Ibn Taymiyyah’s approach to disbelief (1 / 2)

Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Abd al-Halim ibn Taymiyyah’s works are significantly varied, and impressively read, in ancient and modern times, due to his great impact on his time and the ages which followed. It is not an exaggeration to say that he is considered one of the most influential Muslim scholars to this day. Shaykh Sufi Nazir Ahmad Al-Kashmiri (d. 1985) said, ‘He was one of the most leading ascetics scholars in the Indian subcontinent; just like no prophets or apostles match Abraham and Muhammad peace be upon them, in prophecy and determination, no scholars in Muhammad’s nation, match Imam Ahmad and Ibn Taymiyyah.’

Much of his knowledge has filled the world and served the people; his influence extended from to east and west, his writings and visions refined intellects; he supported the Prophetic legacy, and prevailed over Islam’s enemies. His students – throughout the ages – became enlightenment and righteousness advocates all across earth, spreading their influence in the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, the Syrian region, and even as far as India in Sultan Mohammed Ghaznavi ‘s era. No one underestimates the Shaykh’s impact and influence on Muslims.

Hafiz Ibn Hajar said that ‘if Shaykh Taqi al-Din didn’t have any virtues, except for his famous pupil Shams al-Din Ibn Jawziyah, author of ‘Beneficial Categories of Good’, who benefited humanity, that alone would have sufficed to indicate his great stature.

Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, had a sea of knowledge, presence of argument, sincerity of intention, and power of conviction; he countered oppressors, and declared his willingness to always revert to righteousness as soon as it became apparent to him, as he always gave others three days in which to present evidence from the Quran or Sunnah to refute him. Although he grew up a Hanbali in jurisprudence and doctrine, he eventually reached the level of independent legist was hence known as Shaykh al-Islam (in the Hanbali school).

As Ibn Taymiyyah’s knowledge increased, his intellect expanded. And while some of his critics and contemporaries indicated alleged that ‘his knowledge is broader than his intellect’, he nevertheless produced a steady stream of unrivaled refutations in the defense of religion and denial of opponents and deviants. Also, Ibn Taymiyyah’s efforts and leadership in Aristotelian logic is a prominent study in which he preceded Francis Bacon and his critique of old Erjanon, Spinoza and others. In his defense of Islam, he espoused methodologies that astonished: he said, for example, in his response to some of Christians who spoke against Muhammad: ‘No prophet’s enemy accuses the prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – without directing that accusation and applying it to Moses and Jesus as well.’ And in his book ‘Sunnis Approach’ he refuted Ibn Al Mutahar Al Hili’s accusations and suspicions by using attack tactics rather than defense, where he documented all of the Shiites’ critique of the Messenger’s Companions, may Allah bless them all, and manifests that moderation is Sunnis’ approach, balancing all companions’ rights, depending on correct undistorted interpretation in refutations.

Hence, despite his articles and efforts in defending his approach in countering misguided opponents, Ibn Taymiyyah actually called for the renunciation of extremism and the nation’s division. He said, in reference to the hadith: ‘What is forbidden is a man’s utter fanaticism to his school or sect, like the period of ignorance; on the other hand, he who supports his fellow brother in righteousness without resorting to extremism is actually doing a desirable deed’.

He also said in his collection of fatwas: ‘Acceptable names or labels are those indicating one’s belonging to an Imam, such as Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali, or to a Shaykh like Kakadiri, Adawai, or belonging to tribes such as Kaqaysi and Yamani, or to regions, such as Kalshami, Iraqi, and Egyptian; and it is not permissible for one to antagonize people or ally with them based solely on these names, since the best is the most pious’

Did not accuse any Muslim of heritry:

Ibn Taymiyyah’s knowledge and work can never be claimed by religious extremists, who reduce religion to their empty thought and hollow statements about society and humanity. Despite Ibn Taymiyyha’s powerful defense of righteousness, he never revolted against a Muslim ruler, nor resorted to armed violence or even suspicions in his forceful refutations against his opponents. Ibn Taymiyyah was described by the scholar Kamaluddin bin Elzimlkan (d. 727): ‘When he was asked about a type of science, anyone who saw or heard him thought that he was the only one with this type of knowledge, for all scholars have benefited from his knowledge in their doctrinal studies, and he never demonstrated inadequacy whenever anyone debated with him in any science, whether religious science or other. He also had the upper hand in perfect organization, eloquence, and division.’ He was against those who claimed to be knowledgeable jurists, yet rejected analytical reasoning and independent judgment; he was likewise against those who always believed themselves right no matter what. He urged Muslims not to follow in the footsteps of debauchery or slander against scholars. And with an astute intellectual awareness, may Allah’s mercy be on him, he ordered all Muslims to overcome extremism, and never accuse any Muslim of heathenry, as some of the groups of today unfortunately do.

Furthermore , Ibn Taymiyyah’s contributions included various sciences of the sharia such as: finance, principles of jurisprudence, advanced methodologies, the way of pilgrims, and criticism against innovated matters; he also authored works on philosophy, logic, and theology science, and founded an independent approach in his letters, interpretation, jurisprudence, and belief principles, which students and researchers have utilized throughout history. Ibn Hafiz Rajab al-Hanbali said (d. 795) may Allah have mercy on him: ‘His classifications, may Allah have mercy on him, are too famous to be mentioned or denied, as it enlightened countries and regions, and are abundant that one can never name them all, nor mention them in just one article.’

Thus, perhaps his fame was the reason behind people’s controversy and the misconception to his newfangled approaches, by both supporters and opponents. Some extremist groups have purposely misquoted him, claiming he called for jihad and fundamentalism, and led people to misguided practices. An example of this was the young twenty year old Egyptian named Nabil El-Borai, who found a booklet on the wall of Uzbek in Egypt containing fatwas by Ibn Taymiyyah about Jihad. But these fatwas were derived out of context, and caused El-Borai to declare that he believed that Ibn Taymiyyah was jihadist, and thereafter sought to establish the first Egyptian Islamic Jihad group in 1958. An unfortunate result of this was that Egyptian Jihad groups scattered in many directions to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, even though all scholars agree that such a misunderstanding and misapplication is complete against Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah’s intent and purpose, may Allah have mercy on him.

Some still insist on defiling his image by promoting misconceptions; some want to make him out to be a jihadist who slaughters civilians, though it has never even been shown that he killed a civilian in his entire life, even when he took part in liberation and resistance battles waged against brutal foreign enemies like the Mongols or Crusaders.

We will thus try to clarify Ibn Taymiyyah’s attitude toward accusation of disbelief, which some so-called Salafis and Jihadists falsely attribute to him, by purposely taking out of context his quotes, fatwas and deep knowledge in order to serve their deviant means!

We notice in a reference letter from a deviant group found in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Nasser al-Fahd Al , entitled, ‘A Letter in response to Al Murjia suspicion from Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah’s words,’ which reflects the writer’s inclination to label Shaykh al-Islam a takfiri (one who pronounces Muslims as disbelievers) in the same way that young El-Borai labeled him a Jihadist by interpreting his work out of context, and insisting on distorting and reformulating the words of Ibn Taymiyyah so that in the end, he can come up with quotes that reflect his own words and views, rather than Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah’s words, may Allah have mercy on him.

Ibn Taymiyyah’s original text is quite different from its distorted view. This is what he really said: ‘Outward deeds that we consider as disbelief are: prostrating to idols, insulting the Prophet, and so on, and that is due to these deeds being practiced with conviction, whereas if he prostrated before an idol without believing in it, but meant to prostrate to Allah deep in his heart, then such an action cannot be regarded as infidelity, and this might even be permitted if he was in someone’s presence and fears for his life. Thus, he does the outward deed while in his heart he intends to prostrate to God alone as some Muslim and scripture scholars did with idolaters, until they managed to convert them to Islam, and didn’t reproach them for their initial behavior.’

In this text Shaykh al-Islam restricts the accusation of infidelity to those who practice apparent idolatry with conviction, excusing anyone who is forced to do it, the ignorant, or the one using it as a method to convert others to Islam. However, Al Fahad wants to re-interpret and re-explain it to his deviant group of students, as a document that serves Al Murjia’s causes and beliefs, and the Jordanian Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi likewise believe in pronouncing takfir and resort to violent debates and reject joining their community or serving their rulers or governments or people. Even more, those who Fahd and al-Maqdisi accuse of suspicions and revolt are the majority of scholars! Whereas Islam seeks to convert people peacefully to Islam, resorting to mercy by which Allah described the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and never by the violent, extreme, or revolutionary means that Al Qaeda or other misguided groups promote.

For such reason A-Maqdisi composed a message entitled: ‘Paying attention to the detection of this era’s suspicious,’ describing them as scorpions, which he prepares his shoe for, whenever their suspicions are renewed, he says ‘we don’t mind if they invented other new suspicions in the future, for I’ll dedicate my life to refuting their suspicions as much as I can, with Allah’s help and guidance… And if the scorpion happens to return back , my sandals will be ready to terminate it .’ Meanwhile, Al Fahad believes and claims that the words of the scholars favor takfiri approach, in which he deducts from four points in permitting idolatrous accusations:

1 – The condition of permission in disbelief.

2 – The requirement of intent in disbelief.

3 – To say that the apparent deed or utterance, isn’t just disbelief, but a testament to utter idolatry.

4 – Idolatry is permitted if beneficial (for example the call)

Scholars have apprehended the dangers whims of Al Fahad and similar followers and refute this false and counterfeit understanding by highlighting his crooked knowledge of Ibn Taymiyyah. This is done via two routes: a general and a detailed; as for the general, he enlists three feeble aspects that can’t stand up to criticism, revealing his weakness, doubt, poor interpretation, namely:

First aspect: the words of scholars he uses to serve his whimsical views are actually used against him. Scholars’ words aren’t fixed evidence for any matter whatsoever, for religious proof must be supplied to refute any argument; and Nasir al-Fahd’s statement is evidently fanatical to his views alone, and not what Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah actually said.

Second aspect: the overall texts resemble religious allegorical texts, and the allegorical should only be applied to the clear to fathom its meaning, but if one refers to a religious text without referring to other texts, he would then be using it to serve his whimsical desires. The extremist ideas of Al Fahad are only general systematic words and he doesn’t include Ibn Taymiyyah’s words in other positions, a thing that makes his view lack structure and logic since he merely refers to what he.

Third aspect: that the issues that the scholar mentions, are part of an unintentional elaboration, as a matter of argument, lenience with opponents, appreciation, or otherwise. Hence, this text was mentioned in his speech to explain some verses, so how is he supposed to oppose what he initially confirmed with evidence in his responses to Murjia and others in his books like ‘Faith’ and ‘Strictness’ and in his responses to Al Asharis and others??! The writer obviously errors, for Ibn Taymiyyah didn’t unintentionally mention the rule of disbelief, since the structure of speech is informative, using language of fundamental jurisprudence of the verdict, and not the language of incoherent elaboration as the writer intends to imply.

As for his detailed response to Ibn Taymiyyah’s words, we couldn’t even find anything new other than Al Fahad’s determination to distort Shaykh al-Islam’s crystal clear words, with his poor interpretations and small mind.

In conclusion, this is just one model of a deviant groups’ references, like similar examples of Egyptian Nabil El-Borai and Mohamed Abdel-Salam Faraj, who took some of Ibn Taymiyyah’s thought out of context. They misconceived the Shaykh along with his fatwas and lied saying that he permitted bloodshed because of it, inflicting misery upon one’s fellow countrymen and brothers. However, the difference that deserves an explanation is that some of these misguided thoughts portray what they suggest as a rightful origin in religion, and this is full abuse to Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah as all of his books clearly demonstrate.