Ibn Taymiyyah's Ethics

Ismail K. Poonawala
1986 American Journal of Islam and Society  
Except for the works of the French scholar Henri Laoust and a recent studyby Muhammad Umar Memon, Ibn Taimiya's Struggle against Popular Religion(The Hague and Paris: Mouton, 1976), very few studies of the thought of IbnTaimiya have appeared in English. Makari's work is therefore a welcome additionto this meager list. Its main contribution lies in dispelling some of themisunderstanding that has all along bedevilled a true appraisal of the thoughtof the Hanbalite doctor.It is unfortunate that
more » ... unfortunate that some bright and bold spirits of Islam, such as thecelebrated Hanbali doctor and theologian Ibn Taimiya, have remainedmisunderstood not only in the West but also among the Muslims themselves.A good part of the musunderstanding stems no doubt from the fact that formost of his life Ibn Taimiya managed to remain a quite controversial figure.A substantial part of the misunderstanding results from the close associationof his name with the Wahhabi movement which erupted violently towardthe end of the eighteenth century. Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab, the founderof the Wahhabi movement, was certainly influenced by Ibn Taimiya and hiswritings, especially in his bitter denunciation of the Sufi rituals, tomb worship,and the cult of saints, and no less in his moral and puritanical activism.In their scrupulous observance of the word of the Qur'an and the sunnu, indeedboth Ibn Taimiya and the Wahhabis resemble each other closely. Justas Ibn Taimiya had led bands of people in raids against the local taverns andshrines, the Wahhabis in their time, too, razed tombs and sacked the holy cities.A distinction must be made, however, between the two. While the Wahhabisrepresent a religio-political movement, Ibn Taimiya was concerned, mainly,with reforming Islam and with reinculcating a positive attitude toward thisworld. He never condemned Sufism per se; rather, his criticism was directedagainst what he defined as inadmissible deviations in doctrine, ritual, andmorals. He has, moreover, left behind a vast legacy of writing. A close scrutinyof his works reveals him as a man of unrelenting intellectual conviction. Heused his uncommon erudition to criticize and reject most of the commonly ...
doi:10.35632/ajis.v3i1.2764 fatcat:2ohs3oqz3vho5as7sjzvo4mtha