Claim that Ibn Taymiyyah became Ash‘ari false
Fatwa No: 361588

  • Fatwa Date:3-1-2018 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 16, 1439
  • Rating:

Question

Assalaamu alaykum. Some people claim that Ibn Taymiyyah became an Ash‘ari and that that is why some Ash‘ari scholars praised him.He (Ibn Taymiyyah) was kept in jail till the Ameer of Aal Al-Fadhl interceded for him. On Rabee‘ Ul-Awwal, 23, Ibn Taymiyyah was brought to the fortress, where he debated with some scholars, and then a report was written that states that “Ibn Taymiyyah admitted to being an Ash‘ari.” His handwriting is found with what he wrote verbatim, namely:
“I believe that the Quran is a meaning which exists in Allah's Entity and that it is an Attribute from the pre-eternal Attributes of His Entity, and that it is uncreated, and that it does not consist in the letter, nor the voice, and that His saying (what means): {The Merciful established Himself over the Throne.} [Quran 20:4] is not taken according to its literal meaning, and I do not know in what its meaning consists. Nay, only Allah knows it, and one speaks of His 'descent' in the same way as one speaks of His 'establishment.'”
It was written by Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah, and they testified that he had repented of his own free will from all that contravened the above. This took place on the 25th of Rabee‘ Al-Awwal 707, and it was witnessed by a huge array of scholars and others. [Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani in Ad-Duraar Al-Kameena (1/47)] How true is this accusation?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

First of all, this accusation is not true. Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah followed the creed of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) of this nation. His books are exuberant in support of the methodology of the Salaf, and he responded to the Ash‘ariyyah in matters wherein they disagreed with the belief of the Salaf. So it is inconceivable that he believed in an ideology while he at the same time refuted it and debated with its followers in his various books. That would be a stark contradiction.

Also, how is it possible that he changed his ideology while we do not find a single statement of his that indicates this alleged change, despite the long period between his imprisonment in Egypt and his death (more than 20 years), and the abundance of his writings in that period?!

Secondly: Most of his famous students did not take knowledge from him until after his return from Egypt. If he had changed to that of the Ash‘ariyyah, this would have appeared in their ideology and books, and they would have been influenced by it. One of the most famous of his students was Imaam Ibn Al-Qayyim, who met Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah in 712 A.H and kept his company until his death.

Ibn Katheer said – when he wrote the biography of Ibn Al-Qayyim, “And when Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah returned from Egypt in the year 712 A.H, Ibn Al-Qayyim kept his company until he died, and he received considerable knowledge from him.” 

So how can it be justified by any rational person that Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah, the Shaykh of Ibn Al-Qayyim, whose books, methodology and refutations of the Ash‘ariyyah are known to us, was an Ash‘ari?!

Thirdly: Taqiy Ad-Deen As-Subki, who was one of the most famous opponents of Ibn Taymiyyah, wrote many refutations which indicate his differences with him in some ideology issues, and he composed a poem after the death of Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah in which he said that if Ibn Taymiyyah had still been alive, he would have refuted some of his opinions and statements. Had Ibn Taymiyyah converted to the ideology of the Ash‘aris, there would not have been any need for As-Subki to refute him, and many Ash‘aris would not have continued to consider him as misguided and to refute him after his death.

Fourthly: Ibn Hajar mentioned this incident, we mean this book and its content in regard to Ibn Taymiyyah changing to the Ash‘arriyah, in Ad-Durar Al-Kaaminah. But we have many books of history at hand, and we have not come across any author who reported this other than him, especially Imam Ath-Thahabi, who was the student of Ibn Taymiyyah, and he was the most knowledgeable about him. Also, we have the book of Ibn Katheer, Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah, who was the student of his student Ibn Al-Qayyim.

Ibn Katheer mentioned the debate between Shaykh Ibn Taymiyah and his opponents in the events of Rabee’ Al-Awwal 707 AH, but he did not mention this book.

Fifthly: The book Ad-Durar Al-Kaaminah is one of the books of history in which the authors collected everything that reached them, but this does not necessarily mean that all that is written in them is correct. In addition to this, the statement: “a report was written that Ibn Taymiyyah admitted to be an Ash‘ari” means that his opponents wrote this about him. The fact that he had written at the end: ‘written by Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah’ does not prove at all that it is really written by him, as well as what was mentioned by them, that they testified that he had repented out of his own free will from all that.

Allah knows best.

Related Fatwa