He is Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Halim bin Abd as-Salam bin Abdullah bin Abu Qasim ibn Taymiyyah al-Harrani Taqi ad-Deen Abu al-Abbas bin Shihab ad Deen. He was born in Harran, an old city within the Arabian Peninsula between Syria and Iraq, on the tenth or the twelfth of the month Rabi’ al-Awwal in the year 661H. He and his family were later forced to flee to Damascus due to the occupation by the Tartars.
He came from a family of scholars, his father and grandfather were both scholars as were three of his brothers: Abdur-Rahman, Abdullah and his half brother, Muhammad.
During his early studies of Islam, he never ceased to amaze his teachers at the strength of his memory, keen intelligence and depth of understanding. It is said that he was first allowed to give legal verdicts at the age of nineteen and he began teaching at Dar al-Hadith as-Sukriyyah at the age of twenty-two.
He became famous for his knowledge of hadith, indeed he was a Hafidh (Hadith Master), and for his knowledge of the Quran and its related sciences, he impressed all with his circles on tafsir. He also attained expertise in Usool al-Fiqh and Fiqh, knowledge of the differences of opinions present amongst the scholars, writing, mathematics, history, astronomy and medicine. Many of the scholars of his time testified that he attained the rank of Mujtahid.
He always showed a great concern for the affairs and welfare of the Muslims and this manifested itself greatly in his efforts during the Jihad against the Tartars, Christians and Rawafidah wherein his displays of bravery, courage and inspiring talks were one of the most important factors in the Muslims victory against their enemies. These efforts won the praise and admiration of many scholars and indeed the ensuing generations of Muslims to this very day.
Aside from the physical Jihad, ibn Taymiyyah launched an intellectual struggle against the various deviant sects and heretical ideas of his day. He refuted the Shi’a, the People of Theological Rhetoric (ahl al-Kalam) – such as the Jahmiyyah, Mu’tazilah and many of the Asha’irah, the philosophers who promoted the school of the early Greeks (falasifa), the majority of Sufi sects and paths and the adherents of other religions. His criticisms were not based on lack of understanding, rather he first gained an in-depth knowledge of each of these schools and as such his critique of them was systematic, acute and vaild. For example, it is said that his refutation of Greek philosophy was one of the most devastating attacks ever leveled against them. His refutation of Christianity was outstanding and his rebuttal of the Shi’a completely demolished their beliefs and innovations from root to branch.
Needless to say, these refutations, and his very direct methods of refuting, made him many enemies and as a result his life was full of trials and persecutions. His enemies were careful to look for anything by which they could attack him and they eventually found what they were looking for in his works of belief entitled Aqeedah al-Wasitiyyah and Aqeedah al-Hamawiyyah. Due to their total misunderstanding of what he wrote, they accused him of anthropomorphism and had him imprisoned on more than one occasion. Ibn Kathir mentions that some scholars sat with Ibn Taymiyyah to debate with him concerning his Aqeedah al-Wasitiyyah and the debate ending with their agreeing with him in what he had written. Similarly Ibn Kathir mentions that some scholars debated with him concerning Aqeedah al-Hamawiyyah and his replies to their accusations could not be rebutted. Ibn Taymiyyah was again imprisoned because of a legal ruling he gave concerning divorce, and yet again he was later imprisoned for a legal verdict he issued prohibiting making journeys for the purpose of visiting graves. It was during this imprisonment that he passed away.
With regards to his personality and worship, he exerted a huge and lasting influence on all who met him and he was known for his worship and glorification of the Islamic laws, both inwardly and outwardly. His complete reliance upon Allah can be best summed up in what his student, Ibn al-Qayyim, relates from him when he was told that his enemies had plotted to kill him or imprison him,
If they kill me it will be martyrdom for me. If they expel me, it will migration for me; if they expel me to Cyprus, I will call it’s people to Allah so that they answer me. If they imprison me, it will be a place of worship for me.
[Nahiyah min Hayah Shaykh al-Islam p.30]
Ibn al-Qayyim ( رحمه الله ) himself said,
Allah knows, i have never seen anyone who had a better life than his. Despite the difficulties and all that expunges comfort and luxury,
nay, things completely opposite to them; despite imprisonment, intimidation and oppression, Ibn Taymiyyah had a purer life than anyone could. He was the most generous, the strongest of heart and the most joyful of souls, with the radiance of bliss in his face. When we were seized with fear and our thoughts turned negative, and the earth grew narrow for us, we would go to him. No sooner did we look at him and hear his words, all these feelings would leave us to be replaced by relief, strength, certainty and tranquility.
[Al-Wabil as-Sayyib p.69]
I was one of those who knew well his habits, he would not talk to anyone unnecessarily after the prayer of Fajr and would remain performing the dhikr of Allah in a low voice which perhaps could just be heard by one sitting next to him; and frequently would he direct his gaze to the sky. This he would do until the Sun had risen and the time in which it was prohibited to pray was over.
[Al-A’lam al-Aliyyah p.40]
He also said,
I have not seen him mention any of the pleasures and attractions of the world, he did not delve into worldly conversations and he never asked for any of its livelihood. Instead he directed his attentions and conversations to seeking the Hereafter and what would get him closer to Allah.
Once, the ruler Muhammad bin Qalawun accused him of wanting to wrench kingship from him due to his large following to which he replied,
I would do that! By Allah, your kingship and the kingship of Moghul is not even worth two meagre coins in my eyes!
He studied under a great number of scholars and he himself mentioned a number of them as related by adh-Dhahabi directly from him. This particular chronicle of teachers includes forty-one 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 al-Abbas Ahmad ibn Abdul Da’im al Maqdasi
Abu Nasr Abdul Aziz ibn Abdul Mun’im
Abu Muhammad Ismail ibn Ibrahmin at-Tanukhi
Al-Manja ibn Uthman at-Tanukhi ad-Dimashqi
Abu al-Abbas al-Mu’ammil ibn Muhammad al-Balisi
Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr ibn Sulayman al-Amiri
Abu al-Faraj Abdur-Rahman ibn Sulayman al-Baghdadi
Sharaf ad-Deen al-Maqdasi, Ahmad ibn Ahmad ash-Shafi’i
Muhammad ibn Abdul Qawi al-Maqdasi
Taqi ad-Deen al-Wasiti, Ibrahim ibn Ali as-Salihi al-Hanbali
His paternal aunt, Sitt ad-Dar bint Abdus-Salam ibn Taymiyyah
He had many students and those who were affected by him are many, some of his students were:
Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr
Adh-Dhahabi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad
Al-Mizzi, Yusuf ibn Abdur-Rahman
Ibn Kathir, Ismail ibn Umar
Ibn Abdul Hadi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad
Al-Bazzar, Umar ibn Ali
Ibn Qadi al-Jabal, Ahmad ibn Husain
Ibn Fadlillah al-Amri, Ahmad ibn Yahya
Muhammad ibn al-Manj, ibn Uthman at-Tanukhi
Yusuf ibn Abdul Mahmud ibn Abdus-Salam al-Batti
Ibn al-Wardi, Zayd ad-Deen Umar
Umar al-Harrani, Zayn ad-Deen Abu Hafs
Ibn Muflih, Shams ad-Deen Abu Abdullah
The Praise of the Scholars for him
Many scholars praised Ibn Taymiyyah, not only for his scholarly acheivements but also for his active participation in Jihad and the affairs relating to public welfare, his abundant concern for others and his worship. Below is a selection of some of the statements:
Al-Hafidh adh-Dhahabi said,
It was amazing when he mentioned an issue over which there was a difference of opinion and when he gave evidence and decided the strongest opinion – he could perform ijtihad due to his fulfilling its conditions. I have not seen one who was quicker than he in recalling a verse which pertained to the issue that he derived from it, nor a man who was stronger in recalling texts and referring them to their sources. The Sunnah was in front of his eyes and upon the tip of his tongue with eloquent phrases and an open eye.
He was a sign from the signs of Allah in tafsir and expounding upon it. With regards to the foundation of the religion and knowledge of the differing opinions [on an issue], he was unequalled – this alongside his generosity, courage and lack of attention to the joys of the soul.
Quite possible his legal rulings in the various sciences reached three hundred volumes, indeed more and he was always saying the truth for the sake of Allah, not caring for the blame that came to him.
Whosoever associates with him and knows him well accuses me of falling short with regards to him. Whomsoever opposes him and differs with him accuses me of exaggeration, and i have been wronged by both parties – his companions and his opponents.
He was white skinned with black hair and a black beard with few grey hairs. His hair reached his earlobes and his eyes were eloquent tongues. He had broad shoulders and a loud, clear voice with a fast recitation. He was quick to anger but overcame it with patience and forbearance.
I have not seen his like for supplications [to Allah], his seeking succour with Him and his abundant concern for others. However i do not believe him to be infallible, rather i differ with him on both fundamental and subsidiary matters, for he – despite his vast learning, extreme courage, fluid mind and regard for the sanctity of the religion – was a man from amongst men. He could be overcome with sharpness and anger in discussion, and attack his opponents [verbally] hence planting enmity in their souls towards him.
If only he were gentle to his opponents then there would have been a word of agreement over him – for indeed their great scholars bowed to his learning, acknowledged his ability, lack of mistakes and conceded that he was an ocean having no limits and a treasure having no equivalent…
He used to preserve the prayers and fasts, glorifying the laws outwardly and inwardly. He did not give legal rulings out of poor understanding for he was extremely intelligent, nor out of lack of knowledge for he was an overflowing ocean. Neither did he play with the religion but he derived evidence from the Quran, Sunnah and Qiyas (analogy), he proved [his stances] and argued following the footsteps of the Imams who preceded him, so he has a reward if he erred and two rewards if he was correct.
He fell ill in the castle [wherein he was imprisoned] with a serious disease until he died on the night of Monday 20th Dhul-Qa’dah, and they prayed over him in the Masjid of Damascus. Afterwards many talked about the number that attended his funeral prayer, and the least number given was fifty-thousand.
[Ibn Hajr, (under the biography of Ibn Taymiyyah)]
Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said,
The Shaykh of our Shaykhs, al-Hafidh Abu al-Yu’mari [ibn Sayyad an-Nas] said in his biography of Ibn Taymiyyah, ‘al-Mizzi encouraged me to express my opninion of Shaykh al-Islam Taqi ad-Deen. I found him him to be of those who had acquired a fortune of knowledge in the sciences that he had. He used to completely memorise and implement the Sunan and Athar (narrations). Should he speak about tafsir, he would carry its flag, and should he pass a legal ruling in fiqh, he knew its limits. Should he speak about a hadith, he was the seat of its knowledge and fully cognisant of its narrations. Should he give a lecture on religions and sects, none was seen who was more comprehensive or meticulous than he. He surpassed his contemporaries in every science, you would not see one like him and his own eye did not see one like himself…’
Ibn Hajar also said,
The acclaim of Taqi ad-Deen is more renown then that of the Sun and titling him Shaykh al-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 justice…
…those of his stances that were rejected from him were not said by him due to mere whims and desires and neither did he obstinately and deliberately persist in them after the evidence was established against him. Here are his works overflowing with refutations of those who held to tajsim (anthropomorphism), yet despite this he is a man who makes mistakes and is correct. So that which he is correct in – and that is the majority – is to be benefited from and Allah’s Mercy should be sought for him due to it, and that which he is incorrect in should not be blindly followed. Indeed he is excused for his mistakes because he is one of the Imams of his time and it has been testified that he fulfilled the conditions of ijtihaad…
From the astonishing qualities of this man was that he was the severest of people against the People of Innovation the Rawafidah, the Hululiyyah and the Ittihadiyyah. His works on this are many and famous and his fatawa on them cannot be counted, so how the eyes of these innovators must have found joy when they heard those who declared him to be a kaffir! And how delighted they must have been when they saw those who did not declare him to be a kaffir in turn being labeled kaffir! It is obligatory upon the one who has donned the robe of knowledge and possess intelligence that he consider the words of a man based upon his well-known books or from the tongues of those who are trusted to accurately convey his words. Then he should isolate from all of this what is rejected and warn against it with the intention of giving sincere advice and to praise him for his excellent qualities and what he was correct in, as is the way of the scholars.
If there were no virtues of Shaykh Taqi ad-Deen except for his famous student Shaykh Shams ad-Deen Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, writer of many works, from which both his supporters and opponents benefitted, then this would be a sufficient indication of his [Ibn Taymiyyah’s]
great position. And how could it be otherwise when the Shafi’i Imams and others, not to speak of the Hanbalis, of his time testified to his prominence in the [Islamic] sciences…
[ From Ibn Hajr’s endorsement of Radd al-Wafir contained at the end of the book.]
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 committed much to memory, he became an Imam in tafsir and everything linked to it and knowledgeable in fiqh. Indeed it was said that he was more knowledgeable of the fiqh of the madhahbs than the followers of those very same madhabs in his time and other than his time. He was a scholar in Usool and the branches of the religion, in grammar, the language and other textual sciences… no scholar of a science would speak to him except that he thought that science was a specialty of Ibn Taymiyyah. As for hadith, then he was the carrier of its flag, a Hafidh, able to distinguish the weak from the strong, fully acquainted with the narrators…
He also said,
He was, may Allah have mercy upon him, form the greatest of scholars but also from those who err and are correct. However his errors with respect to his correct rulings were like a drop in a huge ocean and they are forgiven for him as is authentically reported by Bukhari,
When a ruler makes a ruling, and he is correct then he has two rewards, and if he has erred than then he has one reward.
Al-Hafidh al-Mizzi said,
I have not seen the likes of him and his own eye has not seen the likes of himself. I have not seen one who was more knowledgeable than he of the Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger, nor one who followed them more closely.
[Bahjatul Baitar, Hayat Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah p.21]
Al-Hafidh Abdur-Rahman Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali said,
He is the Imam, the legal Jurist, the Mujtahid, the scholars of Hadith, the Hafidh, the Explainer of the Quran, the Ascetic, Taqi ad-Deen Abu al-Abbas Shaykh al-Islam, the most knowledgeable of the knowledgeable. It is not possible to exaggerate his renown when he is mentioned and his fame does not require us to write a lengthy tract for him. He, may Allah have mercy upon him, was unique in his time with respecting to understanding Quran and knowledge of the realities of faith…
Shaykh al-Islam was famous for stating profound statements, below is a selection of some of them.
Every punishment from Him is pure justice and every blessing from Him is pure grace.
[Majmu’ Fatawa 10/85]
Whoever desires everlasting bliss, let him adhere firmly to the threshold of servitude.
[Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Madarij 1/531]
The Lord loves to be loved.
[Majmu’ Fatawa 1/54]
Guidance is not attained except with knowledge and correct direction is not attained except with patience.
In this world there is a paradise, whoever does not enter it will not enter the paradise of the Hereafter.
[Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Wabil p.69]
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.
This whole religion revolves around knowing the truth and acting by it, and action must be accompanied by patience.
[Majmu’ Fatawa 10/38]
Worship is founded upon the Legal law and following it, not upon one’s base desires and innovation.
If you do not taste the sweetness of an action in your heart, suspect it, for the Lord, Exalted is He, is the Appreciative.
[Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Madarij 2/68]
The more the servant loves his Master, the less he will love other objects and they will decrease in number. The less the servant loves his Master, the more he will love other objects and they will increase in number.
[Majmu’ Fatawa 1/94]
Perpetually the servant is either the recipient of a blessing from Allah, in which case he is in need of gratitude; or he is the perpetrator of sin, in which case he is in need of repentance; he is always moving from one blessing to another and is always in need of repentance.
Sins cause harm and repentance removes the cause.
Bearing witness to Tawheed opens the door of good and repentance from sins closes the door of evil.
The Jihad against the soul is the foundation for the Jihad against the disbelievers and hypocrites.
[Ibn al-Qayyim, ar-Rawdah p.478]
A man will never fear something besides Allah unless it be due to a disease in his heart.
Trials and tribulations are like feeling the heat and cold, when one knows that they cannot be avoided, he will not feel anger at their onset, nor will he distressed or disheartened.
[Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Madarij 3/289]
The perfection of Tawheed is found when there remains nothing in the heart except Allah, the servant is left loving those He loves and what He loves, hating those He hates and what He hates, showing allegiance to those He has allegiance to, showing enmity to those He shows enmity towards, ordering what He orders and prohibiting what He prohibits.
[Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Madarij 3/485]
In this world, man finds in the remembrance of Allah, praising Him and worshipping Him, a delight that is incomparable to anything else.
[Minhaj as-Sunnah 5/389]
The objective of ascetism is to leave all that harms the servants Hereafter and the objective of worship is to do all that will benefit his Hereafter.
[Majmu’ Fatawa 14/458]
Sins are like chains and locks preventing their perpetrator from roaming the vast garden of Tawheed and reaping the fruits of righteous actions.
What can my enemies do to me? I have in my breast both my heaven and my garden. If i travel they are with me, never leaving me. Imprisonment for me is a chance to be alone with my Lord. To be killed is martyrdom and to be exiled from my land is a spiritual journey.
[Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Wabil p.69]
Ibn Taymiyyah died while imprisoned on the twentieth of Dhul-Qad’ah of the year 728H, after ultimately being banned from reading or writing. He fell sick for the few days preceding his death.
His funeral was attended by a huge congregation despite the many lies and slander being spread about him by certain innovators of his time. Al-Bazzar says,
Once the people had heard of his death, not a single person in Damascus who was able to attend the prayer and wanted to remained except that he appeared and was present for it. As a result, the markets in Damascus were closed and all transactions of livelihood were stopped… Governors, heads, scholars, jurists all came out. They say that none of the majority of people failed to turn up – according to my knowledge – except three individuals; they were well known for their enmity of Ibn Taymiyyah and thus, hid away from people for fear of their lives.
[Al-Bazzar pp. 82-83]
Ibn Kathir said,
There were so many people in front of his funeral, behind it, to its right and to its left. None but Allah could enumerate them, and then someone shouted, ‘this is how the funerals of the Imams of the Sunnah are to be!’ At that the people started to cry… when the call to prayer for Zuhr was proclaimed 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 Masjid… and they assembled at al-Khayl market.
[Ibn Kathir 14/138]
Ibn Taymiyyah was a prolific writer and authored many works spanning a broad range of topics. The sum of his writings were though to consist of hundreds of volumes and even though a large number of them have been lost, many are still available and in print. A number of his works have also been translated and below is a list of these works followed by some of his works in Arabic.
The books of, or about, Ibn Taymiyyah available in the English language:
Ibn Taymiyyah on Public and Private Law in Islam or Public Policy in Islamic Jurisprudence [tr. Omar A. Farrukh, Khayats, 1966]
A Seventh Century Sunni Creed: The Aqida al-Wasitiya of Ibn Taymiya [tr. Merlin Swartz, the Hague: Mouton, 1973]
Public Duties in Islam [tr. Muhtar Holland, The Islamic Foundation, 1402/1982]
Ibn Taymiyyah’s Essay on the Jinn [tr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips, 1409/1989]
The Concise Legacy [tr. Farhat Abbas, Jam’iyyah Ihyaa Minhaaj as-Sunnah, 1415/1994]
Introduction to the Principles of Tafseer [tr. Muhammad Abdul Haqq Ansari, al-Hidaayah, 1414/1993]
The Friends of Allah and the Friends of Shaytan [tr. Abu Rumaysah, Daar us-Sunnah. 1421/2000]
Ibn Taymiyyah against the Greek Logicians [tr. Wal B. Hallaq, Oxford University Press, 1993]
Aqeedah al-Waasitiyyah [commentary Muhammad Khalil Harras, tr. Muhammad Rafiq Khan, Dar-us-Salam Publications, 1416/1996]
Fundamentals of Enjoining Good & Forbidding Evil [tr. Abu Khalil & Muhammad al-Jibali, al-Quran & Sunnah Society of North America, 1997]
Mukhtasar Iqtidaa as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem [Dar-us-Salam Publications, 1416/1996]
The Book of Eemaan [compiled from the works of Ibn Taymiyyah by Dr. Muhammad Nasim Yasim, al-Firdous Ltd., 1997]
Diseases of the Hearts and their Cures [tr. Abu Rumaysah, Daar us-Sunnah, 1418/1998]
Ibn Taymiyyah’s Letters from Prison [tr. Abu Ammar, Message of Islam, 1419/1998]
The Waasitah between Allah & The Creation [tr. Abu Iyaad Amjad Rafiq, Invitation to Islam, 1998]
Al-Ubudiyyah [tr. Nasir ud-Deen Khattab, ]; also translated as Ibn Taymiyyah’s Essay on servitude [tr. Abu Safwan Fareed ibn Haibatan, al-Hidaayah, 1420/1999]
Kitab al-Iman: Book of Faith [tr. Salman Hasan al-Ani, Iman Publishing House, 1999]
Ibn Taimiya’s Struggle against Popular religion: with an annotated translation of his Kitab Iqtida as-Sirat al-Mustaqim Mukhalafat Ashab al-Jahim [Muhammmad Umar Memon, the Hague: Mouton, 1976]
Ibn Taymiyyah and his Projects of Reform [Serajul Haque, Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh, 1982]
Ibn Taymiyyah’s Ethics [Victor E. Makari, Scholars Press, 1983]
A Muslim Theologian’s Response to Christianity: Ibn Taymiyyah’s al-Jawab as-Sahih [ed. Thomas F.Michel, Caravan Books, 1985]
Economic Concepts of Ibn Taymiyyah [Abdul Azim Islahi, The Islamic Foundation, 1408/1988]
The Political Thought of ibn Taymiyyah [prof. Qamaruddin Khan, Adam Publishers & Distributers, 1992]
Ibn Taymiyyah & The Islamization of Knowledge [Taha Jabir al-Alwani, IIIT, 1994]
The Relief from Distress – An explanation to the du’a of Yunus [tr. Abu Rumaysah, Daar us-Sunnah, 1425/2005].
The available Arabic works of Ibn Taymiyyah are many, from amongst them:
Majmu’ Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah [compiled by Abdur-Rahman ibn Qasim and his son, Muhammad in thirty-seven volumes] containing many monographs and treatise that he wrote.
Fatawa al-Kubra, in five volumes
Al-Jawab as-Sahih li man Baddala Din al-Masib, in six volumes
Minhaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah, in six volumes
Darr Ta’arud al-Aql wan-Naql, in twelve volumes
As-Sarim al-Maslul ala Shatim ar-Rasul, in three volumes
Iqtida as-Sirat al-Mustaqim li Mukhalafah Ashab al-Jahim, in two volumes
Naqd Maratib al-Ijma
Ar-Radd ala al-Mantiqiyyin
Ar-Radd ala al-Akhna’i
Ar-Radd ala al-Bakri
Qa’idah Adhimah fil-Farq bayn Ibadah Ahl al-Islam wal-Iman wa Ibadah Ahl ash-Shirk wan-Nifaq
Al-Qawa’id an-Nuraniyyah al-Fiqhiyyah
Tafsir ibn Taymiyyah, compiled by Abdur-Rahman Umayri, in seven volumes.
–Excerpt Taken from Diseases of the Hearts and their Cures, Dar as-Sunnah Publications, pp 13-33–