0801-Outline of Introductory Courses on Islam: Islam as Aqidat and Shariat

Paper written by Dr Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. MB ChB(MUK), MPH (Harvard), DrPH (Harvard) Professor of Epidemiology and Islamic Medicine at the University of Brunei and Visiting Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Malaya. WEB: http://omarkasule.tripod.com. EM: omarkasule@yahoo.com.


The following outline should be presented as an overview in the first level course (Islam 101). More advanced courses should take up and expand on the various themes. The outline reflects the author’s 3 decades of field experience in presenting Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims. The lesson learned from that experience is that the best way of presenting Islam is to present it as ‘aqiidat islamiyyat (Islamic creed), and shari’at islamiyyat (Islamic Law). Islam should not be presented as a culture because there is a lot of diversity in cultural expression. The essence of Islam will be lost in the diversity of cultures. Islam should also not be presented as history because history is human experience of Muslims down the centuries that may not fully reflect the essence of Islam. Islam should be presented from its original sources and areas of difference with modern European thought should not be glossed over but should be highlighted because in the end proper understanding of what Islam is will be the basis for building positive relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. Presenting Islam from its essence as a creed and as Law will also enable non-Muslims to realize that the negative image of Islam by the actions of a few misguided Muslims are not from the essence of Islam.


1.0:  AL ‘AQIIDAT AL ISLAMIYYAT (The Islamic creed):

1.1 The mainstream ‘aqiidat

The presentation of main stream ‘aqiidat covers definition and description of usuul al ddiin (the three fundamentals of Islam) which are: Islam, Iman, and Ihsan. This is followed by explaining in detail the concept and practice of tauhid (monotheism) which is the basis for Islamic civilization, culture, and thought. Other major concepts to be covered under ‘aqiidat are: risaalat (the message including angels, prophets and the scriptures), aakhirat (eschatology), qadar (pre-determination), and khalq (creation or cosmogony). This should then be followed by clarification of the concepts of ithm (sinning), dhulm (transgression), kufr (denial), shirk (polytheism or worship of anything else beside(s) God). Islamic ‘aqiidat is very simple and easy to understand and would take a few hours to present. Unfortunately because of a lot of confusions that arose over the centuries we will need to spend more time clarifying the confusions about the ‘aqiidat than the time we spend explaining the ‘aqiidat.


1.2 Jadal (purposeless argumentation) and Milal (other religions)

Two aspects that are not part of mainstream ‘aqiidat should be taught in detail to enable understanding of what are wrongly perceived as doctrinal differences among Muslims and Muslim antipathy to other faiths. Islam has a uniform creed with no sects or denominations; the differences and groupings found in Islam arise as political differences or as a result of jadal (purposeless argumentation) which is incidentally encouraged by the freedom of thought that Islam gives its followers since it has no priesthood. Presentation of Muslim view of other faiths should be based on accurate sources from those faiths and pointing out the differences or agreements with Islam.


Presentation of jadal should point out deviations from mainstream ‘aqiidat and should cover the groups in the following different areas of argument: the Shia doctrine of imaamat, doctrines of different groups of Shia[1], existing ideologies of ancient groups that are extinct[2], Sufi ideology, Sufi terminology[3], and Sufi fraternities[4] (5) the ideology of the mainstream ahl al sunnat wa al jama ‘at[5],  groups considered by the majority of Muslims to be outside the fold of Islam[6], philosophers or mutakallimuun[7] (7) philosopher- mysticists[8].


Comparative study of Islam and other faiths will essentially consist of looking at their ideologies from the Islamic tauhidi perspective. The study should cover the following religions and philosophies: (1) Religions of West Asian origin: yahuudiyyat (Judaism), nasraniyyat (Christianity), and majuusiyyat (Zoroastrianism). (2) Religions of South Asian origin: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Brahmanism. (3) Geographical religions: Roman religion, Greek religion, Freemasonry, Neopaganism, Shinto, Voodo etc (4) Main concepts of European philosophies such as secularism, empiricism, existentialism, materialism, positivism, rationalism, utilitarianism, socialism, communism, etc  (5) Chinese philosophies: Confucianism and Taoism.  


Presentation of Islamic Law should start by presenting the sources of the Law, masadir al shari’at; purposes of the Law, maqasid al shari’at; and principles of the Law, qawa’id al shari’at. It should also give a brief overview of the main legal manuals, kutub al fiqh, in Islam according to the 5 schools of Law (Maliki, Hanafi, Shafe’e, Hanbali, and Ja’afari). The following practical aspects of the Law can then be presented: (1) fiqh al ‘aadaat (activities of daily living): taharat & salat, saum, zakat, hajj, reproduction, personal and environmental hygiene, foods and drinks, sleep and activity. (2) fiqh al jama’at (community institutions & functions): al bayt (the family), al masjid (the mosque), ukhuwwat (brotherhood), takaful (social mutual self help), and shuura (mutual consultation). (3) fiqh al mu’amalaat al madaniyyat: munakahaat (marriage), talaaq & fasakh (divorce and annulment); & mawariith (inheritance). (4) fiqh al mu’amalaat al maaliyyat (financial transactions): buyuu’u (sales), quruudh (personal loans), sharaakat (joint investments); awqaaf & hibat (endowments and gifts). (5) fiqh al mu’amalaat qadha’iyyat (judicial transactions): jinaayaat(crimes), da'wa & shahadat (pleas & evidence,); qadha & ‘uquubat (judgment, conviction, and punishment).


[1] For example: Zayidiyyah, Ithna ‘ashariyyat / Twelvers, Ismailis / Seveners, Khoja, Kisaniyyat, Nusairiyyah etc

[2] For example: Khawarij, Mu’utazilat, Murji’iyat, Batiniyah, and Dahriyyah

[3] For example: baqa, dervish, dhikr, fana, haqiqah, mujahadah, murid, mushahadat, shath, tariqah

[4] For example: Qadiriyyah, Rifa’iyyah, Sa’adiyah / Jibawiyah, Suhrawardiyah, Kubrawiyah, Shaadhiliyah, Bektashiyah, Mawlawiyah, Naqshambaniyyah, Muridiyyah, Ahmadiyyah / Badawiyyah, Chishtiyyah, Tijaniyyah, Muridiyyah, Sanusiyyah, Dasuqiyyah, Shattariyah,

[5] Maturdiyah and Asha’ariyyat

[6] For example: Druze, Bahai, Ahmadiyyah, Bahaism

[7]  For example: al Kindi, Abubakar al Razi, al Farabi, Ibn sina, al Ghazzali, Ikhwan al Safa, ibn Bajjah, ibn Tufayl, ibn Rushd

[8] For example: al Shuhrawardi, ibn Arabi, and ibn Farid, Nasir al ddin al Tusi, Mir Damah, Mulla Sadr, Jalal al ddiin al Rumi, Mahasibi, al Hallaj, al Sha’rani, etc)

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. January, 2008