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

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:

    1. that he who violates the consensus commits neither disbelief (kufr) nor transgression (fisq)
    2. that our Lord is subject to created events (mahallun li al-hawadith) — glorified, exalted, and sanctified is He far above what the wrong-doers and rejecters ascribe to Him!
    3. that He is complex or made of parts (murakkab), His Essence standing in need similarly to the way the whole stands in need of the parts (taftaqiru dhatuhu iftiqara al-kulli li al-juz’), elevated is He and sanctified above that!
    4. that the Qur’an is created in Allah’s Essence (muhdath fi dhatillah),3elevated is He above that!
    5. that the world (al-`alam) is of a pre-eternal nature (qadim bi al-naw`) and that it existed with Allah from pre-eternity (wa lam yazal ma` Allah) as an everlasting created object (makhluqan da’iman), thus making it necessarily existent in His Essence (fa ja`alahu mujaban bi al-dhat) and not acting deliberately (la fa`ilan bi al-ikhtyar), elevated is He above that!4
    6. his sayings about Allah’s “corporeality,” “direction,” “displacement,” (al-jismiyya wa al-jiha wa al-intiqal), and that He fits the size of the Throne, being neither bigger nor smaller, exalted is He from such a hideous invention and wide-open disbelief (kufr), and may He forsake all his followers, and may all his beliefs be scattered and lost!
    7. his saying that the fire shall go out (al-nar tafni),5
    8. and that the prophets are not free from sin (al-anbiya’a ghayru ma`sumin),6
    9. and that the Prophet has no particular status before Allah (la jaha lahu)7and must not be used as a means (la yutawassalu bihi),8
    10. and that the undertaking of travel (al-safar) to him in order to perform his visit (al-ziyara) is a disobedience (ma`siya) in which it is unlawful to shorten the prayers,9 and that it is forbidden to ask for his intercession in view of the Day of Need
    11. and that the words (alfaz) of the Torah and the Gospel were not substituted, but their meanings (ma`ani) were.
    12. Some said: “Whoever looks at his books does not attribute to him most of these positions, except that whereby he holds the view that Allah has a direction, and that he authored a book to establish this, and forces the proof upon the people who follow this school of thought that they are believers in Allah’s corporeality (jismiyya), dimensionality (muhadhat), and settledness (istiqrar).” That is, it may be that at times he used to assert these proofs and that they were consequently attributed to him in particular. But whoever attributed this to him from among the imams of Islam upon whose greatness, leadership, religion, trustworthiness, fairness, acceptance, insight, and meticulousness there is agreement — then they do not say anything except what has been duly established with added precautions and repeated inquiry. This is especially true when a Muslim is attributed a view which necessitates his disbelief, apostasy, misguidance, and execution. Therefore if it is true of him that he is a disbeliever and an innovator, then Allah will deal with him with His justice, and other than that He will forgive us and him.10

1 Ibn Taymiyya, al-`Aqida al-wasitiyya (Salafiyya ed. 1346 / 1927) p. 20.

2 Very slightly adapted from Nuh Keller’s biographical notice on Haythami in his Reliance of the Traveller p. 1054.

3 The Jahmis believed that the Qur’an was created.

4 These are of the crassest expressions of kalam and speculation in which one could possibly indulge.

5 This was refuted by San`ani in Raf` al-astar.

6 This is a logical corollary of his belief that contradicting the ijma` on matters of belief and law is neither kufr nor fisq.

7 A reference to Ibn Taymiyya’s manner of answering questions specific to the Prophet with generalities about all human beings.

8 The scholars’ refutation of this heresy innovated by Ibn Taymiyya is detailed in the second volume of the present work.

9 Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari (1993 ed. 3:66) about Ibn Taymiyya’s prohibition to travel in order to visit the Prophet: “This is one of the ugliest matters ever reported from Ibn Taymiyya.” Yet even today the Saudi scholar Bin Baz persists in saying that it is forbidden to travel with the intention of visiting the Prophet and comments that this was not an ugly but a correct thing for Ibn Taymiyya to say!

10 Ibn Hajar al-Haythami al-Makki’s Fatawa hadithiyya (Cairo: Halabi, 1390/1970) p. 114-117.

Reproduced with permission from Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani’s The Repudiation of “Salafi” Innovations (Kazi, 1996) p. 98-103.

Blessings and Peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions