The Sources of Ibn Taymiyya’s Ideas Part 3 of 3

“Exalted is Allah above having an attribute which occupies space — this is anthropomorphism itself! Nor is Allah divisible and in need of parts with which to do something. Does not His order and His fashioning act upon the fire? How then would He need the help of any part of Himself, or apply Himself to the fire with one of His attributes, while He is the one Who says to it: “Be coolness and peace” (21:69)? What idiotic belief is this, and how far remote it is from the Fashioner of the dominions and the firmaments! Allah gave them the lie in His book when He said: “If these had been gods, they would never have gone down to it” (21:99): how then can they think that the Creator goes down to it? Exalted is Allah above the ignorant pretenses of the mujassima!”14

These, then, are the sources of Ibn Taymiyya’s stand on ascribing a body and a direction to the Creator. As we have seen these sources have little to do with the established position of Imam Ahmad on these questions. On the contrary, we know with certainty that Imam Ahmad irrevocably condemned the slightest ascription of a body to Allah, whether or not the speaker added: “but not like other bodies.” In Manaqib Ahmad, al-Bayhaqi relates that he said:

“A person commits an act of disbelief (kufr) if he says Allah is a body, even if he says: Allah is a body but not like other bodies.” He continues: “The expressions are taken from language and from Islam, and linguists applied “body” to a thing that has length, width, thickness, form, structure and components. The expression has not been handed down in Shari`a. Therefore, it is invalid and cannot be used.”15

Given that the correct followers of the madhhab of Imam Ahmad in the fourth and fifth centuries stand firmly on the side of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a, we should not be astonished that they would reject the proponents of likening Allah to creation (tashbih) both then and later. Indeed, such views were contained and prevented from being disseminated far and wide until Ibn Taymiyya threw the full weight of his learning and skill behind them. In repayment for his efforts he was duly arrested more than once in his career.


1 `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Kitab al-sunna (Cairo: al-Matba`a al-Salafiya, 1349/1930).

2 al-Khallal, al-Sunna p. 215-216.

3 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Bada’i` al-fawa’id (Misr: al-Matba`a al-Muniriya, 1900?) 4:39-40.

4 Abu Hayyan, Tafsir al-nahr al-madd 1:254 (Ayat al-kursi).

5 See the introduction to Ibn Jarir al-Tabari’s Kitab ikhtilaf al-fuqaha’ (The differences among jurists), ed. Frederik Kern, Egypt 1902.

6 Quoted in Saqqa op. cit.

7 Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Khuzayma, Kitab al-tawhid wa-ithbat sifat al-rabb allati wasafa biha nafsahu... (Cairo: idarat al-tiba`a al-muniriyya, 1354/1935).

8 Bayhaqi, al-Asma’ wa al-sifat, ed. Kawthari, p. 267.

9 Razi, al-Tafsir al-kabir 14:27 (#151).

10 Kawthari, Maqalat, p. 355.

11 Abu Dawud, Sunan, Kitab al-Sunna, ch. 19, last hadith.

12 Kawthari, Maqalat, p. 361.

13 One of the great early authorities of the Hanbali school.

14 Ibn al-Jawzi, Daf` shubah al-tashbih p. 172-174.

15 al-Bayhaqi, Manaqib Ahmad. Unpublished manuscript.

Reproduced with permission from Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani’s The Repudiation of “Salafi” Innovations (Kazi, 1996) p. 90-95.

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