`Asqalani on Ibn Taymiyya

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

Translated from Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani’s biography of Ibn Taymiyya in al-durar al-kaamina fi a`yaan al-mi’at al-thaamina [The Hidden Pearls Concerning the Famous People of the Eighth Century] Hyderabad: Daa’irat al-ma`aarif al-`uthmaaniyya, 1384 H, vol. 1:144-160.

An enquiry [of his position] was conducted with several scholars [in Cairo] and a written statement was written against him, in which he said: “I am Ash`ari,” and his handwriting is found with what he wrote verbatim, namely: “I believe that the Qur’an is a meaning which exists in Allah’s Essence (mi`na qaa’imun bi dhaat Allaah), and it is an Attribute from the pre-eternal Attributes of His Essence (wa huwa Sifatun min Sifaati dhaatihi al-qadeema), and that it is uncreated (wa huwa ghayru makhlooq), and that it does not consist in the letter nor the voice (wa laysa bi Harfin wa la Sawt), and that His saying: “The Merciful established Himself over the Throne” is not taken according to its external meaning (laysa `ala zaahirihi), and I don’t know in what consists its meaning, nay only Allah knows it, and one speaks of His “descent” in the same way as one speaks of His “establishement” (wa al-qawlu fi al-nuzooli kal-qawli fi al-istiwaa’).”

It was written by Ahmad ibn Taymiyya and they witnessed over him that he had repented of his own free will from all that contravened the above. This took place on the 25th of Rabee` al-awwal of the year 707 and it was witnessed by a huge array of scholars and others. [p. 148.]

(Najm al-Din Sulayman ibn `Abd al-Qawi) al-Toofi (al-Hanbali) said: “He used to bring up in one hour from the Book and the Sunna and language and speculation (a quantity of material) which no-one could bring up 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 proud before his fellow human beings, and became convinced that he was a scholar capable of independent reasoning (istash`ara annahu mujtahidun). 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 Ibraaheem al-Raqiyy 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-Ghazali, at which point some people opposed him and would almost kill him…

“They ascertained that he had blurted out certain words concerning doctrine (Dabatu `alayhi kalimaatin fi al-`aqaa’id mugheera) which came out of his mouth in the context of his sermons and legal decisions, 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 he was categorized as an anthropomorphist (wa nusiba ila al-tajseem).

“They also mentioned his refutation of whoever uses the Prophet (s) as a means (man tawassala bi al-nabi sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) or seeks help from him (aw istaghaatha)…

“People were divided into parties because of him. Some considered him an anthropomorphist [mujassim] because of what he mentioned in ‘al- `aqeeda al-Hamawiyya’ and ‘al-`aqeeda al-waaSiTiyya’ and other books of his, such as Allah’s hand, foot, shin, and face being litteral attributes of Allah (Sifaatun Haqeeqiyyatun lillaah) and that He is established upon the Throne with His Essence (wa annahu mustawin `ala al-`arshi bi dhaatihi). It was said to him that were this the case He would necessarily be subject to spatial confinement (al-taHayyuz) and divisibility (al-inqisaam). He replied: “I do not concede that spatial confinement and divisibility are (necessarily) properties of bodies (anaa laa usallimu anna al-taHayyuz wa al-inqisaam min khawaSS al- ajsaam),” whereupon it was adduced against him (ulzima) that he held Allah’s Essence to be subject to spatial confinement.

[Note: Ibn Taymiyya nowhere explicitly rejects limit and dimension for Allah. In fact he says in his answer to Razi (‘al-Ta’sis‘) that the rejection of limit (Hadd) and dimension (qadr) for Allah is nowhere found in the Book and the Sunna (as quoted in Kawthari’s ‘Maqaalaat‘ p. 351), whereas the Sunni `aqeedah explicitly states: “The Glorious and Exalted Lord is above and beyond sharing in the properties of having directions or spatial limits: thoughts cannot measure Him, locations cannot contain Him, dimensions cannot encompass Him” (Imam al-Juwayni in ‘Lam` al-adillat fi qawaa`id `aqaa’id ahl al-sunna’ [The Radiance of Proofs Concerning the Bases of the Beliefs of Ahl al-Sunna]). Ibn Taymiyya even says that there are two kinds of tashbeeh [likening of God], one of which “whose meaning it would be improper to disallow” (Beirut edition of ‘Majmoo` fataawa shaykh al-islam...’ 3:172, and again in the ‘Ta’sis‘ that “the Book, the Sunna, and the Consensus nowhere say that all bodies are necessarily created, nor that Allah Himself is necessarily not a body” (quoted in Kawthari p. 350).]

“Others considered him someone who conceals unbelief [zindeeq] due to his saying that the Prophet (s) is not to be sought for help (laa yustaghaathu bihi) and the fact that this amounted to diminishing and impeding the establishing of the greatness of the Prophet (s)…

“Others considered him a hypocrite [munaafiq] because of what he said about `Ali:… that he had been forsaken (makhdhoolan) everywhere he went, had repeatedly tried to acquire the khilafa 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 (s) saying (to `Ali): “Only a hypocrite would show you hatred.” [p. 153-155]

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