The Faith Of The Ahl As-sunna (Part 1)

Imam Muhammad al-Ghazali (rahmatullahi 'alaih) writes in his book Kimya-i Sa'adat: When someone becomes a Muslim, it will primarily be fard [1] for him to know and believe in the meaning of the phrase La ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammadun Rasul-Allah. This phrase is called the kalimat at-tawhid. It is sufficient for every Muslim to believe without any doubt what this phrase means. It is not fard for him to prove it with evidence or to satisfy his mind. Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) did not command the Arabs to know or to mention the relevant proofs or to search and clarify any possible doubts. He commanded them to believe only and not to doubt. It is enough for everybody also to believe superficially. Yet it is fard kifaya [2] that there should exist a few 'alims in every town. It is wajib [3] for these 'alims (scholars) to know the proofs, to remove the doubts and to answer the questions. They are like shepherds for Muslims. On the one hand, they teach them the knowledge of iman [4], which is the knowledge of belief, and, on the other hand, they answer the slanders of the enemies of Islam.

Qur'an al-karim stated the meaning of the kalimat at-tawhid and Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) explained what is declared in it. All the Sahabat al-kiram [5] learned these explanations and conveyed them to those who came after them. The exalted scholars who conveyed to us what the Sahabat al-kiram had conveyed, by committing them to their books without making any alterations in them, are called the Ahl as-Sunna [6]. Everybody has to learn the i'tiqad [7] of the Ahl as-Sunna and to unite and love one another. The seed of happiness is in this i'tiqad and in this unification.

[1] fard: an act or thing that is commanded by Allahu ta'ala in the Qur'an al-karim. Fard (or fard) means (any behaviour or thought or belief which is) obligatory. Islam's open commandments are called fard (pl. faraid).
[2] fard kifaya: fard that must be done at least by one Muslim in a community.
[3] wajib: (act, thing) never omitted by the Prophet, so almost as compulsory as fard and not to be omitted. Wajib al-wujud: Being whose existence is indispensable and nonexistence is impossible.
[4] iman: faith, belief, beliefs of Islam; kalam, i'tiqad.
[5] Sahaba: if a Muslim has seen the Prophet, or talked to him, at least once when the Prophet was alive, he is called Sahabi. Plural form of Sahabi is Sahaba or As'hab. The word Sahaba-i kiram includes all those great people each of whom has seen the Prophet at least once. The lowest of the Sahaba is much higher than the highest of other Muslims. If a person has not seen the Prophet but has seen or talked to one of the Sahaba at least once, he is called Tabi'. Its plural form is Tabi'in. In other words, the Tabi'in are the successors of the Sahaba. If a person has not seen any of the Sahaba but has seen at least one of the Tabi'in, he is called Taba'i Tabi'in. The Sahaba, the Tabi'in and the Taba'i tabi'in altogether are called the Salaf-i salihin (the early savants).
[6] 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.
[7] i'tiqad: faith, iman.