Heresies of Ibn Taymiyya | G.F. Haddad

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Heresies of Ibn Taymiyya | G.F. Haddad

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by Dr. G.F. Haddad ... ymiyya.htm

Ahmad ibn `Abd al-Halim ibn `Abd Allah ibn Abi al-Qasim ibn Taymiyya, Taqi al-Din Abu al-`Abbas ibn Shihab al-Din ibn Majd al-Din al-Harrani al-Dimashqi al-Hanbali (661-728). The most influential scholar of the late Hanbali school, praised by the hadith master Salah al-Din al-`Ala'i as "Our shaykh, master, and imam between us and Allah Almighty, the master of verification, the wayfarer of the best path, the owner of the multifarious merits and overpowering proofs which all hosts agree are impossible to enumerate, the Shaykh, the Imam and faithful servant of his Lord, the doctor in the Religion, the Ocean, the light-giving Pole of spirituality, the leader of imams, the blessing of the Community, the sign-post of the people of knowledge, the inheritor of Prophets, the last of those capable of independent legal reasoning, the most unique of the scholars of the Religion, Shaykh al-Islam..."

A student of Ibn `Abd al-Da'im, al-Qasim al-Irbili, Ibn `Allan, Ibn Abi `Amr al-Fakhr, Ibn Taymiyya mostly read by himself until he achieved great learning. He taught, authored books, gave formal legal opinions, and generally distinguished himself for his quick wit and photographic memory. Among his most brilliant students were Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, al-Dhahabi, Ibn Kathir, and Yusuf ibn `Abd al-Hadi. His opinions and manner created intense controversy both in his life and after his death, to the point that scholars were divided into those who loved him and those who did not. An illustration of this is the fact that the Shafi`i hadith master al-Mizzi did not call anyone else Shaykh al-Islam in his time besides Ibn Taymiyya; yet the Hanafi scholar `Ala' al-Din al-Bukhari issued a fatwa whereby anyone who called Ibn Taymiyya Shaykh al-Islam commited disbelief.1 In Bayan Zaghl al-`Ilm al-Dhahabi states: "Ibn Taymiyya was considered by his enemies to be a wicked Anti-Christ and disbeliever, while great numbers of the wise and the elite considered him an eminent, brilliant, and scholarly innovator (mubtadi` fadil muhaqqiq bari`)."2

First Incident of Tashbih

His first clash with the scholars occurred in 698 in Damascus when he was temporarily barred from teaching after he issued his Fatwa Hamawiyya. In this epistle he unambiguously attributes literal upward direction to Allah Almighty. He was refuted by his contemporary, the imam and mufti of Aleppo then Damascus Ibn Jahbal al-Kilabi (d. 733), in a lengthy reply which Taj al-Din al-Subki reproduced in full in his Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra. Ibn Taymiyya then returned to his activities until he was summoned by the authorities again in 705 to answer for his `Aqida Wasitiyya. He spent the few following years in and out of jail or defending himself from various "abhorrent charges" according to Ibn Hajar. Because he officially repented, his life was spared, although at one point it was officially announced in Damascus that "Whoever follows the beliefs of Ibn Taymiyya, his life and property are licit for seizure." These events instigated great dissension among the scholars in Damascus and Cairo as detailed in Imam Taqi al-Din al-Husni's Daf` Shubah Man Shabbaha wa Tamarrad wa Nasaba Dhalika ila al-Sayyid al-Jalil al-Imam Ahmad ("Repelling the Sophistries of the Rebel who Likens Allah to Creation, Then Attributes This Doctrine to Imam Ahmad").3

Ibn Taymiyya at various times declared himself a follower of the Shafi`i school - as did many Hanbalis in Damascus - and an Ash`ari.

Ibn Hajar wrote in al-Durar al-Kamina:

An investigation [of his views] was conducted with several scholars [in Cairo] and a written statement was drawn in which he said: "I am Ash`ari." His handwriting is found with what he wrote verbatim, namely: "I believe that the Qur'an is a meaning which exists in Allah's Entity, and that it is an Attribute from the pre-eternal Attributes of His Entity, and that it is uncreated, and that it does not consist in the letter nor the voice, and that His saying: "The Merciful established Himself over the Throne" (20:4) is not taken according to its literal meaning (laysa `ala zahirihi), 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 'establishment.'"

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 Rabi` al-Awwal 707 and it was witnessed by a huge array of scholars and others.4

The Hanbali scholar Najm al-Din Sulayman ibn `Abd al-Qawi al-Tufi said:5

He used to bring up in one hour from the Book, the Sunna, the Arabic language, and philosophical speculation, material which no-one could bring up even 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 conceited before his fellow human beings. He became convinced that he was a scholar capable of independent reasoning (mujtahid). 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 Ibrahim al-Raqi 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-Ghazzali, at which point some people opposed him and would almost kill him.... They ascertained that he had blurted out certain words, concerning doctrine, which came out of his mouth in the context of his sermons and legal pronouncements, 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 so was categorized as an anthropomorphist. They also cited his refutation of whoever uses the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- as a means or seeks help from him (aw istaghatha).... People were divided into parties because of him. Some considered him an anthropomorphist because of what he mentioned in al-`Aqida al-Hamawiyya and al-`Aqida al-Wasitiyya and other books of his, to the effect that the hand, foot, shin, and face are litteral attributes of Allah and that He is established upon the Throne with His Essence. It was said to him that were this the case He would necessarily be subject to spatial confinement (al-tahayyuz) and divisibility (al-inqisam). He replied: "I do not concede that spatial confinement and divisibility are (necessarily) properties of bodies," whereupon it was adduced against him (ulzima) that he held Allah's Essence to be subject to spatial confinement. Others considered him a heretic (zindiq) due to his saying that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- is not to be sought for help and the fact that this amounted to diminishing and impeding the establishing of the greatness of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- .... Others considered him a dissimulator (munafiq) because of what he said about `Ali:... namely, that he had been forsaken everywhere he went, had repeatedly tried to acquire the caliphate 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 -- Allah bless and greet him -- saying (to `Ali): "None but a hypocrite has hatred for you."6

Another reason why Ibn Taymiyya was opposed was his criticism of Sufis, particularly Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn `Arabi, although he described himself, in his letter to Abu al-Fath Nasr al-Munayji, as a former admirer of the Shaykh al-Akbar:

I was one of those who, previously, used to hold the best opinion of Ibn `Arabi and extol his praise, because of the benefits I saw in his books, such as what he said in many of his books, for example: al-Futuhat, al-Kanh, al-Muhkam al-Marbut, al-Durra al-Fakhira, Matali` al-Nujum, and other such works.7

According to Ibn `Abd al-Hadi, Ibn Taymiyya also declared himself a follower of several Sufi orders, among them the Qadiri path of Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani.8 In al-Mas'ala al-Tabriziyya Ibn Taymiyya declares: "Labistu al-khirqa al-mubaraka li al-Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir wa bayni wa baynahu ithnan - I wore the blessed Sufi cloak of `Abd al-Qadir, there being between him and me two shaykhs."9

Further Heresy

Further charges of heresy were brought against Ibn Taymiyya for his assertion that a divorce pronounced in innovative fashion does not take effect, against the consensus of the scholars which stipulated that it does, though innovative. After spending the years 719-721 in jail, he was jailed again in 726 until his death two years leater for declaring that one who travels to visit the Prophet commits innovation. His burial was attended by about 50,000 people.

His student al-Dhahabi praised him lavishly as "the brilliant shaykh, imam, erudite scholar, censor, jurist, mujtahid, and commentator of the Qur'an," but acknowledged that Ibn Taymiyya's disparaging manners alienated even his admirers. For example, the grammarian Abu Hayyan praised Ibn Taymiyya until he found out that he believed himself a greater expert in the Arabic language than Sibawayh, whereupon he disassociated himself from his previous praise. Other former admirers turned critics were the qadi al-Zamalkani and al-Dhahabi himself, in whose al-Nasiha al-Dhahabiyya he addresses Ibn Taymiyya with the words: "When will you stop criticizing the scholars and finding fault with the people?"

Dr. al-Buti pointed out that although Ibn Taymiyya blamed al-Ghazzali and other Ash`ari scholars for involving themselves in philosophical or dialectical disputations, yet he went much further than most into kalam and philosophy. This is shown by his books in kalam and philosophy, most notably by his positions in al-Radd `ala al-Mantiqiyyin ("Against the Logicians") on the "generic beginninglessness" of created matters and Aristotelian causality (al-`illa al-aristiyya).10 Al-Dhahabi alluded to this in his epistle to Ibn Taymiyya: "When will you stop investigating the poisoned minutiae of philosophical disbelief, so that we have to refute them with our minds? You have swallowed the poisons of the philosophers and their treatises, not once, but several times!"11

Ibn Hajar al-Haytami on Ibn Taymiyya

Al-Haytami wrote in his Fatawa Hadithiyya:

Ibn Taymiyya is a servant which Allah forsook, misguided, blinded, 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... 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. May He protect us from the likes of his path, doctrine, and actions!... Know that he has differed from people on questions about which Taj al-Din Ibn al-Subki and others warned us. Among the things Ibn Taymiyya said which violate the scholarly consensus are:

that whoso violates the consensus commits neither disbelief (kufr) nor grave transgression (fisq);
that our Lord is subject to created events (mahallun li al-hawadith) - glorified, exalted, and sanctified is He far above what the depraved ascribe to Him!
that He is complex or made of parts (murakkab), His Entity standing in need similarly to the way the whole stands in need of the parts, elevated is He and sanctified above that!
that the Qur'an is created in Allah's Entity (muhdath fi dhatillah), elevated is He above that!
that the world is of a pre-eternal nature and exists with Allah since pre-eternity as an "ever-abiding created object" (makhluqan da'iman), thus making it necessarily existent in His Entity (mujaban bi al-dhat) and not acting deliberately[GH1] (la fa`ilan bi al-ikhtyar), elevated is He above that!12
his suggestions of 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, and may He forsake all his followers, and may all his beliefs be scattered and lost!
his saying that the fire shall go out (al-nar tafni),13
and that Prophets are not sinless (al-anbiya' ghayr ma`sumin),
and that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- has no special status before Allah (la jaha lahu) and must not be used as a means (la yutawassalu bihi),14
and that the undertaking of travel (al-safar) to the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- in order to perform his visitation is a sin, for which it is unlawful to shorten the prayers,15 and that it is forbidden to ask for his intercession in view of the Day of Need,
and that the words (alfaz) of the Torah and the Gospel were not substituted, but their meanings (ma`ani) were.
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.

Imam al-Kawthari on Ibn Taymiyya

Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari stated in strong terms that Ibn Taymiyya's position on Allah's attributes is tantamount to disbelief and apostasy because it reduces Allah to a corporeal body. He states in his Maqalat:

In al-Ta'sis fi Radd Asas al-Taqdis ("The Laying of the Foundation: A Refutation of al-Razi's "The Foundation of Allah's Sanctification") Ibn Taymiyya says: "Al-`arsh (the throne) in language means al-sarir (elevated seat or couch), so named with respect to what is on top of it, just as the roof is so named with respect to what is under it. Therefore, if the Qur'an attributes a throne to Allah, it is then known that this throne is, with respect to Allah, like the elevated seat is with respect to other than Allah. This makes it necessarily true that He is on top of the throne." So then the throne is, for Ibn Taymiyya, Allah's seat (maq`ad)- Exalted is He from such a notion!

He also says: "It is well-known that the Book, the Sunna, and the Consensus nowhere say that all bodies (ajsam) are created, and nowhere say that Allah Himself is not a body. None of the imams of the Muslims ever said such a thing. Therefore if I also choose not to say it, it does not expel me from religion nor from Shari`a." These words are complete impudence. What did he do with all the verses declaring Allah to be far removed from anything like unto Him? Does he expect that the idiocy that every single idiot can come up with be addressed with a specific text? Is it not enough that Allah the Exalted said: "There is nothing whatsoever like Him" (42:11)? Or does he consider it permissible for someone to say: Allah eats this, chews that, and tastes the other thing, just because no text mentions the opposite? This is disbelief laid bare and pure anthropomorphism.

In another passage of the same book he says: "You [Ash`aris] say that He is neither a body, nor an atom (jawhar), nor spatially bounded (mutahayyiz), and that He has no direction, and that He cannot be pointed to as an object of sensory perception, and that nothing of Him can be considered distinct from Him. You have asserted this on the grounds that Allah is neither divisible nor made of parts and that He has neither limit (hadd) nor end (ghaya), with your view thereby to forbid one to say that He has any limit or measure (qadr), or that He even has a dimension that is unlimited. But how do you allow yourselves to do this without evidence from the Book and the Sunna?"16 The reader's intelligence suffices to comment on these heretical statements. Can you imagine for an apostate to be more brazen than this, right in the midst of a Muslim society?

In another place of the same book he says: "It is obligatorily known that Allah did not mean by the name of "the One" (al-Wahid) the negation of the Attributes." He is here alluding to all that entails His "coming" to a place and the like. He continues: "Nor did He mean by it the negation that He can be perceived with the senses, nor the denial of limit and dimension and all such interpretations which were innovated by the Jahmiyya and their followers. Negation or denial of the above is not found in the Book nor the Sunna." And this is on an equal footing with what came before with regard to pure anthropomorphism and plain apostasy.

In another book of his, Muwafaqa al-Ma`qul, which is in the margin of his Minhaj, Ibn Taymiyya asserts that things occur newly in relation to Allah and that He has a direction according to two kinds of conjecture.17 And you know, O reader, what the Imams say concerning him who deliberately and intently establishes that Allah has a direction, unless his saying such a thing is a slip of the tongue or a slip of the pen. Then there is his establishing that the concept of movement applies to Allah, along with all the others who establish such a thing; his denial that there is an eternal sojourn in hellfire has filled creation; and his doctrine of "generic beginninglessness" (al-qidam al-naw`i).18

Ibn Taymiyya's Two Tawhids

Also among Ibn Taymiyya's controversies in kalam was his division of tawhid into two types: tawhid al-rububiyya and tawhid al-uluhiyya, respectively, Oneness of Lordship and Oneness of Godhead.19 The first, he said, consisted in the acknowledgment of Allah as the Creator of all, a belief shared by believers and non-believers alike. The second was the affirmation of Allah as the one true deity and only object of worship, a belief exclusive to believers. His natural conclusion was that "whoever does not know tawhid al-uluhiyya, his knowledge of tawhid al-rububiyya is not taken into account because the idolaters also had such knowledge." He then compared the scholars of kalam to the Arab idol-worshippers who accepted tawhid al-rububiyya but ignored tawhid al-uluhiyya. This dialectic was adopted by Ibn Abi al-`Izz in his commentary on al-Tahawi's `Aqida.20

Abu Hamid Ibn Marzuq wrote:

Tawhid al-rububiyya and tawhid al-uluhiyya were invented by Ibn Taymiyya who claimed that all Muslims among the mutakallimun worshipped other than Allah due to their ignorance of tawhid al-uluhiyya; he claimed that the only tawhid they knew was tawhid al-rububiyya. The latter consists in affirming that Allah is the Creator of all things, as, he says, the polytheists conceded. He then declared all Muslims to be unbelievers. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab imitated him in this, and others imitated Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. The late erudite scholar al-Sayyid Ahmad ibn Zayni Dahlan (d. 1304) looked into this matter in a small section of his treatise al-Durar al-Saniyya fi al-Radd `ala al-Wahhabiyya ("The Resplendent Pearls in Refuting the Wahhabis"). So did the savant al-Shaykh Ibrahim al-Samnudi al-Mansuri (d. 1314) who spoke excellently in his book Sa`ada al-Darayn fi al-Radd `ala al-Firqatayn al-Wahhabiyya wa al-Zahiriyya ("The Bliss of the Two Abodes in the Refutation of the Two Sects: Wahhabis and Zahiris"). The late erudite scholar al-Shaykh Salama al-`Azzami (d. 1376) also wrote valuable words about it in his book al-Barahin al-Sati`a fi Radd Ba`d al-Bida` al-Sha'i`a ("The Radiant Proofs in Refuting Some Widespread Innovations")...

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal... never said that tawhid consisted in two parts, one being tawhid al-rububiyya and the other tawhid al-uluhiyya. Nor did he ever say that "whoever does not know tawhid al-uluhiyya, his knowledge of tawhid al-rububiyya is not taken into account because the idolaters also had such knowledge."... None of the followers of the Followers ... None of the Successors ... None of the Companions of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- ever said that tawhid consisted in two parts, one being tawhid al-rububiyya and the other tawhid al-uluhiyya, nor did any of them ever say that "whoever does not know tawhid al-uluhiyya, his knowledge of tawhid al-rububiyya is not taken into account because the idolaters also had such knowledge."... Nowhere in the extensive Sunna of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- ... is it related that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- ever said or ever taught his Companions that tawhid consists in two parts, one being tawhid al-rububiyya and the other tawhid al-uluhiyya, nor that "whoever does not know tawhid al-uluhiyya, his knowledge of tawhid al-rububiyya is not taken into account because the idolaters also had such knowledge." If mankind and jinn joined together to establish that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- ever said such a thing, even with an inauthentic chain of transmission, they would not succeed.

The books of the Sunna of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- overflow with the fact that the call of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- to the people unto Allah was in order that they witness that there is no God except Allah alone and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and in order that they repudiate idol-worship. One of the most famous illustrations of this is the narration of Mu`adh ibn Jabal when the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- sent him to Yemen and said to him: "Invite them to the testimony that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah...." And it is narrated in five of the six books of authentic traditions, and Ibn Hibban declared it sound, that a beduin Arab reported the sighting of the new moon to the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and the latter ordered the people to fast without asking this man other than to confirm his testimony of faith. According to this drivel of Ibn Taymiyya, it would have been necessary for the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- to call all people to the tawhid al-uluhiyya of which they were ignorant - since tawhid al-rububiyya they knew already - and he should have said to Mu`adh: "Invite them to tawhid al-uluhiyya"; and he should have asked the beduin who had sighted the new moon of Ramadan: "Do you know tawhid al-uluhiyya?"

Finally, in His precious Book which falsehood cannot approach whether from the front or from the back, Allah never ordered tawhid al-uluhiyya to His servants, nor did He ever say that "whoever does not know this tawhid, his knowledge of tawhid al-rububiyya is not taken into account."21<

Ibn Taymiyya's method in debate was to provide a barrage of quotes and citations in support of his positions. In the process he often mentioned reports or stated positions which, upon closer examination, are dubious either from the viewpoint of transmission or from that of doctrine. For example:

His report of Ibn Batta's narration whereby Hammad ibn Zayd was asked by a man: "Our Lord descends to the heaven of the earth - does that mean that he removes Himself from one place to another place? (yatahawwalu min makan ila makan?)" Hammad replied: "He Himself is in His place, and He comes near His creation in the way that He likes (huwa fi makanihi yaqrabu min khalqihi kayfa sha')."22
His report from Ishaq ibn Rahawayh's words to the Emir `Abd Allah ibn Tahir: "He is able to descend without the Throne being vacant of Him" (yaqdiru an yanzila min ghayri an yakhlua al-`arshu minhu).23
His report from Abu `Umar al-Talmanki's book al-Wusul ila Ma`rifa al-Usul: "Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a are in agreement (muttafiqun) that Allah established Himself in person (bi dhatihi) on the Throne."24 Note that Ibn Taymiyya quotes inaccurately, as al-Dhahabi quotes from the same book the following passage: "The Muslims of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a have reached consensus (ajma`) that Allah is above the heavens in person (bi dhatihi) and is established over His Throne in the mode that He pleases (kayfa sha')."25 Both assertions are of course false as no such consensus exists, and the position of Ahl al-Sunna is that whoever attributes direction to Allah commits apostasy.
His statements: "Allah's elevation over the throne is literal, and the servant's elevation over the ship is literal" (lillahi ta`ala istiwa'un `ala `arshihi haqiqatan wa li al-`abdi istiwa'un `ala al-fulki haqiqatan).26 "Allah is with us literally, and He is above His throne literally (Allahu ma`ana haqiqatan wa huwa fawqa al-`arshi haqiqatan). . . . Allah is with His creation literally and He is above His Throne literally (Allahu ma`a khalqihi haqiqatan wa huwa fawqa al-`arshi haqiqatan)."27
The above statements corroborate Ibn Hajar's reports whereby he once climbed down the minbar in purported illustration of Allah's descent to the nearest heaven.

The writings and notoriety of Ibn Taymiyya were by and large forgotten until the "Salafi" movement revived them through the publishing efforts of the Wahabi Gulf states from the 1930s to our day.


al-Dhahabi, Tadhkira al-Huffaz 4:1496 #1177.

Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya 14:5, 14:42-48.

Ibn Hajar, al-Durar al-Kamina 1:144-160 #409.

al-Haytami, Fatawa Hadithiyya.

al-Kawthari, Maqalat.


1Cf. Hajji Khalifa, Kashf al-Zunun (1:838).

2Cited in al-Sakhawi, al-I`lan (p. 78).

3Published in Cairo at Dar Ihya' al-Kutub al-`Arabiyya, 1931.

4The names of the scholars who counter-signed Ibn Taymiyya's deposition are listed by al-Kawthari in his notes to Ibn al-Subki's al-Sayf al-Saqil (p. 95-96).

5In Ibn Hajar's al-Durar al-Kamina (1:153-155).

6Narrated from `Ali by Muslim, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nasa'i, and Ahmad.

7Ibn Taymiyya, Tawhid al-Rububiyya in Majmu`a al-Fatawa (2:464-465).

8See George Makdisi, "L'isnad initiatique soufi de Muwaffaq ad-Din ibn Qudama," in Cahiers de l'Herne: Louis Massignon (Paris: Editions de l'Herne, 1970) p. 88-96; "Ibn Taimiya: A Sufi of the Qadiriya Order," in American Journal of Arabic Studies I (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974) p. 118-129; "The Hanbali School and Sufism," in Boletin de la Asociacion Espanola de Orientalistas 15 (Madrid, 1979) p. 115-126. Based on Ibn `Abd al-Hadi, Bad' al-`Ilqa bi Labs al-Khirqa, ms. al-Hadi, Princeton Library Arabic Collection, fos 154a, 169b, 171b-172a; and Damascus University, copy of original Arabic manuscript, 985H.; also mentioned in al-Talyani, manuscript Chester Beatty 3296 (8) in Dublin, fo 67a.

9Ms. Damascus, Zahiriyya #1186 H.

10Cf. al-Buti, al-Salafiyya (p. 164-175). See our translation of Ibn Khafif's `Aqida §41 ("Things do not act of their own nature...") and note.

11Al-Dhahabi, al-Nasiha al-Dhahabiyya, in the margin of his Bayan Zaghl al-`Ilm wa al-Talab, ed. al-Kawthari (Damascus: Qudsi, 1928-1929); also in Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya, Siratuhu wa Akhbaruhu `inda al-Mu'arrikhin, ed. Salah al-Din al-Munajjid (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, 1976) p. 11-14. See n. 1715.

12This is mentioned about Ibn Taymiyya also by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 13:411). This doctrine was refuted by Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-San`ani in his Risala Sharifa fi ma Yata`allaqu bi Kam al-Baqi Min `Umr al-Dunya? (Precious Treatise Concerning the Remaining Age of the World") ed. al-Wasabi al-Mathani. (San`a': Maktaba Dar al-Quds, 1992).

13This doctrine was refuted by Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-San`ani in his Raf` al-Astar li-Ibtal Adilla al-Qa'ilin bi-Fana al-Nar ("Exposing the Nullity of the Proofs of Those Who Claim That the Fire Shall Pass Away"), ed. Albani (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1984).

14This is explicitly contradicted by the vast majority of scholars, including Ibn Taymiyya's own students Ibn al-Qayyim (cf. al-Nuniyya, section on tawassul) and al-Dhahabi, as well as al-Shawkani and countless others. See the volume on tawassul in Shaykh Hisham Kabbani's Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine.

15Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari 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." In his notes on Fath al-Bari (1989 ed. 3:66) the late "Salafi" scholar Bin Baz comments: "This was not an ugly thing but a correct thing for Ibn Taymiyya to say."

16Ibn Taymiyya, al-Ta'sis (1:101). Compare to Imam Malik's statement: "He is neither ascribed a limit nor likened with anything" (lâ yuhaddad wa lâ yushabbah). Ibn al-`Arabi said after citing it in Ahkam al-Qur'an (4:1740): "This is a pinnacle of tawhîd in which no Muslim preceded Malik."

17Ibn Taymiyya, Muwafaqa al-Ma`qul on the margins of Minhaj al-Sunna (2:75, 1:264, 2:13, 2:26). The Muwafaqa was republished under the title Dar' Ta`arud al-`Aqli wa al-Naql.

18Al-Kawthari, Maqalat (p. 350-353).

19In his Fatawa (1:219, 2:275); Minhaj al-Sunna (2: 62); Risala Ahl al-Suffa (p.34).

20But by no other commentator of the same text. See the commentaries on the Tahawiyya by Hasan al-Busnawi (d. 1024), al-Maydani, al-Bajuri, al-Saqqaf, and others. Al-Busnawi does follow Ibn Abi al-`Izz in other matters.

21Ibn Marzuq, Bara'a al-Ash`ariyyin Min `Aqa'id al-Mukhalifin (1:89, 1:94f.) Chapter reprinted in Ibn Marzuq, al-Tawassul bi al-Nabi (s) wa al-Salihin (Istanbul: Hakikat Kitabevi, 1993) p. 25-101. Cf. Shaykh Hasan `Ali al-Saqqaf's al-Tandid bi man `Addada al-Tawhid ("Punishment of Him Who Counts Several Tawhîds").

22Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu`a al-Fatawa (5:376). Narrated with its chain by al-Dhahabi in the Siyar (8:213, chapter of Bishr ibn al-Siriy).

23Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu`a al-Fatawa (5:376-377). Also narrated by al-Dhahabi with a sound chain according to al-Albani in Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 192 #235). However, al-Bayhaqi in al-Asma' wa al-Sifat (al-Asma' wa al-Sifat, ed. Kawthari p. 451-452; al-Asma' wa al-Sifat, Hashidi ed. 2:375-377 #950-953) narrates the reports of Ishaq's encounter with the Emir `Abd Allah ibn Tahir with five chains (three of them sound according to al-Hashidi), none of which mentioning the words "without the Throne being vacant of Him." This apparent interpolation is nevertheless the foundation of Ibn Taymiyya's position in Sharh Hadith al-Nuzul (p. 42-59) that Allah descends in person yet remains above the Throne in person. That position has been characterized by Imam Abu Zahra as a dual assertion of Allah's aboveness and belowness on the part of Ibn Taymiyya (see n. 456 and 711), although strenuously denied by Ibn Taymiyya himself in Minhaj al-Sunna (2:248) and by al-Albani who defends the latter against Abu Zahra's conclusion in his introduction to Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 40-41, 192-193).

24Ibid. (5:189).

25Al-Dhahabi, Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 264 #321). Al-Dhahabi criticizes these assertions: see our May 1999 post entitled "Allah is now as He ever was," toward the end.

26Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu`a al-Fatawa (5:199)

27Ibid. (5:103).

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Re: Heresies of Ibn Taymiyya | G.F. Haddad

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The Sources of Ibn Taymiyya's Ideas
Part 1

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-baghdadiyya, al-Asma' wa al-sifat, and al-Farq bayn al-firaq: it is obligatory to declare as unbeliever someone who says that Allah has limits.3 Although 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.

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Re: Heresies of Ibn Taymiyya | G.F. Haddad

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The Sources of Ibn Taymiyya's Ideas (part 2 of 3)

Excerpts from `Uthman Ibn Sa`id al-Darimi al-Sajzi's book al-Naqd `ala al-Jahmiyya (cont'd) p. 25: "He created Adam by touching him (masisan)."p. 75: "If He so willed, He could have settled on the back of a gnat and it would have carried Him thanks to His power and the favor of His lordship, not to mention the magnificient Throne."

This is a risible, ugly, astonishing combination of tajsim, takyif, tashbih, and tamthil. In a word, the author's premiss for inferring that the object of his worship can settle on top of a gnat is his understanding that Allah physically settles on the Throne. One of the greatest indications of Ibn Taymiyya's anthropomorphist views is that in advocating the interpretation of istiwa' as istiqrar or settling -- absolutely condemned by the Salaf, as we mentioned -- he does not hesitate to reproduce the above statement verbatim. It is ironic that he does so in his Ta'sis, an attack on al-Razi for a book the latter wrote in refutation of anthropomorphists.1p. 79: "He is distinguished from His creation and above His Throne with a patent distance in between the two, with the seven heavens between Him and His creatures on earth."p. 92 and 182:

"If the Lord sits on the chair or foot-stool (kursi), a kind of groaning is heard similar to that of the new camel saddle. This is because of the pressure of Allah's Essence on top of it."

The latter view -- also held by Abu Ya`la -- is but another illustration of the aberrations of the hashwiyya or populist anthropomorphists. As Ibn al-Jawzi and Kawthari mentioned, if the hadith of the groaning is established then it is a foremost case of figurative interpretation (ta'wil) whereby the groaning stands for the submission of the chair or foot-stool to the Creator. Yet, the authenticity of the hadith has been questioned. Ibn al-Jawzi mentioned the weakness of two of its narrators and Ibn `Asakir wrote a monograph entiled Bayan al-wahm wa al-takhlit fi hadith al-atit (The exposition of error and confusion in the narration of the groaning). Concerning its meaning Ibn al-Jawzi said after citing al-Khattabi:The meaning of the groaning of the kursi is its impotence before Allah's majesty and greatness, as it is known that the groaning of the camel saddle under its rider is a indication of the power of what sits on top of it, or its impotence to bear it. The Prophet drew this kind of simile for Allah's greatness and majesty in order to teach the Arab who had sought Allah's intercession with the Prophet that the One whose greatness is overwhelming is not to be sought as an intercessor with those under His station. As for al-Qadi Abu Ya`la's words: the groaning is because of the pressure of Allah's Essence on it: this is overt anthropomorphism.2 p. 100: "Who told you that the top of the mountain is not closer to Allah than its bottom?... The top of the minaret is closer to Allah than its bottom."

According to the author the tall man is closer to Allah than the short one, and so is the one who flies a plane in comparison to those on the ground. The nearest to Him would then be the astronauts. However, this is contrary to the teaching of our religion, whereby Allah's servant is closest to Him when in prostration,3 and prostration is abasement not elevation. Allah explicitly equated prostration with proximity to Him when He ordered: "Prostrate and draw near" (96:19). And the Prophet revealed that no Muslim uses the Prophet Yunus' prayer: la ilaha illa anta subhanaka inni kuntu min al-zalimin (21:87) except it is answered, yet Yunus spoke it in the belly of the whale, deep under the sea.4 Besides this, Muslims clear Allah from place, whether high or low, and for them His `uluw or elevation is a loftiness of rank not spatial height, just as his `azama or greatness has nothing to do with bulk. The author's influence on Ibn Taymiyya is undeniable, as the latter formulates a few centuries later the exact same view Darimi forwards. As Ibn Taymiyya explicitly declares in his Ta'sis, written against al-Razi's Asas al-taqdis (The foundation of declaring Allah transcendent) itself written in refutation of Karrami anthropomorphists:

"The Creator, Glorified and Exalted is He, is above the world and His being above is literal, not in the sense of dignity or rank."5 We quote this passage in full below, in the section on Ibn Taymiyya's conception of Allah's "descent." It is enough for now to show his remoteness from the position of Ahl al-Sunna in this respect. As Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani stated in Fath al-Bari:Al-Kirmani (d. 786) said: "The external meaning of "in the heaven" (fi al-sama') is not meant (in the Prophet's hadith: "Do you not trust me who am trusted by the One in the heaven?"), for Allah is transcendent above incarnation in a place; but because the direction of elevation is nobler than any other direction, Allah predicated it to Himself to indicate the loftiness of His Essence and Attributes." Others than Kirmani addressed in similar terms the expressions that came down concerning elevation and similar topics.6p. 121: "We do not concede that all actions are created. We have agreed by consensus that the movement, the descent, the walking, the running (al-harwala), and the establishment on the Throne and to the heaven are eternal without beginning (qadim)."The consensus of scholars says the exact reverse, and Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri (d. 456) explicitly states in his al-Fasl fi al-milal wa al-ahwa' wa al-nihal:

"If the establishment on the Throne is eternal without beginning, then the Throne is eternal without beginning, and this is disbelief."7 It is not only the false reference to consensus that is unsettling in these statements, or their utter lack of foundation in the Qur'an and the Sunna. Rather, the author should have begun by questioning the logic of attributing eternity without beginning to the establishment on the Throne and to the heaven, when the Throne and the heaven themselves are not eternal without beginning! This has been pointed out by Kawthari and others.

1 Ibn Taymiyya, al-Ta'sis fi al-radd `ala asas al-taqdis 1:568.

2 Ibn al-Jawzi, Daf` shubah al-tashbih p. 268.

3 Aqrabu ma yakunu al-`abdu min rabbihi wa huwa sajidun fa akthiru fihi al-du`a', related by Muslim, Salat #482, Abu Dawud, Salat #875, al-Nisa'i 2:226, and Ahmad in the Musnad 2:421.

4 Da`watu dhi al-nuni idha da`a rabbahu wa huwa fi batni al-hut... lam yad`u biha rajulun muslimun fi shay'in qattu illa istajaba allahu lah, related by Tirmidhi (#3500), al-Nisa'i in `Amal al-yawmi wa al-layla (#656), al-Hakim 1:505 and 2:383. The latter declared it sound (sahih) and Dhahabi confirmed him.

5 Ibn Taymiyya, al-Ta'sis al-radd `ala asas al-taqdis 1:111.

6 Fath al-Bari 13:412.

7 Ibn Hazm, al-Fasl fi al-milal wa al-ahwa' wa al-nihal 2:124.

Reproduced with permission from Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani's The Repudiation of "Salafi" Innovations (Kazi, 1996) p. 86-89.

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Re: Heresies of Ibn Taymiyya | G.F. Haddad

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The Sources of Ibn Taymiyya's Ideas (part 3 of 3)

`Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 290): He wrote a book which he named Kitab al-sunna, but whose stand in relation to the Sunna and anthropomorphism can be judged by the following excerpts:1 p. 5: "Is istiwa other than by sitting (julus)?" p. 35: "He saw Him on a chair of gold carried by four angels: one in the form of a man, another in the form of a lion, another in that of a bull, and another in that of an eagle, in a green garden, outside of which there was a golden dais."

This seems taken verbatim from the Bible, Book of Revelation (4:2-7): "There was someone on the Throne... from it issued lightning, voices, and thunder... in its midst and around it stood four angels... the first was like a lion, the second like a young bull, the third has the face of a man, and the fourth is like an eagle in flight." Kawthari appropriately calls this "the grossest idol-worship (al-wathaniyya al-kharqa') to which they ("Salafis") are calling the Umma today." p. 64: "Allah spoke to Musa with His lips" (mushafahatan), that is: upper lip against lower lip.

Kawthari mentions that the same is found in Abu Ya`la's Tabaqat in his biography of al-Istakhri, and falsely attributed to Imam Ahmad.p. 68: "Verily Allah did not touch with His hand except Adam, whom He created with His own hand, Paradise, the Torah, which He wrote with His own hand, and a pearl which He wrought with His own hand, then dipped into it a stick to which He said: Stretch thyself as far as I please and bring out what is in thee with My leave, and so it brought out the rivers and the vegetation." p. 70: "If the Lord sits on the chair or foot-stool (kursi), a kind of groaning is heard similar to that of the new camel saddle." Ibn Sa`id al-Darimi also endorses this, the previous, and the next view in his book.p. 71: "Allah sits on the kursi and there remains only four spans vacant."

This is a commonplace of the hashwiyya. Al-Khallal (d. 310), one of Imam Ahmad's companions, repeats it countlessly in his Kitab al-sunna, attributing it to Mujahid, and declares anyone who denies it to be a jahmi kafir zindiq.2 Ibn al-Qayyim endorses it unreservedly in his Bada'i` al-fawa'id,3 and the grammarian and commentator Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi relates the same about Ibn Taymiyya in his Tafsir al-nahr al-madd min al-bahr al-muhit (The commentary of the river extending from the ocean): "I have read in a book by our contemporary Ahmad ibn Taymiyya written in his own hand and which he entitled Kitab al-`arsh (The Book of the Throne): "Allah the Exalted sits (yajlisu) on the kursi, and He has left a space vacant for the Prophet to sit with Him." Taj al-Din Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Barnibari tricked him into thinking that he was supporting him until he obtained that book from him and we read this in it."4

It is related that the commentator of Qur'an and historian al-Tabari (d. 310) was nearly killed for questioning it, as Ibn Hibban was nearly killed for questioning that Allah had a limit. The Hanbalis asked about the purported hadith of the Prophet's sitting on the Throne next to Allah. This hadith is traced to Layth who is supposed to have related it from Mujahid. In the view of some of the Hanbalis it provided the meaning of the verse: `asa an yab`athaka rabbuka maqaman mahmuda, "Perhaps your Lord shall raise you to an exalted station" (17:79). Tabari replied: "It is absurd" and declaimed: subhana man laysa lahu anis wa la lahu fi `arshihi jalis which means: Glory to Him who has no comrade nor "one-who-sits-next-to-Him" on the Throne. When they heard this they threw their inkwells at him and he withdrew to his house. Suyuti mentions some of this in Tahdhir al-khawass min akadhib al-qussas (The warning of the elect against the lies of story-tellers), and Ibn al-Jawzi relates in Al-muntazam that Thabit ibn Sinan mentions in his "History": "I hid the truth about this because the mob had gathered and forbidden the visit of Tabari in the daytime, and said that he was a rejectionist (rafid) and a heretic (mulhid).5

Al-Khallal, Ibn al-Jawzi's offenders, Ibn Hibban's and Tabari's would-be killers, Ibn Qayyim, and Ibn Taymiyya all form the party that maintain that Allah sits on the Throne then places his feet on the kursi as one would on a footstool, and that the Prophet sits on the throne by His side. As a contemporary scholar remarked, all this seems to replicate another passage of the Bible, namely what is found in the Gospel according to Mark (19:16): "Then the Lord [Jesus], after he spoke to them, was raised to the heaven, and sat at the right of Allah."6 Yet these anthropomorphists claim that their views represent the way of the Salaf, and that to depart from it was to leave Islam. What is clear, on the contrary, is that to follow the views of Ibn Taymiyya and the persecutors of Ahl al-Sunna in ascribing Allah a body is to commit disbelief, while to leave the views of Ibn Taymiyya and the persecutors of Ahl al-Sunna is a sign that one follows the Salaf.p. 149: "He showed part of Himself."p. 164: "And His other hand was empty without anything in it."*

Ibn Khuzayma (d. 311): He wrote a large volume which he named Kitab al-tawhid (Book of the declaration of oneness),7 which he later regretted having authored, as established by two reports cited by Bayhaqi with their chains of transmission.8 Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi was so repelled by Ibn Khuzayma's book that he renamed it: Kitab al-shirk9 (Book of associating partners to Allah) just as Kawthari later renamed `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad's book: Kitab al-zaygh (Book of aberration).10

Ibn Khuzayma cites, as a proof for establishing that Allah has a foot and other limbs, the verse: "Have they feet wherewith they walk or have they hands wherewith they hold, or have they eyes wherewith they see, or have they ears wherewith they hear?" (7:195). This contravenes the sound position of the Salaf expressed by al-Muqri as related by Abu Dawud in his Sunan: "Allah hears and sees" means: He has the power of hearing and seeing (not the organs)."11

Kawthari points out that Ibn Khuzayma's understanding is identical to that of the anthropomorphists of Tabaristan and Isfahan mentioned by al-Saksaki in his al-Burhan fi ma`rifat `aqa'id ahl al-adyan (The demonstration concerning the knowledge of the doctrines of the people of religion) who say: "If He does not have eyes, nor ears, nor hand, nor foot, then what we are worshipping is a watermelon!" and they claim in support of their views that Allah in the Qur'an has derided those who lacked limbs by saying: "Have they feet wherewith they walk?"12

Ibn al-Jawzi says the following about him:

I saw that Abu Bakr Ibn Khuzayma compiled a book on Allah's attributes and divided it into chapters such as: "Chapter of the Asserting of His hand"; "Chapter of His Holding the Heavens on His fingers"; "Chapter of the Asserting of His foot, in spite of the Mu`tazila." Then he said: Allah said: "Have they feet wherewith they walk or have they hands wherewith they hold, or have they eyes wherewith they see, or have they ears wherewith they hear?" (7:195); then he informs us that he who has no hand and no foot is like cattle.

I say: Verily I wonder at that man, with all his lofty skill in the science of transmission of hadith, saying such a thing, and asserting for Allah what he vilifies the idols for not having, such as a hand that strikes and a foot that walks. He should have asserted the ear also. If he had been granted understanding, he would not have spoken thus, and he would have understood that Allah reviled the idols in comparison to their worshippers (i.e. not to Him). The meaning is: You have hands and feet, how then do you worship what lacks them both?

Ibn `Aqil al-Hanbali (d. 515)13 said:

"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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