The Twenty Fundamental Principles of Understanding Islam

The 20 Usul

Imam Hasan ibn Ahmed adb al-Rahman al-Banna said:

l. Islam is a comprehensive system which deals with all spheres of life. It is a state and a homeland (or a government and an Ummah). It is morality and power (or mercy and justice). It is a culture and a law (or knowledge and jurisprudence). It is material and wealth (or gain and prosperity). It is (Jihad) and a call (or army and a cause). And finally, it is true belief and worship.

2. The glorious Qur’an and the purified tradition (Sunnah) of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are the references of every Muslim for the realization of the rules of Islam. The Quran can be understood according to the principles of the Arabic language without affectation or controversy, and the Sunnah can be acquired by reference to the trustworthy transmitters of Hadith (collected sayings of the Prophet).

3. True belief, proper worship, and Jihad in the Way of Allah have light and warmth that Allah casts in the hearts of whomever He chooses from among His servants. But inspirations, notions, revelations, and visions are not authentic references for Islamic Law, and therefore should not be given any consideration except when they do not conflict with the authentic references and established principles of Islam.

4. Talismans, incantations, geomancy, gnosis, fortune telling, arrogation of knowledge of the unseen, and similar practices are all detested atrocities that must be fought, except what is mentioned in the Qur’an or transmitted to us as an authentic incantation of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

5. The opinion of Imam or his deputy is acceptable in matters which are of proven benefit to the public, provided that his opinion does not conflict with any established principle of Islam. In this regard, the opinion of the Imam is allowed to marginally differ from similar preceding rulings by virtue of changing circumstances, customs, and conventions of the society.

6. The opinion of everyone except the infallible Prophet (peace be upon him), is liable to changes and modifications. All that has reached us of the opinions and rulings of the righteous early Muslims is acceptable to us as long as it is in agreement with the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In case of disagreement, the Book of Allah and the practice of His Apostle are more deserving of our adherence. However, we do not criticize or attack any of those individuals who were in disagreement, since we do not know what their intentions were nor the circumstances that necessitated their decision.

7. Every Muslim who reaches the level of understanding the arguments of legal deduction and jurisprudence is encouraged to investigate the works of the four great Imams of Islamic jurisprudence and see which of them attracts him most. With the help of the arguments of that Imam and the proven opinions of trustworthy workers of his own age, he should be able to increase his knowledge of Islamic Law and find the Islamic solutions to the contemporary problems of his society. Those Muslims who are unable to do so are advised to exert the necessary efforts to acquire such a level of understanding.

8. Differences in opinion regarding secondary matters should not be allowed to cause division, contention, or hatred within the ranks of the Muslims. To every seeker of knowledge is a reward. In cases of disagreement, however, there is no harm in objective scientific investigation in an atmosphere of love (for the sake of Allah) and cooperation with the aim of realizing the truth. Fanaticism, obstinacy, and controversy have no place among true Muslims.

9. Wasting time and effort in investigating trivial matters that will not lead to action is prohibited in Islam. This category includes debating minute aspects of rulings in cases which have never occurred, investigating the meaning of the Qur’anic verses which are still beyond the scope of human knowledge (the mutashabihat verses), and differentiating between the companions (Sahabah) of the Prophet or investigating the instances of disagreement that took place among them. Every Sahabi (may Allah be pleased with them all) has the honor and distinction of being a companion of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), and to each is the recompense of his motives.

10. Recognizing Allah’s existence (may He be exalted), believing in His oneness, and glorifying Him are the most sublime beliefs of Islam. We believe in the Qur’anic verses and authentic traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which describe the exalted attributes of Allah and glorify His name. We also believe in the allegorical (mutashabihat) Qur’anic verses, which serve this same purpose, without rejecting any part of them or attempting to interpret them on our own. We stand aloof from the disagreement which exists among the theologians concerning these verses; we are satisfied with adopting the attitude of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions: “And those who are established in knowledge say: ‘We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord.”

11. Every innovation introduced by the people into the Religion of Allah on the grounds of their whims and without authentic foundation, whether by adding to the principles of Islam or taking from them, is considered a serious deviation from the path of truth and must therefore be fought and abolished by the best means which do not lead to worse deviations.

12. There is a difference of opinion regarding innovations which do not contradict established Islamic principles, such as praising Imams and religious figures with pronouncements of their credibility and binding people to acts of worship left open to one’s choice. We adopt what can be confirmed by sound evidence.

13. Love of pious people, respecting them, and honoring their righteous achievements brings one closer to Allah (may He be exalted). However, one should not extend this to other than the favorites of Allah who are described in the Qur’anic verse: “those who believed and were fearful of Allah”. Honor and prestige are due to them with the conditions prescribed in the Islamic Law, but we must firmly believe that they (may Allah be pleased with them) had no power over their own fates and, thereby, cannot avail or harm anyone after their death.

14. Visiting grave sites and tombs is an authentic Sunnah if done in the manner prescribed by the Prophet (peace be upon him) But seeking the help of the dead, whomever they may be, appealing to them, asking them to fulfill certain requests, vowing to them, and swearing with their names instead of the name of Allah are all gross atrocities that must be fought, no matter what the excuses are. Building high tombs, covering them with curtains, illuminating them, and throwing one’s body on them are evil innovations that are equally prohibited.

15. There is a difference of opinion regarding the use of the names of the favorites of Allah in supplication. However, this is a matter of secondary importance and does not pertain to the fundamentals of the Islamic beliefs.

16. Erroneous practices of the people should be restrained irrespective of the names or titles under which they may be disguised. If something contradicts an Islamic principle in its essence, it should be opposed without regard to what people call it. In Islam, consideration is given to the significance and meaning of appellations and not to the appellations themselves.

17. Belief is the basis of action. Sincere intentions are more important than good actions with bad or no intentions. However, the Muslim is urged to attain improvement in both spheres: purification of the heart and performance of righteous deeds.

18. Islam liberates the mind, urges contemplation of the universe, honors science and scientists, and welcomes all that is good and beneficial to mankind: “Wisdom is the objective of the believer. Wherever he finds it, he is more deserving to it.”

19. Islamic principles may be evident or uncertain, as are pure scientific principles. The evident principles of the two classes will never conflict; that is, it is impossible for an established scientific fact to contradict an authentic Islamic principle. However, this may happen if one or both of them are uncertain. If one of them is uncertain, then it should be reinterpreted so as to remove the contradiction. If both are uncertain, then the uncertain Islamic principle should be given precedence over the uncertain scientific notion until the latter is proven.

20. Never label as an unbeliever (kafir) any Muslim who has confessed the two declarations (shahadah) of faith, acts accordingly and performs the obligatory (fard) duties of Islam unless he clearly professes the word of unbelief, refuses to acknowledge a fundamental principle of Islam, belies the verses of the Qur’an, or commits an evident act of unbelief. If you, dear brothers, understand your religion according to these twenty principles, then you will have perceived the meaning of your slogan: “The Qur’an is our constitution, and the Prophet is our model”.

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