Recently I was asked to give a talk on ʿaqīdah. I turned it over and over in my mind and after thinking it through I asked to speak on a different topic. ʿAqīdah is the foundational study of creed or faith, and while I find my faith deeply rooted in my mind and heart, I didn’t think that I had a whole hour of things to say about it. My faith is summed up in the hadith of the Prophet (s) when a companion asked, “Tell me something in Islam which I will not ask anyone other than you,” and he (s) replied:
“قُلْ: آمَنْت بِاَللَّهِ ثُمَّ اسْتَقِمْ”
“Say: I believe in God, and then be upright.”
In this straightforward guidance, I find enough to believe in, both intellectually and practically, to carry me through my life. I believe in Allah, the Creator of the universe, Who is greater and more glorified than anything we can fathom. He has created this world and everything in it so that we may believe and worship Him alone and praise Him. We are His representatives on this earth (khalīfah) and during our stay here we should do good, avoid bad, and improve the Earth and life upon it as much as we can. Simple.
I did not realize what a huge blessing the straightforward simplicity of our faith was until recently, when I attended an interfaith dialogue with a group of Muslim and Christian students, all training to become religious leaders. All good people, all striving to do good in this world and avoid evil, all working to uplift their communities and support the people under their care. With one huge difference: unity of faith. A question was asked during the dialogue, “What do you have holy envy for?” As in, what part of the other faith tradition do you wish that yours shared? The Christian students noted first and foremost our straightforward and unifying creed.
I was floored. I never imagined anyone to describe the Muslim ummah as unified in today’s world. With differences of madhāhib and differences of opinions in matters big and small, from the amount of water needed for wuḍūʾ, to the moon sighting versus calculation marathon every Ramadan, to the way we determine the qiblah or wear our hijab.
Despite all these differences, I find myself today praising Allah for that first pillar in Islam that unites us all, which we learn so early on. “Lā ilāha illā Allāh”, and “Qul huwa Allāhu Aḥad” are the first things our toddlers learn to say even before attending the masjid halaqah or Sunday school. It does not need a conference to discuss and explain, nor a new creed to write, nor a course to teach. Just “lā ilāha illā Allāh” and be good. So today I hold tightly, and a little more gratefully, to the rope of “lā ilāha illā Allāh”, reveling in the blessing that is our unity. Despite all the differences of opinions in practice, in faith we stand united.
Director of Education