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Creed

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Creed

    The Islamic creed, called aqidah, as found in the Qur'an is very simple. It consists of the five articles of faith: belief in God, angels, prophets, scriptures, and the Last Day (or Day of Judgment). These concepts were developed in more detail over the centuries. The first, third, and fifth articles—belief in God, his prophets, and the Last Day—are the principle articles of the aqidah. The second article—belief in angels as the servants and worshippers of God—evolved to correct the pre-Islamic notion that angels were the daughters of God. The fourth—belief in scriptures—is an important supplement to the belief in God's prophets. Thus, the belief in God, his prophets, and the Day of Judgment constitute the essential belief system of Islam.

    More elaborate statements of the Islamic creed developed because of internal and external conflicts in the early Muslim community. As questions concerning the beliefs arose, scholars began to produce creeds aimed at correcting errors and clarifying ideas. For example, questions arose as to whether faith and behavior are inseparably linked or if faith alone is crucial to salvation. Would a Muslim who commits a grave sin automatically cease to be a Muslim? If faith is sufficient for salvation, is the importance of deeds diminished?

    The argument between the Sunni and Shi'i communities about the proper succession of imams also contributed to the elaboration of the creed. In Shi'i doctrine, God alone chooses the imam. In Sunni doctrine, the Muslim community elects the imam. Other writings on the Islamic creed address such questions as the difference between God's attributes and God's being, divine justice, and free will.

    Over time, Muslim scholars adapted doctrinal writings to address issues from Greek philosophy and from Christian theology. By the middle of the 800s, various schools of legal thought began to develop around particular teachers who held slightly different views about Muslim beliefs and practices. Among the most influential of these was Abu Hanifah (died 767 ), whose Al-fiqh al-akbar I is considered the first formal statement of the Islamic creed. See also Abu Hanifah ; Ibn Hanbal ; Jafar al-Sadiq ; Law; Malik ibn Anas ; Qur'an; Shafi'i; Wahhabi.

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