Was Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy upon him) truly considered a Shaykh of Islam?

Asalamu alaykum,

Time and time again we find posts attacking scholars from many different angles. I remember, once in my old masjid, that if I mentioned the name of Ibn Tammiyah (may Allah have mercy upon him) people would get upset and I would find people talking about me (see sunni forum and search my name) discussing my dedication to traditionalism. On the other hand, if I mentioned the name of Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali I would be questioned by the other side of the equation (our salafi bretheren search my name on islamicawakening/talkislam/I bear witness that what is said over there is flat out ghibah). In recent times I’ve heard a large number of people question the validity of the title Shaykh ul Islam and its association with Ibn Tammiyah (may Allah have mercy upon him). Below you’ll find some research that I did on this subject. I hope it will allow us to move beyond such simple and mundane issues. Last week a large number of Palestinians drowned under a flood of urine, feces and trash and the Western Muslims are arguing over such ridiculous issues?! Inshallah, we plan to continue this series and defend the honor of many of our great scholars from every persuasion in hopes that we can try and bring some clarity to the discourse. Be on the look out for articles defending the honor of people like Hujjat ul-Islam Abu Hamid Ghazzali (may Allah have mercy upon him) and others in the future. Keep in mind that we are not implying that these great figures were perfect. However, if we want to critique them then let’s make sure we have the knowledge and adab to do so.

“Was Ibn Tammiyah (may Allah have mercy upon him) known as Shaykh ul-Islam, or is this something attributed to him in recent times?”

The answer:

A simple search of any Islamic software will reveal that in fact he was known by his contemporaries and latter scholars as such.

Citations in support of Ibn Tammiyah and the title Shaykh ul-Islam:

1. “The Imam of the Ummah during his lifetime, the collector of knowledge of his age, the explainer of Qur’an, the the last Mujtahid, the possessor of great karamat…..sheikh ul Islam. Imam al-lusi was the Qadi of Baghdad and died in 1317 a.h.

2. Hafidh al-Dhahabi’s description of Ibn Tammiya: “Our Sheikh, The Sheikh of Islam…” Suthrat al-Dhahabi volume 6 pg (s). 81-82.

3. Al-Hafidh Ibn Kathir mentions in al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya, “And the Sheikh ul-Islam made clear to them their errors.” volume 14. Pg. 22, also see pg(s). 57, 86, 92, 101, 12,136,143, 152,244.

4. Al-Shaikh al-Hafidh al-Barzali (may Allah have mercy upon him): “He (ibn tammiyah) reached the level of ijtihad and mastered the conditions of the mujtahidin.” al-’uqud al-duriyah pg. 28

5. al-hafidh Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy upon him): “Our the sheikh of our shuyukh al-hafidh abu al-Fath al-Yamri said (about ibn tammiyah): “….the sheikh ul-Islam Taqi al-Din.” al-darru al-kamilah vol1 pg(s) 156-157.

Ibn Hajr also said, “I read in the handwriting of al-Hafidh Silah ad-Din al-Bala`i in endorsement of the shaykh of our shaykhs al-Haafidh Bahaa ad-Din Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Khalil: ‘Our shaykh and master and Imam in matters that are between Allah and us, the Shaykh of research (tahqiq), traversing, with those that followed him, the best way. Possessor of many excellent qualities and radiant proofs that all the nations have acknowledged are beyond enumeration. May Allah make us benefit from his outstanding knowledge, and make us benefit from him in this life and the hereafter. He is the Shaykh, the Imam, the Alim who understands the affairs, the deeply devoted, the ocean (of knowledge), the pole of light, the Imam of Imams, the blessing to the Muslim nation, the sign of the scholars, the inheritor of the Prophets, the last of the Mujtahids, unique amongst the scholars of the Religion – Shaykh al-Islam, proof of the scholars, the example for the creatures, proof for the learned ones, effacer of the innovators, sword of the disputers, ocean of knowledge, beneficial treasure, the interpreter of the Qur`aan, the amazement of the times, unique in this age and others. Indeed Taqi ad-Deen (ibn Taymiyyah) is the Imam of the Muslims, the proof of Allah against the creation, the joiner of the righteous, the one who is like those who have preceded, the mufti of the sect, helper of the truth, the sign of guidance, the pillar of the Hufadh, Knight of the meanings of words, cornerstone of the Shari`ah, originator of new sciences Abu al-Abbas ibn Taymiyyah.” [Ibid. From this book taken on it ’s own it is very difficult to discern ibn Hajr’s own opinion on ibn Taymiyah was. For all he did was to gather all the material he could find on the Shaykh and then start off the account with all those scholars who wrote against him, and end with all those scholars who supported him. It would seem likely that ibn Hajr’s own stance would be in line with those whom he finished off his biography with, due to their being his Shaykhs. This reasoning is supported with the next quote from ibn Hajr. Allaah knows best.]

Ibn Hajr said, “.those of his stances that were rejected from him were not said by him due to mere whims and desires and neither did he obstinately and deliberately persist in them after the evidence was established against him. Here are his works overflowing with refutations of those who held to tajsim yet despite this he is a man who makes mistakes and is also correct. So that which he is correct in – and that is the majority – is to benefited from and Allah’s Mercy should be sought for him due to it, and that which he is incorrect in should not be blindly followed. Indeed he is excused for his mistakes because he is one of the Imams of his time and it has been witnessed that he fulfilled the conditions of ijtihad.

From the astonishing qualities of this man was that he was the strongest amongst men against the People of Innovation, the Rawaafidah, and the Hululiyyah, and the Ittihaadiyyah, and his works on this are many and famous, and his fataawaa on them cannot be counted, so how the eyes of these innovators must have found joy when they heard those who declared him to be a kaafir! And how delighted they must have been when they saw those who did not declare him to be a kaafir in turn being labelled kafir! It is obligatory upon the one who has donned the robe of knowledge and possesses intelligence that he consider the words of a man based upon his well-known books or from the tongues of those who are trusted to accurately convey his words – then to isolate from all of this what is rejected and warn from them with the intention of giving sincere advice and to praise him for his excellent qualities and for what he was correct in as is the way of the scholars.

If there were no virtues of Shaykh Taqi ad-Deen except for his famous student Shaykh Shams ad-Deen ibn al-Qayim al-Jawziyyah, writer of many works, from which both his opponents and supporters benefited from then this would be a sufficient indication of his (ibn Taymiyyah’s) great position. And how could it be otherwise when the Shaafi`ee Imaams and others, not to speak of the Hanbalis, of his time testified to his prominence in the (Islamic) sciences.” [From Ibn Hajr’s endorsement of ‘Radd al-Waafir’ contained at the end of the book.]

6. “Sheikh ul-Islam Ibn Tammiyah.” Tabaat al-Hanabila vol. 1 pg. 274

7. “Sheikh ul-Islam ibn tammiyah” ghaytu al-nihaya fe tabaqat al-Qura vol. 1 pg. 215

8. “Sheikh ul-Islam ibn Tammiyah” tadhib al-Kamal vol. 1 pg. 22 and ,30,31,467

That takes us to the more recent scholars:

1. Sh. Bin Bayyah
2. Sh. al-Qaradawi
3. Sh. Ali ‘Guma
4. Sh. Abdul Fatah Abu Ghuda (may Allah have mercy upon him) and many others.

Please feel free to comment on this. However, don’t bring a harsh attitude nor mean spirit. In addition, it would be nice to bring the words of the scholars, books and page numbers if possible.And Allah knows best