What is the teaching of Ahlu Sunnah?

There are different sects and groups in Islam. The splits have caused the real followers of the Prophet (ﷺ) and his companions the need to distinguish themselves. This was done by the name Ahlu Sunnah or Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah.

Ahlu Sunnah and Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah refer to the same group. These are the followers of the Prophet (ﷺ) and his Companions, who follow them according to the understanding of the pious predecessors.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: "Benu Israel split into 72 sects, and my Ummah will split into 73 sects. They are all in the fire except one."
Abdullah bin 'Amr then asked, "And who is that O Messenger of Allah?" He (ﷺ) said: "Whoever follows me and my companions." Sunan Tirmidhi 2641
Classified as Hasan by Tirmidhi.

The teachings of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah are written in the books of the pious predecessors. The teachings has been spread by the Companions, Tabi'in (students of the Companions) and Atba Tabi'in (followers of the Tabi'in).

Ahlu Sunnah take the middle ground in Islam. They evade extremism from both sides. This by living the true teachings and refraining from newly invented matters.

This group is a small part of the Ummah. It has been the majority of the Ummah before the innovations spread. Since there are different sects in Islam (73 sects), this makes the minority.

Awza'ee (a student of the Tabi'in) said: “Islam will not disappear, but it is Ahlu Sunnah that will disappear to the point that as many as one person will remain per country.” (Sharh Usool I'tiqaad #19 by Imam Lalikaee)

Sufyan ath-Thawri (a student of the Tabi'in) said: “Take good care of the followers of Ahlu Sunnah, for they are strangers. The numbers of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah are few." (Sharh Usool I'tiqaad 1/64 of Imam Lalikaee)

It is true that Islam does not focus on numbers. A person can also simply be on the truth if he is alone on it. The Jama'ah, which refers to the community (or body of Muslims) that follows truth, does not need to consist of large numbers.

Ibn Mas'oud radiyAllahu 'anhu said: "The Jama'ah is where the Haqq (truth) is, even if you are alone." (Sharh Usool I'tiqaad 1/122 no.160)

Nu'aym ibn Hammad said: "If the community gets corrupt, you must stick to the practice before it got corrupt. Even if you are alone, you would be the Jama'ah." (Sunan Tirmidhi 4/467)

Other names of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah

The terms Ahlu Sunnah and Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah denote the same group. This group is the saved sect of the Ummah who follow the Prophet and his Companions.

  • Ahlu Sunnah (the group that follows the Sunnah)
  • Ahl Hadith (the group that clings to Hadith)
  • Ahl Athaar (the group that clings to the Athaar (Sayings of the Salaf Saliheen))
  • Al-Firaqatu An-Naadjiyyah (the rescued group)
  • At-Taaifa Al-Mansoora (the conquering group)

The origin of the term

After the Prophet's death (ﷺ) gradually more and more innovations spread in the Ummah. People started following their leaders, community and acquaintances. In this way the Ummah became divided into different sects. For example, think of the Khawarij, Shiism, Murjiah and more.

The right path was endangered as the truth became less and less seen. So the companions, their students, and their students distinguished themselves from others who followed innovation.

The pious predecessors were careful who they spoke to and distinguished themselves by the name Ahl Sunnah, Ahl Sunnah wal Jama'ah and others.

The term Ahlu Sunnah was used by Companion Ibn 'Abbas (radiyAllahu 'anhu) among others, as reported in books of Aqeedah.

Ibn 'Abbas (companion) said: “Concerning the verse, 'On that Day some faces will be bright, while others will be gloomy.' [Al-Imran: 106]. Those whose faces will shine on the Day of Judgment is Ahlu Sunnah. Those whose faces will be gloomy is Ahl Bid'ah/Ahl Dalala (Dalala = error)." (Sharh Usool I'tiqaad 1/72 of Imam Lalikaee)

The followers of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah

Because many associate themselves with the group, confusion can arise as to who actually is truthful. Ahl Sunnah is a group that addresses the Sunnah, according to the understanding of his Companions.

So whoever follows the Sunnah according to the understanding of the Companions belongs to Ahlu Sunnah. In this context the word Sunnah is referred to the matters of Aqeedah. The followers of Ahlu Sunnah are Sunnis (strict followers of the prophetic traditions). Sunnism strictly adheres to the original and traditional way of Islam.

Many call themselves Sunnis without living according to its creed. It is therefore important to know that one cannot be a follower of Ahlu Sunnah until its teachings are followed.

Following the Salaf Saliheen focuses on the understanding of Companions (Sahaba), their students (Tabi'een) and their students (Atba Tabi'een). Following them is essential in Sunnism, and whoever follows the Salaf is known as a Salafi.

Representatives of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah

The pious predecessors have done much to protect the true path of innovations. They are the Muslim scholars who have ensured that the correct understanding was guarded. They passed on the Prophetic traditions to spread the Sunnah from generation to generation.

Some of the well-known scholars:
  • Malik bin Anas (Imam Malik)
  • Al-Awzaa'ee
  • Sufyan Al-Thawri
  • Sufyan ibn 'Uyaynah
  • 'Abdullah ibn Mubarak
  • Fudhayl ​​ibn 'Iyaadh
  • Muhammad ibn Idris Al-Shafi'i (Imam Shafi'i)
  • Ahmad bin Hanbal (Imam Ahmad)
  • Al-Qasim bin Sallam
  • Ishaq ibn Rahawayh
  • Mohammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari (Imam Bukhari)
  • Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (Imam Muslim)
  • Abu Dawud as-Sijistani (Imam Abu Dawud)
  • Abu 'Isah Al-Tirmidhi (Imam Tirmidhi)

Do you recognize some names from the list? There are many more pious predecessors who have guarded the path of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah.

Books according to Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'ah

The pious predecessors have written books on Aqeedah and Fiqh. These books contain the correct Islamic knowledge of Islam. As stated in Sahih Bukhari, the best generations are the first three generations of Islam.

Below you will find some books of the pious predecessors in which Aqeedah has been covered. It is essential for every Muslim to learn Arabic to read these books.

A selection from the books of Ahlu Sunnah:
  • Kitaab Al-Emaan of Abu 'Ubayd al-Qaasim ibn Salaam (d.224 Hijri)
  • Kitaab Al-Emaan of Ibn Abi Shaybah (d.235 Hijri)
  • Usool Sunnah of Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.241 Hijri)
  • Khalq Af'al al-'Ibaad of Bukhari (d.256 Hijri)
  • As-Sunnah of Abu Bakr al-Athram (d.261 Hijri)
  • As-Sunnah of Abdullah ibn Ahmad (213-290 Hijri)
  • As-Sunnah of Abu Bakr al-Khallal (235-311 Hijri)

Abu Athari writes about basic principles within Islam. He uses his critical and well-researched way to spread knowledge of the first three Muslim generations.

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