Ibn Taymiyyah

Ibn Taymiyyah – Scholar and Statesman Part 1


“Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah:

Scholar and Statesman” – Part 1

 ***

[1] Life and Works:

Name: “Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn `Abd al-Halim Ibn `Abd al-Salam Ibn `Abd Allah Ibn Abi ’l-Qasim al-Khidr Ibn Muhammad Ibn al-Khidr Ibn `Ali Ibn `Abd Allah Ibn Taymiyyah”:[1]

تقي الدين أحمد بن عبد الحليم بن عبد السلام بن عبد الله بن أبي القاسم الخضر بن محمد بن الخضر بن علي بن عبد الله بن تيمية

  • His family were scholarly and pious.
  • His grandfather Majd al-Din was a renowned jurist and hadith expert and his father too was known to be a senior Hanbali jurist.

[a] Descriptions and Titles: “The Imam, the ocean of knowledge, the unique Shaykh al-Islam and the rare one of his time…”[2]

الإمام الحبر البحر، العَلم الفرد، شيخ الإسلام، ونادرة العصر،

  • Other titles include: the mujtahid (‘independent jurist’) the faqih, the zahid (‘ascetic’) the faqir (‘poor one’) and `alim (‘scholar’).

[b] Life course: “Taqi al-Din Ahmad, from al-Harran, the Hanbali who settled in Damascus…”[3]

تقي الدين أبو العباس أحمد الحراني الحنبلي نزيل دمشق

  • He was born on Monday, 10th Rabi` al-Awwal, 661 AH.
  • His father with his family left Harran and moved to Damascus around 667 when the Tartars invaded the region.
  • He was given to studies in the religious subjects such as Qur’an, hadith books (that included the Musnad of Imam Ahmad and the six canonical collections) and Arabic grammar and by the tender age of ten he had gained unique proficiency in them. He also dedicated himself to studying the early texts of Arabic linguistics, Tafsir (‘Qur’anic exegesis’), literature and Usul al-Fiqh (‘jurisprudence’) gaining mastery over them in his early teens:[4]

وقرأ أياماً في العربية على ابن عبد القوي؛ ثم فهمها، وأخذ يتأمل كتاب سيبويه حتى فهمه، وبرع في النحو، وأقبل على التفسير إقبالاً كليا حتى حاز فيه قصب السبق، وأحكم أصول الفقه وغير ذلك، هذا كله وهو بعد ما بلغ سن بضع عشرة سنة

  • He was known to frequent the circles of knowledge while a young boy and was articulate, erudite, eloquent and highly skillful in debates and discussions and attained knowledge to the extent where he “began to issue fatawa while only nineteen years old; in fact even younger…”[5]

فأفتى وله تسع عشرة سنة؛ بل أقل

  • It was also around this time Ibn Taymiyyah began writing books and treatises which over a span of 50 years, reached over “500 volumes”[6] up the time Imam al-Dhahabi wrote his biography:

ويكتب في اليوم والليلة من التفسير أو من الفقه أو من الأصلين أو من الرد على الفلاسفة والأوائل نحواً من أربعة كراريس أو أزيد، وما أبعُد أن تصانيفه إلى الآن تبلغ خمسمئة مجلد

  • He studied from a number of scholars including women. Some of them were:
  1. Abu ’l-`Abbas Ahmad ibn `Abd ad-Da’im al-Maqdisi.
  2. Abu Nasr `Abd al-`Aziz ibn `Abd al-Mun`im.
  3. Abu Muhammad Isma`il ibn Ibrahim al-Tanukhi.
  4. Ibn `Uthman at-Tanukhi al-Dimashqi.
  5. Abu ’l-`Abbas al-Mu`ammil ibn Muhammad al-Balisi.
  6. Abu `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn Sulayman al-`Amiri
  7. Abu ’l-Faraj `Abd al-Rahman ibn Sulayman al-Baghdadi.
  8. Sharaf al-Din al-Maqdisi, Ahmad ibn Ahmad ash-Shafi`i.
  9. Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Qawi al-Maqdisi.
  10. Taqi al-Din al-Wasiti, Ibrahim ibn `Ali al-Salihi al-Hanbali.
  11. His paternal aunt, Sitt al-Dar bint `Abd al-Salam ibn Taymiyyah.

 

  • Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah “passed away on the 22nd of Dhu ’l-Qa`dah at night, in the year 728 AH…”[7]

وانتاب الناس زيارة قبره، ورُئيت له عدة مناماتٍ حسنةٍ، ورثاه جماعة، وكانت وفاته في جوف ليلة الاثنين العشرين من ذي القعدة سنة ثمان وعشرين وسبعمئة، غفر الله له آمين، وعاش سبعًا وستين سنة وأشهرًا

 

[c] Appearance: “He had black hair, a few grey hairs in his beard, medium build and size; he had a beautiful voice, he was fair and simple in his clothes and headgear; he would always shorten his hair; nothing of his senses changed except that one of his eyes lacked a little sight.”[8]

وكان أسود الرأس قليل شيب اللحية، ربعة من الرجال، جهوري الصوت، أبيض، أعين، مقتصدًا في لباسه وعمامته، يقص شعره دائمًا، وكان لم يتغير عليه شيء من حواسه إلا أن عينه الواحدة نقص نورها قليلاً.

[2] Praise:

  • The praise given to Ibn Taymiyyah was unparalleled by both his students, contemporaries and successors. Below are just a few quotes:

[a] Imam Badr al-Din al-`Ayni al-Hanafi said: “He is the Imam, the noble, the masterful, the pious, the pure, the devout, the proficient in the two sciences of hadith and tafsirfiqh and the two fundamentals [s: = the Book and Sunnah] with determination and precision. He is the sharp sword against the innovators, the authority, who established the matters of the religion and the great commander of the good and forbidder of evil. He possessed (noble) concern, bravery and embarked upon that which frightened and deterred. He was of much remembrance, fasting, prayer and worship…”[9]

[b] Imam Kamal al-Din al-Zamlakani said: “Whenever he was questioned on a particular field of knowledge, the one who saw and heard [the answer] concluded that he had no knowledge of any other field but that and that no one else possessed knowledge like his. The jurists of all groups, whenever they sat with him, would benefit from him regarding their own schools of thought in areas they previously were unaware of. It is not known that he debated anyone whereby the discussion carne to a standstill or that whenever he spoke about a particular field of knowledge – whether it be related to the Shariah sciences or other sciences – that he would then excel the specialists of that field and those who are affiliated to it”.[10]

كان إذا سئل عن فنٍ من العلم ظن الرائي والسامع أنه لا يعرف غير ذلك الفن، وحكم بأن لا يعرفه أحد مثله، وكان الفقهاء من سائر الطوائف إذا جالسوه استفادوا منه في مذاهبهم أشياء

ولا يعرف أنه ناظر أحداً فانقطع معه، ولا تكلم في علمٍ من العلوم؛ سواء كان من علوم الشرع أو غيرها إلا فاق فيه أهله والمنسوبين إليه

[c] “He is far greater than the likes of me to inform on his qualities. If I were made to swear by Allah by the corner (of the ka`bah) and the place [of Ibrahim], I would swear that I have not seen with my two eyes the like of him and by Allah, he himself has not seen his own like in knowledge…”[11]

وله حدة قوية تعتريه في البحث حتى كأنه ليث حرب، وهو أكبر من أن ينبه مثلي على نعوته، فلو طفت بين الركن والمقام لحلفت أني ما رأيت بعيني مثله، ولا والله ما رأى هو مثل نفسه في العلم

[3] Spirituality:

  • Contrary to what many detractors believe, Ibn Taymiyyah was a deeply spiritual figure with considerable preoccupation with internally rectifying the heart. His many works in this area are indispensable and required for anyone seeking insights into practically augmenting inner faulty character traits. His knowledge was exacting in the science of Sufism (tasawwuf)[12] and his affiliations with the Qadiriyya spiritual order are well-known. In fact, he was buried in the Sufi graveyard in Damascus without any objection and it remains there today.
  • He had the utmost esteem for the people of Tasawwuf like al-Junayd al-Baghdadi and the Shaykh of his spiritual order al-Imam `Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (Allah sanctify their souls) – especially in regard to commanding right and forbidding wrong which many scholars in his time had neglected:

“Whoever follows the path of al-Junayd from the people of Tasawwuf and experiential knowledge of Allah, he will be guided, saved and in felicity…”[13]

فمن سلك مسلك الجنيد من أهل التصوف و المعرفة كان قد اهتدى و نجا و سعد

“Then there are those who establish the outward aspects of the law only such as the generality of the people of hadith and the believers who have knowledge to the extent of outward aspects of worship. As for those who have both knowledge and deep experiential knowledge of the meanings of all this [worship] and they are the likes of ‘arifun (‘those with experiential knowledge of Allah) from the Sufis. They are the scholars of the ummah of Muhammad and are the best, most accomplished and firmest on it path. And Allah knows best.”[14]

ثم هم إما قائمون بظاهر الشرع فقط كعموم أهل الحديث والمؤمنين الذين فى العلم بمنزلة العباد الظاهرين فى العبادة وإما عالمون بمعاني ذلك وعارفون به فهم فى العلوم كالعارفين من الصوفية الشرعية فهؤلاء هم علماء أمة محمد المحضة وهم أفضل الخلق وأكملهم وأقومهم طريقة والله أعلم

“As for the scholars of Sufism and their well-known early masters such as the likes of al-Junayd and his followers or `Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani and those like him they are the greatest of people who adhered to commanding right and forbidding wrong and advising others […].”[15]

و أما أئمة الصوفية و المشايخ المشهورون من القدماء مثل الجنيد بن محمد و أتباعه و مثل الشيخ عبد القادر و أمثاله فهؤلاء من أعظم الناس لزوماً للأمر والنهي و توصية بإتباع ذلك و تحذيرا من المشي مع القدر كما مشى أصاحبهم أولئك و هذا هو الفرق الثاني الذي تكلم فيه الجنيد مع أصحابه والشيخ عبد القادر كلامه كله يدور على إتباع المأمور و ترك المحظور والصبر على المقدور ولا يثبت طريقاً تخالف ذلك أصلا, لاهو ولا عامة المشايخ المقبولين عند المسلمين و يحذر عن ملاحظة القدر المحض بدون إتباع الأمر و النهي

  • He upheld interpretations of the Prophet as the fulcrum of creation as being exegetically valid;[16] he upheld celebrations of the mawlid al-sharif;[17] he considered the Night of the Mid-Sha`ban as mufaddalah (‘highly meritorious’);[18] he wrote about who an orthodox saint (wali)[19] was and gave personal testimony to having seen extraordinary feats (karamat) of some saints in his time[20] and attributed as having been vested with the Sufi ‘frock’ (khirqah) which he did not disapprove of as a Sufi practice.[21]
  • He also had his own litany (awrad) and invocations (adhkar) which he would remain reciting for long hours in the morning and night and had the most excellent character seeing everyone as equal and living among the people when so many scholars were aloof from them:[22]

له أوراد وأذكار يدمنها بكيفية وجمعية

  • Hafiz Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah relates regarding Ibn Taymiyyah’s engrossed practice of dhikr (‘remembrance of Allah’) as follows: “I once was with Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah. After praying the fajr prayer he sat and began dhikr of Allah until noon. He thereafter turned towards me and said: ‘this is my morning meal. If I do not have this then my strength will drop’…”[23]

وحضرت شيخ الاسلام ابن تيمية مرة صلى الفجر ثم جلس يذكر الله تعالى إلى قريب من انتصاف النهار ثم التفت إلي وقال : هذه غدوتي ولو لم أتغد الغداء سقطت قوتي أو كلاما قريبا من هذا

[4] Misconceptions:

  • There are many misconceptions commonly circulated about Ibn Taymiyyah which upon closer inspection of his works is far from accurate. Below are some of these misconceptions:

[a] He was anti-madhhab: this is commonly said of Ibn Taymiyyah but is not correct. He was an adherent of the Hanbali School of Law but attained the rank of mujtahid mutlaq. He discussed the various opinions and statements of Imam Ahmad and even authored a treatise upholding the practice of the Imams of the madhhab and the methodological reasons that underpin their leaving a sahih (‘authentic’) hadith. His short treatise Raf` al-Malam `an al-A’immat al-A`lam is a masterpiece of usul themes that defends this precise point. For example, he defends Imam Abu Hanifah’s adherence to hadith over qiyas (‘analogical reasoning’) against those who attack him: “Whoever thinks that Abu Hanifah or others from the Imams of the Muslims oppose a sahih hadith because of qiyas or another [principle] then he is mistaken regarding them and has either spoken based on conjecture or his whims and desires. Abu Hanifah would act on the hadith of performing wudu’ with nabidh [s: a drink made from certain fruits] while on a journey in opposition to qiyas and would act on the hadith of laughing out loud in salah in opposition to qiyas because he believed both narrations to be authentic even though the scholars of hadith did not consider them to be authentic. We have explained this in more detail in our treatise Raf` al-Malam `an al-A’immat al-A`lam and we have also explained how none of the Imams opposed an authentic hadith without a valid reason; in fact they had many reason to oppose it…”[24]

ومن ظن بأبي حنيفة أو غيره من أئمة المسلمين أنهم يتعمدون مخالفة الحديث الصحيح لقياس أو غيره فقد أخطأ عليهم وتكلم إما بظن وإما بهوى فهذا أبو حنيفة يعمل بحديث التوضي بالنبيذ في  السفر مخالفة للقياس وبحديث القهقهة في الصلاة مع مخالفته للقياس لاعتقاده صحتهما وإن كان أئمة الحديث لم يصححوهما وقد بينا هذا في رسالة ” رفع الملام عن الأئمة الأعلام ” وبينا أن أحدا من أئمة الإسلام لا يخالف حديثا صحيحا بغير عذر بل لهم نحو من عشرين عذرا

[b] He was anti-intellectual: this is another commonly held idea about Ibn Taymiyyah. He was not ant-rational; in fact he studied philosophy extensively with the aim to critique Hellenistic philosophy and assert the superior nature of Islamic thought. This study informed his theology considerably – especially regarding themes of theodicy, Divine action in the world and metaphysics. Massive works like Dar’ Ta`arud al-Naql wa ’l-`Aql reveal his indebtedness to logical reasoning as well as Avicennan philosophy and are only understood by specialists.

[c] He was anti-Caliphate: Ibn Taymiyyah upheld the necessity of the Caliphate without which the laws of Islam could not be implemented. He wrote extensively on good governance and was at the forefront of defending the Shariah and its sanctity from attack and incorrect implementation. His book Siyasat al-Shari`ah fi Islah al-Ra’i wa’l-Ra`iyyah and various fatawa outline his thinking on this issue. 

[d] He was an absolute jihadist: this is a common attribution and is inaccurate. Ibn Taymiyyah was well aware of the rules governing combat and military engagements and did not incite indiscriminate killing or fighting – this is, unfortunately, a jihadist distortion.

[5] Qualities:

  • According to what can be inferred from al-Dhahabi’s biographical entry on Ibn Taymiyyah, the qualities and characteristics that made him outstanding were the following:
  • [1] His constant invocation of Allah (dhikr): his focus on litanies from after the Fajr Prayer until noon as well as general practice of dhikr.
  • [2] Prodigious memory: he memorised the Qur’an, hadith, texts and masses of information. He used to write from memory and his references upon later inspections were found to be exact and precise. His memory also enabled him to compose a vast number of works which although were not all edited or organised in a systematic way, nevertheless were hugely influential.
  • [3] His numerous works: Ibn Taymiyyah write on all major Islamic themes both for the scholarly circles as well as the general Muslims and many benefited from them which added to his fame, popularity and approachability.

[6] Statesman:

  • His political awareness: he was always abreast of Muslim affairs both within the borders of his residence as well as the wider Islamic territories. He was concerned with the hard realities of human life within the Muslim community as well as its well-being within a wider political shift of power…Continued in part two:

Basic Online references:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Taymiyyah
  2. http://maqasid.wordpress.com/2008/01/08/ibn-taymiyyah-misunderstood-genius-dr-rachid-ghannuchi/
  3. http://mukhtas.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/ibn-taymiyyah/
  4. http://qsep.com/modules.php?name=assunnah&d_op=viewarticle&aid=193
  5. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/280847/Ibn-Taymiyyah
  6. http://surrenderingislam.com/surrendering-islam/ibn-taymiyyah
  7. http://spa.qibla.com/issue_view.asp?HD=7&ID=4851&CATE=22
  8. http://www.ibntaymiyyah.com/
  9. http://www.a2youth.com/articles/history_and_biographies/short_biography_of_imam_ahmad_ibn_taymiyyah/
  10. http://sunnahonline.com/library/biographies/154-taymiyyah

 

[End]

 

S. Z. Chowdhury

Cyprus, 2004.


[1] al-Dhahabi’s extended biographical segment (here abbreviated as Tarjamah) on Ibn Taymiyyah edited from the manuscript (fols.38a-45b) by `Akkashah in Masa’il wa ’l-Ajwibah, p.237.

[2] Ibid., p.237.

[3] Ibid., pp.237-238.

[4] Ibid., p.239.

[5] Ibid., p.240.

[6] Ibid., p.242.

[7] Ibid., p.249.

[8] Ibid., p.249.

[9] Ibn Nasir al-Din al-Shafi`i, al-Radd al-Wafir, p.159.

[10] al-Dhahabi, Tarjamah, p.241.

[11] Ibid., p.249.

[12] See for example his huge monograph on Sufi themes in al-Istiqamah.

[13] Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Majmu` al-Fatawa, 14:355.

[14] Ibid., 20:63.

[15] Ibid., 8:369.

[19] Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Majmu` al-Fatawa, 5:3: “And by ‘friend of Allah’ (awliya’ Allah) is meant the pious believers regardless of whether they are called a faqir, sufi, jurist, scholar, trader, soldier, craftsman, ruler or sovereign or other than them…”

 

و «أولياء الله» هم المؤمنون المتقون، سواء سمي أحدهم فقيراً أو صوفياً أو فقيهاً أو عالماً أو تاجراً أو جندياً أو صانعاً أو أميراً أو حاكماً أو غير ذلك

 

[20] Ibn Taymiyyah, The Decisive Criterion Between the Awliya’ of The Most Merciful and the Awliya’ of Shaytan, pp.107-128. Ibn Taymiyyah was reported to have demonstrated miraculous feats himself.

[21] Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Majmu` al-Fatawa, 11:510. Ibn `Abd al-Hadi states how Ibn Taymiyyah was invested with the Qadiri Sufi frock where between `Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani and him were two persons in the order’s spiritual genealogy. See Bad’ al-`Ulqah fi bi-Lubs al-Khirqah, pp.134-135 and 157.

[22] al-Dhahabi, Tarjamah, p.243.

[23] Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Wabil al-Sayyib, p.60.

[24] Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Majmu` al-Fatawa, 20:304-305.

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