In terms of conviction, there are two schools:
- The Maturidis, founded by Imam Maturidi
- The Ash`aris, founded by Imam Ash`ari
These two schools are essentially one. However, they differ in terms of about forty matters. These differences, however, consist only matters of detail.
The Maturidi School
The founder of the Maturidi school is Abu Mansur Muhammad ibn Mahmud al-Maturidi al-Samarkandi, who is commonly known as Imam Maturidi. He was born in Samarkand in 238 AH.
He was of Turkish origin and was taught by students of al-Imam al-Azam Abu Hanifa. He established a fine link between reason and communication in his works and erected an immovable wall against heretical ideas by training students who were highly devoted to the Ahl al-Sunnah's beliefs. He made a considerable contribution to transmitting the Ahl al-Sunnah's convictions to subsequent generations.
Imam Maturidi is the teacher on matters of faith to all Hanafi Muslims. His school is recognized by many Muslims, especially the Turks. Some of his books have survived to the present day, among them his Kitab al-Tawhid, Ta'wilat al-Qur'an, and Kitab al-Jadal.
Some of the basic tenets that constitute the essence of the Ahl al-Sunnah's belief are:
- Allah's (swt) existence and oneness. We are responsible for having faith in Allah (swt), Whose work is one with His Being. Allah (swt) has attributes that are part of His Divine essence. Allah's attribute of Kalam exists together with His Being.
- Faith consists of confessing belief verbally and accepting in one's heart. Nobody who confesses verbally but rejects this faith in his heart can be considered a believer. The place of faith is the heart, and no one can overcome it once it is fully established therein.
- Just as it is impossible to say that someone who has faith is not a Muslim, it is equally impossible to say that anyone who fulfils all of Islam's tenets is not a believer. Deeds are not part of faith.
- When a person decides to do something, Allah (swt) creates the power for it to be carried out. This created power accompanies the action. The resulting action causes the person to become worthy of receiving a reward or a punishment, depending on the underlying intention.
- Such serious sins as adultery, murder, or drinking alcohol do not remove a Muslim from the fold of Islam. Whoever commits such sins will be forgiven if he repents.
- Our Prophet (saas) will intercede for those people who belong to his community, even for those who have committed serious sins. This is a grace from Allah (swt).
The Ash`ariyyah School
Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari, the founder of this school, was born in Basra in 260 AH. He studied with Abu `Ali al-Jubba'i, a Mu'tazili scholar, until he was forty years old.
Imam al-Ash'ari wrote several books aimed at Mu'tazilah, who were Ahl al-Bid`ah (people of [un-Islamic] innovation), philosophers, naturalists, atheists, Jews, and Christians. The first two of his works that come to mind are the Risalat al-Iman and the Maqalat al-Islamiyyin. Some twenty of his works have come down to us. It is said that he performed the morning prayer for twenty years while in the same state of ablution with which he had performed the night prayer. He died in Baghdad in 324 AH.
Some members of the Shafi`i and Maliki schools of thought are linked to the Ash`ariyyah in terms of creed. The Ash'ari school is widely accepted, especially in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt.
The views of Imam al-Ash`ari are very important in forming the Ahl al-Sunnah's creed. Apart from the subject of free will, there was no great difference of opinion with al-Maturidi. Some of al-Ash`ari's tenets are as follows:
- The reckoning in the grave (adhab al-qadr), the gathering of humanity on the Day of Resurrection (hashr), and as-sirat (bridge) and al-mizan (just balance) are true. The Qur'an is a miracle in terms of its literary style. No one can compose an equivalent document.
- It is essential that the Prophet (saas) performs miracles. Awliya can also exhibit wonders (karamat). Prophets perform their miracles to draw the people toward their superior nature. A wali, on the other hand, must not attain superiority and must conceal his karamat.
- Anyone who received Allah's (swt) revelation through an angel and performs miracles that seem to violate the laws of nature is a nabi.
- By the will of Allah (swt), the Prophet (saas) will intercede on the believers' behalf. Also, it is permissible for believers to see Allah (swt), the One and Incomparable, in the Hereafter. He sends good and evil to humanity, creates the deeds that they perform, and bestows upon people the necessary power to perform an action.