Various books can be consulted and studied in order to obtain the authentic creed (aqeedah) of the Hanbalis (or Athari creed). From the classical books of the early phase of the Hanbali scholars, the most important is: Usool al-Sunnah authored by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal himself. In addition, Sharh al-Sunnah by al-Barbahari (d. 329 AH) and al-Ha’iyah by Ibn Abi Dawud (d. 316 AH) can be consulted. The latter should perhaps best be studied with the explanation of Al-Safarini (d. 1188 AH), titled Lawa’ih al-Anwar al-Saniyyah. However, due to its advanced nature it should not be engaged with during the beginning or intermediate level of study. Al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la (d. 458 AH), considered to be the last of the early phase, also authored important works of creed, such as, Mukhtasar al-Mu’tamad fi Usool al-Deen and Ibtaal al-Ta’wilaat.
From the middle phase, the poem al-Qasidah al-Daliyyah by al-Kalwadhani (d. 510 AH) and al-Iqtisad fi al-I’tiqad by Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi are considered sound and important reference materials. Also, from this period is the famous al-Lum’ah of Ibn Qudamah, which is considered a well-established starting point.
Books from the later phase include al-‘Ayn wa al-Athar by ‘Abd al-Baqi’ (d. 1071 AH) and Qala’id al-Iqyaan by Ibn Balban (d. 1083 AH), which is the summary of Nihayah al-Mubtadi’in by Ibn Hamdan (d. 695 AH) whose book in creed is an important work in its own right. More advanced level books include those of al-Safarini, such as Lawami’ al-Anwar and Lawa’ih al-Anwar (which is the aforementioned commentary of al-Ha’iyah), however his books are very advanced containing difficult, and sometimes vague phraseology and laborious terminology. Therefore, it is perhaps best to not engage with these works until a thorough grasp of the subject matter has been attained, and instead it may be more beneficial to engage with the more accessible summary authored by Hasan al-Shatti (d. 1348 AH), entitled Mukhtasar Lawami’ al-Anwar. Another advanced level text is the book al-Aqawil al-Thiqaat by Mar’i ibn Yusuf al-Karmi (d. 1033 AH).
The works of creed authored by Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 AH), who is considered to be a scholar from the middle phase of the school, do not represent the correct Hanbali creed, as he is not consistent in his approach, mixing between the creed of the Hanbalis and ‘Asharis.
Source: A Commentary on Lum’ah al-I’tiqad by Sh. Yusuf ibn Sadiq al-Hanbali