Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: 1. Am I correct that our understanding of God in islam is that He has no biological sex?
2. From my understanding, once Islam started spreading to different lands, different scholars codified Islamic beliefs in order to call non-muslims to Islam. Therefore, different schools of theology emerged. Are any of these schools considered misguided? I hear rhetoric online from Muslims who declare all Ash’aris and Maturidis disbelievers.
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
1. Yes. This is an essential point of belief that Muslims hold regarding God. It’s basis is the Qur’anic verse, “There is nothing whatsoever like Him.” (42:11)
2. The Ash`ari and Maturidi schools have served as the standard expression of orthodox creed among Sunni scholars for over a millennium. The creed authored by Imam al-Tahawi does not diverge significantly from either, and, like the Maturidi school, it represents the belief of the early Hanafi scholars, namely Imam Abu Hanifa, Qadi Abu Yusuf, and Imam Muhammad.
As you have indicated, the process of codifying any tradition, whether it be related to creed or law or spirituality, arises gradually and within the context of broader social and intellectual currents.
From this perspective, the Ash`ari and Maturidi schools are rightly viewed as emerging in defense of orthodox creed against the arguments of both non-Muslims and those Muslim sects whose understandings were seen as swerving from the way of the pious predecessors (salaf). Imam Ash`ari and Imam Maturidi sought to uphold and defend the way of the pious predecessors, and it was on account of their views and methods being in line with those of early Muslims and the general principles of our religion that scholars who proceeded them accepted the way they set forth.
It is a serious claim to state that those who follow the Ash`ari and Maturidi schools are disbelievers as it implies that the majority of Islamic scholars went astray, a point disproved by clear prophetic instructions to stick to the majority. [Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]
My advice to you would be to simply stick to a basic and agreed upon creed, such as that of al-Tahawi, while respecting the tradition that the great Sunni scholars of the past represented. Anathema will not get us anywhere, nor will quick accusations of misguidance against fellow Muslims. Rather, you should seek out people who are positive, respectful, and whose presence lifts you spiritually.
The Ash`aris & Maturidis: Standards of Mainstream Sunni Beliefs
Keeping One’s Faith While Navigating Differences of Opinion
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani