On Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah
A brief biography of Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah, along with replies to many of the doubts that the enemies of Ahl al-Sunnah seek to cast upon this noble Scholar of Islām
You would not see a scholar opposing him (Ibn Taymīyyah), dissuading from him, filled with hatred for him, except that he was the most greedy of them in gathering the worldly goods, the most cunning of them in acquiring them, the most ostentatious of them, the most desirous for reputation…and the most prolific of them in having lies on his tongue.
Ḥāfiẓ al-Bazzār, depicting the opponents of Ibn Taymīyyah
He is the mujtahid and reformer of his age, Aḥmad ibn Abd al-Haleem ibn Abd as-Salām ibn Abd Allāh ibn Abū Qaasim ibn Taymīyyah al-Harraanee Taqi ad-Dīn Abū al-ʿAbbās ibn Shihaab ad-Dīn. He rose the flag of the belief and understanding of Ahus Sunnah in his time, at a time when innovation, misguidance, and corruption was widespread, being preached by even some of the People of Knowledge that became well known in later times.
Due to ibn Taymīyyah’s firm stance against all that was false and corrupt he earned the envy and hatred of all those that he opposed - who were many - and as such had many lies heaped around him. The purpose of this section is to show this scholar in his true light and expose those lies heaped around him.
Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Bazzaar said, depicting the opponents of ibn Taymīyyah, "you would not see a scholar opposing him (ibn Taymīyyah), dissuading from him, filled with hatred for him, except that he was the most greedy of them in gathering the worldly goods, the most cunning of them in acquiring them, the most ostentatious of them, the most desirous for reputation…and the most prolific of them in having lies on his tongue." [ ‘al-A`lām al-Uliyyah’ (pg. 82) of al-Bazzaar.]
The Praise of the Scholars of him
Many of the scholars of his time and after his time praised Shaykh al-Islām for his knowledge, asceticism, piety, and following closely the way of the salaf. Many of these statements of praise were collected in a book written by al-Ḥāfiẓ ibn Nāṣir ad-Dīn entitled ‘Radd al-Waafir’ refuting the extreme claim of the one that said calling ibn Taymīyyah, ‘Shaykh al-Islām’, was unbelief.
Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī said, "It was amazing when he mentioned an issue over which there was a difference of opinion, and when he gave evidence and decided the strongest opinion - and he could perform ijtihād due to his fulfilling it’s conditions. I have not seen one who was quicker than he at recalling a verse which pertained to the issue that he derived from it, nor a man who was more strong in recalling texts and referring them to their sources. The Sunnah was in front of his eyes and upon the tip of his tongue with eloquent phrases and an open eye.
He was a sign from the signs of Allāh in tafsīr and expounding upon it. With regards to the foundation of the religion and knowledge of the differing opinions (on an issue) then he was unequalled - this alongside his generosity, courage and lack of attention to the joys of the soul.
And maybe his legal rulings in the various sciences reached three hundred volumes, rather more and he was always saying the truth for the sake of Allāh, not caring for the blame that came to him.
Whosoever associates with him and knows him well accuses me of deficiency/slackness with regards to him. Whosoever opposes him and differs with him accuses me of exaggeration, and I have been wronged by both parties - his companions and his opponents.
He was white skinned with black hair and a black beard with a few gray hairs. His hair reached his earlobes. His eyes were eloquent tongues, and had broad shoulders and a loud, clear voice with a fast recitation. He was quick to anger but overcame it with patience and forbearance.
I have not seen his like for supplications (to Allāh) and seeking succour with Him, and his abundant concern for others. However I do not believe him to be infallible, rather I differ with him on both fundamental and subsidiary matters for he - despite his vast learning, extreme courage, fluid mind, and regard for the sanctity of the religion - was a man from amongst men. He could be overcome with sharpness and anger in discussion, and attack his opponents (verbally) hence planting enmity in their souls towards him.
If only he were gentle to his opponents then there would have been a word of agreement over him - for indeed their great scholars bowed to his learning, acknowledged his ability and lack of mistakes, and conceded that he was an ocean having no limits and a treasure having no equivalent. However they harboured ill feeling against him….and every person’s saying can be taken or left
He used to preserve the prayers and fasts, glorifying the laws outwardly and inwardly. He did not give fatwá out of poor understanding for he was extremely intelligent, nor out of lack of knowledge for he was an overflowing ocean. Neither did he play with the religion but derived evidence from the Qurʾān, Sunnah and Qiyaas (analogy) and proved and argued following the footsteps of the Imāms who preceded him, so he has a reward if he erred and two rewards if he was correct.
He fell ill in the castle (in which he was imprisoned) with a serious disease until he died on the night of Monday 20th Dhul Qa`dah, and they prayed over him in the mosque of Damascus. And afterwards many talked about the number that attended his funeral prayer, and the least number given was fifty thousand." [‘al-Durar al-Kaaminah’ of ibn Hajr al-Asqʿalánee under the biography of ibn Taymīyyah]
Ibn Hajr al-Asqʿalánee said, "the shaykh of our shaykhs, al-Ḥāfiẓ Abū al-Yu`maree (ibn Sayyid al-Nās) said in his biography of ibn Taymīyyah: ‘al-Mizzi encouraged me to express my opinion on Shaykh al-Islām Taqi ad-Dīn. I found him to be from those who had acquired a fortunate of knowledge in the sciences that he had. He used to completely memorized and implement the Sunan and Āthār (narrations). Should he speak about tafsīr then he would carry its flag, and should he pass a fatwá in fiqh then he knew its limits. Should he speak about a ḥadīth then he was the companion of its knowledge and fully cognizant of its narrations. Should he give a lecture on Religions and Sects then none was seen who was more comprehensive or meticulous than he, he surpassed his contemporaries in every science, and you would not see one like him, and his own eye did not see one like himself.
He used to speak on tafsīr and a large number of people would attend his gatherings, and an agreeable number would return (having drunk) from his sweet, rich ocean. It continued in this way until the sickness of envy crept (into the hearts) of the people of his city. The people given to faultfinding gathered together and picked out anything that could be disapproved of in his beliefs, and they memorized certain of his statements with respect to this. They undermined him due to this and laid traps for him by which they could declare him to be an innovator. They thought that he had left their way, and split off from their sect. So they argued with him, and he with them, and some of them cut relations with him, and he with them.
Then he argued with another group who was attributed to the Fuqaraa (a group of the Ṣufis) who thought that they were on the minute details of the inner reality and upon its truth. And he exposed these Orders….
Then this reached the first group and they sought help from those who cut relations with him and harboured malice towards him. So they took the matter to the rulers, each of them having decided that he was a disbeliever. And they prepared a meeting and inspired the ignorant people to spread the word amongst the great scholars. And they took steps to transfer the matter to the king of Egypt and as a result he (ibn Taymīyyah) was arrested and put in prison. And gatherings were convened to discuss the spilling of his blood, calling for this purpose the people from the small mosques and students - those people who would argue to make others happy, and those who would argue to show their cleverness, and those who declared takfīr and called for disassociation. And your Lord Knows what is in their hearts and what they proclaim. And the one who announced his kufr was no better than the one who argued to make others happy.
And the sting of their plots crept up on him, and Allāh made futile every plot, and rescued him at the hands of those who He chose…
Then he continuously moved from one trial to another and in all his life he did not move from trouble except into trouble. Then there followed what followed in the matter of his arrest and he stayed there in prison until he died, and to Allāh all matters return. On the day of his funeral the streets were crowded, and the Muslims came from every roadway…’" [ibid]
Ibn Hajr al-Asqʿalánee also said, "I read in the handwriting of al-Ḥāfiẓ Silāh ad-Dīn al-Bʿalá`ee in endorsement of the shaykh of our shaykhs al-Ḥāfiẓ Bahaa ad-Dīn ʿAbdullāh ibn Muḥammad ibn Khalīl: ‘Our shaykh and master and Imām in matters that are between Allāh and us, the Shaykh of research (tahqeeq), traversing, with those that followed him, the best way. Possessor of many excellent qualities and raḍīant proofs that all the nations have acknowledged are beyond enumeration. May Allāh make us benefit from his outstanding knowledge, and make us benefit from him in this life and the hereafter. He is the Shaykh, the Imām, the Ālim who understands the affairs, the deeply devoted, the ocean (of knowledge), the pole of light, the Imām of Imāms, the blessing to the Muslim nation, the sign of the scholars, the inheritor of the Prophets, the last of the Mujtahids, unique amongst the scholars of the Religion - Shaykh al-Islām, proof of the scholars, the example for the creatures, proof for the learned ones, effacer of the innovators, sword of the disputers, ocean of knowledge, beneficial treasure, the interpreter of the Qurʾān, the amazement of the times, unique in this age and others. Indeed Taqi ad-Dīn (ibn Taymīyyah) is the Imām of the Muslims, the proof of Allāh against the creation, the joiner of the righteous, the one who is like those who have preceded, the mufti of the sect, helper of the truth, the sign of guidance, the pillar of the Huffaadh, Knight of the meanings of words, cornerstone of the Sharee`ah, originator of new sciences Abū al-ʿAbbās ibn Taymīyyah." [Ibid. From this book taken on it’s own it is very difficult to discern ibn Hajr’s own opinion on ibn Taymīyyah was. For all he did was to gather all the material he could find on the Shaykh and then start off the account with all those scholars who wrote against him, and end with all those scholars who supported him. It would seem likely that ibn Hajr’s own stance would be in line with those whom he finished off his biography with, due to their being his Shaykhs. This reasoning is supported with the next quote from ibn Hajr. Allāh knows best.]
Ibn Hajr said, "…those of his stances that were rejected from him were not said by him due to mere whims and desires and neither did he obstinately and deliberately persist in them after the evidence was established against him. Here are his works overflowing with refutations of those who held to tajseem yet despite this he is a man who makes mistakes and is also correct. So that which he is correct in – and that is the majority – is to benefited from and Allāh’s Mercy should be sought for him due to it, and that which he is incorrect in should not be blindly followed. Indeed he is excused for his mistakes because he is one of the Imāms of his time and it has been witnessed that he fulfilled the conditions of ijtihād…
From the astonishing qualities of this man was that he was the strongest amongst men against the People of Innovation, the Rawaafidah, and the Hululiyyah, and the Ittihaadiyyah, and his works on this are many and famous, and his fatāwá on them cannot be counted, so how the eyes of these innovators must have found joy when they heard those who declared him to be a kāfir! And how delighted they must have been when they saw those who did not declare him to be a kāfir in turn being labelled kāfir! It is obligatory upon the one who has donned the robe of knowledge and possesses intelligence that he consider the words of a man based upon his well-known books or from the tongues of those who are trusted to accurately convey his words – then to isolate from all of this what is rejected and warn from them with the intention of giving sincere advice and to praise him for his excellent qualities and for what he was correct in as is the way of the scholars.
If there were no virtues of Shaykh Taqi ad-Dīn except for his famous student Shaykh Shams ad-Dīn ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, writer of many works, from which both his opponents and supporters benefited from then this would be a sufficient indication of his (ibn Taymīyyah’s) great position. And how could it be otherwise when the Shaafi`ee Imāms and others, not to speak of the Ḥanbalees, of his time testified to his prominence in the (Islamic) sciences…" [From Ibn Hajr’s endorsement of ‘Radd al-Waafir’ contained at the end of the book.]
Ibn Kathīr said, "the least he would do when he heard something was to memorise it and then busy himself with learning it. He was intelligent and had much committed to memory, and he became an Imām in tafsīr and everything linked to it and knowledgeable in fiqh. Indeed it was said he was more knowledgeable of the fiqh of the madhabs then the followers of those very same madhabs in his time and other than his time. He was a scholar in Uṣul and the branches of the religion and grammar and the language and other textual and intellectual sciences…no scholar of a science would speak to him except that he thought that that science was the speciality of ibn Taymīyyah. As for ḥadīth then he was the carrier of its flag, a ḥāfiẓ and able to distinguish the weak from the strong, fully acquainted with the narrators…" [‘al-Bidāyah wan Nihāyah’ (14/118-119) of ibn Kathīr.]
He also said, "He was, may Allāh have mercy upon him, from the greatest of scholars, also from those who err and are correct. However his errors with respect to his correct rulings were like a drop in a huge ocean and they are forgiven him as is authentically reported by Bukhārī, ‘when a ruler makes a ruling, and he is correct then he has two rewards, and if he has erred then he has one reward.’"
He also mentioned that when the scholars of his time gathered for a sitting with ibn Taymīyyah to discuss his work ‘Aqueedah al-Hamawiyyah’ that his replies to their accusations could not be rebutted. [‘al-Bidāyah wan Nihāyah’ (14/5)]
Similarly he mentioned that when the scholars sat to argue with him with regards to his Aqueedah al-Waasitiyyah the argument ended with them accepting all that was contained in the book as in vol. 14 of ‘al-Bidāyah’ under the heading ‘Aqd al-Majaalis ath-Thʿalátha’
Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Mizzi said, "I have not seen the likes of him, and his own eye had not seen the likes of himself. And I have not seen one who was more knowledgeable than him of the Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger, nor one who followed them more closely." [‘ḥayāt Shaykh al-Islām ibn Taymīyyah’ (pg. 21) of Shaykh Bahjatul Baitaar.]
Al-Ḥāfiẓ ibn Daqīq al-Eid said, "when I met ibn Taymīyyah I saw a man with all the sciences in front of his eyes, he took from them what he wished and he left what he wished." [ ‘Min Mashaheer al-Mujaddidayn’ (pg.26) of Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Fawzān] This after he had said, "by Allāh I did not think that there remained the likes of you." [ ‘al-Bidāyah wan Nihāyah’ (14/27) of ibn Kathīr and ‘Dhail `ʿalá Tabaqaat al-Hanabilā’ (2/392) of ibn Rajab.]
The Qaadee of Qaadees ibn al-Hureeree said, "if ibn Taymīyyah was not Shaykh al-Islām than who is?" [‘ḥayāt Shaykh al-Islām’ (pg.26)]
Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Bazzaar said, "I have not seen him mention any of the pleasures and attractions of this world, he did not delve into worldly conversations and he never asked for any of its livelihood. Instead he directed his attentions and conversations to seeking the Hereafter and what could get him closer to Allāh." [‘al-A`lām al-Uliyyah’ (pg.52) of al-Bazzaar.]
Al-Shaykh Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī said, "it will become clear to the one who studies ‘Madaarij as-Saalikeen’ (of ibn al-Qayyim) that these two (ibn Taymīyyah and ibn al-Qayyim) are from the greatest of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa`ah, and from the Awliyaa of this nation." [‘Mirqaat al-Mafaateeh’ (8/251-252) his commentary to ‘Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh’, as quoted from in ‘Shubuhaat Ahl al-Fitna’ (pg. 442) of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Dimisqiyyah.]
Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al Barr as-Subkee said, "by Allāh no one hates ibn Taymīyyah except for an ignoramus or the possessor of desires which have diverted him from the truth after he has come to know it." [‘Radd al-Waafir’ (pg.95) of ibn Nāṣir ad-Dīn]
Al-Ḥāfiẓ ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalee said, "he is the Imām, the legal Jurist, the Mujtahid, the Scholar of Ḥadīth, the Ḥāfiẓ, the Explainer of the Qurʾān, the Ascetic, Taqee ad-Dīn Abū al-ʿAbbās Shaykh al-Islām, the most knowledgeable of the knowledgeable, it is not possible to exaggerate his renown when he is mentioned….he, may Allāh have mercy upon him, was unique in his time with respect to understanding the Qurʾān and knowledge of the realities of faith." [‘adh-Dhail `ʿalá Tabaqaat al-Hanaabilā’ (2/387-392) of ibn Rajab]
The Imām of the Ḥanafīs, Badr ad-Dīn (Mahmud ibn Aḥmad) al-`Ainee said, "whosoever says ibn Taymīyyah is a kāfir the he is in reality himself a kāfir, and the one who accuses him of heresy is himself a heretic. How is this possible when his works are widely available and there is no hint of deviation or dissension contained therein." [‘Radd al-Waafir’ (pg. 245)]
Al-Ṣuyutī quotes from az-Zamlakaanee that he said, "our Master, our Shaykh, the Imām, the Scholar, the Unique (al-Awhad), the Ḥāfiẓ, the Mujtahid, the Ascetic, the Worshipper (Aabid), the Example, the Imām of the Imāms, the example for the Nation, the sign of the scholars, the inheritor of the Prophets, the Last of the Mujtahids, unique (Awhad) scholar of the Religion, the Blessing for Islām, the Proof of the Scholars (A`lām), the proof of the Mutakallimeen, the effacer of the innovators, endowed with exalted and amazing sciences, the Reviver of the Sunnah. The one by whom Allāh has greatly favoured us with, and established the proof with against His enemies. …Taqee ad-Dīn ibn Taymīyyah…"
Then al-Ṣuyutī follows this up by saying, "I have quoted this biography from the handwriting of the Allāmah, the unique individual of his time, Shaykh Kamaal ad-Dīn az-Zamlakaanee, may Allāh have mercy on him who used to say, ‘one who had more memorised than him has not been seen in the last five hundred years.’" [‘al-Ashbaah wa an-Nadhaa’ir an-Nahwiyyah’ (3/681), see also ‘Dhail ʿalá Tabaqaat al-Hanaabila’ (2/392-393)]
Al-Ṣuyutī said in the course of discussing his biography, "Shaykh al-Islām, the Ḥāfiẓ, the Faqīh, the Mujtahid, the distinguished Mufassir, the rarity of his time, Scholar of the Ascetics" [‘Tabaqaat al-Huffaadh’ (pg. 516 no. 1144), and ‘al-Asbaah wa al-Nadhaa’ir’ (3/683) of al-Ṣuyutī.]
We could mention many more scholars who praised him but insha’Allāh what we have quoted above is sufficient to paint a more just and true picture of this Imām. As for those scholars that applied the title ‘Shaykh al-Islām’ to him then they are numerous and would require a separate volume to list them [As has been done by some scholars, from amongst them ibn Nāṣir ad-Dīn in the aforementioned book ‘ar-Radd al-Waafir’]
The Accusations against him
From what has preceded it is clear that Shaykh al-Islām had many enemies, and many jealous rivalries who plotted against him together to try to make out that he was an innovator. So we advise anyone who wishes to criticise the Shaykh that he must make sure that his criticisms are based firmly upon the written works of ibn Taymīyyah, not merely upon the words of other than him, as done by his opponents.
What follows is an investigation of the points of belief that ibn Taymīyyah was accused of having deviances in. We have left out the various legal positions he had for which he was attacked for due to their relative unimportance.
On the works of Taqi ad-Dīn Subki and his son Taaj ad-Dīn Subki:
Much of what is written against ibn Taymīyyah are based upon the works of these two scholars. ‘Rasāʾil as-Subkiyyah’ of Shaykh Taqi ad-Dīn and the various biographical works of Taaj ad-Dīn for example ‘Tabaqaat ash-Shaafi`iyyah’.
As for the works of Taqi ad-Dīn then al-Dhahabī wrote to him, censuring him for what he had written, and his erroneous claims, to which as-Subkee replied saying, "As for what you say with regard to al-Shaykh Taqi ad-Dīn, then I am convinced of the great scope, the ocean-like fullness and vastness of his knowledge of the transmitted and intellectual sciences, his extreme intelligence, his ijtihād and his attainments in that which surpass description. And I have always held to this opinion. Personally, his status in my eyes is greater and more esteemed, for the asceticism, piety, religiosity, his helping the truth and standing firm on it for the sake of Allāh alone, his adherence to the path of the salaf and his abundant taking from it, and his strangeness in this time, nay any time." [‘al-Durar al-Kaamina’ of ibn Hajr under the biography of ibn Taymīyyah (1/159) and ‘Dhail Tabaqaat al-Hanaabilah’ (2/392) of ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalee.]
As for his son, Taaj ad-Dīn, then unfortunately, he went to extremes in criticising ibn Taymīyyah, due to his highly partisan and sectarian attitude. Such that Al-Sakhāwī endorsed the following words about him, following his statement, "did any of the Ḥanbalees raise their heads (i.e. become prominent)":
"This is from the strangest of things, and the most sectarian/partisan of attitudes, and this is why the Qaadee of our time, and Shaykh of the madhab al-Izz al-Kanaanee wrote under this statement, ‘and likewise Allāh did not raise the heads of the Mu`attila’ and then he said about Taaj ad-Dīn Subki, ‘he is a man having little manners, lack of scholarly integrity, ignorant of Ahl al-Sunnah and their ranks.’" [ ‘al-I`lān bi at-Tawbeekh liman Dhamma at-Taareekh’ (94-95) of Al-Sakhāwī]
A glimpse of his attacks can be seen in ‘Albani Unveiled’ (pp 114-116) and in what follows the truth of the above criticism will become clear, and a more severe and devastating reality will become apparent, and that is the amount of lies that are heaped around the pillars of Ahlus Sunnah in all ages by individuals that claim to be supporting the truth.
On the book ‘Naseehah adh-Dhahabiyyah’:
A book ascribed to al-Dhahabī in which he launches a severe attack on ibn Taymīyyah, but in reality was not written by him, but falsely ascribed to him, this due to many reasons:
a.No one who is familiar with the works of al-Dhahabī mentioned this as one of his works.
b.Al-Dhahabī remained the student of ibn Taymīyyah until the latters death.
c.All of the sayings of al-Dhahabī in the books that are affirmed to be from him, to do with ibn Taymīyyah, revolve around praise and respect of him. (A glimpse of these has preceded).
d.This letter is written in the handwriting of ibn Qaadee ash-Shuhba, an enemy of ibn Taymīyyah.
We have not seen one who ascribes this book to al-Dhahabī after Qaadee ash-Shuhba except for his contemporary, al-Ḥāfiẓ Al-Sakhāwī, may Allāh have mercy on him, who merely followed him. [From the book, ‘at-Tawdeeh al-Jallee fī ar-Radd ʿalá Naseeha adh-Dhahabiyyah al-Mʿʿanhula ʿalá al-Imām al-Dhahabī’ (pp85-86) by Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ibrāhīm ash-Shaybaanee, with summary]
The Accusation that ibn Taymīyyah held Allāh to be a body, of composite parts having organs.
Amongst those contemporary, and recent writers who accused Shaykh al-Islām of this are: al-Habbashee al-Huraree, as-Saqqaaf and his mentor Zaahid al-Kawtharee. In fact all the attacks that are about to be raised will find their origins with one, or all of the three personalities mentioned above, from the writers of recent and contemporary times.
As-Saqqaaf says, after previously quoting al-Nawawīs ruling of unbelief on the one who ascribes to Allāh a jism (body):
"Entering into this category is al-Harraanee (i.e. ibn Taymīyyah)…who has affirmed tajseem (Allāh having a body) in many of his books. So from this is his saying in ‘at-Ta`sees’ (1/101): ‘and there is not in the Book of Allāh, nor in the Sunnah of His Messenger, nor a statement from any of the Salaf of this ummah and it’s Imāms that He is not a jism, and that His Attributes are not bodily, consisting of organs…’ I say: By Allāh who originated the heavens and the Earth - your saying is ignorance and misguidance. Is not Allāh - the Most High’s - saying, "there is nothing like Him" sufficient in negating tajseem and it’s reality, O al-Harraanee?!! And what about the Imāms of the Ummah and the Salaf - O al-Harraanee - and their censure of tashbīh…." [‘Daf Shubah at-Tashbeeh’ (pp 245-246) with it’s endnotes by Saqqaaf. ]
Shaykh Mashur Salmān said in reply to this, "these words are from one who does not know what fairness is, who acts haphazardly in his rulings, and who falsely accuses the scholars of wickedness. This becomes apparent in a number of ways:
From them: that the previously stated words are not from the writings of ibn Taymīyyah in which he is clarifying his own views, or even stating them. Rather he is quoting the saying of the People of Kʿalám (innovated speech and rhetorics). However as-Saqqaaf has conveniently omitted the beginning of the quotation from Shaykh al-Islām ibn Taymīyyah, where he clearly stated: Qaaloo (they said)!!
From them: that Saqqaaf overlooks the words of Shaykh al-Islām ibn Taymīyyah - may Allāh have mercy upon him - concerning the overall usage of this term in reference to Allāh - the Mighty and Majestic - and he halted where he halted upon with knowledge. However justice is very rare - and there is no movement and power except with Allāh.
Shaykh al-Islām said, in the course of this topic, ‘indeed the term al-Jism (body), al-Arad (organs), al-Mutahayyiz (extent) are newly invented terminoligies. We have mentioned many a time before that the Salaf and the Imāms have not spoken about such things - neither by way of negation, nor by way of affirmation. Rather they declared those who spoke about such matter to be innovators, and went to great lengths to censure them.’
This is what has repeatedly been affirmed by Shaykh al-Islām - may Allāh have mercy on him - in many of his books, such as: ‘Sharḥ Ḥadīth an-Nuzool’ (pp. 69-76), ‘Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá’ (3/306-310, 13/304-305), ‘Minḥāj al-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah’ (2/134-135, 192, 198-200, 527). Indeed in ‘Sharḥ Ḥadīth an-Nuzool’ Shaykh al-Islām has labelled ascriibng Allāh with the term jism, by saying, ‘an innovation in the Sharee`ah, a corruption of the language, and a contraḍīction to the [sound] intellect. Rather it is repudiated by the Sharee`ah, the language and the [sound] intellect.’
And from them: Shaykh al-Islām mentions the intended meaning of ascriibng Allāh with the term jism, by saying: ‘whosoever alleges that the Lord is a jism - with the meaning that he accepts division, separation and partition (for Allāh) - then he is the most disbelieving of people and the most ignorant. Indeed, his statement is more evil than the one who says that Allāh has a son - with them meaning that a part of Him split and thus became His son.’" [ ‘al-Asaalah’ magazine (no.4 pp.54-55), see also his ‘Rudood wat Ta’qubaat’ (pp 21-23) ]
And at this point we quote from a writer of the own ranks of the accusers: Dr. Saʿīd Ramaḍān al-Bootee who says, "and we are amazed when we see the extremists declaring ibn Taymīyyah, may Allāh have mercy upon him, of being an unbeliever. And also at them saying that he was one who held Allāh to be a body (mujassid), and I have studied long and hard as to where I could find a statement or a word from ibn Taymīyyah that he wrote or said which would indicate his holding Allāh to be a body as was quoted from him by as-Subki and others [This is a clear indication from al-Bootee of the injustice done against ibn Taymīyyah by the likes of as-Subki and others], and I have not found anything from him like this. All I found was him saying in his legal rulings, ‘Indeed Allāh has a Hand as He said, and has risen over the Throne as He said, and He has an Eye as He said’"
And he adds to this, " I referred to the last work written by Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ash`aree, ‘al-Ibānah’, and I found him saying exactly what ibn Taymīyyah said [on the issue of the Names and Attributes of Allāh]…" [‘Nadwa Ittjaahaat al-Fiqr al-Islāmee’ (pp 264-265) of al-Bootee.]
The Claims of ibn Batuta:
Amongst the contemporaries of ibn Taymīyyah who accused him of tajseem was the travelling historian, ibn Batuta who said, "I was present in Damascus on Friday where he (ibn Taymīyyah) was admonishing and reminding the people from the minbar (pulpit) of the congregational mosque. During his speech he said: Indeed Allāh descends to the lowest heaven of the world just as I am descending now. He then descended one step of the minbar…" [‘al-Rihlah’ (1/110) of ibn Batuta.]
The falsehood of this can be seen from many angles:
1.This contraḍīcts the madhab of ibn Taymīyyah concerning the Attributes of Allāh - the Most High - which was the same as the madhab of the Salaf, being built upon the saying of Allāh, ‘there is nothing like Him, He is the Hearing and the Seeing’.
2.Ibn Taymīyyah says in ‘at-Tadmuriyyah’ (pg. 20), "It is a must to affirm that which Allāh affirms for himself, whilst negating any likeness to Him with His creation…Whosoever says: His Knowledge is like my knowledge, His Power is like my power, or Love like my love, or Pleasure like my pleasure, or Hand like my hand, or Ascending like my ascending, or His Nuzool (descent) is like my descent - then he has resembled and likened Allāh to the creation. Rather it is a must to affirm (Allāh’s Attributes) without resemblance, and to negate (what Allāh negates for Himself), without ta`teel (divesting Allāh of His Attributes)."
3.Likewise he said in ‘Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá’ (5/262), "whosoever considers the Attributes to be like the attributes of the creation - such that Istawaa of Allāh is like the ascending of the creation, or His Nuzool is like the descending of the creation, or other than that - then he is a deviated innovator." And he repeats this principle over and over again in his works.
4.It is not possible that ibn Batuta witnessed ibn Taymīyyah deliver this speech, since ibn Batuta clearly states in his ‘Rihla’ (1/102) that he entered Damascus on the 9th of Ramaḍān in the year 728H. However Shaykh al-Islām was - before, during and after that time - in prison. Ibn Kathīr states in ‘al-Bidāyah wan Nihāyah’ (14/135) that ibn Taymīyyah was imprisoned on the 6th of Sha’baan in the year 728H and remained there until his death on the 20th of Dhul Qa’dah 728H [These dates are endorsed in ‘al-A`lām al-Uliyyah’ (pg.84) of al-Bazzaar, and ‘Sahdharaat adh-Dhahab’ (6/80) of ibn al-Amaad.]
5.Ibn Batuta, may Allāh have mercy upon him, did not write the book ‘Rihla’ with his own hand, rather it was collected by Muḥammad ibn Jazee al-Kalbee who writes in the introduction to ‘Rihla’, "and I have quoted the meaning of the words of Shaykh Abū ʿAbdullāh (ibn Batuta) with words that give the meaning that he intended…."
6.Ibn Batuta started his journey on the 2nd of Rajab 725H and completed it on the 3rd of Dhul Hijjah 756H and he did not write anything down, rather after this journey he dictated to al-Kalbee the events of his journey from memory. Hence the door is open for mistakes, and it is highly likely that ibn Batuta did not witness what he claimed to have witnessed, but merely conveyed the accusations that were in vogue at that time against Shaykh al-Islām from his enemies.
7.Ibn Batuta himself was opposed to ibn Taymīyyah, for he states in ‘Rihla’ (1/309), ‘and from the great Ḥanbalee Legal Jurists of Damascus was ibn Taymīyyah, except that he was lacking in his intellect.’ Hence it would have been easy for him to take on board the accusations without verifying them.
8.Ibn Taymīyyah has a separate book concerning Allāh’s Descending called, ‘Sharḥ Ḥadīth an-Nuzool’. In it is no trace whatsoever of the anthropomorphic beliefs that he has been falsely accused of.
9.Ibn Taymīyyah was not the khaṭīb of the aforementioned masjid, rather it was Qaadee al-Qazwaynee. Ibn Batuta himself says in his ‘Rihla’ (1/107), "and at the time of my entering it (Damascus) their Imām was Qaadee Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Abd al-Raḥmān al-Qazwaynee from the great legal jurists, and he was the khaṭīb of the masjid…."
10.Ibn Taymīyyah did not used to give admonitions and reminders to the people from the minbar, rather he used to sit upon a chair. Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Dhahabī said, "and he became very famous and well-known, and he started giving tafsīr of the Might Book from his memory, on the days of Jumu`ah, sitting upon a chair." And ibn Batuta states in his ‘Rihla’ (1/108), "it was the habit of the scholars of ḥadīth to read books of ḥadīth on a raised chair." And a raised chair in the al-ʿArabīc language is called, ‘minbar’. [‘Lisaan al-Arb’ (5/189)]
11.This is why ibn Hajr mentioned in his ‘Durar al-Kaaminah’, "and he used to speak on the minbar in the way of the explainers of fiqh and ḥadīth, and he used to mention in an hour, what another was unable to mention in many sittings, as if the sciences were displayed in front of his eyes" Meaning by this that he sat on a chair as done by the scholars of ḥadīth.
[The above discussion is taken from ‘Min Mashaaheer al-Mujaddidayn’ (pp 27-29) of Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Fawzān, and ‘ibn Taymīyyah al-Muftaraa ʿalayhi’ (pp 50-60) of Shaykh Saleem al-Hilālee.
Ibn Hajr al-Asqʿalánee also mentioned in ‘Durar al-Kaaminah’ (pg. 154) quoting from at-Tufī that, "and they mentioned that he mentioned the ḥadīth of Descent and he descended two steps of the minbar and he said, ‘Like this descending of mine’ so he was imputed with tajseem (fa nusiba ilā at-tajseem)"
This statement is by no means an evidence against ibn Taymīyyah as it only states ‘they mentioned’ mentioning no eye witnesses, And in fact it only confirms, along with all that has preceded, that these were lies being spread against ibn Taymīyyah. This is the reason that at-Tufī only said, ‘he was imputed with tajseem’ using uncertain phraseology.]
So with the above it is clear that the account of ibn Batuta cannot be depended upon due to his obvious confusion and the lack of coherency of his account, and due to it’s clear contraḍīction to the written words of ibn Taymīyyah.
And with this the gross exaggeration of Taaj ad-Dīn Subki can also be discerned, where he said, "none of them (scholars) denied that he had said, ‘Allāh had directions and is a composition of particles coming together’" [ See ‘Albani Unveiled’ (pg.116)]
The Accusation that ibn Taymīyyah held Allāh to be subject to direction (jihha)
Nowhere in the works of ibn Taymīyyah has he used the word jihha in descriibng Allāh. Rather the basis of this accusation arises from his following our Salaf and clearly stating that Allāh is outside of His creation, above the heavens, over His Throne. When reading this, the misguided philosophers (mutakallimeen) argued that this position of ibn Taymīyyah necessitated that Allāh have a direction.
The Position of the Salaf as to Allāh being distinct from creation:
Know that the verses of the Qurʾān on this issue, clear and unequivocal in their meaning, run into hundreds, and likewise the aḥādīth, that Allāh is above His creation and over His Throne. These are well known so we will suffice here with stating the position of the Salaf on this issue as it is they who understood the Qurʾān and Sunnah the best.
Below is a translation of some points from 'Khalq Af`aal al-Ebaad' of Imām Bukhārī (RH), pp.13+. All narrations quoted are authentic insha`Allāh according to the takhreej done of the works quoted. The narrators are mainly Taabi`ee and those that came immediately after.
"6) Wahb ibn Jarīr said, ‘The Jahmiyyah are heretics, they think that He has not risen over His Throne.’
13) Ibn al-Mubārak said, ‘we do not say as the Jahmiyyah say that Allāh is on the earth, rather He has risen over His Throne.’
14) And it was said to him, ‘how should we know our Lord?’ He said, ‘above the Heavens, over/upon (`ʿalá) His Throne’
29) Sufyān al-Thawrī was asked about the verse, "and He is with you wheresoever you are". He said, ‘His Knowledge.’
64) Sadqa said, ‘I heard Sulaymān at-Taymī saying, ‘if I were asked, "where is Allāh?" I would say, "above (fī) the heaven". And if it said, "where was the Throne before the Heaven?" I would say, "over the water." And if it is said, "where was the Throne before the water?" I would say, "I do not know."’
And Imām Bukhārī said, ‘and that (i.e. his answer) was because of the saying of Allāh, "and they cannot encompass anything of His Knowledge except what He wills." i.e. except what He explains.’
[This shows that the question ‘where is Allāh’ was considered allowed by the Salaf, and how could it be otherwise when the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) himself asked the slave girl, "where is Allāh" as is established firmly in the ṣaḥīḥ of Imām Muslim. So do not be misguided by the neo-Jahmiyyah of today, Saqqaaf and al-Habbashee and their likes who try to declare the above ḥadīth of Muslim as weak, and make out that the above question is a bid`ah, having only the classical Jahmiyyah as their precedents.]
66) Muḥammad ibn Yusuf said (one of the teachers of Bukhārī), ‘the one who says that Allāh is not over (`ʿalá) His Throne is a kāfir. And the one who thinks that Allāh did not speak to Moses is a kāfir.’
103) Ibn Mas`ud (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhū) said about His saying, "then He rose over His Throne", - ‘the Throne is over the water, Allāh is above (fawqa) the Throne and He knows what you are upon.’
104) Qataada said about His saying, "and He is Allāh in the Heaven and in the Earth" - ‘the One Who is worshipped in the heaven and in the earth.’"
Below are further points translated from ‘Sharḥ Uṣul I`tiqaad Ahlus Sunnah’ of al-Lālikāʿī (d.414, pp396+)
"660) ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhū) said, ‘Verily Allāh was above His Throne before He created anything, then He created the creation and decreed what was to exist until the Day of Judgement.’
662) Bashr ibn ʿUmar said, ‘I heard more then one of the Mufassir say about the verse, "The Most Merciful istawá upon the Throne" - istawá means rose above.’
665) Rabīʿ`(one of the teachers of Mālik) was asked about the verse, "The Most Merciful rose over His Throne" - ‘how did He rise?’ He replied, ‘al-Istawaa (rising) is known, and the how is not comprehensible, and from Allāh is the message, and upon the Messenger is the preaching, and upon us is believing.’
670) Maqaatil ibn ḥayān said about His saying, "and there is no secret discourse of 3 people except He is the fourth, or of 5 people and He is the sixth" - ‘He is above His Throne, and nothing is hidden from His knowledge.’
673) Imām Aḥmad was asked, ‘Allāh is above the seventh heaven, above His Throne, distinct from his creation, and His Power and Knowledge are in every place?’ He replied, ‘yes, above the Throne and His Knowledge is in every place.’
675) Imām Aḥmad was asked about the verse, "and He is with you wheresoever you are", and the verse, "there is no secret discourse of 3 people except that he is the fourth." – he replied, ‘(meaning) His Knowledge, He is the Knower of the seen and the unseen, His knowledge encompasses everything, and our Lord is above the Throne without setting limits and giving description, and His Kursi is as the expanse of the heavens and the earth with His Knowledge.’"
Imām Awzaa`ee said, "we used to say, while the Taabi`een were many, ‘indeed Allāh is above His Throne, and we believe in what occurs in the Sunnah to do with His Attributes’" [ Related by al-Bayhaqi in ‘Asmāʾa was Sifaat’ (pg. 408) and ibn Hajr declared it’s chain of narration to be good as in ‘Fath al-Bārī’ (13/406).]
Imām ʿAbdullāh ibn Aḥmad quoted ʿAbdullāh ibn Mubārak as saying, ‘...I bear witness that You are above Your Throne above the seven heavens and this is not as the enemies of Allāh say, the heretics.’ [ ‘Sharḥ al-Sunnah’ of Imām ʿAbdullāh]
He also quoted ʿAbdullāh ibn Mubārak as saying, ‘we know that our Lord is above the seven heavens over the Throne, and we do not say as the Jahmiyyah say that he is here,’ pointing with his hand to the earth. [Ibid.]
Abū Ḥanīfah (RH) said, when asked of his opinion of the one who says, ‘I do not know whether Allāh is in the heavens or on the earth.’ -
‘He has disbelieved, because Allāh says, "The Most Merciful rose above the Throne.", and His Throne is above His seven heavens.’ He was then asked, ‘what if he said that Allāh is above His Throne but he does not know whether the Throne is in the heavens or on the earth?’ He said, ‘He has disbelieved, because He has denied that He is above the heavens and whosoever denied that He is above the heavens has disbelieved.’ [‘al-Uluww’ of al-Dhahabī, also ‘Sharḥ Aqueedah at-Tahaawiyyah’ of ibn Abī al-Izz al-Hanafī.]
Ibn Khuzaymah (the Imām of the muhadditheen of his time) said, ‘whosoever does not affirm that Allāh is above His heavens, over/upon (`ʿalá) His Throne and He is distinct from His creation, must be forced to repent. If he does not repent then he must be beheaded and thrown in the garbage dump so that the Muslims and thimmis (Jews and Christians living under the Islamic State) would not suffer from his stinking smell.’ [‘al-Tawḥīd’ of ibn Khuzaimah, also quoted by al-Ḥākim in ‘al-Ma`rifah’]
Imām Abū al Ḥasan al-Ash`aree (d.290) in ‘al-Ibānah’ brings a whole chapter on ‘Istawaa’ (Allāh Rising over His Throne), in the course of his discussion he said, ‘and some people say, from the Mu`tazila and Jahmiyyah and Hururiyya, about the saying of Allāh, "The Most Merciful rose upon His Throne", that he istawla (conquered), Milak (owned), Qahr (dominated), and that Allāh is in every place, and they denied Allāh being above His Throne, as the People of Truth say...’
[‘al-Ibānah’ (pg. 120+) containing an excellent refutation of the above claim. This also refutes clearly what Abū Mansur al-Baghdādī states in his ‘Farq bayna al-Firaq’ that, "The majority go the way of saying that the meaning of "Istawaa" is establishing dominance (al-qahr) and victory (al ghalaba), that is, the Merciful vanquished the Throne (al-rahmanu ghalaba al-`arsh) and overcame it (wa qaharahu). He mentioned the Throne specifically because it is the greatest of created things (a`dhamu al-makhluqat)."
It should be said to him, ‘establish the throne and then sit on it’, what majority? When the totality of the Salaf held that Istawaa meant that Allāh has risen over His Throne. Not only that but the very Imām that Abū Mansur claims to follow, al-Ash`aree refutes his very claim as being misguidance!]
The quotes on this run into the hundreds from the salaf, and the books written on this by the early scholars of Islām are many but we do not wish to lengthen the discussion beyond what is necessary.
So we say to those that accuse ibn Taymīyyah of giving Allāh a direction, because of this belief of his: Your accusation necessitates that all of the above Salaf also held Allāh to have a jihha, including the two great Companions, ibn Mas`ud and ibn ʿAbbās. So if you were to declare ibn Taymīyyah as misguided due to this, then you must do the same with the Salaf. We seek refuge with Allāh from such misguidance!
Ibn Taymīyyah said,
"And when it became established in the souls of the addressees (of the revelation) that Allāh is the Highest of the High, and the He is Above everything, the understanding of His saying, "Indeed He is (fī) the Heaven" became that He was High and Above everything. Likewise the slave girl when it was said to her, "where is Allāh," she said, "(fī) the Heaven," meaning above, without designating for Him a created body or His being contained in His Creation….Furthermore whosoever thinks that Allāh being (fī) the Heaven means that the Heaven surrounds or encloses Him, then he is a liar if he is quoting someone else or misguided if He believes this with respect to His Lord. We have not heard anyone understand this from this word (fī) just as we have not seen anyone quote this from anyone else" [‘Bayān Talbees al-Jahmiyyah’ (1/559) of ibn Taymīyyah]
He said in ‘Darr at-Ta`aarud’ (1/253), "so when the Creator, the Exalted is separate and distinct from the creation, high above it, and there is nothing in existence save the Creator and created, then there is nothing that exists alongside Him which is besides Him, let alone that He – Subhaanahu – should be in some existing thing which surrounds and encompasses Him."
Ibn Taymīyyah said,
"The people fall into three groups over the convention of the use of the word jihha. A group that negates it, another that affirms it, and a third that explains the issue. This difference is present amongst the followers of the Four Imāms who affirmed the Attributes of Allāh and the difference of the Ahlul Ḥadīth and Sunnah, specifically, over this is a difference in wording, not in meaning. This is why a group from the Companions of Aḥmad - like the Tamīmiyyeen and al-Qaadee in one of his two sayings - negated it yet another, larger group, affirmed it - and this is the last saying of al-Qaadee. This is because the word jihha could be used to refer to that which is subject to time and space (wujood) or that which is not (ma`doom) and it is known that there is nothing present except for the Creator and creation.
So if the word jihha is used to refer to something that exists other than Allāh then it refers to something created by Allāh and Allāh is not encompassed or confined by any of his creation. If the word is used to refer to something outside time and space, i.e. above the creation, then there is nothing there except Allāh." [‘Minḥāj al-Sunnah’ (1/216) of ibn Taymīyyah.]
So it is clear with all of this that ibn Taymīyyah did not believe Allāh to be subject to any of the created direction, nor did he believe Allāh to be surrounded in any way by His creation.
The Accusation that ibn Taymīyyah held Allāh to be subject to limitation (hadd)
The innovators looked into the works of ibn Taymīyyah and saw him mentioning the word hadd with respect to Allāh and immediately assumed that he held Allāh to be subject to limitation and without and further research declared him as a deviant or kāfir. The error of this accusation will become clear, by the Permission of Allāh.
The basis of this accusation lies with the authentic saying related from ʿAbdullāh ibn Mubārak as is related in ‘Tabaqaat al-Hanaabila’ (1/267), "I said to Aḥmad: it is reported from ibn al-Mubārak that it was asked him, ‘how should we know our Lord?’ to which he replied, ‘over (fī) the Seventh Heaven, over His Throne with hadd.’ So Imām Aḥmad said: this is how we believe it." [Related by al-Dārimī in ‘Radd ʿalá Mareesee’ (pg.34), ʿAbdullāh ibn Aḥmad in ‘al-Sunnah’ (1/175), al-Bayhaqi in ‘Asmāʾa was Sifaat’ (pg. 467). Imām al-Dhahabī said in ‘al-Uluww’ (pg. 152 - of the mukhtasar), "this is ṣaḥīḥ, established from ibn al-Mubārak and Aḥmad may Allāh be pleased with him." Ibn Taymīyyah said in ‘al-Hamawiyyah’ (5/184 - of Majmoo al-Fatāwá), "this is famous and established from ibn Mubārak via many routes, and it is also established from Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, and Ishāq ibn Rāhawayyah and other Imāms." See also ‘Sharḥ Aqueedah at-Tahaawiyyah’ (pg. 240). See also the refutation of al-Kawtharees fīble attempts to declare this narration da`eef in ‘Daf` Shubah al-Ghawiyyah’ (pp73-74) of Shaykh Muraad Shukree.]
But was the meaning of the Imāms in saying this? Was it establishing limits for Allāh with the meaning of the walls of a house setting its limits, or something else? Or does Allāh have an Attribute of hadd? What is the reconciliation between this narration from Imām Aḥmad and the previous one mentioned above (no.675)?
Ibn Taymīyyah says,
"These words that he mentioned would be applicable if they had said that He has an Attribute and it is hadd, as suggested by this person who tries to refute them. This has not been said by anyone and neither would any intelligent person say this, for this statement has no reality to it due to their not existing a single Attribute from the Attributes that He is described with, such as Hand and Knowledge, that has been specified as hadd. All that is meant here is what distinguishes something from something else with regards to its description and measure as is well known of the word hadd when dealing with the clearly defined things. For example it is said: the hadd of man, meaning those characteristics that distinguish him as being a man." [ ‘Talbees al-Jahmiyyah’ (1/442) of ibn Taymīyyah.]
So historically when the Jahmiyyah, denied the Attributes of Allāh, and denied his being above His Throne, rather they said He is everywhere, then some of the Salaf replied to this by saying that indeed Allāh has a hadd with the meaning: that which distinguishes Him from anything else, in that He has Risen over His Throne and is distinct from creation. Ibn Taymīyyah said,
"So when the Jahmiyyah said: indeed the Creator is not distinguished from the creation, and they denied the Attributes which distinguish Him, and they denied His Power (qadr), to the extent that the Mu`tazila said, when we acknowledge that He is Living, Knowing and all-Powerful (only), then we have come to know His reality. They say: indeed He is not distinct from other than Him. Rather they depict Him, either with negative descriptions such as: He is not in the world, nor out of the world, and not this and not that, or they make Him to be encompassed by the creation.
So ʿAbdullāh ibn Mubārak made clear that the Lord is over His Throne, distinct from the creation, and he mentioned hadd because the Jahmiyyah used to say: He does not have a hadd, and whatsoever does not have a hadd cannot be distinct from creation, and cannot be above the creation because that would necessitate a hadd. So when the Ameer al-Mu`mineen ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Mubārak was asked: ‘How should we know Him?’ He said, ‘above His Heavens, over His Throne, distinct from His creation.’ So they said, ‘this implies that which the Jahmiyyah negate, and with this negation of theirs they negate the fact that He is present over the Throne, distinct from creation.’ So they asked him, ‘with hadd?’ And he replied ‘with hadd’.
So this is what is understood by anyone who understands what was between the sayings of the believers of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa`ah and the Jahmiyyah." [Ibid (1/443)]
Then ibn Taymīyyah discusses the statements of those from the salaf who negated the usage of the word hadd, and those who used it, and explains that in reality both groups were saying the same thing, and the difference was merely one of wording not of meaning:
"If the understood meaning of this word is that Allāh is in any way enclosed by His creation, then Allāh is Greater and more Mighty, rather His Kursi is as the expanse of the Heavens and the earth…and if what is meant by this word is that he is distinct from His creation, then He is as the Imāms of Ahlus Sunnah said about Him: over His Heavens, above His Throne, distinct from creation." [‘at-Tadmuriyyah’ (pg.46)of ibn Taymīyyah, see also for further detail, ‘Talbees al-Jahmiyyah’ (2/163)]
So after all this, it becomes clear that ibn Taymīyyah did not hold Allāh to be subject to limitation, and it becomes clear that the word hadd was used by some of the Salaf with the meaning: distinguishing characteristics, when it became necessary to do so to refute the various deviant groups at that time.
The Accusation that ibn Taymīyyah held Allāh subject to movement (Harakah)
The basis of this accusation is that, like the Salaf, ibn Taymīyyah believed that Allāh descends to the Lowest Heaven in the last third of the night, and that He has the Attribute of Coming (Majee`). So the opponents adduced against him that he held Allāh to move from one place to another, and this resembles Allāh to His creation.
A glimpse at the belief of the Salaf to do with Descent:
Imām al-Ājurrī (d.360) says in his exposition on Aqueedah, under the chapter ‘to have faith and trust that Allāh descends to the lowest heaven every night.’
"Faith in this is obligatory, and it is not allowed for the intelligent Muslim to say, ‘how does he descend?’ - and none would answer this except the Mu`tazila. [For example the saying of some, that His command descends, and the saying of others that His angels descend etc.] As for the people of truth, then they say, ‘faith in this is obligatory without asking how. Because the narrations are authentic to the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) - that Allāh descends to the lowest heaven every night - and the ones who transmitted this narration to us are the ones that transmitted the rules of the lawful and prohibited, the knowledge of ṣalāh, Zakāh, fasting, ḥajj, and jihād. So just as the scholars accepted these from them then like this they accepted from them these Sunan. They said, ‘the one who opposed these is horribly misguided’ - warning him and warning against him." [ ‘ash-Sharee`ah’ (pg. 272)]
Then he goes on to mention the aḥādīth that occur on this subject.
The great ḥadīth master, ibn Khuzaymah brings a chapter heading in his work ‘al-Tawḥīd’, "mentioning the narrations of Descent," in which he mentions many aḥādīth to do with this Attribute.
al-Lālikāʿī (d.414) brings a chapter heading in his encyclopaedic work on aqueedah - Sharḥ Uṣul I`tiqaad - , "what is related about the Descent of the Lord, Blessed and Exalted, is He"
He states that the aḥādīth that Allāh descends to the lowest heaven have been reported by twenty companions and then....
"775) Fudail ibn Ayaad (Taabi`ee) said, ‘when you hear the Jahmi say, "I disbelieve in a Lord Who descends"- say - "I believe in a Lord Who does what He wills"’
776) Yahya ibn Ma`een said, ‘when you hear the Jahmi say, "I disbelieve in a Lord Who descends", then say, ‘I believe in a Lord Who does what He desires."’
777) Imām Aḥmad said, ‘He descends as He wills, according to His Knowledge and Power and Greatness. He encompasses everything with His Knowledge.’
Similar narrations occur in Khalq Af`aal al-Ebaad of Imām al-Bukhārī and ‘Ghunya at-Ṭālibeen’ of ʿAbd al Qaadir Jeelānee.
Imām ʿAbdullāh ibn Aḥmad narrates in his work ‘al-Sunnah’,
"508) After mentioning the ḥadīth of Descent the people said to Shareek, ‘verily there are a people who reject these aḥādīth.’ He said, ‘what do they say?’
They said, ‘they abuse these aḥādīth.’
He replied, ‘Those who brought (i.e. Companions) these aḥādīth, are those who brought the Qurʾān, and that the prayers are five, and the Ḥajj to the House, and the fast of Ramaḍān. And we do not know Allāh except by these aḥādīth.’
509) Abād ibn al-Awaam said, Shareek ibn ʿAbdullāh came to us about fifty years ago. He said (Abād), ‘I said, "O Abū ʿAbdullāh, verily there is a people with us from the Mu`tazila who reject these aḥādīth."’
He said, ‘so he narrated to me about ten aḥādīth to do with this (i.e. the Descent of Allāh) and said, "as for us we take our religion from the taabi`een from the companions of the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), from where do they take theirs?"’"
Abū al Ḥasan al-Ash`aree (d.294) said, "and we believe in all the narrations that the People of Transmission have established about the Descent to the lowest heaven and that the Lord says, ‘is there one who is asking? Is there one who is seeking forgiveness?’ And in the generality of what they transmit and establish, at odds to what the people of deviancy and misguidance say." [‘al-Ibānah’ (pg. 60) of Abū Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī]
He also said, "and we believe in the aḥādīth that have come from the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) that Allāh descends to the lowest Heaven and says, ‘is there one who is seeking forgiveness?’" [‘al-Maqālāt’ (pg. 224) of Abū Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī]
So we say yet again, if by ibn Taymīyyah’s affirmation of this Attribute, that Allāh indeed Descends to the lowest heaven as befits His Majesty, is misguidance then so are all of the above scholars, and in fact Ahlus Sunnah itself misguided! And so is the very Imām that the accusers claim to follow misguided, Abū Ḥasan al-Ash`aree!
Ibn Taymīyyah says, while discussing the use of the word ‘harakah’,
"…like Harb al-Kirmaanee, and Uthmān ibn Saʿīd al-Dārimī and others. Indeed these clearly used the word harakah and they made clear that this was the madhab of the Imāms of Ahlus Sunnah and Ḥadīth from the early and the later.
Harb al-Kirmaanee mentioned that this was the saying of the Imāms of Ahlus Sunnah that he had met, like Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, and Ishāq ibn Rāhawiyyah, and ʿAbdullāh ibn Zubair al-Humaidee and Saʿīd ibn Mansur.
Saʿīd ibn Mansoor and others said: indeed harakah (movement) is from the necessary qualities of life and every living thing moves. They made out that denying this was from the saying of the Jahmiyyah upon whom Ahlus Sunnah are agreed with respect to their misguidance and innovation.
Another group from the Salaf, like Nu`aym ibn Hammad al-Khazaa`ee, and Bukhārī the author of the ‘Ṣaḥīḥ’, and Abū Bakr ibn Khuzaymah, and others like Abū ʿUmar ibn Abd al-Barr, affirmed the meaning of what they (the first group) affirmed but they named it Actions (of Allāh). From these were those that forbade the use of the word harakah due to its not being narrated." [‘Dar at-Ta`aarud’ (7/2)]
He said, "the word harakah was affirmed by a group from Ahlus Sunnah and Ḥadīth and this is what was mentioned by Harb ibn Ismaa`eel al-Kirmaanee in his ‘Sunnah’ which he relates from a group of Imāms that he met like al-Humaidee and Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal….
Some groups of Ahlus Sunnah negated the usage of the word harakah like Abū al-Ḥasan at-Taymee and Abū Sulaymān al-Khaṭṭābī….
What is narrated from Imām Aḥmad is the rejection of the one that negates movement but neither is the usage of the word harakah established from him, even though he may have affirmed some types (of Attributes and Actions) that the affirmer (of the word harakah) would have placed within the ranks of the word harakah. For when he heard someone narrating the ḥadīth of Descent and saying, ‘He Descends without movement and transmission, and without change.’ So Imām Aḥmad rejected this and said, ‘say as the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said, for he was more shy of His Lord than you.’" [‘al-Istiqāmah’ (1/70)]
So from this we learn that:
1.From the salaf were those who negated the usage of the word harakah because it did not occur in the Qurʾān and Sunnah when descriibng Allāh, but they affirmed the Attributes of Descent, Coming etc.
2.From the salaf were those who affirmed the word harakah meaning that Allāh Comes, and Descends etc. and it is not like the movement of the Creation but rather as it befits His Majesty.
3.Shaykh al-Islām quotes the two sayings stating that in meaning that they are the same and that there is no resembling Allāh to His creation in this. He himself only affirms the Attributes of Allāh without adding anything further.
Finally ibn Taymīyyah belonged to the first group above. So with all of this, the fourth accusation is cleared and all praise is due to Allāh.
The Accusation that ibn Taymīyyah held the Hellfire to come to an end
Another accusation by which the opponents declared ibn Taymīyyah to be misguided due to his contraḍīcting the ‘consensus’ on this issue. Yet nowhere in the works of ibn Taymīyyah does he say this, in fact what we find from him is the exact opposite, and we challenge anybody who accuses ibn Taymīyyah of this to bring his proof.
Ibn Taymīyyah says,
"The Salaf of this nation, its Imāms, and the whole Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa`ah are agreed that there are some things from the creation that will not come to an end in their entirety like Paradise, Hellfire, the Throne, and others. No one believed that all of the creation would come to an end except for a group from the People of innovated speech (Ahl al-Kʿalám) and those who agreed with them from amongst the Mu`tazila and their likes. This is an invalid opinion which contraḍīcts the Book of Allāh, the Sunnah of His Messenger and the consensus of the nation and its Imāms." [‘Bayān Talbees al-Jahmiyyah’ (1/851)]
This is from one perspective, as for the other than it is over the issue of the Punishment of the Hellfire coming to an end. This is an issue over which there is a difference of opinion emanating from the Salaf themselves as the reader of the Tafsīrs of at-Tabari, as-Suyuti and others can see under the verse 11:107 and 6:128. It is possible to explain these narrations in two ways: the first being that the saying of some of the Companions and Taabi`een that, ‘their will come a time when there will be no-one in Hellfire’ is to be taken literally. The second is that it is to be taken to refer only to the Muslims in the Hellfire.
No matter how we take it, to rule someone’s deviancy or unbelief based on this is not possible, for only one who contraḍīcts a consensus that is firmly established to exist, and unequivocal in it’s meaning can be ruled to be a deviant or a disbeliever. This is not the case here despite the efforts of some scholars to make it seem so. Even if it were so, then neither ibn Taymīyyah or ibn al-Qayyim held this view, so do not be deceived by what the likes of as-Subki writes in his ‘al-I`tibaar bi Baqaa al-Jannah wa an-Naar’ (forming part of his ‘Risaa`il’).
As-Subki says, in the course of his discussion on this point,
"…I came across the aforementioned book and he mentioned in it three opinions over the Hellfire coming to an end. 1) both Paradise and Hell will end and he said that no one from the salaf held this opinion. 2) that both are eternal. 3) that Paradise remains and Hellfire will come to an end. And he inclined to this position and said that this was the madhab of the Salaf." [‘al-I’tibaar’ (pg. 201)]
The opponents who read this book, thought that as-Subki was referring to ibn Taymīyyah and hence the origin of this accusation against ibn Taymīyyah. But in reality this is from the words of ibn al-Qayyim and it seems that as-Subki did not even fully read what this Imām had to say!"
Ibn al-Qayyim says: ‘Al-Hādī al-Arwaah’ (pg. 429+),
"And this is an issue over which the latter people differed over, falling into three opinions:
1.That both Paradise and Hell will come to an end and are not eternal, rather just as all created things they will come to an end.
2.That both will remain, never coming to an end.
3.That Paradise is eternal, and the Hellfire will come to an end.
We will mention these opinions and their proponents along with their evidences, and we will reject what contraḍīcts the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His Messenger.
1) As for the first saying, then it was said by Jahm ibn Ṣafwān, the Imām of the Jahmiyyah, and he did not any precedent in this from the Salaf - neither in the Companions, nor the Taabi`een, nor any of the Imāms of Islām, or indeed anyone from Ahlus Sunnah. Rather this saying was one that was rejected by the Imāms and they declared the unbelief of the ones that held to it, as is mentioned in ‘al-Sunnah’ of ʿAbdullāh ibn Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal reporting from Khaarijah ibn Mus`ab that he said, "I declare the Jahmiyyah to be unbelievers due to three verses from the Book of Allāh, Azza wa Jall, ‘its (Paradise) provision and food is eternal’ and they say it will end. ‘Verily this is Our provision which will never finish’, and they say they will. ‘Whatever is with you will pass away, and what is with Allāh will remain’"…
2) As for the saying that the Hellfire is eternal, then Shaykh al-Islām said, "there are two famous opinions from the Salaf and Khalaf and this difference is known to exist amongst the Taabi`een." I say: and here are seven opinions on this:
a.That the one entering it will never leave, this being the saying of the Khawārij and Mu`tazila.
b.That it’s inhabitants will be punished for a time but then this punishment will be changed for them and they will live in a normal manner, gaining pleasure from the Fire, due to its being in conformity to their nature. This is the saying of the Imām of the Ittihaadiyyah (anthropomorphists) ibn al-ʿArabī at-Taa`ee…
c.That its inhabitants will be punished for a time, then they will be removed from it, and another creation placed in Hell. This opinion was one that the Jews related to the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and he declared them liars due to it as did Allāh by saying, "and they (the Jews) say: the Fire will not touch us but for a few days. Say: have you taken a covenant from Allāh, so that Allāh will not break His Covenant? Or is it that you say of Allāh what you know not. And those who believe and do righteous deeds, they are dwellers of Paradise, they will dwell therein forever." This saying is then the saying of the enemies of Allāh, the Jews, and they are the shaykhs of its proponents. The Qurʾān, Sunnah, and the consensus of the Ṣaḥābah and the Taabi`een and the Imāms indicate this opinions invalidity. Allāh says, ‘and they will not leave it’….
d.That its inhabitants will leave it and the Fire will remain, being empty, this is related by Shaykh al-Islām (ibn Taymīyyah). And this opinion is also refuted by the Qurʾān and Sunnah as has preceded.
e.That it will come to an end due to its being created. It is impossible for anything that is created to remain forever, this is the saying of Jahm ibn Ṣafwān, and he does not distinguish in this between the Fire and Paradise.
f.That its inhabitants will die and lose movement and remain in there as inanimate things, and they will not be affected by pain. This is the saying of Abū al-Hudhail al-Alāf, the Imām of the Mu`tazila, and in this ruling he does distinguish between Paradise and Hell.
g.That its Creator and Lord will cause it to come to an end, for He has given it a limited period.
Shaykh al-Islām said, "this (last) saying was related from ʿUmar, ibn Mas`ud, Abū Hurayrah, Abū Saʿīd and others." Abd ibn Humaid related - and he is from the most noble of the scholars of ḥadīth - in his famous tafsīr, ‘Sulaymān ibn Harb reported to us, from Salma, from Thābit from Ḥasan who said, "ʿUmar said: if the people of Hell were to remain in the Fire to the extent of the stones in a mountain there would be a day that they would leave it."’
And he said, ‘Hajaaj ibn Minhaal, from Hammaad ibn Salma, from Humaid from Ḥasan that ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb said, "if the People of the Fire were to remain in the Fire to the extent of the stones in a mountain there would be a day that they would leave it.’" He mentioned this in the tafsīr of His saying, "they will stay in there for periods" (Naba`a: 23).
So Abd, who is from the Imāms of the Huffaadh and scholars of Sunnah relates from these two noble personalities: Sulaymān ibn Harb and Ḥajjaaj ibn Minhaal, who in turn narrate from Hammad ibn Salma, and he narrates from Thābit and Humaid, and these two from Ḥasan. And this is sufficient to show the excellence of this isnād.
And Ḥasan, even if he did not hear anything from ʿUmar, relates this also from some of the Taabi`een. If this was not authentic from ʿUmar, according to him, then why did he narrate it and designate his narration with certainty by saying, "ʿUmar said"? And why did those Imāms narrate it from him without rejection or refutation when it is known that they rejected anything that contraḍīcted the Sunnah and refuted matters less than this? So if this saying was from those that contraḍīcted the Qurʾān and Sunnah and ijmāʿ of the Imāms then they would have been the first to reject it.
There is no doubt that the one who sticks to this opinion of ʿUmar, and narrates it from him means a portion/type of the inhabitants of the Fire. For the people (i.e. Muslims) that are punished due to their sins, then these people would leave it and they would not stay in it the extent of the stones in a mountain. And the word, ‘People of the Fire’ is not specific to the believers in the Oneness of Allāh, rather it is specific to their enemies, as the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said, "as for the People of the Fire who are it’s inhabitants, then they will neither live or die in their." [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim] What has preceded does not contraḍīct His saying, ‘they will remain in their forever’ and His saying, ‘and they will never leave it’."…
…Ibn Mas`ud said, "there will come a time in which there will be no-one in the Fire and that is after they have remained in there for periods." The likes of this is related from Abū Hurayrah, both being reported by al-Baghawī in his tafsīr. Then he says after this, "and the meaning of these according to Ahlus Sunnah, if they are established, is that no one of the People of faith will remain in there."…." [‘al-Hādī al-Arwaah’ (pp. 429 +)]
So with this it is clear that both ibn Taymīyyah and his student did not hold the Hellfire to come to an end or that the punishment would cease for the unbelievers. Were it not for the fear of lengthening the discussion beyond what is necessary, we would quote from the tafsīr of ibn Taymīyyah in which he makes clear that certain types of people would remain in the Hellfire forever, for example, Pharaoh.