Aqidah First, Oh Muslims, Aqīdah First!
The Messenger of Allah () informed Mu’ādh ibn Jabal ( – d. 17 AH), when he was going to the land of Yemen, “You are going to a people from the People of the Book. Let the first thing that you call them to be the worship of Allāh (). If they acknowledge Allāh (), then inform them that Allāh has obligated upon them five prayers during their days and nights.” [al Bukhārī, Muslim]
Jundub ibn Abdullāh al Bājalī ( – d. 64 AH) said, “We learned īmān (faith) and then we learned the Qur’ān and it increased our īmān.”
Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar ( – d. 84 AH)said, “We lived during an instant of time in which one of us would receive faith first before receiving the Qur’ān and when the surahs were revealed we would learn what they permitted and what they prohibited and what they forbade and what they ordered and what should be the stance towards them. But I have seen many men from whom one is given the Qur’ān before īmān and he reads it from the opening of the Book to its closing and he does not know what it orders and what it forbids and what should be his stance towards it. He is like someone who is just throwing out dates [i.e., he does not get any benefit from his recital].”
Imām Abu Hanīfa (d. 150 AH) pointed out, “Understanding in the religion first (i.e. tawhīd) and then understanding in the science (i.e. the sharī’ah)”
Imām ash Shāfi`ī (d. 204 AH) said, “That a servant meets Allāh () with every sin except Shirk is better say than meeting Him upon any of the innovated beliefs.”
Shaikh al Islām al Harawī al Ansārī (d. 481 AH) stated at the beginning of his book, Itiqād ahl as Sunnah, “The first obligation upon the slave is the knowledge of Allāh (). This is proven by the hadīth of Mu‘ādh (), when the Prophet () said to him, ‘You will come to a people from the People of the Book. The first thing that you should call them to is the worship of Allāh (). If they gain the knowledge of Allāh, then tell them that Allāh obligates upon them five prayers during the day and night…”