Ibn Taymiyya Compares Allah to the Moon in his infamous `Aqida wasitiyya

by Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

Ibn Taymiyya establishes a clear-cut case of tamthil or similitude for Allah and His attributes by comparing Him to the moon in his interpretation of the verse 57:4: “He is with you wherever you are”: The phrase “and He is with you” does not mean that He blends into creation… Nay the moon… one of the smallest of Allah’s creations, is both placed in the heaven (mawdu`un fi al-samaa’) and present with the traveler and the non-traveler wherever they may be. And the Exalted is above (fawq) the Throne, as a watchful guardian of His creatures and their protector Who is cognizant of them.1

Ibn Taymiyya’s admirers may claim that he represents the doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna, but we all know that none of the Ahl al-Sunna ever compared Allah to the moon, or Allah’s knowledge to the moon’s rays. Exalted is Allah high above the fancies of those who give such examples for Him. Yet we find today the same type of aberration still passing for Islamic education, in books such as Ibn al-`Uthaymin’s Sharh al`aqida al-wasitiyya, which we will address in a few pages, and where the author, dissatisfied with Ibn Taymiyya’s moon, turns to comparing Allah to the sun instead.

In consequence of such strange positions, Ibn Taymiyya was imprisoned by agreement of the Muslim scholars of Egypt and Syria who wished to prevent the dissemination of his ideas. His imprisonment, it should be stressed, came as a result of the consensus of the scholars of his time and not, as it is falsely claimed by his admirers, a massive conspiracy against him. Nor was he put in jail by a tyrannical ruler, nor due to the jealousy of his contemporaries, as is postulated today by some of those who claim to follow his teachings. One fears the authorities made him something of a martyr instead, and thus stimulated interest in his otherwise pedestrian observations touching on Divine attributes. We will mention his deviations concerning other topics later, insha Allah. We close this section with the recapitulation of Ibn Taymiyya’s deviations and his unmitigated condemnation by al-Haytami.

Ibn Hajar al-Haytami’s Scathing Condemnation of Ibn Taymiyya

Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Muhammad Abu al-`Abbas Shihab al-Din al-Haytami, known as Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (909-974/ 1504-1567) was the Shafi`i Imam of his time, a brilliant scholar of in-depth applications of Shari`a, and with Imam Ahmad al-Ramli, represents the foremost resource for legal opinion (fatwa) for the entire late Shafi`i school. He was educated at al-Azhar, but later moved to Mecca, where he authored major works in Shafi`i jurisprudence, hadith, tenets of faith, education, hadith commentary, and formal legal opinion. His most famous works include Tuhfat al-muhtaj bi sharh al-minhaj (The gift of him in need: an explanation of “The Road”), a commentary on Nawawi’s Minhaj al-Talibin (The seeker’s road) whose ten volumes represent a high point in Shafi`i scholarship; the four-volume al-Fatawa al-kubra al-fiqhiyya (The major collection of legal opinions); and al-Zawajir `an iqtiraf al-kaba’ir (Deterrents from committing enormities) which with its detailed presentation of Qur’an and hadith evidence and masterful legal inferences, remains unique among Muslim works dealing with godfearingness (taqwa) and is even recognized by Hanafi scholars like Ibn `Abidin as a source of authoritative legal texts (nusus) valid in their own school.2

He writes in his Fatawa hadithiyya:

Ibn Taymiyya is a slave which Allah has forsaken and misguided and blinded and deafened and debased. That is the declaration of the imams who have exposed the corruption of his positions and the mendacity of his sayings. Whoever wishes to pursue this must read the words of the mujtahid imam Abu al-Hasan (Taqi al-Din) al-Subki, of his son Taj al-Din Subki, of the Imam al-`Izz ibn Jama`a and others of the Shafi`i, Maliki, and Hanafi shaykhs…In short, his words are not given any importance whatsoever; rather they are thrown aside into every wasteland and rocky ground, and it must be considered that he is a misguided and misguiding innovator (mubtadi` dall mudill) and an ignorant who brought evil (jahilun ghalun) whom Allah treated with His justice, and may He protect us from the likes of his path, doctrine, and actions, Amin…Know that he has differed from people on questions about which Taj al-Din al-Subki and others warned us. Among the things Ibn Taymiyya said which violate the scholarly consensus are:

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