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The monumental work of Imam al-Dhahabi
, Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubulā
, is not complete and some volumes are unpublished due to the lack of worthy manuscripts. The biographical entry for Ibn Taymiyyah in al-Dhahabī's Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubulā
has been preserved through Ibn al-Wazīr who quoted and preserved it in his book al-ʿAwāṣim min al-Qawāṣim
. The verifier of al-ʿAwāṣim said:
And there occurs here in the manuscript jīm a lengthy biography of Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah which is not present in all of the manuscripts. So I saw it fit to affirm it in these footnotes, along with its text. On some of its lines there is some deficiency (in quality) on account of which some words have been cut off, and I have shown this by establishing the diacritical marks, and I have affirmed them here. This is because the volume of Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubulā in which this biography is found, and that is the last one, has not been printed. This is because we have not found a manuscript which is fit for publishing. So this is a biography of the Imām, the ʾAllāmah, Ibn Taymiyyah from al-Nubulā of al-Dhahabī. I have quoted it to here (only) because I have quoted from it frequently in this book, especially in this volume. Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Dhahabī said regarding him...
And then he quotes the biography that is cited below:
The Shaykh, the Imām, the Scholar, the Mufassir (Exegete), the Faqīh (Jurist), the Mujtahid, the Hāfidh, the Muḥaddith, the Shaykh of Islām, the prodigy of the era, author of amazing works, and (a manifestation) of excessive intelligence, Taqī ul-Dīn Abu al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad the son of the Scholar, the Muftī, Shihāb al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm, the son of the Imām, the Shaykh of Islām, Majd al-Dīn Abū al-Barakāt ʿAbd al-Salām, the author of al-Aḥkām (meaning the book al-Muntaqā) bin ʿAbd Allāh bin Abū al-Qāsim al-Harrānī...
He heard from so and so and so and so and from (attending) many circles (of knowledge). And he increased, reached far limits and read over a group of people by himself. He also wrote with his own hand numerous chapters (of certain works) as well as Sunan Abū Dāwūd. He looked at the various narrators of hadīth and the hidden defects (in the chains of narration) and then became one of the Imāms of criticism and Scholars of the narrations, along with his recording of knowledge (in books), his piety, remembrance, and constant devotion. Then he turned to fiqh, its minutiae, its foundations, evidences, consensus, and matters of difference until sheer amazement would arise when he would mention one of matters in which there was difference of opinion, then he would bring evidence (from the texts), would evaluate and point out the stronger of the positions and would strive (in seeking out the truth), and all of that was deserving to him for the various conditions of making ijtihād had combined in him. Certainly, I have not seen anyone quicker in extracting the verses which would be relevant to the matter which he was discussing, and nor one who was greater in recalling the texts of the ahādīth...
He would constantly enjoin the good and forbid the evil and the reproach of the criticiser would not prevent him from the path of Allāh, [he was] the possessor of authority (in his knowledge and speech) and boldness. He had no concern with the jealous and whoever mixed with him and knew him well will accuse me of falling short in describing him and whoever opposed and hated him will accuse me of over praise and exaggeration... yet I do not believe that he is infallible. Never, for he, despite the vastness of his knowledge, overflowing braveness, fluidity of mind, extreme respect and veneration for the sanctities of the Religion, is a man from amongst me. Zealousness would overcome him in study, and he would become angry. Hatred for him would develop in the souls and they would avoid him. And if he had not (been like this), by Allāh, if he had been kind with his antagonists, was kind to them, was amiable with them and made his speech cordial with them, there would have been a word of agreement and consensus. For certainly, their senior scholars and Imāms humbled themselves in front of the knowledge and sciences and fiqh he possessed, acknowledging (at the same time) that they disliked him. And it was as if they affirmed the rarity of his mistakes. I do not mean those scholars whose characteristic and habit is to belittle him and mock his excellence, who have such intense hatred of him that they declare him to be ignorant and also to be a disbeliever, who attack him without even having looked at his works, who do not understand his words and who do not have any share of vast understanding and cognizance. However, a scholar from among them would do justice to him... with knowledge, and the route of intelligence (in this matter) is to remain quiet about what occurs between rivals, may Allāh have mercy upon them all. And I am the very least of those whose words speak of his greatness or whose pen makes his (mental and characteristic) composition clear. His associates and also his enemies humble themselves in front of his sciences, acknowledge the swiftness of his understanding, that he is a river which has no shores, a treasure for which there is no equal, that he had determined generosity and that his braveness had no end. However, they would seek vengeance against him and those who were fair and just in that will be rewarded, those who took the middle course (were not excessive) will be excused, those who were oppressive will be subdued and overcome, but most of them are in fact deceived, to Allāh do all affairs return and every man can have his saying accepted or rejected. Perfection lies only in the Messengers and decisive proof is only in consensus. So may Allāh show mercy to a man who spoke about the scholars upon knowledge and who assiduously scrutinized their problematic pronouncements out of consideration and good understanding, who then sought forgiveness for them and spoke of excuses for them. And if this is not (the adopted path of an individual) then he is someone who does not know and who doesn't know that he doesn't know. If you pardon the most senior of scholars for their errors and you do not pardon Ibn Taymiyyah for his limited mistakes then you have affirmed for your own soul (the following of) desires and the lack of justice. And if you were to say, "I do not pardon him because he is a disbeliever, the enemy of Allāh and His Messenger" then a portion from the people of knowledge and Religion say to you, "By Allāh, we do not know of him except that he is a believer who guards his prayers, ablutions, fasting in Ramadān and who venerates the Sharīʾah both inwardly and outwardly." He would not approach (any matter) with a faulty and evil understanding, rather he had excessive intelligence. And nor would he approach any matter with lack of knowledge, for he was an overflowing ocean, having firm knowledge and insight of the Book and the Sunnah, without there being any equal to him in that. And nor was he one who played with the religion. For if he had been like that then he would have deceived his antagonists straight away, (pretending to) agree with them and he would have abandoned contradicting them.
He would not hold unique stances in certain matters due to personal desires and nor would he give a fatwa based upon something that was agreed upon, rather he would bring proof from the Qurʾān, the hadīth or qiyās (analogy) for all of his unique stances and he would prove them and argue in their favour. He would also narrate all the different opinions held in the issue and would lengthen his investigation of it, following in the footsteps of the Imāms before him. If he erred then he has the reward of the one who strives to arrive at the truth amongst the scholars, and if he was correct then he acquires two rewards. Certainly, reproach and hatred is only justified for one of two types of men; the one who gives a verdict in a matter based upon his desires and does not show any evidence, and the one who speaks in a matter without having the slightest amount of knowledge and nor the capacity to quote the narrations. So we seek refuge in Allāh from the desires and ignorance. There is also no doubt that consideration is not to be given to the praise given to him by the leading personalities (accompanying him) and nor those who exaggerate in his affair, for their love of him led them to cover up his errors and they would often count them as good deeds for him. However, consideration is only given (to the testimony) of the people of piety and fear from among the two groups, those who speak with justice and who raise (only) for the sake of Allāh, even if it was against their own souls or against their fathers. And as for this man, I do not desire the world, nor any wealth or status by what I have said concerning him from any aspect whatsoever and this is despite my perfect and complete knowledge regarding him. And it is not permitted for me in my religion and nor for my intellect that I conceal his good deeds, hide his excellencies, expose his sins which are forgiven due to the vastness of Allāh's generosity and highlight an individual page (of his writings) which would become obscure when compared to the ocean of his knowledge and generosity. Allāh will forgive him and be pleased with him. He will also show mercy to us if we were to adopt and follow that which he (Shaykh al-Islām) followed, despite the fact that I differed with him in both fundamental and subsidiary issues. I have just made it plain and clear that his mistakes in these matters are forgiven, in fact Allāh will reward him for them to the extent of his good intention and sacrifice of his time and effort and Allāh is the One whom we shall meet at the appointed time. And I have also been harmed by his companions due to my words concerning him, so Allāh is sufficient for me as a reckoner... And I have taken a course in between the two groups. To the one who loves him, I am considered as one who falls short and to the one who hates him, I am considered immoderate and excessive. Never, by Allāh (is this the case).
From the forthcoming publication, "The Creed of the Early Kullabi Ash'aris."
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