Is it true that Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allaah have mercy upon him, said that the torment of Hell is not imperishable? If it is true, then what is the proof that supports his opinion, knowing that there are many verses that contradict this stance?
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.
First of all, it is not true that Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said that Hell is not imperishable and nothing of this has been found in any of his printed and commonly-used books. What actually happened is that his student, Ibn Al-Qayyim reported on his authority that the righteous predecessors had two opinions concerning this issue and he mentioned some relevant citations reported on the authority of the Companions . However, in his own books, Ibn Taymiyyah confirmed the eternal nature of Paradise and Hell. He also reported the scholars’ and Imaams’ consensus on this issue.
The researcher, Dr. ‘Ali Ibn ‘Ali Jaabir undertook the responsibility of clarifying the opinion of Shaykh Al-Islam and his student, Ibn Al-Qayyim on this issue. Some of the points that Dr. Jaabir reported on the authority of Ibn Taymiyyah were:
1- Ibn Taymiyyah was once asked about the authenticity of the Hadeeth that was reported on the authority of Anas where the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam , mentioned that there are seven things that neither die nor perish. These seven things are: Hell and its dwellers, the Preserved Tablet, the Pen, the Kursi (Chair) and the Throne. His answer to this question was that the wording of this citation had not been reported on the authority of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, but rather reported on the authority of some scholars. He added that there was consensus among the righteous predecessors, Imaams and the people of Ahl As-Sunnah wa'l Jamaa‘ah (the Sunni mainstream) on the fact that some parts of creation are imperishable and will not cease to exist; among these are: Hell, Paradise and the Throne. Only a group of scholars who were innovators in religion like Al-Jahm Ibn Safwaan and those who agree with him from among the Mu‘tazilah and their likes say that all creation will inevitably perish. This is a falsehood that contradicts the Quran, Sunnah and the consensus of scholars.
2- Ibn Taymiyyah quoted the words of Imaam Abu'l-Hasan Al-Ash‘ari when refuting the claims of Al-Jahm Ibn Safwaan. Al-Ash‘ari mentioned that scholars had two different opinions with regard to the issue of whether or not the acts of Allaah The Almighty will come to an end. Al-Jahm Ibn Safwaan believed that the Knowledge, Power and acts of Allaah The Almighty will come to an end. He also believed that Hell and Paradise will cease to exist and so will their dwellers until no one will be left but Allaah The Almighty, just as He had been before He created all things. Conversely, all Muslim scholars stated that Hell and Paradise are eternal and imperishable as will be their dwellers. They also stated that there is no end to the Knowledge and Power of Allaah The Almighty.
3- Ibn Taymiyyah acknowledged the scholars’ consensus on this issue that was reported by Ibn Hazm . Ibn Hazm mentioned that Hell is a fact and that it is the abode of eternal torment; it will never perish and neither will its dwellers. Ibn Taymiyyah did not comment on this despite the fact that he criticized many other stances made by Ibn Hazm.
4- When discussing the issue that creatures had an infinite beginning, Ibn Taymiyyah said that no one disputed this except some of the innovators in religion who believe that Hell and Paradise are not eternal, like Al-Jahm Ibn Safwaan; or that the movements of the dwellers of Paradise are not permanent, like Abu'l-Huthayl.
5- Ibn Taymiyyah reported that the majority of Sunni scholars say that Hell and Paradise are everlasting and the events that occur therein are constantly renewed. However, Al-Jahm Ibn Safwaan denied this and claimed that Hell and Paradise are not permanent. Abu'l-Huthayl Al-‘Allaaf claimed that the motion of the dwellers of Hell and Paradise will come to an end and that they will remain in a state of permanent immobility. Their opinions were based on their denial of the possibility of the eternal nature of the creation, whether in the past or the future, and for this they were accused of straying from the straight path.
In fact, Ibn Al-Qayyim mentioned that Ibn Taymiyyah wrote a famous book discussing this very issue, but it was never found. Moreover, Al-Haafith Ibn ‘Abdul-Haadi mentioned, while enumerating the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah that he established a rule for refuting the claims of those who say that Paradise and Hell are not everlasting.
The accusation of disbelief that is made against Shaykh Al-Islam is a false and unfair accusation because, in fact, Ibn Taymiyyah was acknowledged as a virtuous and knowledgeable Imaam by all those who agreed with him as well as those who disagreed.
For further information, please see Fatwa 81191.
Allaah Knows best.
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