Taqiy al-Din, Abu al-Abbaas, Ahmad bin Abd al-Haleem bin Abd al-Salaam bin Abd Allaah bin Abi al-Qaasim bin al-Khidr bin Muhammad bin Taymiyyah al-Harraanee, then al-Dimashqi.
As for the author, his calibre and prestige goes without saying. He is the great scholar, Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him. Scholars of Islam acknowledge his astonishing excellence in all fields of knowledge - and Allah favours whom He chooses.
His name is Ahmad ibn 'Abdul-Halim ibn 'Abdis-Salam. His kunyah is Abu'l-'Abbas and he is also referred to as Taqi ad-Din. As for his most common appellation: Ibn Taymiyyah, scholars give different accounts for why he was referred to by this term. Some say that one of his ancestors performed Hajj through the route of Tayma and he saw a maid (there) who had come out of a tent, when he returned (to his homeland) he found that his wife had given birth to a daughter and they raised her up to him, whereupon he said: "O Taymiyyah, O Taymiyyah" i.e., she resembled the maid he had seen at Tayma. It is also said that the mother of his grandfather Muhammad, was named Taymiyyah and thus he came to be ascribed to her1. He was born in Harran, an old city within the Arabian Peninsula between Sham and Iraq, on the tenth or the twelfth of the month Rabi' al-Awwal in the year 661H. He later fled at a young age with his family to Damascus because of the terrible conditions of his homeland and those surrounding it as a result of the occupation by the Tartars.
His family was renowned for its knowledge and stature; both his father and grandfather were people of scholarly repute. Three of his brothers were also known for their knowledge and excellence: 'Abdur-Rahman, 'Abdullah and his half-brother, Muhammad.
Ibn Taymiyyah was brought up, cared for and nurtured by his father. He obtained knowledge from him and the other shayukh of his era. He did not confine himself to the knowledge of those around him but also directed his attention to the works of the scholars before his time by way of perusal and memorisation.
The following observations can be drawn from his early life:
The strength of his memory and speed of his comprehension.
His strict observance of time from an early age, which later led the rest of his life to be filled with actions such as Struggle and Strive, teaching, commanding the good, forbidding the evil, writing books and letters and refuting opponents.
The scope and strength of his effect and arguments. A Jew accepted Islam at his hands whilst he was still very young.
He started issuing legal verdicts at the age of nineteen and started teaching in Dar al-Hadith as-Sukriyyah when he was approximately 22 years of age.
His initial sources of knowledge centered around diverse sciences like: Tafsir; Sciences of the Qur'an; the Sunnah; the Six books; Musnad Imam Ahmad; Sunan ad-Darimi; Mu'jam at-Tabarani; Sciences of Hadith and narrators; Fiqh and its Usul; Usul ad-Din and sects; language; writing; mathematics; history and other subjects like astronomy, medicine and engineering. This is quite evident from examining the works he later authored; any topic he tackled and wrote about leaves the reader thinking that Ibn Taymiyyah was a specialist in that particular field.
He took his knowledge from a great number of scholars8 and he himself mentioned a number of them as related by Adh-Dhahabi directly from him. This particular chronicle of shayukh includes forty male scholars and four female scholars. The total number of scholars whom he took knowledge from exceeds two hundred.
The following is a selection of some of his teachers:
Abu'l-'Abbas Ahmad ibn 'Abd ad-Da'im al-Maqdasi
Abu Nasr 'Abdul-'Aziz ibn 'Abdul-Mun'im
Abu Muhammad Isma'il ibn Ibrahim at-Tanukhi
Al-Manja ibn 'Uthman at-Tanukhi ad-Dimashqi
Abu'l-'Abbas al-Mu'ammil ibn Muhammad al-Balisi
Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn Sulayman al-'Amiri
Abu'l-Faraj 'Abdur-Rahman ibn Sulayman al-Baghdadi
Sharaf ad-Din al-Maqdasi, Ahmad ibn Ahmad ash-Shafi'i
Muhammad ibn 'Abdul-Qawi al-Maqdasi
Taqi ad-Din al-Wasiti, Ibrahim ibn 'Ali as-Salihi al-Hanbali
His paternal aunt, Sitt ad-Dar bint 'Abdus-Salam ibn Taymiyyah
The life of Ibn Taymiyyah was distinguished with the tremendous qualities of ordering the good, forbidding the evil and performing Struggle and Strive for the cause of Allah, He combined his roles of teaching, issuing legal verdicts and writing with actions of the highest magnitude. His whole life was in fact filled with Struggle and Strive. With a very brief examination of his life in this area we can point out at a number of incidents:
His destruction of idols and places that were worshipped besides Allah and prevention of people from visiting such places: This practical aspect was preceded by two stages: the first, by explaining the reality of these shrines in that many of them were fabricated and that many of the graves that were glorified and journeyed to were in fact not even those of whom they were attributed to. The second, by way of intellectual discourse through direct debates, books and letters and explaining the shirk and innovations connected to such acts and also through presenting the opinions of opponents and refuting their arguments.
His stance against the Christians: He wrote a letter to the then Christian King of Cyprus inviting him to Islam and exposing the lies and corruption being committed by the priests and monks whilst they knew fully well that they were upon falsehood. After mentioning the devoutness of the King, his love for knowledge and good conduct towards the people, Ibn Taymiyyah then invited him to embrace Islam and adopt the correct belief. He did this in a gentle and exemplary manner addressing his intellect, and entrusted him to behave benevolently towards the Muslims in Cyprus, not to strive to change the religion of a single one of them. He also engaged in debates with Christians, some of which he himself referred to in his book Al-Jawab as-Sahih.
He took many stances against the Sufiyyah. A famous one was against the Bata 'Ihiyyah. He refuted them and exposed their satanic behavior such as entering into fire and emerging unharmed and claiming that this was an indication of their miraculous nature. He explained that even if they did this or flew in the air it would not be an evidence that could be used to declare their violations of the Shari'ah to be correct. He challenged them by proposing to also enter into the fire with them on the condition that they first wash themselves with vinegar and hot water. Ultimately, they were exposed and defeated and they agreed to a complete adherence to the Book and Sunnah.
In the year 699A.H, he and a number of his companions rose against some taverns; they broke their utensils, spilt their wine and chastised a number of them, which caused the people to come out and rejoice at this.
As for his stances against the rulers, they were famous. One of the well-known ones was his stance against Qazan, the ruler of the Tartars. At a time when the Tartars commanded awe and authority, he spoke to the ruler with strong words concerning their actions, spread of corruption and infringement of the sanctities of the Muslims whilst they themselves claimed to be Muslims. Likewise, his strong words with Sultan an-Nasir, convinced the Sultan to refrain from pursuing a course of action which was impermissible.
Ibn Taymiyyah also had an effect in causing the rulers to assume their role of commanding the good and forbidding the evil. An example of this is when bribery became widespread and became an influencing factor in holding offices and even in abolishing capital punishment in the year 712H, an official decree was sent to Damascus, from the Sultan, citing that no one should be granted a post or office through money or bribery and that the killer is to be punished by the law of the Shari'ah; this decree emanated through the advice and consultation of Ibn Taymiyyah.
These are some examples that demonstrate the efforts of Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him, in ordering the good and forbidding the evil.
One also notices when reading his biography that Ibn Taymiyyah had the assistance of a number of companions in carrying out such tasks.
Ibn Taymiyyah played a great role in establishing Struggle and Strive against the Tartars. He clarified the reality of their condition and showed that it was an obligation to fight them, firstly, because of the consensus of the scholars on the obligation of fighting any group that openly rejects and resists the laws of Islam and secondly, explaining that this ruling is applicable to the Tartars because of their condition.
He elucidated the causes for victory and explained that it was not impossible or difficult to achieve victory over them if the Muslims adopted the causes that achieve victory such as judging by the Shari'ah, putting an end to oppression, spreading justice and being sincere in one's intention when performing Struggle and Strive in Allah's cause.
We find Ibn Taymiyyah ordering the people in the battle of Shaqhab, which took place in the month of Ramadhan, to breakfast in emulation of the guidance of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. Again, when Ibn Taymiyyah encouraged the Sultan to perform Struggle and Strive, the Sultan asked him to take position by his side to which Ibn Taymiyyah replied: "The Sunnah is for each man to stand behind the flag of his people and we are from Sham so we will only stand with them.
After performing Struggle and Strive against the Tartars and defeating them, we see Ibn Taymiyyah analyzing the battles, expounding upon the beneficial lessons that can be derived from them and illustrating the areas of similarity between these battles against the Tartars and the battles of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam.
The majority of references do not make mention of Ibn Taymiyyah's role in Struggle and Strive against the Christians before their final expulsion from Sham. Al-Bazzar however, does mention the following when discussing the bravery and strength of heart of Ibn Taymiyyah: "They relate that they saw of him at the conquest of 'Akkah, such a display of bravery that was beyond description. They say that he was a reason behind it's seizure by the Muslims because of his deeds, advice and sharp perception.
As for the Rafidah, they fortified themselves in the mountains of Al-Jard and Al-Kasrawaniyyin. Ibn Taymiyyah headed for them in the year 704H with a group of his companions and requested a number of them to repent and they enjoined the laws of Islam upon them. In the beginning of the year 705H, Ibn Taymiyyah went to battle with a brigade and the deputy Sultan of Sham and Allah aided them over the Rafidah.
These are examples of the Struggle and Strive of Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him, and his unification of knowledge with action.
Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah held a lofty status amongst the scholars of his time. This was for a number of reasons, such as his ability to clarify matters that were vague to the other scholars of his time, such as the issue of fighting the Tartars and the issue of the wealth obtained from some of the sects of the Rafidah.28 Ibn Taymiyyah expounded upon these matters and clarified them to the people.
In the year 701H, a Jew came from Khaybar alleging that he had a letter from the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, which abrogated the Jizyah that the Jews had to pay to the Muslims. Ibn Taymiyyah exposed his lies and critically scrutinized and invalidated the letter from a hadith point of view and relying upon historical knowledge.
Whilst Ibn Taymiyyah was in prison in Cairo, Ibn Kathir mentions: "Difficult legal questions used to be sent to him from governors and specific people, whom the Jurists could not deal with, and he would respond from the Book and Sunnah in a way that would bewilder the minds.
Another reason was his role in Struggle and Strive;he was not only a brave soldier but also an instructor and leader. He was sought after for advice and military strategy.
Most importantly, one of the greatest causes behind his exalted rank amidst the scholars and common folk alike was his comprehensive knowledge. When he gave a lecture; delivered a sermon; gave a legal ruling; wrote a letter or authored a book in any field, he would produce a level of knowledge that far excelled the other scholars of his time. This is why Ibn Taymiyyah became a reference point amongst the people. Whenever two people fell into dispute over a matter - and they could be from the people of knowledge and students alike as noticed from some questions - his opinion would be the deciding factor.
Al-Hafidh Adh-Dhahabi said: "He is far greater than the likes of me to inform on his qualities. If I were made to swear (by Allah) by the corner (of the Ka'bah) and the place (of Ibrahim), I would swear that I have not seen with my two eyes the like of him and by Allah, he himself has not seen his own like in knowledge.
Al-Hafidh Al-Mizzi said: "I have not seen the like of him and nor have seen the like of himself. I have not seen one more knowledgeable of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger and more compliant to it than him.
Al-Imam Ibn Daqiq al-'Eid said: "When I met Ibn Taymiyyah, I saw a person who had all the types of knowledge between his eyes: he would take of it what he desired and leave of it what he desired.
Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, may Allah have mercy upon him, mentioned in the context of refuting the one who opposed that Ibn Taymiyyah be termed 'Shaykh ul-Islam': "The acclaim of Taqi ad-Din is more renown than that of the Sun and titling him Shaykh ul-Islam of his era remains until our time upon the virtuous tongues. It will continue tomorrow just as it was yesterday. No one refutes this but a person who is ignorant of his prestige or one who turns away from equity.
Shaykh Kamal ad-Din Ibn az-Zamlakani, who debated with Ibn Taymiyyah on more than one occasion, said: "Whenever he was questioned on a particular field of knowledge, the one which 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 carne to a standstill or that whenever he spoke on 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 also said: "The prerequisites of ijtihad were combined within him in the way they should be he was very proficient in authoring very well and in excelling in expression, arrangement, classification and explanation."
Al-Hafidh Ibn Kathir said " ... It was rare for him to he hear something and not memorize it and he occupied himself with the sciences. He was intelligent and had committed much to memory and thus, became an Imam in tafsir and what pertained to it. He had (comprehensive) knowledge of fiqh; it was said that he had more knowledgeable of the fiqh of the madhahib then the followers of those very same madhahib in his time and other times. He was fully aware of the different opinions of the scholars. He was a scholar in Usul, the branches of the religion, grammar, the language and other textual and intellectual sciences. He was never overcome in a sitting and no noble (scholar) would speak to him on a particular science except that he thought that this science was the specialty of Ibn Taymiyyah and he would see him as being well-versed in it and having perfected it ... As for hadith then he was the carrier of its flag, a hafidh in hadith, and able to distinguish the weak from the strong, fully acquainted with the narrators and being proficient in this...
Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi said: "By Allah, my two eyes have never seen the like of Ibn Taymiyyah.
Al-Hafidh Badr ad-Din al-'Ayni al-Hanafi said: "He is the Imam, the noble, the masterful, the pious, the pure, the devout, the proficient in the two sciences of hadith and tafsir, fiqh and the two fundamentals (i.e., the Book and Sunnah) with determination and precision. He is the sharp sword against the innovators, the authority, who established the matters of the religion and the great commander of the good and forbidder of evil. He possessed (noble) concern, bravery and embarked upon that which frightened and deterred. He was of much remembrance, fasting, prayer and worship."
Ibn Taymiyyah was put through many trials throughout his life and it is extremely difficult to deal with them and present them properly in this brief discussion on him so I will merely list the more famous ones.
His ordeal because of his treatise Al-Hamawiyyah in the year 698H.
His ordeal and debates because of his treatise Al-Wasitiyyah in the year 705H.
His ordeal, summons to Egypt and imprisonment there in the year 705H for 18 months.
His ordeal with the Sufiyyah in Egypt after his release.
His deportation to Alexandria in the year 709H and imprisonment there for 8 months.
His ordeal because of specific verdicts related to divorce and resultant imprisonment in the year 720H, for five months.
His ordeal because of his legal verdict banning the undertaking of journeys specifically to visit graves and resultant imprisonment in the year 726H until he passed away, may Allah have mercy upon him, in the year 728H.
Ibn Taymiyyah's response to these ordeals was always a positive one which turned these trials and tribulations - by the favour of Allah - into great opportunities for increasing iman and reacting positively in knowledge and action. His summons to Egypt, for example, led him to debate and thoroughly deal with the innovators who had spread their beliefs throughout the region. His role in prison was another manifestation of this blessing, such as his efforts in educating the prisoners and nurturing them to the extent that the dissemination of knowledge and religion within the prison excelled certain institutions outside the prison. This happened in both Egypt and Alexandria. His decision to remain in Egypt after being released, was as he mentioned in a letter to his mother, because of matters necessary to religion and the world. This brought about much goodness in aiding the Sunnah and suppressing innovations. One of the greatest positive results was the books and papers he wrote and authored within prison. He also pardoned those who oppressed him, even when Ibn Taymiyyah had the opportunity to exact revenge. One of his opponents, Ibn al-Makhluf, the Maliki Judge said: "We did not see the likes of Ibn Taymiyyah; we incited against him but were not able to overpower him, when he was able to overpower us, he instead pardoned us and pleaded on our behalf.
Another positive outcome was that these ordeals in themselves were a reason for the widespread circulation of Ibn Taymiyyah's works.
He had many students and those that were affected by him are countless, some of his greatest students were:
The existing works of Ibn Taymiyyah are great in number, despite the fact that a proportion of his works have perished.
He was a very quick writer. His brother 'Abdullah said: "Allah blessed him with the ability to write quickly and he used to write from memory without copying. Ibn Taymiyyah had a scribe who used to make copies of his work because of the fact that he used to write so fast. There was a person known as 'Abdullah ibn Rashiq al-Maghrabi who used to write the works of the Shaykh; Ibn Kathir says of him: "He could make out the handwriting of the Shaykh better than the Shaykh himself." He used to take a lot of time out to review his works as he did when he came out of prison because of the issue of divorce - in the year 721H. After his return to Sham in the year 712H, he dedicated a lot of time to authoring lengthy works. He would pay great attention to the writings that used to be attributed to him; it seems that the constant fabrication about him by his enemies and the twisting of his words was a reason for this.
He would not delay in answering questions that came to him and he authored and wrote from his memory while in prison.
Some of his works are
There are so many other works that have been included in Majmu' al-Fatawa, which is a compilation of his writings and verdicts put together by Ibn Qasim and his son. These include:
It is appropriate here to discuss this aspect of Ibn Taymiyyah's life, mainly to exhibit that the discussion he presents in his book does not emanate from one who is void of enacting such descriptions found within this discourse and that it does not merely derive from his academic knowledge and excellence.
In fact, one who reads his biography will realise that Ibn Taymiyyah had a great attachment to his Lord which manifested in his worship and strong reliance on Him, this is how we deem him to be and we do not put anyone's commendation in front of Allah's.
Those who wrote his biography discussed the worship, ascetism, piety, selflessness, humility and generosity he was famous for.
Ibn al-Qayyim says of Ibn Taymiyyah's remembrance of his Lord:"I heard Shaykul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah sanctify his soul, say, and ‘Remembrance to the heart is like water to fish. What will be the state of the fish if it becomes seperated from the water?’... I once attended fajr prayer with Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, he then sat and remembered Allah until it was nearly midday. He then turned around and said to me, 'This is my early morning meal, if I do not take this breakfast, my strength will drop.'
A great manifestation of his worship was in his genuine reliance upon his Lord and his belief in the decree of Allah. At times when he was subjected to the severest forms of treatment, he had the greatest reliance upon his Lord. When the news of his expulsion to Alexandria came to him and it was said to him: "They are plotting to kill you, expel or imprison you." He replied: "If they kill me it will be a shahadah for me. If they expel me, it will be a hijrah for me; if they expel me to Cyprus, I will call its people to Allah so that they answer me. If they imprison me, it will be a place of worship for me."
Ibn al-Qayyim also says: "He used to say frequently in prostration when imprisoned, 'O Allah, assist me to remember you, to be grateful to you and to worship your properly.' and he said to me once, 'The one who is (truly) imprisoned is the one whose heart is imprisoned from Allah and the captivated one is the one whose desires have enslaved him.'
When he was ultimately banned from having any books, papers and pens during the latter stage of his final imprisonment, Ibn Taymiyyah devoted all of his time to worship and reciting the Qur'an. He remained in this state for a short period of time until he passed away on the twentieth of Dhul-Qa'dah of the year 728H. He fell sick for the few days that led to his death.
This came as an enormous shock to the people and they turned out in enormous numbers.
Historians regards this as one of those rare funerals and they compare it to the funeral of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah have mercy upon him.
Ibn Taymiyyah died at a time when he was imprisoned, with resentment from the Sultan and when many of the jurists and Sufiyyah were mentioning many things about him. However, despite that, his funeral was one witnessed by many and was famous.
Al-Bazzar says: "Once the people had heard of his death, not a single person wanted to be in Damascus who was able to attend the prayer and wanted to, remained until he appeared and took time out for it. As a result, the markets in Damascus were closed and all transactions of livelihood were stopped. Governors, heads, scholars, jurists came out. They say that none of the majority of the people failed to turn up, according to my knowledge - except three individuals; they were well known for their enmity for Ibn Taymiyyah and thus, hid away from the people out of fear for their lives."
Ibn Kathir mentions that the deputy Sultan was absent and the State was perplexed as to what it should do. Then the deputy of the prison came to give his condolences and sat by Ibn Taymiyyah. He opened the entrance for those of his close companions and beloved people to enter upon him. They sat by him, cried and praised him. "Then they started to wash the Shaykh ... they only let those who helped in the washing to remain by him. Amongst them was our Shaykh al-Hafidh Al-Mizzee and a group of senior righteous and good people; people of knowledge and iman ... then they proceeded with him to Jami' al-Umawi. There was so many people in front of his janazah, behind it, to it's right and to it's left. None but Allah could enumerate them, then one shouted out, 'This is how the janazah of the Imams of the Sunnah are to be!' At that, the people, started to cry... when the adhan of dhuhr was given they prayed after it straight away against the usual norm. Once they finished prayer, the deputy khatib came out - as the main khatib was absent and in Egypt - and he led the prayer over Ibn Taymiyyah ... Then the people poured out from everywhere and all the doors of the Jam'i ... and they assembled at Al-Khayl market.
On open land, his janazah was placed down and his brother, 'Abdur-Rahman, led prayer over him. Then his janazah was taken to his grave and he was buried in the Sufiyah graveyard by the side of his brother, 'Abdullah, may Allah have mercy upon them all.
People then arrived praying over him at his grave, those who had not yet managed to pray previously. Whenever news of his death reached a region, the people would gather in the main mosques and prayer over him, especially in Sham, Egypt, Iraq, Tibreez and Basra.
May Allah reward Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah with goodness and grant him Al-Firdaws al-A'la and may He cause those after him to benefit from his knowledge.