|Islamic scholar, Islamic philosopher
|Born||10 Rabi' al-awwal 661 AH, or
January 22, 1263 CE
|Died||20 Dhu al-Qi'dah 728 AH, or
September 26, 1328 (aged 64–65)
|Era||High Middle Ages|
|Region||Middle Eastern Scholar|
Taqî ad-Dîn Aḥmad ibn Taymiyyah (born in Harran, January 22, 1263 – died in Damascus, September 20, 1328 at the age of 65), full name: Taqī ad-Dīn Abu 'l-`Abbās Aḥmad ibn `Abd al-Ḥalīm ibn `Abd as-Salām ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Khidr ibn Muhammad ibn al-Khidr ibn `Ali ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Taymiyyah al-Ḥarrānī (Arabic: تقي الدين أبو العباس أحمد بن عبد الحليم بن عبد السلام بن عبد الله بن الخضر بن محمد بن الخضر بن على بن عبد الله ابن تيمية الحراني), was a Sunni Islamic scholar (alim), Sunni Islamic philosopher, Sunni theologian and logician. He lived during the troubled times of the Mongol invasions. He was a member of the school founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and is considered by his followers, along with Ibn Qudamah, as one of the two most significant proponents of Hanbalism. In the modern era, his adherents often refer to the two as "the two sheikhs" and Ibn Taymiyyah in particular as "Sheikh ul-Islam". Ibn Taymiyyah was notable for having sought the return of Sunni Islam to what he viewed as earlier interpretations of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and is considered to have had considerable influence in contemporary Wahhabism, Salafism, and Jihadism. He is renowned for his fatwa (takfir) issued against the Mongol rulers declaring jihad by Muslims against them compulsory, on the grounds that they did not follow Sharia and as such were not Muslim, their claims to have converted to Islam notwithstanding. His teachings had a profound influence on Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and other later Sunni scholars. He also influenced the Sanusism movement in North Africa and other similar reform movements within the Islamic world.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Influences
- 3 Views
- 4 Works
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Ibn Taymiyya was born in 1263 in Harran into a well-known family of theologians. Harran was a city in Şanlıurfa province of modern day Turkey, a place to which Moses was reportedly sent to provide guidance and before its destruction by the Mongols, was also well known for its Hanbali school. His grandfather, Abu al-Barkat Majd ad-Din ibn Taymiyyah al-Hanbali (d. 1255) was a reputable teacher of the Hanbali school of law. Likewise, the scholarly achievements of ibn Taymiyyah's father, Shihab al-deen 'Abd al-Halim ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1284) were also well known.
Ibn Taymiyyah's name is unusual in that it is derived from a female member of his family as opposed to a male member which was the normal custom at the time and still is now. Taimiyatu was a woman, famous for her scholarship and piety, and as a result, the name Ibn Taymiyyah was taken up by many of her male descendent.
Immigration to Damascus
In 1267, Ibn Taymiyyah at the age of seven together with his father, and other family members left the city of Harran which was completely destroyed by the ensuing Mongol invasion. Ibn Taymiyyah's family moved to Damascus, which was then ruled by the Mamluks of Egypt. It was here that his father delivered sermons from the pulpit of the Umayyad Mosque, and Ibn Taymiyyah followed in his footsteps by studying with the scholars of his time.
Early years and education
Ibn Taymiyyah acquainted himself with the secular and religious sciences of his time. In his early teens he committed the entire Qur'an to memory and later on came to learn the islamic disciplines of the Qur'an. From his father he learnt the religious science of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and Usul al-Fiqh (principles of jurisprudence). The number of scholars under which he studied Hadith is said to number more than two hundred, four of whom were women. One of his teachers was the Hanbali Chief Justice of Syria, Shams ud-Din Al-Maqdisi who later on came to gave Ibn Taymiyyah permission to issue Fatawa (legal verdicts) when he had reached the age of 17. He devoted attention to Arabic language and Arabic literature by studying under Ali ibn `Abd al-Qawi. Ibn Taymiyyah went on to master the famous book of arabic grammer, Al-Kitab, by the persian grammarian Sibawayhi. He studied lexicography, mathematics and calligraphy. Other fields of study which he learnt were theology (kalam), philosophy, and Sufism. At the age of 20 in the year 1282, Ibn Taymiyyah completed his education.
Later on in his life he became a representative of the Hanbali school of thought. Though he remained faithful throughout his life to that school, whose doctrines he had mastered, he nevertheless called for ijthihad. He wrote polemics against Christians and Sufis. His student Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya wrote the famous poem "O Christ-Worshipper" which examined the dogma of the Trinity propounded by many Christian sects.
His troubles with government began when he went with a delegation of ulama to talk to Ghazan Khan, the Khan of the Mongol Ilkhans in Iran, to stop his attack on the Muslims. It is reported that none of the ulama dared to say anything to the Khan except Ibn Taymiyyah who said:
"You claim that you are Muslim and you have with you Mu'adhdhins, Muftis, Imams and Shaykhs but you invaded us and reached our country for what? While your father and your grandfather, Hulagu were non-believers, they did not attack and they kept their promise. But you promised and broke your promise."
Ibn Taymiya was imprisoned several times for conflicting with the ijma of jurists and theologians of his day. In 1305 his views on Divine attributes were debated by the Indian Scholar Safi Al-Hindi, in the prescence of judges in Cairo. Thereafter he was imprisoned. He spent his last fifteen years in Damascus. The most famous of his students, Ibn Qayyim, was to share in Ibn Taymiyyah's renewed persecutions. From August 1320 to February 1321 Ibn Taymiyyah was imprisoned on orders from Cairo in the citadel of Damascus for supporting a doctrine that would curtail the ease with which a Muslim man could divorce his wife.
When he was ultimately banned from having any books, further charges of heresy were brought against Ibn Taymiyya for his assertion that a divorce pronounced in innovative fashion does not take effect, against the consensus of the scholars which stipulated that it does, though innovative. After spending the years 1319-21 in jail, he was jailed again in 1326 until his death two years later for declaring that one who travels to visit the Prophet's grave commits innovation (bidah). He was buried in the Sufi cemetery in Damascus where other members of his family had been buried before him. His student al-Dhahabi praised him lavishly as "the brilliant shaykh, imam, erudite scholar, censor, jurist, mujtahid, and commentator of the Qur'an," but acknowledged that Ibn Taymiyya's disparaging manners alienated even his admirers. For example, the grammarian Abu Hayyan al-Gharnati praised Ibn Taymiyya until he found out that he believed himself a greater expert in the Arabic language than Sibawayh, whereupon he disassociated himself from his previous praise. Ibn Taymiyyah's admirers often deemed him as Sheikh ul-Islam, an honorific title with which he is sometimes still termed today. He may be considered at the root of Wahhabism, the Senussi order and other later reformist movements.
A strong influence on Ibn Taymiyyah was the the founder of the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence, Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Ibn Taymiyyah was trained in this school and he had studied Ibn Hanbal's Musnad in great detail, having studied it over multiple times. Though he spent much of his life following this school, in the end he renounced taqlid (blind following).
His work was most influenced by the sayings and actions of the Salaf (first 3 generation of Muslims) and this showed in his work where he would give preference to the Salaf over his contemporaries. The modern Salafi movement derives its name from this school of thought.
Ibn Taymiyyah's highly intellectual discourse at explaining "The Wise Purpose of God, Human Agency, and the Problems of Evil & Justice" using God's attributes as a means has been illustrated by Dr. Jon Hoover in his work "Ibn Taymiyyah's Theodicy of Perpetual Optimism".
Mongol invasion and other struggles
What has been called Ibn Taymiyyah's "most famous" fatwā was issued against the Mongols in the Mamluk's war. Ibn Taymiyyah declared that jihad upon the Mongols was not only permissible, but obligatory. He based this ruling his argument that the Mongols could not, in his opinion, be true Muslims despite the fact that they had converted to Sunni Islam because they ruled using what he considered 'man-made laws' (their traditional Yassa code) rather than Islamic law or Sharia. Because of this, he reasoned they were living in a state of jahiliyyah, or pre-Islamic pagan ignorance.
Apart from that, he led the resistance of the Mongol invasion of Damascus in 1300. In the years that followed, Ibn Taymiyyah was engaged in intensive polemic activity against:
- the Rifa'i Sufi order,
- the ittihadiyah school, a school that grew out of the teaching of Ibn Arabi, whose views were widely denounced as heretical.
In 1305 Ibn Taymiyyah was imprisoned in the citadel of Cairo for eighteen months on the charge of anthropomorphism. He was incarcerated again in 1308 for several months.
In 2010 a group of Islamic Scholars in Mardin argued that Ibn Taymiyya's fatwa was misprinted into an order to "fight" the ruler who is not applying Islamic law, but rather it means to "treat." They have based their understanding on the original manuscript in the Al-Zahiriyah Library, and the transmission by Ibn Taymiyya's student Ibn Muflih.
Ibn Taymiyyah was noted for emphasis he put on the importance of jihad. He wrote that
"It is in jihad that one can live and die in ultimate happiness, both in this world and in the Hereafter. Abandoning it means losing entirely or partially both kinds of happiness."
He gave a broad definition of what constituted "aggression" against Muslims and what actions by non-believers made jihad permissible. He declared
"It is allowed to fight people for (not observing) unambiguous and generally recognized obligations and prohibitions, until they undertake to perform the explicitly prescribed prayers, to pay zakat, to fast during the month of Ramadan, to make the pilgrimage to Mecca and to avoid what is prohibited, such as marrying women in spite of legal impediments, eating impure things, acting unlawfully against the lives and properties of Muslims and the like. It is obligatory to take the initiative in fighting those people, as soon as the Prophet's summons with the reasons for which they are fought has reached them. But if they first attack the Muslims then fighting them is even more urgent, as we have mentioned when dealing with the fighting against rebellious and aggressive bandits."
Ibn Taymiyyah censured the scholars for blindly conforming to the precedence of early jurists without any resort to the Qur'an and Sunnah. He contended that although juridical precedence has its place, blindly giving it authority without contextualization, sensitivity to societal changes, and evaluative mindset in light of the Qur'an and Sunnah can lead to ignorance and stagnancy in Islamic Law. Ibn Taymiyyah likened the extremism of Taqlid (blind conformity to juridical precedence or school of thought) to the practice of Jews and Christians who took their rabbis and ecclesiastics as gods besides God.
Ibn Taymiyyah held that much of the Islamic scholarship of his time had declined into modes that were inherently against the proper understanding of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. He strove to:
- Revive the Islamic faith's understanding of true adherence to Tawhid,
- Eradicate beliefs and customs that he held to be foreign to Islam, and
- To rejuvenate correct Islamic thought and its related sciences.
Ibn Taymiyyah believed that the best role models for Islamic life were the first three generations of Islam (Salaf); which constitute Muhammad and his companions (first generation), followed by the generation of Muslims born after the death of Muhammad known as the Tabi'un (second generation) which is then followed lastly by the next generation after the Tabi'un known as Tabi' Al-Tabi'in (third generation). Their practice, together with the Qur'an, constituted a seemingly infallible guide to life. Any deviation from their practice was viewed as bid‘ah, or innovation, and to be forbidden. He also praised and wrote a commentary on some of the speeches of Abdul-Qadir Gilani. He criticized the views and actions of the Rafaiyah.
Ibn Taymiyyah strongly opposed borrowing from Christianity or other non-Muslim religions. In his text On the Necessity of the Straight Path (kitab iqtida al-sirat al-mustaqim) he preached that the beginning of Muslim life was the point at which "a perfect dissimilarity with the non-Muslims has been achieved." To this end he opposed the celebration of the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad or the construction of mosques around the tombs of Sufi saints saying: "Many of them (the Muslims) do not even know of the Christian origins of these practices."
Ibn Taymiyyah rejected two views associated with Sufism. For one he said that some Sufis insulted God with their monism, a doctrine (seemingly similar to pantheism) that God "encompasses all things". This rejection included denouncing the views of the monist Ibn Arabi. For the second he said that the view that spiritual enlightenment is of a greater importance than obeying the sharia was a failure to properly follow the example of Muhammad. Henri Laoust however says, "He never condemned Ṣūfism in itself, but only that which he considered to be, in the case of too many Ṣūfis, inadmissible deviations in doctrine, ritual or morals."
Ibn Taymiyyah opposed giving any undue religious honors to mosques (especially that of Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque), to approach or rival in any way the Islamic sanctity of the two most holy mosques within Islam, Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca) and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (in Madina).
Ibn Taymiyyah eulogized the Ghaznavid ruler, stating that:
"He commanded that Ahlul Bidah (the people of religious innovation) be publicly condemned in sermons from the minbars (pulpits) and, as a result, the Jahmiyyah, Hulooliyah, Mu'tazilah, and Qadariyah were all publicly denounced, along with the Asharites."
Later, Ibn Taymiyyah argued against the certainty of syllogistic arguments and in favour of analogy (qiyas). He argues that concepts founded on induction are themselves not certain but only probable, and thus a syllogism based on such concepts is no more certain than an argument based on analogy. He further claimed that induction itself depends on a process of analogy. His model of analogical reasoning was based on that of juridical arguments. Work by John F. Sowa has used Ibn Taymiyyah's model of analogy.
He elaborated a circumstantial analysis of market mechanism, with a theoretical insight unusual in his time. His discourses on the welfare advantages and disadvantages of market regulation and deregulation, have an almost contemporary ring to them.
Ibn Taymiyyah commenting on the power of supply and demand:
"If desire for goods increases while its availability decreases, its price rises. On the other hand, if availability of the good increases and the desire for it decreases, the price comes down."
Ibn Taymiyyah left a considerable body of work (350 works listed by his student Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya and 500 by his student al-Dhahabi) that has been republished extensively in Syria, Egypt, Arabia, and India. Extant books and essays written by ibn Taymiyyah include:
- A Great Compilation of Fatwa—(Majmu al-Fatwa al-Kubra) This was collected centuries after his death, and contains several of the works mentioned below.
- Minhaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah—(The Pathway of as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah)—Volumes 1–4.
- Al-Aqidah Al-Waasitiyyah—(The Creed to the People of Wāsiṭ)
- Darʾ taʿāruḍ al-ʿaql wa al-naql (The rejection of the conflict between reason and revelation)—10 Volumes. Also called Al-Muwāfaqa ("harmony").
- Majmoo' al-Fatawa—(Compilation of Fatawa) Volumes 1–36
- al-Aqeedah Al-Hamawiyyah—(The Creed to the People of Hama, Syria)
- al-Asma wa's-Sifaat—(Allah's Names and Attributes) Volumes 1–2
- Al-Jawab as Sahih li man Baddala Din al-Masih (Literally, "The Correct Response to those who have Corrupted the Deen (Religion) of the Messiah"; A Muslim theologian's response to Christianity)—seven volumes, over a thousand pages.
- as-Sarim al-Maslul ‘ala Shatim ar-Rasul—The Drawn Sword against those who insult the Messenger. Written in response to an incident in which Ibn Taymiyyah heard a Christian insulting Muhammad. The book is well-known because he wrote it entirely by memory, while in jail, and quoting more than hundreds of references.
- Fatawa al-Kubra
- Fatawa al-Misriyyah
- ar-Radd 'ala al-Mantiqiyyin (Refutation of Greek Logicians)
- Naqd at-Ta'sis
- al-Uboodiyyah—(Subjection to God)
- Iqtida' as-Sirat al-Mustaqim'—(Following The Straight Path)
- al-Siyasa al-shar'iyya
- at-Tawassul wal-Waseela
- Sharh Futuh al-Ghayb—(Commentary on Revelations of the Unseen by Abdul-Qadir Gilani)
Some of his other works have been translated to English. They include:
- The Friends of Allah and the Friends of Shaytan
- Kitab al Iman: The Book of Faith
- Diseases of the Hearts and their Cures
- The Relief from Distress
- Fundamentals of Enjoining Good & Forbidding Evil
- The Concise Legacy
- The Goodly Word
- The Madinan Way
- Ibn Taymiyya against the Greek logicians
- Muslims Under Non-Muslim Rule
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- Michot, Yahya – Ibn Taymiyya’s “New Mardin Fatwa”. Is genetically modified Islam (GMI) carcinogenic?, in "The Muslim World", 101/2, April 2011, pp. 130–181.
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