Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Source of Embarrasment for Taymiyyans/Wahhabis

Ibn Taymiyya says:

Therefore, while it is deduced that Hellfire will pass away with The Book, The Sunna, and the words of The Companions, those who say that Hellfire will remain forever have no evidence from The Book, The Sunna, and the words of The Companions.

Source: Al-Radd 'ala man qala bi-fana' al-janna wa al-nar.ed. Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah al-Simhari (Riyadh: Dar al-balansiyya, 1415/ 1995).

So we see that Ibn Taymiyya stated the following:

1. The belief that Hellfire will pass away is/can be deduced from The Book, The Sunna, and the words of The Companions

2. Those who say that Hellfire will remain forever have no evidence from The Book, The Sunna, and the words of The Companions

His words are very clear and there is no room for explaining them away.

I have observed the following different reactions from Wahhabis on this subject:

1. Rejection: Some completely reject that Ibn Taymiyya might have denied the eternality of Hellfire. They say that this is a lie and a slander.
2. Ta'wil: Some try to explain away what Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim have written on the subject by saying something like "They did not hold this position, they just presented the evidence of those who held this position."
3. Acquittal of Ibn Taymiyya by putting the blame on Ibn Qayyim: Some hold that this was the position of Ibn Qayyim and he incorrectly attributed it to Ibn Taymiyya.
4. Reversal of history: Some claim that this was Ibn Taymiyya's position before mastering religious sciences.
5. Revision: Some revise their definition of Ahl al-Sunna when they realize that Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim did indeed defend this position and this was their final position on record.

Although I may not agree with everything he says word for word, I find some of the conclusions reached by Dr. Khalil to be quite informative. He writes:

Centuries later, al-Radd serves as a source of embarrasment for some IbnTaymiyyah apologists, including Wahhābī scholars who consider the idea of a noneternal Hell to be inherently problematic. Thus, we find one additional motivation for denying Ibn Taymiyyah’s authorship of al-Radd. As for those apologists who accept his authorship of al-Radd, we find that other tactics are employed. This may be observed, for example, in Muhammad ibn ‘Abd-Allāh al-Simharī’s introduction to a 1995 edition of al-Radd, which was published in Riyadh. Al-Simharī asserts that, because Ibn Taymiyyah never explicitly states his own opinion, he remains in line with the Sunni doctrine of an eternal Hell.411 Al-Simharī goes on to argue that Ibn Taymiyyah’s opponents, such as al-Subkī, should not have inferred from al-Radd that, even if Ibn Taymiyyah initially espoused Hell’s annihilation, that that was always his position. He then cites the apologetic hypothesis put forth by the late Muhammad Nāsir al-Dīn al-Albānī (d. 1999) that Ibn Taymiyyah composed the treatise during his studies, before mastering the religious sciences412 – an ostensibly baseless conjecture in light of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah’s utilization of al-Radd during a period in which Ibn Taymiyyah had already established himself. Al-Simharī then takes an entirely different approach and argues that even if Ibn Taymiyyah did maintain that God’s mercy could encompass Hell’s inhabitants, this would not be a problematic assertion, as this was also the position maintained by Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah and others.413 Nevertheless, al-Simharī argues that since the doctrine of Hell’s eventual annihilation is improbable (marjūh), it is the duty of the ‘common’ Muslim to side with the doctrine indicated by the Qur’an and Sunnah, and adopted by many of the Salaf, namely, Hell’s eternality. The reason, he argues, is because it is only the sincere, knowledgeable mujtahid who may safely adopt any other position.414 Therefore, we also find a contemporary form of elitism associated with this belief in a non-eternal Hell that is employed as a counterweight to Ibn Taymiyyah’s critics. While one orientation within Wahhābism seeks to deny the position altogether so as to avoid being discredited, another portrays it as a position of the elite.

410 Al-Simharī, “Nisbat al-kitāb,” xiv-xvi.
411 Al-Simharī, “Mawqif,” xxv-xxvii.
412 Al-Simharī, “Mawqif,” xxii.
413 Interestingly, he even cites a recent Master’s thesis written by Faysal ‘Abd-Allāh al-Jāmi‘ah of Umm al-Qurā University (Mecca), entitled Al-Jannah wa al-nār wa al-arā’ fīhimā (Heaven and Hell and the viewpoints regarding them). In it, the author gives preference to the doctrine of Hell’s annihilation on the basis that it is in accordance with what is known of “God’s expansive mercy, inclusive generosity, overflowing forgiveness, and considerable wisdom.” (Al-Simharī, “Mawqif,” xxii-xxiii)
414 Al-Simharī, “Mawqif,” xxviii.

Source: Muhammad Hassan Khalil, Muslim Scholarly Discussions on Salvation and the Fate of Others, (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2007).

Notice al-Albānī's claim that "Ibn Taymiyya composed the treatise during his studies, before mastering the religious sciences." This is an absurd claim, considering the fact that Ibn Qayyim wrote three additional books defending the "non-eternality of Hellfire" (fana al-nar) after Ibn Taymiyya's death. Furthermore, both Dr. Ebubekir Sifil and Professor Hoover relay the following information (which I copied from Hoover's paper as it is already in English):

The Beginnings of Ibn al-Qayyim's Deliberations Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya reveals how he first broached the question of everlasting chastisement with Ibn Taymiyya in an autobiographical note found in his Shifa' al- alil (Healing of the Sick):

I had asked Shaykh al-Islam [about everlasting chastisement]. He said to me, "This issue is very great", and he gave no reply concerning it. Some time had passed after that when I saw in the commentary of 'Abd b. Hamid [or Humayd] al-Kiththi one of those traditions I have mentioned. So, I sent the book to [Ibn Taymiyya] while he was in his last session (fi majlisihi al-akhir). I marked that place [in the book], and I told the messenger, "Say to him, "This place is difficult for him, and he does not know what it is." Then, he wrote his famous work about it. Whoever has the grace of knowledge, let him bring it forth, and above each one having knowledge is one who is All-Knowing (pp. 564-65).

It appears that Ibn Taymiyya was not sure how to respond to Ibn al-Qayyim's first inquiry on the duration of the Fire. He only answered that the question was "very great." Ibn al-Qayyim's second inquiry was prompted by reading the commentary of 'Abd b. Hamid al-Kissi (or al-Kiththi as he writes), a ninth-century Hadith scholar from Kiss near Samarqand (d. 249/863) A tradition related by 'Abd b. Hamid puzzled Ibn al-Qayyim. So, he marked the spot in the book and sent it to his teacher via messenger. This occurred "while [Ibn Taymiyya] was in his last session," presumably near the end of his life. In reply Ibn Taymiyya composed what Ibn al-Qayyim calls his "famous work."

Source: Professor Jon Hoover, Islamic Universalism: Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya's Salafi Deliberations on the Duration of Hell-Fire, The Muslim World, Jan 2009.

The "famous work" in question is Al-Radd 'ala man qala bi-fana' al-janna wa al-nar. From Ibn Qayyim's expression ( his last session (fi majlisihi al-akhir)) it is clear that Ibn Taymiyya did not write this book "during his studies, before mastering the religious sciences" as al-Albani would like us to believe.

This is not the first time I observed al-Albani distorting and misrepresenting historical facts in an utterly shameless manner. al-Albani makes a similar absurd claim when he states that "Ibn Qayyim must have written Kitab ar-rooh when he was new to ilm [knowledge]." This is of course a falsehood as Ibn Qayyim uses the phrase "...after Ibn Taymiyya's death" at one place in the mentioned book. Ibn Qayyim was born in 691/1292 whereas Ibn Taymiyya died in 728/1328. So, Ibn Qayyim was at least 37 years old and had acquired all the knowledge he could possibly get from his teacher (Ibn Taymiyya) by the time he composed Kitab ar-rooh.

Murat Yazıcı

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