Imam Tahawi’s al-Aqidah, representative of the viewpoint of ahl-al-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah, has long been the most widely acclaimed, and indeed indispensable, reference-work on Muslim beliefs. Being a text on Islamic doctrines, this work draws heavily on arguments set forth in the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah. Likewise, the arguments advanced in refuting the views of sects that have deviated from the Sunnah are also taken from the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah.
It contains references to views of the Shi’ah, Khawarij and such mystics that had departed from the right path. There is an explicit reference in the work to the non-sensical controversy on khalq-al- Qur’an in the times of Ma’mun and some other ‘Abbasid Caliphs. While the permanent relevance of the statements of belief in al-Aqidah is obvious, the historical weight of these statements can only be properly appreciated if the work is used as a study text under the guidance of some learned person able to highlight its arguments fully. Such a study will help one understand Islamic doctrines better and avoid deviations.
Imam Tahawi, born in Egypt, is among the most outstanding authorities of the Islamic world on Hadith and fiqh (jurisprudence). He lived 239-321 A.H., an epoch when both the direct and indirect disciples of the four Imams – Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal – were teaching and practicing. This period was the zenith of Hadith and fiqh studies, and Imam Tahawi studied with all the living authorities of the day. He began as a student of his maternal uncle, Isma’il bin Yahya Muzni, a leading disciple of Imam Shafi’i. Instinctively, however, Imam Tahawi felt drawn to the corpus of Imam Abu Hanifah’s works. Indeed, he had seen his uncle and teacher turning to the works of Hanafi scholars to resolve thorny issues of Fiqh, drawing heavily on the writings of Imam Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani and Imam Abu Yusuf, who had codified Hanafi fiqh. This led Imam Tahawi to devote his whole attention to studying the Hanafi works and he eventually joined the Hanafi school.