Aqeedah (creed and belief) is the foundation of the religion and it (‘aqeedah) is what is contained in the testification (shahaadah) that none has the right to be worshipped except Allaah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah. And it is the first pillar from the pillars of Islaam.
So therefore, it is an obligation to give importance to it (`aqeedah) and to give care and attention to it and to acquire knowledge of it and knowledge of whatever will damage it so that the person can be upon clear insight and can be upon a correct creed and belief.
Since if the person’s religion is established upon a sound, correct foundation then it will be a straight and true religion that he is upon – one that is acceptable to Allaah and if it (his religion) is based upon a shaky or disturbed `aqeedah (creed) or if his religion is based upon an ‘aqeedah (creed) which is corrupt then his religion will not be correct and it will be without a foundation.
So, this is why the scholars rahimahumullaah used to give importance to the affair of ‘aqeedah and they were not laxed about explaining it in their lessons and whenever they had an opportunity. The later person used to transmit it from the one who came before him.
And the Companions radiyAllaahu `anhum did not have any doubts about what came in the Qur’aan and what came in the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger sallAllaahu`alayhi wa sallam. So their `aqeedah (creed and belief) was based upon the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger sallAllaahu`alayhi wa sallam and they were not afflicted by any doubt in that regard nor any hesitation. So, whatever Allaah said and whatever His Messenger sallAllaahu`alayhi wa sallam said, they took it as their creed and belief and they took it as their religion. And they did not need any further book to be written for them after that since this was something fully accepted by them and something that was certain with them; their creed (‘aqeedah) was the Book and the Sunnah. And then their students proceeded upon that from the Taabi`een (the next generation after the Companions) – those who took from them. So, there was no disputing in `aqeedah (creed and belief); it was an affair which was fully accepted (undisputed); and their source was the Book and the Sunnah.
But when the sects and the differences arose and appeared, and when people entered into the religion who were such that the creed and `aqeedah was not firmly grounded in his heart or those who entered into Islaam whilst still carrying some deviated ideas with them, and when there arose in Islaam people who did not refer back to the Book nor to the Sunnah in `aqeedah, rather, they referred back to principles and methodologies which had been established by people of misguidance by themselves. When all of this happened then the a’immah (the imaams) of Islaam at this time needed to clarify (make explanation and clarification of) the correct `aqeedah (belief and creed) and they needed to carefully record it and write it down and narrate it from the scholars of the Ummah. So therefore, they wrote down the books of creed and belief and they gave attention to that; and this became a reference for those who came after them from the Ummah and it will be so until the establishment of the last Hour.
And this is an example of the Protection of Allaah, the Most High for this religion and Allaah’s taking care of this religion – that He provided for it trustworthy carriers to convey it just as it came from Allaah and His Messenger and to repel the false interpretations of the negators and the false declarations of the Creator’s being like the creation. So these scholars came and passed on as inheritance this creed (`aqeedah), the later ones taking it from the earlier ones.
And from as-Salaf as-Saalih (the pious predecessors) who used to be upon the sound and firm belief and creed (i`tiqaad) taken from Allaah’s Messenger sallAllaahu`alayhi wa sallam and from his Companions and from the Taabi`een were the four imaams: Imaam Aboo Haneefah, Imaam Maalik, Imaam ash-Shaafi`ee and Imaam Ahmad and others from the imaams, those who stood and defended the correct `aqeedah (belief and creed) and who confirmed it, explained it and taught it to the students.
And the followers of the four imaams (their students who came after them) used to give attention to this creed and belief; they used to study it and caused their students to learn it. And many books were written about it upon the methodology of the Book and the Sunnah and upon what the chosen Messenger, al-Mustafaa sallAllaahu`alayhi wa sallam was upon and his companions radiyAllaahu `anhum and the Taabi`een. So, they refuted the false beliefs and the deviated beliefs, and they clearly explained how they were counterfeit and baseless. And the same was done by the imaams of hadeeth such as: Ishaaq ibn Raahawayh and al-Bukhaaree and Muslim and Imaam Ibn Khuzaymah and Imaam Ibn Qutaybah; and from the imaams of tafseer (explanation) of the Qur’aan such as Imaam at-Tabaree and Imaam Ibn Katheer and Imaam al-Baghwee and others from the imaams of tafseer.
They (all) wrote works in this regard (explaining the correct belief) and they called them Kutub As-Sunnah – books of the Sunnah; for example, Kitaab as-Sunnah of Ibn Abee `Aasim and the book as- Sunnah of `Abdullaah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal and the book as-Sunnah of Al-Khallaal and the book ash-Sharee`ah of Al-Aajurree and other than that.
 As is shown by the hadeeth of Ibn `Umar radiyAllaahu anhumaa who said, “Allaah’s Messenger sallAllaahu`alayhi wa sallam said, ‘Islaam is built upon five: the shahaadah (testification) that none had the right to be worshipped except Allaah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah, and correct establishment of the prayer, and giving the zakaat, and the hajj, and fasting in Ramadaan’.” The hadeeth is reported by Bukhaaree as no.8 and reported by Muslim.
Source: Explanation of Al-`Aqeedah At-Tahaawiyyah of Imaam At-Tahaawee by Shaykh Al-Fawzaan, Explained by Dawud Burbank rahimahullaah. The above article is extracted from the transcribed audio. Click here to read to read other transcripts of Aqeedah Tahaawiyyah