The Sources of Ibn Taymiyya’s Ideas, Part 1 of 3

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

On the Anthropormorphism of “Salafis”

The resemblance of Kawthari’s censure of Ibn Taymiyya to Ibn al-Jawzi’s censure of the anthropomorphizing Hanbalis of his time is striking. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Ibn Taymiyya in fact took his own materials from a related group, as Kawthari says: “Ibn Taymiyya replicates part and parcel what is found in `Uthman ibn Sa`id al-Darimi’s al-Radd `ala al-jahmiyya, and the Kitab al-sunna attributed to `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and Ibn Khuzayma’s al-Tawhid wa sifat al-rabb.” A look at these three sources of Ibn Taymiyya:*

`Uthman Ibn Sa`id al-Darimi al-Sajzi (d. 280; not `Abd Allah ibn `Abd al-Rahman al-Darimi, author of the Sunan, who died in 255): He is said by some biographers to have studied with Ahmad, al-Buyuti, Yahya ibn Ma`in, and Ibn al-Madini. However, he is never mentioned in the Six Books of traditions, which points to problems concerning his person, in view of the teachers he is said to have studied with. He wrote his books against Bishr al-Marisi and the Jahmiyya at large. In his fervor to refute their excessive figurative interpretations, he fell into the opposite extreme of anthropomorphism illustrated by the excerpts of Kitab al-sunna quoted after the section below. One also wonders why Ibn Taymiyya would take up arguments originally meant for Jahmis, who were heretics, and redirect them to the Ash`aris, who are the Ahl al-Sunna. Here are some examples of what his book al-Naqd `ala al-jahmiyya (The critique of the Jahmis) contains:1 p. 20: “The Living, the Self-Subsistent, does what He wills, moves if He so wills, descends and ascends if He wills, collects and spreads and rises and sits if He wills, for the distinguishing mark between the living and the dead is movement: every living thing moves without fail, and every dead thing is immobile without fail. “In this phrase the author has compared Allah to every living thing, although nothing is like Him whatsoever. p. 23: “Those who object claim that Allah has no limit, no boundary, and no end, and this is the principle upon which Jahm has built all of his heresy and from which he has carved his falsehoods; these are statements that we have never heard anyone say before him… Allah certainly has a limit… and so has His place, for He is on His Throne above the heavens, and these are two limits. Any person who declares that Allah has a limit and that His place has a limit, is more knowledgeable than the Jahmis. “In these statements we see that al-Darimi considers Imam al-Shafi`i a Jahmi, since the latter explicitly stated:

“Know that limit and finiteness do not apply to Allah.”2 We wonder at those who revived the views of al-Darimi in later times such as Ibn Taymiyya, and in modern times such as those who call themselves “Salafis,” and who could not be farther from the doctrine of the true Salaf. Does any rational person doubt that one who declares “Allah has a limit” is worshipping an idol? As `Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi said in al-Tabsira al-baghdadiyyaal-Asma’ wa al-sifat, and al-Farq bayn al-firaq: it is obligatory to declare as unbeliever someone who says that Allah has limits.3Although today’s “Salafis” dare not show the same openness as al-Darimi in claiming limits to the Creator, yet this belief of theirs is couched in their repeated denial that Allah is everywhere, which no Muslim asserts in the first place. Oblivious of the point, Wahhabis and “Salafis” are most confused about this in their belief that the only alternative to the constructed claim that “Allah is in every place” is their real claim that “He is in one place only, above His throne.”

Each claim is as worthless as the other since both ascribe spatial location to Allah, Exalted is He above what they claim. Both are equally false in devising for Him, respectively, dispersion in an infinity of places, and limitation in a single place. Both are disbelief according to Imam `Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi’s limpid statement:

“Whoever believes that Allah permeates the Heavens and the Earth, or that He is a body sitting on His Throne, is a disbeliever, even if he thinks he is a Muslim.”

1 `Uthman ibn Sa`id al-Darimi, Kitab al-naqd `ala al-jahmiyya (Cairo, 1361/1942).

2 al-Shafi`i, al-Fiqh al-akbar fi al-tawhid li al-imam Abi `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi`i, 1st ed. (al-Azbakiyya, Cairo: al-matba`a al-adabiyya, 1324/1906 or 1907) p. 8. The original manuscript of this work is kept at the Zahiriyya Library in Damascus, Ms. #Q-2(3).

3 Cited in Kawthari’s Maqalat p. 314.

Reproduced with permission from Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani’s The Repudiation of “Salafi” Innovations (Kazi, 1996) p. 84-86.