Theology: Taftazani’s Sharh Al-Aqa’id Al-Nasafiyya Explained – Critical Investigations in Theology, First Principles, and the Nuances of Theology


This is a series of courses that unpack the questions (masa’il) of Taftazani’s pithy Sharh al-’Aqa’id al-Nasafiyya, arguably the most important textbook ever written  in the science of Islamic theology. These courses explain the intellectual context in which the book’s questions are set, and then apply those questions to contemporary theological problems, with a special focus on modern science and occasional digressions into Western philosophy. Take this course to to understand what the science of kalam is; the historical circumstances that led to its development; who the Mu’tazilites were and why they are important; who the falasifa were and why they are important; what philosophical skepticism is, what motivates it, its relevance to kalam, and how it should be tackled; what human knowledge is and how to distinguish truth from falsehood; the epistemological value of sensation, rational inference, historical transmission, and revelation; and the relation of all of these topics to non-religious historical accounts of Islamic theology, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary accounts of human development.

Curricular Context

This is a Level Four Course

  • Before taking this course, take all courses in Level  Three, especially Beliefs: Bajuri’s Commentary on the Sanusiyya Explained – Deeper Understanding of the Proofs and Key Issues of Theology

  • Take this course before all courses in Step Five.

Course Outline

Session 1 Introduction to ‘Ilm al-Kalam, al-Nasafi, and al-Taftazani — pp. 3-8

Kinds of Hukm + Why the Sahaba Didn’t Need Kalam — pp. 9-11

Why the Sahaba Didn’t Need Fiqh + Why Kalam and Fiqh Were
Documented — pp. 11-12 

Session 2 Fiqh, Usul, and Kalam — p. 12

Names of Kalam and the Mu’tazili Mihna — pp. 12-14

LESSON RESOURCE: Mas’ala khalq al-qur’an by Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghodda

Session 3 History of Early Kalam (audio only)

LESSON RESOURCE: al-Madhahib al-tawhidiyya by Shaykh Muhammad Said Ramadan al

Session 4 Early Kalam — pp. 16-17

Late Kalam — p. 17

LESSON RESOURCE: al-Mawaqif fi ‘ilm al-kalam
by ‘Adud al-Din al-Iji  (pdf present in the same folder as the recordings)

Session 5 The Dangers of Kalam — pp. 23-25 (1)
Session 6 We Have Objective Knowledge of Real Things (haqa’iq al-ashya’ thabita) — pp. 25-29
Session 7 Philosophical Skepticism (safsata) — pp. 29-30
Session 8 Knowledge (‘ilm) — pp. 30-32
Session 10 The Conventional Causes (asbab) of Human Knowledge — pp. 32-35

Knowledge — pp. 32-35

Sensation (al-hawass) — pp. 35-39

Session 11 Mass-Transmission (tawatur) — pp. 39-40
Session 12 The Mind (‘aql)— pp. 43-45

Experiential Knowledge (ilham) — pp. 45-46

Session 13 Natural Philosophy and Modern Science
Session 14 The Natural Philosophy of Falsafa

The Universe According to Falsafa, Kalam, and Science

Session 15 Arguments For And Against Medieval Atomism
Session 16 Properties in Falsafa, Kalam, and Science
Session 17 The Kalam Perspective on Arguments For the Existence of God in Modern Philosophy
Session 18 The Kalam Argument (1): Properties Began to Exist
The Kalam Argument (2): Physical Objects Began to Exist
Session 19 Responses to the Falasifa’s Objections to the Kalam Argument
Session 20 Scientific Evidence for the Beginning of the Universe

The Kalam Cosmological Argument in Modern Philosophy

Session 21 Contemporary Objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument


Session 22 The Impossibility of Infinite Regress and its Relation to the Kalam Argument
Session 23 Allah Most High’s Oneness (1)
Session 24 Allah Most High’s Oneness (2)

Allah Most High’s Beginninglessness

What You Will Learn:

  • Use the epistemology from Part 1 of this course to prove the existence of God

  • Respond to medieval and modern objections against the existence of God

  • Describe the cosmology and metaphysics  of the falasifa and their role in the development of kalam

  • Learn when to update theological issues in light of modern science and when to use theological issues to correct modern science

  • Navigate contemporary debates over the existence of God using traditional Islamic theology

About the Course Text

For centuries, Taftazani’s Sharh al-’Aqa’id has been a standard and indispensable part of curricula in traditional institutions of learning all over the Muslim world. No other textbook in any of the Islamic sciences has as many scholarly glosses (hawashi) as it does. The importance of a textbook can be judged by the number of glosses that have been written on it. The innumerable glosses on Sharh al-’Aqa’id by scholars in the Ottoman Empire, in al-Azhar, in the Indian Subcontinent, and elsewhere make it the most important textbook of Islamic theology ever written.

The author, Sa‘d al-Din al-Taftazani (d. 792/1390), is famous for his sharp mind, pithy expressions, and his unwavering commitment to an evidence-based approach to knowledge, never hesitating to discuss questions that were never discussed before, nor to correct mistakes that were made by authors who came before him. A couple of decades after his death, Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani (d. 852/1449) reported that Taftazani’s books were sought everywhere and scholars all over the world competed to write commentaries on them. He was a prolific scholar–his Sharh al-’Aqa’id is a mainstay of every curriculum in Islamic theology, his Mukhtasar al-Ma‘ani a mainstay of every curriculum in Arabic eloquence, his Tahdhib al-Mantiq a mainstay of every curriculum in Islamic logic, and his Hashiya on al-Iji’s commentary on Ibn al-Hajib’s Mukhtasar a mainstay of curricula in Islamic legal theory.