Ibn Taymiyya

He used to bring up in one hour from the Book, the Sunna, the Arabic language, and philosophical speculation, material which no-one could bring up even in many sessions, as if these sciences were before his very eyes and he was picking and choosing from them at will. A time came when his companions took to over-praising him and this drove him to be satisfied with himself until he became conceited before his fellow human beings. He became convinced that he was a scholar capable of independent reasoning (mujtahid). Henceforth he began to answer each and every scholar great and small, past and recent, until he went all the way back to `Umar (r) and faulted him in some matter. This reached the ears of the Shaykh Ibrahim al-Raqi who reprimanded him. Ibn Taymiyya went to see him, apologized, and asked for forgiveness. He also spoke against `Ali (r) and said: “He made mistakes in seventeen different matters.”… Because of his fanatic support of the Hanbali school he would attack Ash’aris until he started to insult al-Ghazzali, at which point some people opposed him and would almost kill him…. They ascertained that he had blurted out certain words, concerning doctrine, which came out of his mouth in the context of his sermons and legal pronouncements, and they mentioned that he had cited the tradition of Allah’s descent (to the nearest heaven), then climbed down two steps from the minbar and said: “Just like this descent of mine” and so was categorized as an anthropomorphist. They also cited his refutation of whoever uses the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — as a means or seeks help from him (aw istaghatha)…. People were divided into parties because of him. Some considered him an anthropomorphist because of what he mentioned in al-`Aqida al-Hamawiyya and al-`Aqida al-Wasitiyya and other books of his, to the effect that the hand, foot, shin, and face are litteral attributes of Allah and that He is established upon the Throne with His Essence. It was said to him that were this the case He would necessarily be subject to spatial confinement (al-tahayyuz) and divisibility (al-inqisam). He replied: “I do not concede that spatial confinement and divisibility are (necessarily) properties of bodies,” whereupon it was adduced against him (ulzima) that he held Allah’s Essence to be subject to spatial confinement. Others considered him a heretic (zindiq) due to his saying that the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — is not to be sought for help and the fact that this amounted to diminishing and impeding the establishing of the greatness of the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — …. Others considered him a dissimulator (munafiq) because of what he said about `Ali:… namely, that he had been forsaken everywhere he went, had repeatedly tried to acquire the caliphate and never attained it, fought out of lust for power rather than religion, and said that “he loved authority while `Uthman loved money.” He would say that Abu Bakr had declared Islam in his old age, fully aware of what he said, while `Ali had declared Islam as a boy, and the boy’s Islam is not considered sound upon his mere word…. In sum he said ugly things such as these, and it was said against him that he was a hypocrite, in view of the Prophet’s — Allah bless and greet him — saying (to `Ali): “None but a hypocrite has hatred for you.”6

Another reason why Ibn Taymiyya was opposed was his criticism of Sufis, particularly Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn `Arabi, although he described himself, in his letter to Abu al-Fath Nasr al-Munayji, as a former admirer of the Shaykh al-Akbar:

I was one of those who, previously, used to hold the best opinion of Ibn `Arabi and extol his praise, because of the benefits I saw in his books, such as what he said in many of his books, for example: al-Futuhat, al-Kanh, al-Muhkam al-Marbut, al-Durra al-Fakhira, Matali` al-Nujum, and other such works.7

According to Ibn `Abd al-Hadi, Ibn Taymiyya also declared himself a follower of several Sufi orders, among them the Qadiri path of Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani.8 In al-Mas’ala al-Tabriziyya Ibn Taymiyya declares: “Labistu al-khirqa al-mubaraka li al-Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir wa bayni wa baynahu ithnan – I wore the blessed Sufi cloak of `Abd al-Qadir, there being between him and me two shaykhs.”9

Further Heresy

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