Lesson 23: The 29 Characteristics of Ahl al Sunna wal Jammah


What characterises Ahl al Sunna wal Jammah from other groups? Especially in matters of aqeedah?

The unique position with the aqeedah of Ahl as Sunna wal Jamaah is that noone can deny it because it is all evidence-based and goes right back to the formative period of Islam.

For instance, if we glance at the deviant sects, we notice they have a specific focus, which though their topic of interest itself is good – these groups make these topics an unbalanced priority. For instance:

  • The Khawarij focus only on jihad or the outward signs of worship
  • The Shia focus only on the ahl al bayt (i.e. the family of Ali, may Allah be pleased with him)
  • The Sufis focus only on dhikr
  • Hizbut Tahrir (HT) focus only on khilafa
  • Ikhwan al Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood) focus only on the unity of the Muslims

But the reality is that the mission of the prophets was only ever about Towhid (the one-ness of Allah, monotheism). And this is the priority of the Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah or the Muwahidun (monotheists):

  • “Hear O Israel, the Lord, our God, is One.” Deuteronomy 6:4
  • La ilaha illallah: There is no ilah except Allah (The Only One, Unique, True Ilah [i.e. deity, god, one to worship])

So what exactly are the characteristics of Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah?

الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

All praise is due to ALLAH and peace and blessing upon His Messenger

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful


The 29 Features of Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah:


1) They believe sincerely in ‘La ilaha illallah’

La ilaha illallah wah dahu la sharikala, wa Muhammadur Rasulullah.

There is an authentic hadith that mentions how whoever says ‘La ilaha illallah’ and practices it sincerely (i.e heart action) will attain jannah.

Their focus was to constantly talk about Towhid, which was always the prophets’ mission (peace be on them all). But if you talk about this to some of the other groups, nowadays, they start visibly shaking (with agitation and concern) … So, what is the problem with Towhid?


2) Belief in the original mission of ALL the Prophets

They believe in everything that was revealed to all the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them all) by Allah, The Most Exalted – and they would simply have endorsed this.

Who would want to oppose this?

Some groups believe there is a ‘Wali’ or ‘Awliya’ (Friend/ Friends of Allah – i.e. pious people, very close in their lifetimes to Allah, Most High) who are higher in station than the Prophet himself! For example, some groups think Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) is superior to the Prophet (peace be upon him)!

But by doing so, such deviant groups  in fact abuse the awliya they are supposedly representing.



3) Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah also witness the four parts of Imaan:

  • Saying of the tongue – all the groups focus on this
  • Action of the tongue (i.e. knowledge)
  • Action of the heart – Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah stress the importance of this but all the other groups don’t; Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah do simultaneously insist that all of the parts of faith  is important
  • Physical Action – Khawarij focus on this

See earlier lesson on the four parts of Imaan.

Most sects focus on the Saying of the Tongue (i.e. saying shahadah is enough) – except Khawarij, who focus on Physical Action (external signs of worship) only. The Munafiq and the Ahl al Kitab might possess Saying of the Heart (Knowledge) but by itself, this is not enough.

To understand the importance of the Heart-Action and why Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah stress the importance of this – without rejecting the importance of the other three parts, please read A Note on What is Meant by ‘Sunnah’ and ‘Jamaah’.

see 15.00 on audio

Other sects do not focus on the action of the heart. They say one can be Mu’min without it – which is incorrect.

Abu Hanifa, once, in a dialogue with his student, Abu Yusuf, mentioned how towbah (i.e. returning back to Allah) was central to imaan. He was corrected by his student. Abu Yusuf, who reminded his teacher that there is no imaan at all without the Action of the heart (which precedes Towbah).

What is clear, therefore, is how our physical action is dependent on the action of the heart. Note, that Imam Shafi added the ‘necessity of Intention’ to this criterion, which is correct.

Though there is truth to Shafi’s proposition, it is possible to deduce an incorrect interpretation by reversing this criterion. For instance, the Khawarij would focus on the physical action (e.g. outward performance of salah, for instance) and claim this is a direct manifestation of our heart-action and intention; so – they would state – if one did no salah (i.e no physical action) they had no heart-action and therefore, no imaan.

However their mistake is thinking that no physical action equates to no imaan and therefore kufr (using this logic) – rather, as per the hadith narrated by Abu Darr: Muslims can commit sins – and not performing salah is a major sin. (This differs from insisting on doing no physical actions which will result in kufr.)

The fact is, the Action of the Heart will necessarily produce Physical Action, anyway: if you’re Love of Allah is strong, it will produce actions; if you fear Allah, it will produce results…

It is correct, therefore to engage the Action of the Heart for Allah, Most High, and hope in Allah and do not accept anyone else to help them – because this would be 100% relaince on Allah.


4) Imaan increases and decreases

  • Imaan increases by obedience (loyalty) to Allah and
  • Imaan decreases by sin.

No sects say this except the Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah


5) Belief in Qadr:

Khairihi (the good) and sharrihi (the bad) is both from Allah


6) Our choice must be to rely on Allah alone.

Things that happen to you cannot miss you i.e. there is no change. That is, Allah may change his words.

Tawakkul. Consider the lawyer example: money – I trust you – do we this again?

Any choice: you will accept.

Allah – Anything from Allah is a choice form Allah to you.  Rely on His choices. Allah has a plan. You don’t know.

Look to Khidr’s example: surah kahf


7) Allah’s Knowledge and Will and our limited free will

Allah (knowledge about Allah) knows everything about his creation. What we are doing, What we will do, groups bound for heaven and hell…

But there is a difference between knowledge and action. This topic is difficult for our minds to comprehend. The fact is our will is under the control of Allah’s Will, at the end of the day.

The shariah will give you space (to act) to demonstrate you are with Allah. This is the point. For instance, observe what Ibrahim (peace be upon him) said to Nimrod: ‘Go on, do it (if you can)!’ i.e. he couldn’t.

We have limited free will.

We should’t focus on this because it is to do with the ‘unseen’ knowledge. But to appreciate the notion to a lesser extent, consider the similitude of the invisible force of gravity that acts upon us without our ‘seeing’ it.

Please bear in mind that both Knowledge and Will are part of Allah’s, Most High’s, 7 core Names that constitute the Totality of His Supremacy:

  1. Life
  2. Power
  3. Knowledge
  4. Will
  5. Wisdom
  6. Hearing
  7. Seeing


8) Salatul Jummah and Eid:

It is accepted that we can pray behind any Imam (not on bid’ah) regardless of whether he’s a good or bad imam (bad meaning, sinful) for Salatul Jummah and Eid Salah.


9) We possess the names of the 10 Companions bound for jannah:

Narrated Abdur Rahman bin Awf: the Messenger of Allah said: “Abu Bakr is in Paradise, ‘Umar is in Paradise, ‘Uthman is in Paradise, ‘Ali is in Paradise, Talhah is in Paradise, Az-Zubair is in Paradise, ‘Abdur Rahman bin Awf is in Paradise, Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas is in Paradise, Sa’id ibn Zayd is in Paradise, and Abu ‘Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah is in Paradise.” (Tirmidhi, hadith 3747)

10) Love and hate for the sake of Allah

We should love for the sake of the loyaty/ love of Allah and hate {types of} people based according to the shirk of Allah. i.e. not based on your opinion.

11) One-Word-Divorce

Divorce is achieved by one word at one time.

12) Wiping over the sock (al mas’ah)

Wiping over the sock is a sunnah: lasting 3 days for the traveller and 1 day and 1 night for the resident.

13) Qasr of salah:

Salah on a journey is a fardh; we can combine salah – it is a sunnah, which is mu’akkalah (confirmed). The prophet always did this until he died.

14) Beginning and Closing fasts during Ramadan:

Have iftar promptly (i.e. early, as in when the first adhan goes off) and Suhoor, late (i.e. by the second adhan of Fajr in the masjid).

15) Hand position in Salah

Right hand over left hand in prayer

16) Vocalise Amin in Salah

Annoucement of ‘Amin’ when reciting surah fatihah in salah

17) ‘Bismillah’ in Salah

Not to announce ‘bismillah’ in salah.

18) Mouthing your recitation in Salah

When reciting in your salah, it is best to say it by your tongue (and not in your mind). Evidenced by Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them), who said it is related to aqeedah.

19) Don’t argue about the Great historical Fitna

Don’t argue about what happened with the companions during the fitna (i.e. with regards to Ali and Aisha, or Ali and Muawiyah or Yazid and Hussein). There is no benefit in this.

20) Belief in the Resurrection Day

Some sects don’t believe in it.

21) Belief in the Punishment of the grave

Some sects don’t believe in it.

22) Munkar and Nahir 

Munkar and Nahir (the two angels at the time of death who will approach with the questions).

23) Belief in the test of the straight path

During the Day of Judgement: The test of the straight path

24) Belief in the test of the Balance

During the Day of Judgement: The test of the Balance

25) Muslims will be forgiven in the end

Allah, Most Exalted, later on, will ultimately let those Muslims, who committed great sins, come out of jahannum (hell fire) – after they have served their ftime – and let them get into jannah (heaven). This will be purely based upon the Towhid in their heart (and Allah’s mercy, subhanAllah).

26) The full time residence in hell, of those who insist in rejecting Towhid

Those who stay in Jahannum (hell fire) will be the mushrik (kaafir) and munafiq.

27) Seeing Allah, Most HIgh, in Jannah

People from Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah (muwahidun, monotheists-on-Towhiid) will ultimately see Allah, Most Exalted, and talk to Him.

28) The Uncreated Words

The Words of Allah is real (uncreated) not created.

29) Earth and Heaven and Allah’s Hands

All the earth is in His Hands and all the heavens will be folded by His Right Hand.


سبحان ربك رب العزة عما يصفون وسلام على المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وعلى اله وصحبه أجمعين

Exalted be your Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they attribute to Him, and peace be upon the Messengers, and all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. And the peace and blessing upon prophet Mohammed and his relatives and all his companions.


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