allaah, the Lord of the ‘Aalameen (mankind, jinn and all that exists)! [al-A’raaf 7:54 – interpretation of the meaning]
The creation of the heavens and the earth, the alternation of night and day, the different kinds of inanimate objects, plants and fruits, the creation of humans and animals… all of that indicates that the Almighty Creator is One with no partner or associate:
“That is Allaah, your Lord, the Creator of all things, Laa ilaaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). How then are you turning away (from Allaah, by worshipping others instead of Him)? [Ghaafir 40:62 – interpretation of the meaning]
The variety and greatness of these created things, the perfect way in which they are formed, the way in which they are maintained and controlled, all indicate that the Creator is One and that He does as He wills and rules and decides as He wants:
“Allaah is the Creator of all things, and He is the Wakeel (Trustee, Disposer of affairs, Guardian) over all things”[al-Zumar 39:62 – interpretation of the meaning]
All of the above indicate that this universe has a Creator, that this dominion has a Sovereign, that behind these forms is One Who gives them shape:
“He is Allaah, the Creator, the Inventor of all things, the Bestower of forms. To Him belong the Best Names” [al-Hashr 59:24 – interpretation of the meaning]
The soundness of the heavens and the earth, the order of the universe, the harmony among created things, all indicate that the Creator is One, with no partner or associate:
“Had there been therein (in the heavens and the earth) aalihah (gods) besides Allaah, then verily, both would have been ruined. Glorified be Allaah, the Lord of the Throne, (High is He) above all that (evil) they associate with Him!” [al-Anbiya’ 21:22 – interpretation of the meaning]
These great created things either created themselves – which is impossible – or man created himself then created them – which is also impossible:
“Were they created by nothing? Or were they themselves the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, but they have no firm Belief”[al-Toor 52:35-36 – interpretation of the meaning]
Reason, Revelation and the original state of man (fitrah) all indicate that this universe has One Who brought into being, that these created things have a Creator Who is Ever-Living and Eternal, All-Knowing and All-Aware, Powerful and Almighty, Kind and Most Merciful. He has the Most Beautiful Names and Sublime Attributes and He knows all things. Nothing is beyond His control, and there is nothing like unto Him:
“And your Ilaah (God) is One Ilaah (God — Allaah), Laa ilaaha illa Huwa (there is none who has the right to be worshipped but He), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful [al-Baqarah 2:163 – interpretation of the meaning]
The existence of Allaah is something that is there is no excuse for not knowing. It is the matter of common sense: “Their Messengers said: What! Can there be a doubt about Allaah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth?”[Ibraaheem 14:10 – interpretation of the meaning]
Allaah has created people with the natural instinct (fitrah) to affirm His Lordship and Oneness, but the shayaateen (devils) came to the sons of Adam and caused them to deviate from their religion. According to a hadeeth qudsi, “I created all My slaves as haneefs (monotheists), but the shayaateen (devils) came to them and made them deviate from their religion, and they forbade them that which I had permitted to them.” (Narrated by Muslim, no. 2865)
Among them are those who deny the existence of Allaah, and those who worship the Shaytaan, and those who worship man. And there are those who worship the dinar [money], or fire, or genital organs, or animals. And there are some who associate in worship with Him a stone from the earth or a star in the sky.
These things which are worshipped instead of Allaah, cannot create or provide; they cannot hear or see, or bring benefits or cause harm. So how can they worship them instead of Allaah?
“Are many different lords (gods) better or Allaah, the One, the Irresistible?”[Yoosuf 12:39 – interpretation of the meaning]
Allaah has condemned those who worship these idols which cannot hear, see or think: “Verily, those whom you call upon besides Allaah are slaves like you. So call upon them and let them answer you if you are truthful. Have they feet wherewith they walk? Or have they hands wherewith they hold? Or have they eyes wherewith they see? Or have they ears wherewith they hear?” [al-A’raaf 7:194-195 – interpretation of the meaning]
“Say (O Muhammad to mankind): ‘How do you worship besides Allaah something which has no power either to harm or benefit you? But it is Allaah Who is the All‑Hearer, All‑Knower” [al-Maa'idah 5:76 – interpretation of the meaning]
How ignorant man is of his Lord Who created him and provides for him. How he rejects Him and forgets Him, and worships others instead of Him:
“Verily, it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts which are in the breasts that grow blind” [al-Hajj 22:46 – interpretation of the meaning]
Glorified be Allaah far above that which they associate with Him. Praise be to Allaah the Lord of the Worlds:
“Say (O Muhammad): Praise and thanks be to Allaah, and peace be on His slaves whom He has chosen (for His Message)! Is Allaah better, or (all) that you ascribe as partners (to Him)?” (Of course, Allaah is Better).
Is not He (better than your gods) Who created the heavens and the earth, and sends down for you water (rain) from the sky, whereby We cause to grow wonderful gardens full of beauty and delight? It is not in your ability to cause the growth of their trees. Is there any ilaah (god) with Allaah? Nay, but they are a people who ascribe equals (to Him)!
Is not He (better than your gods) Who has made the earth as a fixed abode, and has placed rivers in its midst, and has placed firm mountains therein, and has set a barrier between the two seas (of salt and sweet water)? Is there any ilaah (god) with Allaah? Nay, but most of them know not!
Is not He (better than your gods) Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls on Him, and Who removes the evil, and makes you inheritors of the earth, generations after generations? Is there any ilaah (god) with Allaah? Little is that you remember!
Is not He (better than your gods) Who guides you in the darkness of the land and the sea, and Who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His Mercy (rain)? Is there any ilaah (god) with Allaah? High Exalted be Allaah above all that they associate as partners (to Him)!
Is not He (better than your so‑called gods) Who originates creation, and shall thereafter repeat it, and Who provides for you from heaven and earth? Is there any ilaah (god) with Allaah? Say: ‘Bring forth your proofs, if you are truthful’”[al-Naml 27:59-64 – interpretation of the meaning]
When an individual pronounces the testimony: "Ash-hadu allaa ilaaha illallaah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadar- Rasullullaah" (I testify that there is no god worthy of worship except Allaah and I testify that Muhammad is His Messenger), believing in it and acting upon it, he experiences a noticeable change in his life.
By understanding who his Lord is as well as the purpose of his creation, he will be able to achieve success in this life and the next. This success emanates from the following points:
1- A believer in this testimony can never be narrow in outlook. He believes in Allaah, Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Master of the universe and its Sustainer. After this belief, he does not regard anything in the world as a stranger to himself. He looks on everything in the universe as belonging to the same Lord he himself belongs to. Allaah Almighty Says (what means): "Say (O Muhammad): 'To whom belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth?' Say: 'To Allaah.'" [Quran 6:12]
His sympathy, love and service are not confined to any particular sphere or group. His vision is broadened, his intellectual horizon widens, and his outlook becomes as liberal and as boundless as is the Kingdom of Allaah. How can this width of vision and breadth of mind be achieved by an atheist, a polytheist or one who believes in a deity supposed to possess limited and defective powers like a man?
2- This belief produces in man the highest degree of self-respect and self esteem. The believer knows that Allaah Alone is the Possessor of all power, and that none besides Him can benefit or harm a person, or provide for his needs, or give and take away life or wield authority or influence. This conviction makes him indifferent to, independent on, and fearless of all powers other than those of Allaah. He never bows his head in homage to any of Allaah's creatures, nor does he stretch out his hand before anyone else. He is not overawed by anybody's greatness. This attitude of mind cannot be produced by any other belief.
3- Along with self-respect, this belief also generates in man a sense of modesty and humbleness. It makes him unostentatious and unpretending. A believer never becomes proud, haughty or arrogant. The boisterous pride of power, wealth and worth can have no room in his heart, because he knows that whatever he possesses has been given to him by Allaah, and that Allaah can take away just as He can give. In contrast to this, an unbeliever, when he achieves some worldly merit, becomes proud and conceited because he believes that his merit is due to his own worth. In the same way, pride and self-conceit are a necessary outcomes and concomitants of 'Shirk' (association of others with Allaah in worship), because a polytheist believes that he has a particular relation with deities, which does not exist between them and other people.
4- This belief makes man virtuous and upright. He has the conviction that there is no other means of success and salvation for him except purity of soul and righteousness of behavior. He has perfect faith in Allaah Who is Above all needs, is related to none and is absolutely Just. This belief creates in him the consciousness that unless he lives rightly and acts justly, he cannot succeed. No influence or underhand activity can save him from ruin.
As to those who do not believe that there is any Being having power over them, to whom they should be responsible for their good or bad actions; therefore, they consider themselves independent to act in whatever way they like. Their own fancies become their gods and they live like slaves of their wishes and desires. Allaah states in the Quran (what means): "Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allaah, knowing (him as such), left him astray, and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart, and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allaah? Will you not then remember?" [Quran 45:23]
5- The believer never becomes despondent. He has a firm faith in Allaah Who is The Master of all the treasures of the earth and the heavens, Whose grace and bounty have no limit and Whose power is infinite. This faith imparts to his heart extraordinary consolation, fills it with satisfaction and keeps it filled with hope. Although he may be met with rejection from all sides in this world, faith in and dependence on Allaah never leave him, and on that strength he goes on struggling. Such profound confidence can result from no other belief than belief in Allaah Alone.
Atheists have small hearts; in the sense that they depend on limited abilities; therefore, in times of trouble they are soon overwhelmed by despair and, frequently, they commit suicide.
The testimony of Prof. Joad is also very explicit on this point. He writes about the West: "For the first time in history there is coming to maturity a generation of men and women who have no religion, and feel no need for one. They are content to ignore it. Also they are very unhappy, and the suicide rate is abnormally high." [C. E. M. Joad. The Present and Future of Religion, quoted by Sir Arnold Lunn., And Yet So New, London, 1958, p. 228]
As to the world of Islam, let the views of a non-Muslim historian, not in any way being sympathetic to Islam, be read with profit:
"In this uncompromising monotheism, with its simple and enthusiastic faith in the supreme rule of a transcendent being, lies the chief strength of Islam. Its adherents enjoy a consciousness of contentment and resignation unknown among followers of most creeds." [Suicide Is Rare in Muslim Lands] (Phillip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 1951, p.129)
6- This testimony of faith inspires bravery in man. There are two things which make a man cowardly: (a) fear of death and love of safety, and (b) the idea that there is someone else besides Allaah who can take away life, and that man- by adopting certain devices- can ward off death. Belief in 'Laa ilaaha illallaah'' blocks and drives away both these ideas. The first idea goes out of his mind because he knows that his life and his property and everything else really belong to Allaah, and he becomes ready to sacrifice his all for the pleasure of Allaah. He gets rid of the second idea because he knows that no weapon, no man or animal has the power of taking away his life; Allaah alone has the power to do so. A time has been ordained for him, and all the forces of the world combined cannot take away anyone's life before that time.
It is for this reason that no one is braver than the one who has faith in Allaah. Nothing can daunt him: not even the strongest tempest of adversity and the mightiest of armies.
7- The belief in 'Laa ilaaha illallaah' creates an attitude of peace and contentment, purges the mind of jealousy, envy and greed, and keeps away the temptations of resorting to base and unfair means for achieving success. The believer understands that wealth is in Allaah's hands, and He apportions it out as He Wills; that honor, power, reputation and authority - everything - is also subjected to His Will, and He bestows them as He Wills; and that man's duty is only to endeavor and to struggle fairly.