Categories of Faith Explained by Imam al-Ukbari



There are three forms of faith that separate mankind between atheists and theists: Between polytheists and monotheists, and between ahlu-sunnah and ahlul-kalam

The great scholar Ibn Battah al-Ukbari al-Hanbali 387h says about this topic in his work الإبانة عن شريعة الفرقة الناجية (2/172-173) the following in this regard

وذلك أن أصل الإيمان بالله الذي يجب على الخلق اعتقاده في إثبات الإيمان به ثلاثة أشياء: أحدها: أن يعتقد العبد ربانيته؛ ليكون بذلك مبايناً لمذهب أهل التعطيل الذين لا يثبتون صانعاً. والثاني: أن يعتقد وحدانيته؛ ليكون بذلك مبايناً لأهل الشرك الذين أقروا بالصانع وأشركوا معه في العبادة غيره. والثالث: أن يعتقده موصوفاً بالصفات التي لا يجوز إلا أن يكون موصوفاً بها من العلم والقدرة والحكمة وسائر ما وصف به نفسه في كتابه. إذ قد علمنا أن كثيراً ممن يقر به ويوحده بالقول المطلق قد يلحد في صفاته فيكون إلحاده في صفاته قادحاً في توحيده. ولأنا نجد الله تعالى قد خاطب عباده بدعائهم إلى اعتقاد كل واحدة من هذه الثلاث والإيمان بها. فأما دعاؤه إياهم إلى الإقرار بربانيته ووحدانيته فلسنا نذكر هذا هاهنا لطوله وسعة الكلام فيه، ولأن الجهمي يدعي لنفسه الإقرار بهما وإن كان جحده للصفات قد أبطل دعواه لهما

And this is because the foundation of faith in Allah whose belief is obligatory upon the creation in affirmation of belief in Him is [comprised of] three things:

The first of them: That the slave believe in his Rabaniya -[his Lordship over all creation] so that by this he (the human) separates from the doctrine of the negators who do not affirm a maker (creator).

And the second: That he believes in his Wahdaniya -[his sole right to be worshipped] so that by this he separates from the people of shirk who affirm the Maker (Creator) but they associated others with Him in worship.

And the third: That he believes Him be to be described with [such] attributes which are not permitted except for Him to be described with, such as Knowledge (ilm), Power (qudrah), Wisdom (hikmah) and all of what He has described Himself with in His Book.

Since we know that many of those who affirm Him (in His Rabaniya) and single Him out [in His Wahdaniya] with a generalized saying, but who deviate in [the subject of] His Attributes, and thus his deviation in the Attributes is damaging to His Tawhid. And also because we find that Allah, the Most High, has addressed His slaves by inviting them to have belief in all of these three types and to have faith in them.

As for His inviting them to affirm His Rabaniya (Lordship) and His Wahdaniya (sole right to be worshipped alone), then we shall not mention this here due to its length and the vastness of the speech regarding it. And also because the Jahmee claims the affirmation of them both for himself, even if his denial of the Attributes invalidates his claim regarding them both.”

Disclaimer. These are by no means solid divisions by which a violator of one is only mistaken in one aspect of faith. This is just a general distinction.

Al-Ukbari uses the faith of Rabaniya to distinguish two types of people. The atheist and a theist. A theists consist of two types of people. A monotheist (muwahid) and a polytheist (mushrik).

An atheist is generally not moved by proofs of wahdaniya or sifat. Their problem is in His Rabaniya and thus Allah dedicates only one ayah to such people, and it is an ayah regarding the root of Rububiya.

Al-Ukbari, continues to use Wahdaniya, which is essentially uluhiya, to distinguish now between the theists among humankind. Thus the faith of Wahdaniya distinguishes the mushrik from the muwahid. THIS DOES NOT MEAN that the atheist is not a mushrik. Rather the specification is more to do with ibadah. Hence one reason for the disclaimer above. The atheists has no ibadah. All theists typically have ibadah as ibadah is the lazim of the belief in theism (god). Thus the mushrik’s problem is in ibadah. Rububiya is only used as an argument to the Mushrik to conduct the logic against him that your claim to the Creator of all things SHOULD lead you to Wahdaniya in your ibadah. You find many Quranic ayah arguing with this line of reasoning to these mushriks who for the most part are theists. Some were atheists, but the bulk of quraysh were theists mushrikin. Theism meaning the belief in a Creator. This belief IS NOT to be called tawhid of Rabaniya (Rububiya).

Al-Ukbari then continues towards the faith of what is essentially Sifat. Here, this typically falls under the category of monotheists. However, this is not absolute. Hence the disclaimer. There are proven ayat that the mushriks also violated or disbelieved in aspects of Sifat of Allah Azawajal. However, generally speaking, the bulk of dialectic discussions under this category is normally taken up between monotheists. Thus the distinction here is between ahlu-sunnah and ahlul-kalam. Ahlu-sunnah being the affirmers, preservers of the sanctity of Sifat, and its most knowledgeable of the creatures to speak on it, Ahlul-kalam are their antithesis. Those who speak about Allah without knowledge via t’awil, tahrif, t’atil, or tamdhil

Keep in mind this is the 3rd Islamic century in which this elaboration by al-Ukbari is being made. He is considered a scholar OF the salaf (not the salaf) which means that his views are a byproduct of his teachers before him. Also keep in mind who he identifies as a jahmi for the actual group known as the jahmiya have been extinct over a century and a half before his time and the m’utazilah have also become extinct likewise a century before him.