Britishmisk's Blog

Category: History

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah – Controversial, then and now

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah has and will probably always be a controversial figure. In our time, he is used by our Salafi brothers to justify certain opinions and ideas, even if those ideas that the Shaykh espoused were not in accordance with orthodoxy. It is through reading about Ibn Taymiyyah that I came to know of the word ‘heterodoxy’, that is neither orthodox nor heretical, and Ibn Taymiyyah epitomises heterodoxy from an Islamic viewpoint. Although most of which he taught was in accordance with his Hanbali school of fiqh, there were certain things that were rejected by his contemporaries. (For a list of his opinions that were in contradiction to the four Imams, there is the following poem in Arabic: However with some of the Saudi based publishers, as is their general practice, when printing the works of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah quite deliberately leave out certain things they themselves disagree with. Here’s a taste of some the stuff you won’t find in their versions:

“To celebrate and to honour the birth of the Prophet (s) and to take it as an honoured season, as some of the people are doing, is good and in it there is a great reward, because of their good intentions in honouring the Prophet (s).” (“Majma’ Fatawi Ibn Taymiyya,”) Vol. 23, p. 163:

I have worn the Sufi cloak of a number of shaykhs belonging to various tariqas, among them the Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir Jilani, whose tariqa is the greatest of the well known ones. Further on he says: The greatest Sufi Way is that of my master, `Abd al-Qadir Jilani, may Allah have mercy on him. ms. al-Hadi, Princeton Library Arabic Collection, fols. 154a, 169b,171b 172a; and Damascus University, copy of original Arabic manuscript, 985H.; also mentioned in at Talyani, manuscript Chester Beatty 3296 (8) in Dublin, fol. 67a

Ibn Taymiyyah was asked of the prayer of mid-Sha’ban, he answered: ‘If a person prays the night of mid Sha’ban on his own or in a group specifically as was done by a group of the Salaf then it is good (hasan). And he said in another place: As for the night of mid Sha’ban its virtues have been reported in ahadith and athar, and it is reported from a group of the Salaf that they would pray in it. So the prayer of a person in it on his own, and the Salaf have preceded him in it and he has a proof in it, and the likes of this is not condemned’. Refer to Majmu al-Fatawa. More info on mid-Sha’ban.

Arguably the Shaykh’s greatest contribution was to tasawwuf or Islamic spirituality, this can be seen by the following quote:

“…Nev­ertheless, Ibn Taymiyah was praised by the Sufi Abu Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Qawwam, who said: Our Sufism became sound only at the hands of Ibn Taymi­yah, implying that Ibn Taymiyah was not an outsider to Sufism. Recently discovered evidence shows that Ibn Taymiyah belonged to the Sufi order of the Qadiriyah, named after the Hanbali Sufi Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, whom he praised and preferred to the other Hanbali Sufi, al-Ansari al-Harawi.”


Further evidence to show that the Shaykh was a Sufi can be seen in the fact that he was buried in The Cemetery of the Sufis in Damascus. Now the only reason I can think of why you would bury someone who is considered to be an enemy or critic of tasawwuf in that particular cemetery would be as one last final insult, but I highly doubt that was the case. (This is a very well written and interesting article on Ibn Taymiyyah’s final resting place). The Shaykh was a keen admirer on his master of his spiritual chain Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani (May Allah have mercy on him), this cannot only be seen by the preceding quotes, but further solidified by the fact that he was moved to write commentaries on some of Shaykh Jilani’s books.

Shaykh Abu Ja’far al-Hanbali summarised it best, “Ibn Taymiyyah was a Shaykh al-Islam in everything, except Aqeedah”. When it comes to some of the works of Ibn Taymiyyah his stuff on Aqeedah is absolutely unacceptable, and this is what makes certain proponents of Salafism quite dangerous, to put it one way, when they teach common people the ideas espoused by Ibn Taymiyyah as being from the accepted orthodoxy, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. Ibn Taymiyyah was severly criticised and suffered greatly because of the ideas he espoused in Aqeedah. The majority of Muslims accept that he most likely repented from his mistakes, as we have certain narrations that tell us this, and it is general practice to accept what can be considered best of our brothers and sisters in faith. Today you will find Salafis hanging the Shaykh up as the be all and end all of Islamic scholars, then you have extreme Sufis who completely disregard him and accuse of him things I will not mention. Muslims are encouraged to follow ‘the middle path’, this is a teaching that has many diverse sides and meanings, and it can also be applied to how we see the scholars of our faith. Neither to completely reject them, nor overly love them, as this is how I believe we should approach Shaykh al-Islam Abu ‘l-Abbas Ahmad ibn Taimiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him.

And to Him is our return.

Reflections on a Journey: Andalucia Day 2

We began our second day in Granada very early to try to get the Alhambra at opening time. We started by going to a traditional European style cafe for breakfast, we realised very quickly that English is not very widely spoken in Andalusia, which is a big contrast to the many areas of Spain which are full of British tourists year round, so this is something to keep in mind if you go. But on the plus side, the Andalusian people are very friendly and open, it didn’t seem strange to them to have two Pakistani faces walking into a room full of Spanish people. It is a stark comparison to many areas of Europe where you would be bombarded with inquisitive and quite often very rude looking stares.

We then began our journey down Gran Via de Colon taking in the sights along the way. We eventually reached the area near the Alhambra and began a steep walk upwards, I had known it was up on hill but I had no idea it was that steep. Another thing to keep in mind if you have someone with you who is elderly or very physical, there is a bus you can take if you do not feel like walking it. We arrived at exactly 8.30 which is when the ticket office opens and there was already a short queue. When you purchase a ticket to the Alhambra you will be given either a morning or afternoon ticket, it will then also have a time written on for when you can enter the Nasrid Palaces, the main attraction. Our time was 9am which was perfect, it takes about 20 minutes to get from the entrance to the Nasrid palaces, I would recommend asking the staff when you get there for the exact location as you might end up wandering around the different areas without knowing and miss out on your entry time.

Then after years of waiting we finally saw the great splendour that is the Alhambra. The main beauty of the Nasrid palaces is the overindulgent calligraphy that adorns all its walls. The repetitive reminder to the kings of who lived here: “Wa la Ghalib ill’Allah” – And there is no Conqueror except Allah. Perhaps a clue as to what it was the sultans of old forgot that made them lose this timeless treasure. Room after room you are treated to glistening white marble, no artificial illustrations of idolatrous figures, but the pure natural monotheistic beauty of calligraphy and natural lines. Of all the travels I have had across the Muslim world, the Alhambra is by far the greatest testimony to the pinnacle of our civilization, it is only a shame that the painstaking work of restoration undertaken by Spanish authorities is not seen at other sites of Muslim heritage in our own lands where there are (or used to be) wonders just as magnificent or even more so. The only downside to our visit of the palaces was that the fountain in the famous Courtyard of Lions had been removed for restoration. Insha’Allah I hope to return in the future to see the work they will have done to restore it to its original splendour.

After finishing our tour of the palace we walked around and looked at the gardens of the Alhambra, which were constantly being cleaned and improved by the diligent workers of Generalife. We also wandered around the Casbah area, the fort used to protect the Alhambra. One thing that popped into my head was the question: “Where are all the Muslims?” Why are there not more Muslims from Europe and afar learning about their culture and history, and the mark they left behind on civilization? Then eventually we saw a fair number of brothers and sisters, I had remembered we had come early and Muslims are usually only good and getting up early for Fajr, if even that! After a couple of hours we left the Alhambra at around 12 o’ clock and went to the Albayzin area.

Albayzin was the main Muslim quarter of Granada. A key feature of any Muslim city are its winding and often narrow streets that make it extremely easy to get lost in, and Albayzin is no different. Again many of the streets here are steep uphill climbs, especially in the north and centre of the area. Wander around and you will come across a number of old remnants from the past, the area used to have over 20 Mosques, many of which were converted in churches after the reconquista. You will notice this as you wander round Granada, and Albayzin in particular, the number of bell towers which were former minarets. Of all the sites of Albayzin, the one thing I really wanted to see here wasn’t very old at all, the Mosque of Granada.

After getting lost a couple of times, we eventually found it next the Plaza of San Nicolas, where people come to take in the great view of the Alhambra. At the time of writing the only way to get into the Masjid was through the garden, so this is something to keep in mind when you wonder why no one is letting you in at the main entrance. Ring the bell and someone should come and open it for you. The Masjid was set up by Abdal Qadar as-Sufi’s Al-Murabitoun movement, although they have some opinions I disagree with, one thing that cannot be denied about them is their ability to mobilise native Muslim communities to do an immense amount of good in their local areas. Something that we can witness here in the UK at the Norwich Mosque, also run by the same group. The Mosque is beautiful, a true modern testimony to the great Islamic past of Granada. Similar in design to the Andalusian buildings of old, the interior of the Mosque is bathed in natural light and ventilation, no oversized Saudi-funded chandelier or artificial air conditioning, if the builders of the Alhambra were transported to today and given a budget a fraction of the Alhambra’s, this is what they would have probably built. As with most of the Al-Murabitoun movement, the majority of the members of the Masjid are natives of the country in which they reside, although there are a fair number of migrant Muslims as well. We met a brother whose name was Abdal Hady, (Servant of The Guide), a name that suited him well. He talked to us about the brief history of Islam in modern Spain, as well as the situation of Muslims currently residing there. After praying Zuhar he took us to a small cafe/restaurant whose owners made us a nice small meal of rice and meat.

For Muslims traveling to Granada, the Albayzin area is where you will find most of the halal restaurants in the city. There a large number of kebab and takeaway places along Calle de Elvira, which is on the boundary of Albayzin and the rest of Granada, (So it’s on the flat side). In the centre of the Albayzin area, where all the sites are, you might find some dotted here and there, but don’t expect to go looking for a huge selection. Along Calle de la Calderereia Nueva (Or somewhere around there) you’ll come across some higher end halal places to eat as well as infusion tea parlours and shisha cafes. You can get prayer times from the Masjid, they also have a small selection of books for sale in Spanish and English.

Panorama 3-D (Possible) Representation of the Prophet’s (s) House

MR shows us again why he is the net’s No1 Muslim blogger, this is really amazing:

3-D Representation of the Prophet’s House. Beautiful!

“The picture shows a replication of The Prophet Mohammad’s (peace be upon him) House. The model of the house was built to give people a glimpse of the way the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) lived. This house is just a part of a bigger exhibition of the life of the prophet (peace be upon him).

The house was reproduced based on authentic narrations that describe the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) house.

The Exhibition is held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.”

It’s too bad this had to be done because the Saudi authorities felt it necessary to destroy the Prophet’s (SAWS) house, as well as other historical buildings because of what they call “shirk”. See: Save the Hijaz