IBN AL-JAWZI

`Abd al-Rahman ibn `Ali ibn Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn `Ubayd Allah ibn `Abd Allah ibn Hammadi ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ja`far ibn `Abd Allah ibn al-Qasim ibn al-Nadr ibn al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah ibn al-Faqih `Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Faqih al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Khalifat Rasul Allah — Allah bless and greet him — Abi Bakr al-Siddiq, Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi al-Qurashi al-Taymi al-Bakri al-Baghdadi al-Hanbali al-Ash`ari (509/510-597). He was, with Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani, the imam of Hanbalis and foremost orator of kings and princes in his time whose gatherings reportedly reached one hundred thousand, a hadith master, philologist, commentator of Qur’an, expert jurist, physician, and historian of superb character and exquisite manners. Orphaned of his father at age three, Ibn al-Jawzi was raised by his aunt who later brought him to the hadith scholar Ibn Nasir, his first shaykh. He took hadith from him as well as over eighty shaykhs and was teacher to his grandson Shams al-Din Yusuf ibn Qazghali al-Hanafi – Sibt al-Jawzi – as well as some of the greatest Hanbali hadith masters and jurists such as Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudama, Ibn al-Najjar, and Diya’ al-Din al-Maqdisi. Ibn al-Jawzi took a staunch Ash`ari stance in doctrine and courageously denounced the anthropomorphism of his school in the interpretation of the divine Attributes in his landmark work Daf` Shubah al-Tashbih bi Akuff al-Tanzih (“Rebuttal of the Insinuations of Anthropomorphism at the Hands of Divine Transcendence”), also known as al-Baz al-Ashhab al-Munqadd `ala Mukhalifi al-Madhhab (“The Flaming Falcon Swooping Down on the Dissenters of the [Hanbali] School”) which he began with the words: I have seen among the followers of our school some who held unsound discourses on doctrine. Three in particular have applied themselves to write books in which they distort the Hanbali madhhab: Abu `Abd Allah ibn Hamid,1 his friend al-Qadi (Abu Ya`la),2 and Ibn al-Zaghuni.3 I have seen them (Ibn Abi Ya`la, Ibn Hamid, and Ibn al-Zaghuni) descend to the level of popular belief, construing the divine attributes according to the requirements of what the human senses know. They have heard that Allah created Adam according to His/his likeness and form (`ala suratihi), so they affirm that Allah has a form and face in addition to His essence, as well as two eyes, a mouth, an uvula, molar teeth, a physiognomy, two hands, fingers, a palm, a little finger, a thumb, a chest, thighs, two legs, two feet!… Then they placate the common people by adding: `But not as we think.’… They have applied outward meanings with regard to the Divine Names and Attributes. Thus, they give the Divine Attributes a wholly innovative and contrived name for which they have no evidence either in the transmitted texts of Qur’an and Sunna or in rational proofs based on reason. They have paid attention neither to texts that steer one away from the apparent sense towards the meanings required for Allah, nor to the necessary cancellation of the external meaning when it attributes to Allah the distinguishing marks of creatures. They are not content to say: “attribute of act” (sifatu fi`l) until they end up saying: “attribute of essence” (sifatu dhat). Then, once they affirmed them to be “attributes of essence,” they claimed: we do not construe the text according to the directives of the Arabic language. Thus they refuse to construe “hand” (yad) as meaning “favor” and “power”; or “coming forth” (maji’) and “coming” (ityan) as “mercy” and “favor”; or “shin” (saq) as “tribulation.” Instead they say: We construe them in their customary external senses, and the external sense is what is describable in terms of well-known human characteristics, and a text is only construed literally if the literal sense is feasible. Then they become offended when imputed with likening Allah to His creation (tashbih) and express scorn at such an attribution to themselves, clamoring: “We are Ahl al-Sunna!” Yet their discourse is clearly couched in terms of tashbih. And some of the masses follow them. I have advised both the followers and the leaders saying: Colleagues! You are adherents and followers of our madhhab. Your greatest Imam is Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah have mercy on him, who said while under the lash of the Inquisition: “How can I say what was never said?” Beware of innovating in his madhhab what is not from him! Then, you said regarding the hadiths (of the Attributes): “They must be taken in their external sense.” Yet the external sense of qadam (“foot”) is a bodily limb!4 And when it was said concerning `Isa: ruh Allah (“Allah’s spirit”) the Christians thought that Allah possessed an attribute named His spirit which had entered Mary! Whoever says: “He is established on His throne in His Essence (bi al-dhat),” has made Allah an object of sensory perception. It behooves one not to neglect the means by which the principle of Religion is established and that is reason. For it is by virtue of reason that we have known Allah and judged Him to be Eternal without beginning. If you were to say: “We read hadiths but we are silent,” no one would have any objection against you. However, your interpretation of the outward sense is morally repugnant and disgusting. Do not introduce into the madhhab of this man of the Salaf, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, what his thought does not contain.5 Because of this work, Ibn al-Jawzi was criticized by the Hanbali and Hanbali-leaning proponents of the views he lambasted, such as Muwaffaq al-Din ibn Qudama and his grandson the hadith master Sayf al-Din ibn al-Majd6 as well as Ibn Taymiyya and his circle. Among them al-Dhahabi said: “May Allah have mercy on him and forgive him! Would that he had not probed figurative interpretation nor diverged from his Imam.” Al-Dhahabi’s words are, of course, loaded assumptions that Ibn al-Jawzi had himself long since rejected as shown by the above lines from the Daf`. Some went too far in criticizing him, such as Ibn Nuqta who said: “I never saw anyone relied upon in his Religion, knowledge, and reason, that approved of Ibn al-Jawzi.” Al-Dhahabi responded: “If Allah approves of him, they are irrelevant.”

His Books

Ibn al-Jawzi was a prolific author of over seven hundred books, among which al-Dhahabi lists the following:

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