While granting that his other scholarly achieve­ments are not necessarily compromised by his extreme ab­errances in tenets of faith, it should not be forgotten that depicting the latter as a “reform” or “return to early Islam” rep­resents a blameworthy innovation on his part that ap­peared more than seven centuries after the time of the Prophet, Allah bless and greet him, and his Companions. A particularly unsa­vory aspect of it is that in his at­tempts to vindicate the doctrine, Ibn al-Qayyim casts aspersions upon the Islam of anyone who does not sub­scribe to it, at their forefront the Ash‘ari school, whom his books castigate as Jahmiyya or Mu‘attila, implying, by equating them with the most extreme factions of the Mu‘tazilites, that they deny any significance to the Divine Attributes, a misrepresentation that has seen a lamentable recrudes­cence in parts of the Muslim world today.

Ibn al-Qayyim’s “Book of the Soul” (Kitab al-Ruh) ranks among the best books on the subject of the Islamic understanding of life after death according to the Qur’an, the Sunna, and the doctrine of the Salaf and the Four Imams, establishing without doubt that the dead hear the living and know of them. Since this hearing of the dead is a contradiction of the fun­da­men­tal Wahhabi tenet that the dead cannot hear the living, mumblings are sometimes heard about the authenticity of his authorship of the book among the “Salafis.”[2] However, the book is undoubtedly by Ibn al-Qayyim and is attributed to him by over two dozen scholars both in his time and after.[3] It also contains internal proofs of his authorship, such as his mention of his own book – now lost – entitled Ma‘rifa al-Ruh wa al-Nafs[4] and his identifying two of his direct teachers as Abu al-Hajjaj (al-Mizzi), and Ibn Taymiyya:

“Our shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj, the hadith master, used to say that.”[5]

“I heard Shaykh al-Islam, Ibn Taymiyya stress this…”[6]

“Our shaykh said: ‘The sun itself does not descend from the heaven, and the sunrays that are on earth are neither the sun nor its attribute, but an accident (‘arad) caused by the sun and the mass (jirm) opposite it.’”[7] This is taken verbatim from Ibn Taymiyya’s notorious “Explanation of the hadith of Allah’s descent.”[8] 

An­other internal proof of Ibn al-Qayyim’s authorship of Kitab al-Ruh is his lapsing into excessive criticism of Ash‘aris and misattributions of spurious positions to them as is typical of his school,[9] although in much of his book he cites from al-Tadhkira, a book by the Ash‘ari scholar al-Qurtubi.

Ibn al-Qayyim violently attacked imitation (taqlîd) of the four schools of Law among traditional Sunni Muslims and voiced his anti-madhhab stance in a two-volume work on the principles of the Law entitled I‘lam al-Muwaq­qi‘in. In the latter book he rejects the evidence that the Com­panions and great Imams endorsed imitation as inapplicable to later gen­erations and instead advocates a kind of populist ijtihâd in which every Muslim is his own imam and is urged to apply his or her own mind to­ward inter­preting the Qur’an and Sunna independently, untrammelled by the burden­some quali­fi­cations in jurisprudence, language, hadith meth­od­ol­ogy, and the Qur’anic sciences that are required for ijtihâd. It is enough refutation of this Islamically-veiled Protestantism that Ibrahim al-Nakha‘i said: “If the Companions made ablution to the wrists I swear I would have done the same, even as I read the verse of ablution as stating [to the elbows] (5:6).”[10] More explicitly, al-Shatibi said: “The fatwas of the mujtahids are to the laymen what the Shari‘a evidences are to the mujtahids.”[11] The Indian jurist and hadith scholar Habib Ahmad al-Kiranawi blasted Ibn al-Qayyim’s theses in a 100-page epistle entitled al-Din al-Qayyim[12] in which he states:

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