Question: What is the difference between the ‘Aqeedah (Belief) and the Manhaj (Methodology)?
Answer: The issue of differentiating between the ‘Aqeedah and the Manhaj has arisen in this era. People historically would not differentiate between the ‘Aqeedah and Manhaj. However, tribulations (fitan) came about so some among Ahlus-Sunnah were compelled to differentiate between the two affairs. But Shaikh Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) would not differentiate between ‘Aqeedah and Manhaj so he would say: “They are the one and the same.”
And I am compelled to say: The Manhaj is broader and more expansive than the ‘Aqeedah because the ‘Aqeedah enters into the Manhaj. So the Manhaj of Ahlus-Sunnah in their belief with respect to the Names and Attributes of Allah is that they affirm them as they are reported in the Qur’an and Sunnah. [So it is said] the Manhaj of Ahlus-Sunnah is this, or the Manhaj of Ahlus-Sunnah in understanding is this, or the Manhaj of Ahlus-Sunnah with respect to the narrations is this. This is their Manhaj, how they understand and deduce [matters] is from the Manhaj — how they acquire and accept the narrations is from the Manhaj.
End of the speech of ‘Allāmah Rabee’ Ibn Hādi Al-Madkhali (hafidhahullāh), Al-Wasāyā Al-Manhajiyyah, p43.
The way a Muslim approaches and understands the Revealed texts is from the Manhaj. So for example, the Methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah in understanding the texts related to the Names and Attributes of Allah is to affirm them as they are reported in the Qur’an and Sunnah; the Methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah in dealing with oppressive rulers is to be patient, not speak openly against them and not to rebel against them; the Methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah in dealing with the Scholars is to honour them and align oneself with them; the Methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah in dealing with Ahlul-Bid’ah, the innovators is to warn against them and not to sit with them — and so on.
So it is said regarding the Revelation (i.e. the Qur’ān and Sunnah), the Manhaj (Methodology) of Ahlus-Sunnah is the Manhaj of the Sahābah — i.e. the approach of Ahlus-Sunnah, their understanding and deduction, their acquiring and accepting the narrations is in agreement with the Manhaj of the Sahābah. The Manhaj of Ahlus-Sunnah in every era is no different to the Manhaj of the Sahābah. Whoever opposes the Manhaj of the Sahābah has opposed the Sunnah and contradicted the ‘Aqeedah because the ‘Aqeedah demands that we follow the Path of the Sahābah. Allah stated: “So if they believe in the like of that which you [the Sahābah] believe, then they are rightly guided, but if they turn away, then surely they are in opposition.” (2:137) And Allah, the Most High, stated: “When it is said to them: ‘Believe as the people (i.e. the Sahābah) have believed.’ They say, ‘Shall we believe as the fools believe?’ Indeed they are the fools by they know not.” (2:13) And Allah said: “And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger after the right guidance has been shown clearly to him, and then he follows other than the path of the believers (i.e. the Sahābah), We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell – what an evil destination.” (4:114) And the saying of Allah: “And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajiroon and the Ansār and also those who followed them exactly. Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him.” (9:100) So it is essential that one recognises that opposition to Manhaj and the ‘Aqeedah is clear misguidance and a path to destruction. And perhaps, it is, for this reason, that the scholars such as Shaikhul-Islām Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) did not distinguish between the two.