fundamentals of making sense of islam

What are the Core Principles?

Studying Islam can be overwhelming, especially when you start to realize not everyone is coming from the same point-of-view or moving in the same direction. How can you make sense of it all; how can you not lose your way; how can you stay firm to the pure intention of simply wanting to know more about your faith and tradition?

These seven articles are my straightforward answers to these questions. They serve as my guiding light, my port in a storm, my North Star. Whenever I feel that the conversation about Islam is too much, too scattered, and too divisive, I go back to the concepts in these seven articles.

I have done this for over 20 years to the point that they are second nature to me. Sometimes I refer to them specifically in my classes, but often times they are in the background providing a framework. To engage with the content on this platform it is important to know where I’m coming from and where I’m going. If you gain nothing else from this platform, I hope and pray that you will at least find benefit in these articles.

Download the Core Principles

Principle 1: What is Islam?

Principle 2: Centrality of the Prophet

Principle 3: The Two Rules of Three

Principle 4: Muslim Personalities

Principle 5: Din vs. Tadayyun

Principle 6: Values and Principles

Principle 7: Complexity of the Modern World

Principle 1:

What is Islam?

There is no way that this short essay will thoroughly explain what Islam is. This is not my aim. What I would like to do, however, is present a framework that will always be in the background throughout the Making Sense of Islam platform by which we can understand the entirety of our faith.

Principle 2:

Centrality of the Prophet

The testimony of faith in Islam summarizes the entirety of its message into two simple, yet profound statements: belief in God and belief in His messenger Muhammad . From the personal to the scholarly, everything in the Islamic tradition is related to one of these two statements in some way or another.

Principle 3:

The Two Rules of Three

I am often asked about Islam’s expression and practice in contemporary life. Questions range from the typical to the truly unique, but perhaps the number one most frequently asked question is: “who should I listen to and follow?” This question speaks to our current condition and emerges from the great deal of confusion and contradiction that exists in the space of religious discourse amongst Muslims.

Principle 4:

Muslim Personalities

We all have people we like to listen to: a favorite preacher, a beautiful reciter, a scholar, a mufti, a shaykh, etc. These form the various sources we take our religious and spiritual advice from. This is natural, and I would go as far as to say equally true of other faith traditions. The challenge for Islam specifically is that we often times do not differentiate the types of expertise and personalities we encounter. This essay is meant to address this.

Principle 5:

Dīn vs.Tadayyun

We typically think of religion as a private, personal matter. We find ourselves turning to the Almighty in our times of need as well as our times of happiness. We journey to develop a personal and spiritual connection with our Maker to increase our fortitude and emotional wellbeing. This is completely normal and natural, and perhaps the way the vast majority of us experience religion. This is what I refer to as tadayyun or religiosity. The way we all interact with religion and the relationship we develop with our faith is essentially a personal expression, largely based on our own emotions and feelings. There is no right or wrong, only that it is.

Principle 6:

Values and Principles

I believe it is important to be clear about one’s values in promoting a product, especially an educational product. Everything I seek to do on the Making Sense of Islam platform is related to one or more of the following four values and principles.

Principle 7:

Complexity of the Modern World

Shaykh Ibrahim Bajuri was one of the great Egyptian jurists and theologians of the 19th century. He wrote extensively in various subjects and his commentaries are still studied today as standard texts at al-Azhar. I studied many of his works and continue to turn to these texts throughout my work. His career was capped with his appointment as Shaykh al-Azhar, which he held until his death in 1860. I do not begin this essay by mentioning him because of his scholarship, however. I mention him since the day-to-day life he lived was, more or less, the same day-to-day life the Prophet and the Companions lived.