Opinion on Ibn Taymiyyah

Opinion on Ibn Taymiyyah


Salam br. Usama, why dont you approve of Ibn Taymiyyah? Why are you afraid of being proud of your deen and being forceful about your beliefs? Is it due to your status as a liberal Muslim?

Wa alykum as salaam,

I don’t approve of Ibn Taymiyyah? Since when? If you’re referring to the last question I answered, where I used Ibn Taymiyyah as an example of how people are misusing scholars, then, I’m sorry that you misunderstood me.

The point of using Ibn Taymiyyah as an example is to point out that to even attempt to apply him, without considering the context of his life, time, and concerns is to not only to utilize knowledge improperly, but you do a disservice to what benefits Ibn Taymiyyah can provide for other people in other times.

My only concern of Ibn Taymiyyah is the usage of his fatawa on declaring certain Muslims to be non-Muslims. This procedure, known as takfir, is understood today as a primarily religious procedure in which we evaluate people based on their beliefs. Indeed, many of Ibn Taymiyyah’s opinions were predicated on the evaluation of belief. However, Ibn Taymiyyah aside, the determination of whether someone was Muslim or not was more important towards determining their “personal status.”

This is the process to determine what someone is, as far as the law is concerned. Are you a “husband;” are you old enough, young enough; are you a citizen, and other questions are those that concern your legal rights as a result of your status. Therefore, to determine whether someone was Muslim or not, was less concerned with their beliefs, but more importantly, concerned with their legal rights and responsibilities.

For Ibn Taymiyyah, he was at the service of rulers who were fighting Mongol invasions, and importantly for our purposes, Mahmud Ghazan, who had converted to Islam. There is tremendous literature that details his religious practices and that he converted for political reasons, but I don’t think that matters.

Ultimately, Ibn Taymiyyah was concerned that what he viewed as true Islam was going to be destroyed and therefore structured his thought and his opinions towards ensuring that if, the worst case scenario, that he and other sources of knowledge were destroyed, there would be some record or at least practices among the people that would preserve Islam in its pure sense.

Taking that fact, you see the logic behind his choices and the reason why he would argue for the things that he did. Without considering this, you are literally robbing yourself of what his decisions really mean.

It’s like taking the legal opinion of some Supreme Court justice and just reading it, and trying to apply it. Without knowledge of the court case (its substance, it’s background, conditions, etc) the Justice is addressing, what is the use of the opinion in the first place?

The question that scholars, today, ask of Ibn Taymiyyah, is that, if we agree that Ghazan was not a sincere Muslim, why would Ibn Taymiyyah even have to consider addressing his Islam? Why would it have mattered? Very simply, Ibn Taymiyyah could have argued that the state in which he lived was being attacked by a foreign force, and thus could have justified the defense of his home and his land regardless of whether he was being attacked by Muslim, Christians, or Scientologists. This is the disconnect that is currently being debated.

My point is that the use of historical scholars, like Ibn Taymiyyah, without knowledge of what motivated his opinions, is worrying because it seems to genuinely misinterpret him and thus put Muslims in an inflexible position, simply because they were told that Ibn Taymiyyah was someone they should use.

So, do I disapprove of Ibn Taymiyyah? I don’t exactly think so. I’m not facing the real possibility of my death by violent Mongol invaders, nor do I think that with my death or the death of my community that Islam will be lost. That’s kinda huge.

As far as me being afraid or lacking pride in my religion, I don’t think that really applies. If there are things that I can improve upon, I am always open to suggestions, because I have plenty of deficiencies, and hope that my community and my religion can help improve those faults in myself, Insha Allah.

As far as me being a liberal, I do not like that characterization. While I have my own political positions, as far as my status as a “liberal Muslim” I actually tend to resent that tag.

Insha Allah, I hope I answered your question properly and welcome you or anyone else to ask me questions they have.

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