Debunking the assertion that Imam Ibn Taymiyyah acquired knowledge mainly from books By Abdullah Hasan
Debunking the assertion that Imam Ibn Taymiyyah acquired knowledge mainly from books
When one speaks or writes about the great and immaculate personality of Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and the Scholastic position he has occupied in Islam, you will be charged of doing two things: his followers and supporters will assert that you have not done justice to his high rank, and his detractors will accuse you of unnecessarily over praising him beyond its proper due as this accusation was levied against Imam AdhDhahabi when he spoke about his teacher. However, without seeming too dogmatic perhaps the sentiments of the former party outweigh some of the evasive attitudes of the latter in regards to Ibn Taymiyyah. An unbiased researcher pervading through the biographies and writings of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah will no doubt be left in awe by this great icon in Islamic history; not just because of his colossal contributions he left in the field of knowledge and academia, and the emblem of a scholar he was amongst his contemporaries [also superseding them by far in many respects], but also because of the Adamic human love and compassion he exhibited when he dealt with his opponents and compatriots. He embodied the quintessential Qur’anic spirit of justice and fairness in his being and dealings; this was clearly the manifestations of his profound and unreserved love and fidelity for the truth and only for the truth. Not only did his friends and supporters testify to the honourable person he was, so did his critics and adversaries. Some may assert that this side of Ibn Taymiyyah I am portraying is not fully accurate; they will stress that Imam
Dhahabi spoke critically of Ibn Taymiyyah’s hot and livid attitude towards `Scholars who opposed him. It is true, Imam Dhahabi did make mention of this but Imam Ibn Taymiyyah’s position towards those who plotted to destroy him is well documented. The many mihan he faced due to him carrying opinions, which went against some of the rigid positions of many scholars in his time, may have contributed to him speaking harshly at times though with restraint and sense of proportion. I have indicated in my previous observations that there are many amongst the Non-Muslim intelligentsia along with some Muslim apologetics that have been attempting to discredit the scholarship and high position of Ibn Taymiyyah amongst the orthodox Sunni scholars; there are many reasons as to why this may be happening, one only needs to study and contemplate the spiritual and political climate from which Imam Ibn Taymiyyah emerged and the comprehensive call of Islam he was propagating and disseminating to the masses, conceivably then will a researcher know the reasons. When great personalities attest to the integrity and the scholarship of an individual then it is a sign for the rest that he was an outstanding. The contemporary scholar Imam Abul Hasan Nadwi mentions in his biography of Ibn Taymiyyah: “Indeed praise of common people on a man is not [necessarily] considered proof of his acceptance with Allah, his uprightness and high rank. However, if men of knowledge and insight, and the 2
people of righteousness and Taqwaa of his time testify; then there is no doubt that this is regarded as proof of his acceptance and his high rank. It is necessary that his followers, those who love him and his companions also be described with righteousness and correctness, sound creed, Taqwaa and concern for the Akhira. They distinguish themselves from their colleagues of their time in their religiosity and their good character, and this was the rank of Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah. Indeed, the great men of knowledge and insight, the people of righteousness and Taqwaa testified to his superiority, his sound creed, his correct belief and his high position in his time. They confessed to his high rank in that, so they exalted and praised him.”1 This is very true with respects to Imam Ibn Taymiyyah and his disciples. Imam Ibn Nasir ud Din and others collected the statements of praise on Imam Ibn Taymiyyah refuting the claims of those who say that naming Ibn Taymiyyah ‘Shaykh al-Islam’ is tantamount to having done kufr and makes the individual kaffir, I have mentioned already a few in a couple of other previous posts, and within the course of this discourse many others will be cited Insha’Allah. It is unfortunate that some who present themselves as having acquired certain amount of sacred knowledge fail to display some level of amanah when attempting to criticise Imam Ibn Taymiyyah and great scholars like him. When one follows the festering writings against Imam Ibn Taymiyyah, and the supposed deviations he had from the mainstream scholars of his time, the reader no doubt will be left in shock and
amazement. Not because the accusations and claims against him have much weight but due to the inaccuracies and improprieties they present in taking comments out of context and misquoting from scholars and inferring their biased sectarian sentiments. Unlike some I do not wish to inaugurate myself into the business of refuting and rebutting people, but reading through some of these allegations particularly concerning Ibn Taymiyyah perhaps it is our duty as students of knowledge to defend the people of Sunnah and iman. A brother drew my attention to a site2 in which the author callously attacks Ibn Taymiyyah and others in a manner otherwise characterised by scholarly accuracy and value. Does he not and others actually read what the Imam himself wrote to deduce a righteous just conclusion let alone what other great scholars have to say about him rather than despising other believers on speculation, conjecture, and hearsay? One of the fallacies that have been labelled against Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah is that apparently he did not have teachers from whom he received sacred knowledge but rather he took them from books. By the will and grace of Allah [jallah thana ‘uh] as this accusation is quite common and readily spread amongst some circles, we will hereby make an attempt to reveal how utterly false and baseless such a claim happens to be. First and foremost; acquainting oneself concerning the family of any scholar will shed light into the scholar himself, his upbringing and education. The home or the family is the first and main teacher
and it has a profound influence in the development of an individual. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah came from a family of learning; it was famous for its knowledge, religiosity, and excellence. Many of his family members were great Scholars in the Hanbali tradition, chief amongst them being his father and grandfather who were scholars in Islamic sciences, which will be apparent to the reader shortly with the grace and will of Allah [jallah thana ‘uh], so it is no wonder that Imam Ibn Taymiyyah rose to prominence. Before we attempt to set off to shed light and bring those who throw allegations on Imam Ibn Taymiyyah out from their darkness of such forms of ignorance, I will briefly touch upon some testimonials of the righteous Scholars of the past regarding the immense ocean like knowledge Ibn Taymiyyah possessed in terms of both the Shari’ah as well as secular. Scholars attest to knowledge of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah - Imam Abul Hasan Nadwi said: “From his early childhood, Ibn Taymiyyah was an industrious student. He fully acquainted himself with all the secular and religious sciences of his time. He devoted special attention to Arabic literature and gained mastery over grammar and lexicography. Not only did he become an expert on the great Arab grammarian Sibawayh's al-Kitaab which is regarded as the greatest authority on grammar and syntax, but he also pointed out the errors therein. He commanded knowledge of all the prose and poetry then available. Furthermore, he studied the history of both pre-Islamic Arabia
and that of the post-Islamic period. Finally, he learnt mathematics and calligraphy. As for the religions sciences, Ibn Taymiyyah studied the Qur’an, Hadith and Shari’ah. He learnt the Hanbali Fiqh [law] from his own father and then became a distinguished representative of the Hanbali School of law. Ibn Taymiyyah had great love for tafsir [Qur’anic exegesis]. He read over a hundred commentaries of the Qur’an. He completed his studies when he was a teenager and at age 19 he became a professor of Islamic studies. Well versed in Qur’anic studies, Hadith, Fiqh, theology, Arabic grammar and scholastic theology, etc., he started giving fatawa on religious legal matters without following any of the traditional legal schools, the Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi’es and Hanbali. He defended the sound prophetic traditions by arguments which, although taken from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, had hitherto been unfamiliar to people of his time. The freedom of his polemics made him many enemies among the scholars of the traditional Orthodox Schools, who falsely accused him, of all kinds of heretical beliefs.3 - Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Eid, Al- Hafidh, ‘Allamah of Hadith and its sciences during his age said when he met and benefited from Imam Ibn Taymiyyah: “I saw a man with all the sciences in front of his eyes, he took from them what he wished and left what he wished”.4 - Imaam ‘Allama Qaadi al Quda Muhammad bin ‘Ali ibn Az-Zamlakani Ash-Shafi’e (D 727h) said about him (Ibn Taymiyyah):
“He is proficient in number of sciences, from Jurisprudence, grammar and Usul. …......... excellent in expression, strong mentally, sound mine and strong understanding.”5 He also said: “Whenever he was questioned on a particular field of knowledge, the one who witnessed and heard [the answer] concluded that he had no knowledge of any other field and that no one possessed such as his knowledge. The jurists of all groups, whenever they sat with him, they would benefit from him regarding their own schools of thought in areas they previously were unaware of. It is not known that he debated anyone whereby the discussion came to a standstill or that whenever he spoke about a particular field of knowledge - whether it be related to the sciences of the Shari’ah or else - that he would not then excel the specialists of that field and those who are affiliated to it. He was well versed in writing, good in expression, arranging, sectioning and in explanation.”6 Ibn Kathir, may Allah have mercy on him said: that he found in the writings of Ibn Zamlakani praise of Shaykh ul Islam in verses of poetry: What do the describers say about him And his qualities are [too] great to limit He is a proof for Allah, Mighty He is among us a prodigy of the age He is a sign in the creation, a phenomenon It’s [his attributes] lights increased over the daybreak He also wrote a commendation on Shaykh ul Islam’s book, ‘Bayan ad-Dalil
‘ala Ibtal at’Tahlil and said: “From the books of our Master, our Shaykh, our Example, the Master of the scholars, the ‘Allama, the unique, the proficient, the Hafidh, the Ascetic, the Righteous, the complete example, the ‘Aarif (Gnostic), Taqi ud din, Shaykh ul Islam and the Mufti of the people, Master of the scholars, Example of the great Imams, champion of the Sunnah, Effacer of bid’a, Allah’s proof over the servants, repeller of the people of deviation and stubbornness, Unique of the scholars of the world, Last of the Mujtahidin Abil‘Abbas: Ahmed bin ‘Abdul Haleem bin ‘Abdus – Salem bin ‘Abdullah bin AbilQasim bin Muhammad bin Taymiyyah Al-Harrani, May Allah guard him over the Muslims all his life, and return on them from his blessings.”7 - Al-Hafidh Abdur Rahman ibn Rajab alHanbali said: "He is the Imaam, the legal Jurist, the Mujtahid, the Scholar of Hadith, the Hafidh, the Explainer of the Qur’an, the Ascetic, Taqi ad-Din Abu alAbbas Shaykh al-Islaam, the most knowledgeable of the knowledgeable; it is not possible to exaggerate his renown when he is mentioned. He, may Allah have mercy upon him, was unique in his time with respect to understanding the Qur’an and knowledge of the realities of faith."8 - Al Imam al-Hafidh, al-Faqih al’Alam, Al-Adib Abul Fath Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Sayyid an-Nas AlYu’mari As-Shafi’. He may Allah have mercy upon said in his biography of Ibn Taymiyyah after mentioning the biography of al- Hafidh al-Mizzi: “He (Al-Mizzi) encouraged me to see Shaykh ul Islam: Taqi ud-Din Abil
Abbas, Ahmad bin Abdil Halim bin Abdis Salam ibn Taymiyyah: I found him to be from those who had acquired a fortune of knowledge. He used to completely memorise and implement the Sunnan and Athar (narrations). Should he speak about tafsir then he would carry its flag, and should he pass a fatwa in Fiqh then he knew its limits. Should he speak about a hadith then he was the companion of its knowledge and fully cognisant of its narrations. Should he give a lecture on Religions and Sects then none was seen who was more comprehensive or meticulous than he, he surpassed his contemporaries in every science, and you would not see one like him, and his own eye did not see one like himself.
Usul and the branches of the religion and grammar and the language and other textual and intellectual sciences. No scholar of a science would speak to him except that he thought that that science was the specialty of Ibn Taymiyyah. As for hadith then he was the carrier of its flag, a Hafidh and able to distinguish the weak from the strong, fully acquainted with the narrators.”11
He used to speak on tafsir and a large number of people would attend his gatherings….. It continued in this way until the sickness of envy crept (into the hearts) of the people of his city”.9
I can here continue to cite dozen upon dozens of statement that are tributes from Scholars of the past testifying and affirming that Imam Ibn Taymiyyah had mastered all the sciences of his time; both the religious and secular, but such a task will take time to compile and we would require to write a large volume as mentioned by Imam Abu Zahra in his biography of Ibn Taymiyyah, due to the vast amounts of statements that exist so henceforth that which mentioned by the distinguished Scholars should suffice, this may also detract slightly from the purpose of intent of this piece to which we shall continue to address.
A statement was narrated from him wherein he said: “I read with Shaykh ul Islam, carrier of the flag of sciences (knowledge), the discerner of the limits of understanding, Taqi ud-Din Abil Abbas…”10 - Imam al-Hafidh, al-Mufassir Ibn Kathir said: “The least he would do when he heard something was to memorise it and then busy himself with learning it. He was intelligent and had much committed to memory, and he became an Imaam in tafsir and everything linked to it and knowledgeable in Fiqh. Indeed it was said he was more knowledgeable of the Fiqh of the madhabs then the followers of those very same madhabs in his time and other than his time. He was a scholar in
- ‘Allamah Ali bin Sultan Muhammad alQari al-Harawi said: ‘’Whoever reads the commentary of Manazil as-Sairin, it will be clear to him that both – Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Ibn alQayyim – were the greatest [scholars] of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’at, and amongst the awliyat of this Ummah’’.12
Teachers of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah Imam al-Hafidh Abu Hafs bin Ali alBazzar said: “…as for the big dawawin of Islam such as Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Bukhari, Muslim, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Sunnan Abi Dawud al-Sijistani, AnNisai, Ibn Majah, and Darqutni, he heard
all of them several times, and the first book he memorised in the Science of Hadith was al-jam’ bayna as-Sahihayn of Imam al-Humaidi.’’13
He was born in Harran in the year 626. He received sacred knowledge from his father and other prominent scholars of his time.
One who follows the biographies and the works of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah will clearly observe that the sciences he studied necessitated that he had to take knowledge from Scholars sitting with and attending their circles of knowledge such as the knowledge of Hadith, for that requires that a scholar receives it from another with authentic chains of narrations up to the Prophet [peace be upon him].
Imam Dhahabi said about him; “He studied the madhab (Hanbali) until he mastered it at the hands of his father. He taught, issued legal verdicts, and authored books and became the Shaykh, the khatib and hakim (judge) of the city after his father….”16
Imam al-Hafidh Ibn Abdul Hadi, one of his great students said that he (Ibn Taymiyyah) had over 200 Shuyukh from whom he benefited from: “and the Shuyukh from whom he heard from exceed 200 Shaykhs…’’14 I put it to the readers that this should be sufficient for us to repel this erroneous claim that Imam Ibn Taymiyyah did not have Shuyukh and did not receive traditional learning. However, to eradicate any doubts that one may have in this regard I will cite names of those Scholars who he learned from with the relevant dates and books.15 For brevity, I will cite only a few Insha’Allah. Incidentally the reader should during this observe that Imam Ibn Taymiyyah not only had male scholars but many of them included female scholars and Muhaddithat. - Shihab ad-Din Abul Mahasin Abdul Halim bin Abdis Salam bin Abdullah bin Abil Qasim bin Taymiyyah al-Harrani alImam al-‘Allamah al-Mufti, the father of Ibn Taymiyyah.
Imam Al-Bazzar said about him: “He was amongst the leaders of the Hanbilah. He accompanied the Scholars in Dar alHadith al-Asakariyah in Damacus, and he had a chair from which he delivered lessons....”17 Primarily, Ibn Taymiyyah’s teacher and Shaykh was his father. From an early age he studied with him and followed in his footsteps until he took the position of Imam after the latter’s death. His [Ibn Taymiyyah’s] father received knowledge from his father: - Al-Imam al-Faqih al-Muqri alMuhaddith al-Mufassir al-Usuli Shaykh ul Islam, Faqih of the time, Majd ad-Dim Abul Barakat Abdus Salam bin Abdullah bin Abil Qasim al-Khidr bin Muhammad bin Taymiyyah al-Harrani al-Hanbali, the grandfather of Ibn Taymiyyah. Imam Dhahabi said about him: “Shaykh Majd ad-Din was someone with no equal in his time; he was a leader in Fiqh and its Principles, expert on Hadith and its meanings. He was strong in the knowledge of the Qur’an and exegesis. He was unique in science of the madhab [Hanbali Madhhab]…”
Hafidh ash-Sharif Izz ad-Din said: “...He was from among the leading Scholars and the greatest of the nobles in his city. His house was famous for knowledge, religion and Hadith. A number of Scholars received knowledge from him; most famous included his son Shihab adDin Abdul Halim, Hafidh Abdul Mu’min ad-Dumyati and others.” He has a number of titles, the famous; Ahadith al-Ahkam collection known as: al-Muntaqa al-Akhbar, which Imam Shawkani made a monumental commentary of in Nayl al-Awtar. He also has the muswadda in Usul al-Fiqh, which his son Shihab ad-Din and his grandson Ahmad [Ibn Taymiyyah] made valuable contributions. - Imam al-Muhaddith al-Faqih Abul ‘Abbas Zain ud Din Ahmad ibn Abdul Daim bin Ni’mat bin Ahmad al-Maqdisi. In his biographies he is called Musind alSham wa-Faqihu-ha wa-Muhaddithu-ha. He was a renowned Hanbali scholar. He studied in Baghdad and in Harran with Ibn Taymiyyah’s ancestor, Fakhr ad Din Ibn Taymiyyah. Ibn Taymiyyah studied from him the science of Hadith; he heard from him in 766 AH.18 - Al-Imam al-Faqih al-Qadhi Sharaf ad Din Abul ‘Abbas Ahmad bin Ahmad bin Ni’mat al-Maqdisi ahs-Shafi’. He was a great scholar and produced and gave permission (ijaza in Ifta) to a number of repudiate scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah. He used to pride himself because he gave Ibn Taymiyyah the permission of Ifta. He used to say, ‘ana athintu li Ibn Taymiyyah’: I gave permission to Ibn Taymiyyah.19
- Al-Imam al-Faqih al-Qadhi Shams ad Din Ahmad bin Ibrahim bin Abdil Ghani as-Saruji al-Hanafi, the commentator of al-Hidayat. He was a renowned Faqih and proficient in many disciplines.20 - Al-Imam al-Faqih Zain ad Dim Abul Barakat at-Tanukhi ad-Damashqi alHanbali. He was the leading scholar of as-Sham and authored many books such as, Sharh al-Muqni’ and Tafsir al-Qur’an al ‘Aziz. Ibn Taymiyyah succeeded him in teaching after the formers death in madrasa al-Hanbaliyat.21 - Al-Imam al-Muhaddith Shaykh Fakhr ad Din Abul Hasan Ali as-Salihi, well known as Ibn al-Bukhari. He was a renowned Hanbali Scholar; many students flocked to learn from him. Ibn Taymiyyah heard from him in 681 (AH).22 - Al-Imam al-Musnid Zain ad Din Abul ‘Abbas al-Mua’mal bin Muhammed alBalisi. Ibn Taymiyyah heard from him in the year 669 (AH).23 - Al- Imam Abu Bakr bin Muhammad bin Abi Bakr bin Abdul Wasi’ al-Harawi ad Damashqi. Ibn Taymiyyah heard from him in the year 668 (AH).24 - Al-Imam Muhaddith Nasir ud Din Abu Hafs Umar bin Abdul Mun’im ibn alQawas ad Damashqi. He was a musnid in his time.25 - Al-Imam al-Muhaddith Badr ad Din Abul ‘Abbas Ahmad bin Shayban bin Tuglab bin Haydr ash-Shaybani, He was a narrator of the musnad of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. Ibn Taymiyyah heard from him in the year 684 (AH).26
- Shaykh al-Amin as Saduq Shams ad Din Abu Ghalib bin Khalil al-Ansari.27 -Ash Shaykhat Um al-‘Arab Fatimah bint Abil Qasim Ali bin Abi Muhammad Qasim bin Abil Qasim Ali bin al-Hasan bin Hibat Allah bin Abdillah bin alHussain bin ‘Asakir. She is the daughter of the eminent historian of Sham Abul Qasim Ibn ‘Asakir. Ibn Taymiyyah heard from her in Ramadhan in the year 681 9AH).28 - Ash Shaykhat al-Mujtahidat Zainab bint Makki bin Ali bin Kamil al-Harraniat alMuammirat Um Ahmad. Students and scholars rushed to learn from her. Ibn Taymiyyah heard from her in the year 675 (AH).29 -Ash Shaikhat Umm Muhammad Zainab bint Ahmad bin Umar bin Kamil alMaqdasiat. Ibn Taymiyyah heard from her in the year 684 (AH).30 These are but few luminaries from whom Shaykh ul Islam benefited from. May Allah sanctify his soul and brighten his grave.
Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih: 4/724 13 Al-‘Alam al-Aliat: 18 - This small book has been translated and can be found in the following link: http://ia360626.us.archive.org/1/items/IbnTaymiy yah/TheLoftyVirtuesOfIbnTaymiyyah.pdf 14 Al-‘Uqud ad-Dariat: 3 15 This is primarily taken from the biography authored by Shaykh Ibrahim Muhammad Ali on the life of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah. He states that he tried to extract the names of scholars of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah with the relevant dates Ibn Taymiyyah studied with them, and he found approximately so far 51 names 16 Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabila: 3/126 17 Al-Bidayah wan Nihaayah' (13/303) of Ibn Kathir 18 Majmua’ al-Fatawa al-Kubra: 18/77 19 Al-Bidayah wan Nihaayah' (13/341) of Ibn Kathir 20 Ibid 14/25 21 Ibid 13/563 22 Al-Bidayah wan Nihaayah' (13/343) of Ibn Kathir 23 Al-‘Ibar: 3/337 24 Majmu’ al-fatawa: 18/82 25 Shuzurat adh Dhahab: 5/442 26 Al-Bidayah wan Nihaayah' (13/2326) Ibn Kathir 27 Majmu’ al Fatawa: 18/112-113 28 Ibid: 18/118-119 29 Ibid: 18/119-120 30 Ibid: 18/120/121
Ibn Taymiyyah: of An-Nadwi: 167 http://www.livingislam.org/n/itay_e.html 3 Ibn Taymiyyah by An-Nadwi 4 Rad al-Wafir: 107 5 Rad al-Wafir: 109 6 Rad al-Wafir: 108 7 Rad al-Wafir: 108 8 Adh-Dhail `alaa Tabaqaat al-Hanabila' (2/387392) of Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali 9 Al-Mu’jam al-Mukhtas bil Muhaddithin of AdhDhahabi: 25 10 Shahada Az-Zakiat: 2 11 Al-Bidayah wan Nihaayah' (14/118-119) of Ibn Kathir 2