Ibn Taymiyya and the Mosquito
Excerpt from `Uthman Ibn Sa`id al-Darimi al-Sajzi's book al-Naqd `ala al-Jahmiyya, p. 75:
"If He so willed, He could have settled on the back of a gnat and it would have carried Him thanks to His power and the favor of His lordship, not to mention the magnificient Arsh."
This is a risible, ugly, astonishing combination of tajsim, takyif, tashbih, and tamthil. In a word, the author's premiss for inferring that the object of his worship can settle on top of a gnat is his understanding that Allah physically settles on the Arsh. One of the greatest indications of Ibn Taymiyya's anthropomorphist views is that in advocating the interpretation of istiwa' as istiqrar or settling -- absolutely condemned by the Salaf, as we mentioned -- he does not hesitate to reproduce the above statement verbatim. It is ironic that he does so in his Ta'sis, an attack on al-Razi for a book the latter wrote in refutation of anthropomorphists:
Ibn Taymiyya, al-Ta'sis fi al-radd `ala asas al-taqdis 1:568.
This topic was discussed in a forum a while ago and, in the end, somebody asked the following question:
"And what would Ibn Taymiyya say to a Christian who believes 'If Allah so wills he can become a human being and die on a cross'?"
Later, I noticed an article, written by some writer named "Christopher Howse" in the UK. Apparently, this person is a Christian.
A few passages from this article:
The celebrated question of how many angels may dance on a pinhead was not once ever raised in the Middle Ages. That it characterised scholastic theology is a myth. But I am surprised to find Sunni Muslims saying that Ibn Taymiyya's opinion was that God could have settled on a mosquitos's back and the creature would have found him light.
This opinion is adduced to prove that Ibn Taymiyya was a heretic. This is something that matters, because Ibn Taymiyya is a hero of the Wahhabis, the sect that rules Saudi Arabia in alliance, for now, with the royal family.
The traveller Ibn Battuta heard Ibn Taymiyya preach and suggested that he was slightly bonkers – that he had "some kink in his brain" as H.A.R. Gibb translated it in 1929.
I'm not sure where mosquitos come in. But if God could settle on a mosquito's back, why could he not take flesh and dwell amongst us?
My comment: Mr. Howse's last statement -if he is serious- is obviously invalid. Two reasons for the invalidity of his analogy are actually indicated in his own article:
1. As Ibn Battuta rahimahullah stated, "Ibn Taymiyya had some kink in his brain."
2. Sunni Muslims regard Ibn Taymiyya as a heretic.
Mr. Howse seems to be saying the following: "When compared to what Ibn Taymiyya said, a belief such as 'Allahu ta'ala can take flesh and dwell amongst us' is not such a strange and absurd belief after all."
However, we firmly hold that what al-Darimi and Ibn Taymiyya stated was absurd and heretical (and that the strange beliefs and statements of these two men do not represent Islamic creed); and of course a statement such as "Allahu ta'ala can take flesh and dwell amongst us" is certainly absurd and heretical.
Imam al-Kawthari rahimahullah responded to al-Darimi's (and Ibn Taymiyya's) statement involving the mosquito with the following words:
This is his word about Allahu ta'ala. As if it is already established and accepted that his God can sit on the back of a mosquito, he is using this as evidence for Allahu ta'ala's settlement on the Arsh which is much wider than the back of a mosquito! Allahu ta'ala is exalted beyond this with a very great exaltedness. I do not know anybody who uttered such nonsense and stupid statements before this al-Sajzi and al-Harrani [Ibn Taymiyya] and the followers of these two. Who doesn't know that Allahu ta'ala's will does not connect [taalluq] to the impossible [muhal]? This is like saying "If He wills, of course He can eat, drink, get married, create another like Himself" and other impossible things. Allahu ta'ala is exalted beyond all of these.
Source: Maqalat al-Kawthari, 301.