IBN AL-QAYYIM AL-JAWZIYYA

IBN AL-QAYYIM AL-JAWZIYYA

IBN AL-QAYYIM AL-JAWZIYYA

by Dr. G. F. Haddad

Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn Sa‘d, Shams al-Din Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Zur‘i al-Dimashqi al-Hanbali, known as Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751). A specialist in Qur’anic commentary, hadith, fiqh and its principles, Arabic philology and grammar, and the foremost disciple of Taqi al-Din Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Halim ibn Taymiyya al-Harrani (d. 728), whose anthropomorphic and anti-madhhab teach­ings he helped perpetu­ate. Ibn Taymiyya had suggested that Allah was a corporeal entity in writings such as al-‘Aqida al-Hamawiyya, al-‘Aqida al-Wasitiyya, and al-Ta’sis al-Radd ‘ala Asas al-Taqdis. Here and in other works he in­dicates that Allah’s “Hand,” “Foot” (qadam), “Shin” (sâq), “Face” (wajh), and “Ele­vation” (‘uluw) are literal (haqîqi) attrib­utes, and that He is upon the Throne “in person” (bi al-dhât), a phrase which his student al-Dhahabi frequently condemns as innovated in the Religion.[1] Ibn Taymiyya’s error was in be­lieving such Attributes to be literal, and declaring as nullifiers-of-the-Attributes (mu‘attila) all the Ahl al-Sunna who be­lieved them to be metaphorical. These are among his unwarranted inno­vations in faith which Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756) refuted in his al-Durra al-Mudiyya and al-Rasa’il al-Subkiyya fi al-Radd ‘ala Ibn Taymiyya. Al-Sakhawi in al-Tawbikh (p. 61) noted: “Certain people gave rise to disa­vowal and a general reluctance to make use of their knowledge despite their stature in knowledge, pious scrupulosity, and asceticism. The reason for this was the looseness of their tongues and their tactlessness in blunt speech and excessive criticism, such as Ibn Hazm and Ibn Taymiyya, who were subse­quently tried and harmed.”

            Ibn Qayyim followed the same path as his teacher in his infamous poem entitled al-Qasida al-Nuniyya (“Ode Rhyming in the Letter N”). This lengthy poem on the tenets of faith is filled with corrupt suggestions about the divine Attributes, which Subki analyzes in detail in his al-Sayf al-Saqil fi al-Radd ‘ala Ibn Zafil (“The Burnished Sword in Refuting Ibn Zafil” i.e. Ibn al-Qayyim). Subki gives the verdict that the anthropomor­phisms of the Divinity in the poem are beyond the pale of Islam. The poem could not be openly circulated in Ibn al-Qayyim’s lifetime but only secretly, and it seems that he never abandoned it, for the Hanbali historian Ibn Rajab heard it from its author in the year of his death as stated in his Dhayl Tabaqat al-Hanabila (2:448).

            Today, some “Salafi” followers quote this poem indiscriminately, heedless of the deviations it promotes. Shaykh Nuh Keller observed:

[An] unfor­tunate peculiarity the poem shares with some of Ibn al-Qayyim’s other works on Islamic faith is that it pre­sents the reader with a false dilemma, namely that one must either believe that Allah has eyes, hands, a descend­ing mo­tion, and so forth, in a literal (haqîqi) sense, or else one has nullified (‘attala) or ne­gated these Attributes. And this is erro­neous, for the literal is that which cor­responds to an expression’s primary lexical sense as ordinarily used in a lan­guage by the people who speak it, while the above words are clearly in­tended otherwise, in accordance with the [Qur’anic] verse (There is noth­ing whatsoever like unto Him) (42:11), for if the above were intended lit­erally, there would be innumerable things like unto Him in such respect as having eyes, hands, motion, and so forth, in the literal meaning of these terms. The would-be dilemma is also far from the practice of the early Mus­lims, who used only to accept such [Qur’anic] verses and hadiths as they have come, consigning the knowledge of what is meant by them – while af­firming the absolute Transcen­dence of Allah Most High above any resemblance to created things – to Allah Most High alone, without trying to determinately specify how they are meant (bi lâ kayf), let alone suggesting people understand them literally (haqî­qatan) as Ibn al-Qayyim tried to do.

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