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IBN TAYMIYAH, TAQI AL-DIN AHMADتقي الدين أبو العباس أحمد بن عبد الحليم بن عبد السلام بن عبد الله ابن تيمية الحراني (January 22, 1263 – 1328 CE), a prominent, influential, and sometimes controversial thinker and political figure. Born in Harran to a family of Hanbali scholars (including his paternal grandfather, uncle, and father), Ibn Taymiyah was himself a Hanbali in many, though not all, juridical and theological matters, and a Salafi on a wider plane. He has had a strong influence on conservative Sunni circles and, in the modern period, on both liberals and conservatives.

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Ibn Taymiyah’s life was a mix of intellectual activity, preaching, politics, and periodic persecutions and imprisonments. This was in the context of the great disruptions caused by the Mongol invasions. At the age of five in 1268, Ibn Taymiyah was taken with his family to Damascus, in flight from the Mongol threat. He was educated there in the traditional religious sciences and took over from his father as head of the Sukkariyah mosque and professor of Hanbali law in about 1282. Ibn Taymiyah taught and preached elsewhere in Damascus and in other cities. He incurred the wrath of some Shafi’i and other `ulama’ (religious scholars) and theologians for some of his teachings on theology and law. He was persecuted and imprisoned in Syria and Egypt, for his tashbih (anthropomorphism), his ijtihad (independent reason) and his idiosyncratic legal judgements (e.g., on taldq [divorce]). Ibn Taymiyah was also active in anti-Mongol propaganda. His legal and theological definitions used in determining whether the Mongols (particularly Mongol rulers) were Muslims or kafirs (nonbelievers) proved to be influential in some places. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah and Ibn Kathir were Ibn Taymiyah’s most important disciples, although in the modern period many have claimed to be spreading his word. Ibn Taymiyah wrote numerous works, most of which have now been published.

Ibn Taymiyah’s main doctrine was, in Hanbali fashion, based on the supremacy of Qur’an and sunnah (received custom) and the salaf (early Muslims) as ultimate authorities. He applied an austere exegetical literalism to the sacred sources. Ibn Taymiyah condemned the popular practice of saint worship and condemned pilgrimages to the ziyarat al-qubur (tombs of saints) as bid `ah (“innovation”) and tantamount to worshiping something other than God. He rejected as alien and an innovation the methods and content of `ilm al-kalam (discursive theology), falsafah (peripatetic philosophy), and metaphysical Sufism (though he did encourage pietistic Sufism). This conservatism was also, interestingly, the basis of Ibn Taymiyah’s argument against blind obedience to taqlid (established judgments). In his view, the Salaf had had to balance the sacred sources with their own ijtihad in order to understand and live according to God’s law. Ibn Taymiyah thus employed an ijtihad which also incorporated qiyas (analogical reasoning). !man (a deep pietistic belief) was for Ibn Taymiyah the source and power of all religion as well as its epistemological foundation. Without it, he thought, doctrine could have no meaning or force. In Ibn Taymiyah’s own life as a pietistic Sufi he exemplified such belief. His treatise on iman (Kitdb al-iman) is one of the most profound and subtle treatments of the subject produced in medieval Islam.

A number of Ibn Taymiyah’s ideas have a relevance to society and politics. His notion of the closeness between religion and state, his defining of the Mongols as kafirs, in spite of their public Islamic discourse, and his general antipathy toward the ahl al-kitab (“people of the book”).

Ibn Taymiyah’s significance for modern Islamic thought and culture is great. Particularly in conservative and Islamist circles his mark is deep. But some liberal trends have also invoked him, especially for his notion of ijtihdd and his antipathy to taqlid. Insofar as modern Islam has been profoundly preoccupied with issues of religion, state, and society, Ibn Taymiyah’s influence is present, whether implicit or explicit. This is particulary true for the Arab world.

The Wahhabi movement and the Saudi state which emerged from it have been deeply affected by certain of Ibn Taymiyah’s ideas. The Wahhabi emphasis on Qur’an and sunnah, a literalistic exegesis, a distaste for speculative strains of theology and mysticism, a rejection of the visitation of tombs, and a conception of the ummah (community) in Medina as the model for an Islamic state, all reflect Ibn Taymiyah’s outlook.

Many of the later Islamist thinkers and trends have depended deeply on Ibn Taymiyah for their general worldview, particularly in their conception of Islam and the ummah and the close connection between politics and religion. This is clear in the thought of Hasan al-Banna’ in Egypt, whose insistence on Islam as a synthesis of religion and state (din wa dawlah) and his practical religious tendencies owe much to the earlier thinker.

With the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, this tendency became pronounced. In his notion of jahiliyah (era of “ignorance”) as the non-Islamic modern culture of moral and intellectual relativism and the absolute conflict between God’s law and that culture, Qutb exemplified Ibn Taymiyah’s sharp distinction between Islam and nonIslam. Most particularly, Qutb’s persistent attack on Muslim rulers, regimes, and intelligentsia for allegedly ruling and teaching according to secular principles rather than Islamic teachings seems firmly based on Ibn Taymiyah’s far-reaching pronouncement concerning the status of the Mongols. In this view, these moderns are like the Mongols in publicly espousing Islam but acting against it. They thereby confuse others whose belief is already weak. For this, the Muslim identity of such persons must be questioned. The more militant fundamentalist groups, particularly in the Arab world (and Iran), have explicitly argued for branding them kafirs.

A prominent example of this principle of takfir (“excommunication”) can be seen in the widely disseminated tractate, Al fariqah al-ghd’ibah (The Absent Precept), by Muhammad `Abd al-Salam Faraj. Faraj, the intellectual voice of the group which engineered Anwar el-Sadat’s assassination, cites Ibn Taymiyah’s fatwa (ruling) on the Mongols as precedent in his takfir of contemporary rulers and religious authorities. This book has been considered by the religious establishment in Egypt to be offensive, doctrinally wrong, and dangerous. Even years after Sadat’s death, the Majallat alAzhar (Journal of al-Azhar) in July 1993 published a special booklet criticizing Faraj’s tractate point by point, in I 12 pages of detailed critique. Concerning Ibn Taymiyah’s takfir of the Mongols as a universal precedent, the al-Azhar booklet argues that Ibn Taymiyah’s fatwd was timebound, relevant only to that particular case, with no application to Egypt in the twentieth century: “Can there be any comparison between these people [the Mongols] who did to Muslims [the things] carried within the history books and [modern] Egypt, its rulers and its people? Can one really compare those with these? . . . These explanations . . . [which we have given] of the reasons for [Ibn Taymiyah’s] fatwa show that Ibn Taymiyah took his position [solely] with regard to the contemporary situation of the Tartars. [Thus in his view] they were [kafirs], non-Muslims, even though they spoke the language of Islam in an attempt to lead Muslims astray” (pp. 35-36).

With the polarization of modern Islamic political thought on these issues in the latter half of the twentieth century, Ibn Taymiyah’s influence, through Sayyid Qutb, the Islamic movements, and others, has become dominant on one side of the dispute.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr. Asma’ Mu’allafat Ibn Taymiyah. Damascus, 1953. Catalogue of Ibn Taymiyah’s main works, written by a great disciple.

Laoust, Henri. Essai sur les doctrines sociales et politiques de Taki-d-Din b. Taimiya. Cairo, 1939. Standard book on Ibn Taymiyah’s social and political thought.

Laoust, Henri. La biography d’Ibn Taimiya. Damascus, 1.943. The best biography of Ibn Taymiyah.

Makari, Victor E. Ibn Taymiyyah’s Ethics: The Social Factor. Interesting and valuable discussion of Ibn Taymiyah’s theory of social ethics.

Memon, Muhammad Umar. Ibn Taymiya’s Struggle against Popular Religion. The Hague and Paris, 1976. Excellent account of Ibn Taymiyah’s ideas on popular religious practices. The book also includes a valuable discussion of Ibn Taymiyah’s refutation of Ibn ‘Arabi’s metaphysical Sufism.

RONALD L. NETTLER

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/ibn-taymiyah-taqi-al-din-ahmad/
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  • writerPosted On: April 15, 2014
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