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The Preservation and Transmission of the Islamic aqidah by the Salaf
The last of the Companions lived until the end of the first century, with Anas bin Malik (d. 93H) and Abu Tufayl Amir bin Wathilah (d. 110H) being from the last of Companions to pass away. During this time the Taabi'een (those born after the Prophet and who took knowledge from the Companions) inherited the knowledge from the Companions in the issue of belief (aqidah, Eemaan), fiqh (jurisprudence), hadeeth, tafseer (exegesis of the Qur'an) and they also witnessed the position taken by the Companions towards the sects of the Khawaarij, Raafidah, Qadariyyah. They would acquire and narrate knowledge from the Companions, seeking the hadeeth of the Messenger (alayhis salaam) and the knowledge of the deen upon the understanding and explanation of the Companions.
From the prominent amongst this generation of Taabi'een include:
It was during this time that the Taabi'een learned the care that began to be taken in accepting and transmitting knowledge. This was because of the tribulations that occurred from the major sects of innovation that appeared, at the head of them the Khawaarij, after the murder of Uthmaan (radiallaahu anhu), and the removal of trustworthiness and the spread of lying, and seeking of narrations out of support for the innovated sayings (of the Khawarij, Raafidah, Qadariyyah and Murji'ah), and so on. And it is here we understand the sayings of some of the likes of Ibn 'Abbaas and the prominent taabi'een.
Muslim brings in his Saheeh that Bushayr al-Adawee came to Ibn Abbaas and began to narrate to him, and he did not give permission for that, and when Bushayr enquired as to why, Ibn Abbaas said:
When we used to hear a man say: 'The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said..', our eyes hastened to him, and we turned our ears to him. But when the people traversed difficulty and humiliation, we did not take from the people except what we already knew (from the Prophet).
There is the famous statement of Muhammad bin Seereen (d. 110H), brought by Imaam Muslim in the introduction to his Saheeh compilation:
لم يكونوا يسألون عن الإسناد فلما وقعت الفتنة قالوا : سموا لنا رجالكم ، فيُنْظَرُ إلى أهل السنة فيُؤْخذ حديثُهم ، ويُنْظَر إلى أهل البدعة فلا يؤخذ حديثهم
They never used to ask about the isnaad (chain of narration). Then when the fitnah occurred, they said: Name us your men (i.e. narrators). Then it would be look towards Ahl us-Sunnah and their hadeeth would be taken. And it would be look at towards Ahl ul-Bid'ah and their hadeeth would not be taken.
And ad-Daarimee brings in his Sunan, the saying of Abu al-Aaliyah:
كنا نسمع الرواية بالبصرة عن أصحاب رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - فلم نرض حتى ركبنا إلى المدينة فسمعناها من أفواههم
We used to hear a narration in Basrah (being narrated) from the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), and we were not satisfied until we travelled to Madinah and heard it from their mouths (directly).
So in this period, care was taken in accepting narrations and transmitting narrations.
It was also in this period (the turn of the century) that the heads of innovation, al-Ja'd bin Dirham (ex. 124H), al-Jahm bin Safwaan (ex. 128H), Waasil bin Ataa (d. 131H), and Amr bin Ubayd (d. 144H) were present, and they were the founders of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah respectively, who adopted some of the usool of the innovations (Khawaarij, Qadariyyah, Murji'ah) and adding their own innovations, increasing the tribulation.
When these factions emerged, it was the Taabi'een, who having inherited that knowledge from the Companions, safeguarded the truth, preserved it, transmitted it, and spoke against these heads of innovation.
So amongst them in this era:
And these Scholars and Imaams of the Muslims spoke against the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah and the various sects. They transmitted the Prophetic Sunnah and they preserved the aqidah from the various falsehoods.
Then came the third century and from the great Imaams and Scholars of the Sunnah were:
These were the great scholars who authored works, compilations of ahaadeeth, refutations and had much speech against the sects of innovation and deviation, and thus they preserved and transmitted the Islamic aqidah in their works, much of which was in the form of preserving the Prophetic Sunnah.
There Will Always Be Scholars Upon the Manifest Truth, the Pure Islamic aqidah, and the Upright Deen
In the time when the erosion and the pollution of the Islamic aqidah took place, Allaah, the Most High, mobilized the prominent firmly-grounded Scholars from those who came after the Companions to refute the innovators and deviants and to safeguard and preserve His religion, and indeed the Prophet (alayhis salaam) said in the hadeeth that is reported by both al-Bukhaaree and Muslim in their two Saheehs:
لا تزال طائفة من أمتي قائمة بأمر الله لا يضرهم من خذلهم ولا من خالفهم حتى يأتي أمر الله وهم ظاهرون على الناس
There will not cease to be a group from my Ummah, establishing and abiding by Allaah's order(s). They will not be h armed by those desert them or who oppose them until Allaah's order comes about and they have ascendancy over the people.
This group is no doubt the Companions of Allaah's Messenger, for they are the saved group (al-Firqat un-Naajiyah), as has preceded in the hadeeth previously quoted regarding the splitting of the Ummah, and they are also the aided group (at-Taa'ifat ul-Mansoorah) mentioned in the above hadeeth, and they are also the people of hadeeth (As.haab ul-Hadeeth), and they are the people of the prophetic way and the united body (Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah) - all of these terms are synonymous and in their origin, apply to the Companions of Allaah's Messenger, and thereafter, their successors, then their successors, then their successors and whoever followed them upon the truth, up until the Day of Judgement.
Compilation and Authoring of the Books of aqidah
During this period of 300 years after hijrah, there were tremendous efforts by the great Imaams mentioned earlier, especially in the field of authorship, compilation of the Hadeeth, preservation of the Sunnah, corroboration of the Islamic aqidah and refutation of innovation and falsehood. The following list mentions either the names of books that were authored or those about whom it is documented and recorded that they did author books, but which have been lost or have not reached us. From these books are those which simply compiled and documented the creed of the Companions and their followers and from them are those which were dedicated to refuting the sayings of the heretics and innovators:
Further, the compilers of the six books of hadeeth, then none of them were upon the usool of any of the innovators, rather they were the followers of the Sunnah, and took their creed from what they compiled of the Prophetic Sunnah. They included within their works specific books and chapters in refutation of the groups and sects of innovation, such as the Khawaarij, Raafidah, Qadariyyah, Murji'ah, Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah and others. These Imaams of Hadeeth were: Imaam al-Bukhaaree (d. 256H), Imaam Muslim (d. 261H), at-Tirmidhee (d. 274H), Abu Dawud (d. 275H), Ibn Maajah (d. 273H) and an-Nasaa'ee (d. 303H).
And the Imaams of the four schools of fiqh, Abu Haneefah (d. 150H), Imaam Maalik (d. 179H), Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee (d. 204H) and Imaam Ahmad (d. 241H) were upon the aqidah of the Salaf. And likewise the author of the tafseer of the Qur'an by way of the Prophetic ahaadeeth, by the mufassir, Ibn Jareer at-Tabaree (d. 310H) was upon the aqidah of the Salaf.
The Truth is Found in Every Age and the People of Truth are United Irrespective of Time, Era and Place
Read this mighty statement from Abu al-Qasim al-Asbahani (d. 535H) (rahimahullaah) as found in al-Hujjah Fee Bayaan il-Mahajjah (2:224-225):
And from what shows that the people of hadeeth [adhering to the Prophetic traditions in all affairs of the religion], they are the people of truth is that if you were to peruse all of their authored books, from their first to their last, the old and the recent, despite the variation in their cities [of residence] and their eras [in which they lived], and the [great] distance between them in their lands, with every single one of them residing in [his own] region amongst the regions, you will find them to be upon a single method, [in unison], upon a single way, traversing with it upon a path that they do not divert from, they do not incline [to anything else] whilst upon it. Their saying in that [path] is one, their action is one. You will not see difference between them, nor separation in anything, even if it may be insignificant. Rather, if you were to gather what has been [stated] upon their tongues, from that which they narrated from their predecessors, you will find as if it has come from a single heart, and has been [stated] upon a single tongue. And is there any evidence for the truth more clear than this?
The aqidah is the Foundation of Unity
From what has preceded it should be abundantly clear that the true basis of unity is that very same pristine pure aqidah that brought together and united the hearts of the Companions (radiallaahu anhum). Any call to rectification or any da'wah that is based upon other than this foundation, or ignores this foundation, or wishes to unite Muslims whilst the foundations of the house have huge cracks and splits and flaws is greatly misguided in his or her action, and is attempting to achieve the impossible.
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