No Excuse For Being Unaware Of Tenets Of Iman (Belief)

Today, it is not excusable for a person who lives in the free world not to know the six tenets of iman [1] and the well-known fards and harams. It is a grave sin not to learn them. It is necessary to learn them briefly and to teach them to one's children. If one neglects to learn them as a result of flippancy, one becomes a kafir (disbeliever). Any non-Muslim who only says, "'Ashhadu an la ilaha ill'Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan 'abduhu wa Rasuluh," and knows and believes its meaning becomes a Muslim immediately. Yet, later on he has to learn gradually the six tenets of iman and the well known fards and harams [2] for every Muslim, and Muslims who know them should teach him. If he does not learn them he goes out of Islam and becomes a murtadd [3]. It is necessary to learn them from genuine 'ilm al-hal books written by the Ahl as-Sunna [4] scholars.

The i'tiqad [5] or iman of the four true, correct Madhhabs [6] is the same. There is no difference between them in Islam. All of them hold the beliefs of the Ahl as-Sunna. Those who do not believe in the beliefs of the Ahl as-Sunna are called the people of bid'a [7], i.e. the "la madhhabi." They call themselves "members of the fifth madhhab." These words of theirs are not true. There is no such thing as a "fifth madhhab." Today there is no way other than learning the knowledge pertaining to religion from the 'ilm al-hal books of one of these four Madhhabs. Everyone chooses the Madhhab that is easy for him to follow. He reads its books and learns it. He does everything compatibly with it, follows it, and becomes a member of it (taqlid). Because it is easy for a person to learn what he hears and sees from his parents, a Muslim usually belongs to the Madhhab of his parents. The Madhhabs being not one but four is a facility for Muslims. It is permissible to leave one Madhhab and join another, yet it will take years to study and learn the new one, and the work done for learning the former one will be of no use and may even cause confusion while doing many things. It is by no means permissible to leave one Madhhab because one dislikes it, for Islamic scholars said that it will be disbelief (kufr) to dislike the Salaf as-salihin or to say that they were ignorant.

[1] iman: faith, belief, beliefs of Islam; kalam, i'tiqad.
[2] haram: an action, word or thought prohibited by Allahu ta'ala.
[3] murtad: apostate.
[4] Ahl as-Sunna (wa'l-Jama'a): the true pious Muslims who follow as-Sahabat al-kiram. These are called Sunni Muslims. A Sunni Muslim adapts himself to one of the four Madhhabs. These madhhabs are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali.
[5] i'tiqad: faith, iman.
[6] madhhab: all of what a profound 'alim of (especially) Fiqh (usually one of the four-Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, Hanbali) or iman (one of the two, namely Ash-ari, Maturidi) communicated.
[7] bid'at: (pl. bida') heresy; false, disliked belief or practice that did not exist in the four sources of Islam but which has been introduced later as an Islamic belief or 'ibada in expectation of thawab (blessings) ; heresy.