Purification of the Soul
Typography

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Introduction

All praises are due to Allah. We praise Him, seek His help, and ask for His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil in our souls and from our sinful deeds. Whoever Allah guides, no one can misguide. And whoever Allah misguides, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah. And I bear witness that Muhammad, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, is His servant and Messenger.

In their search for worthy examples, people tend to look to the past, hoping to resurrect the legacy of those great and honourable men who contributed greatly to the Ummah through their knowledge, wisdom, and courage. It is said that the people agonise when they find no one of significance to look up to. Fortuitously, society does not solely consist of the living, but also the dead. The greatest of the dead are still alive amongst us.

One of those unique men in lslamic heritage was the dignified Scholar and valiant Mujahid: Ahmad ibn 'Abdul-Halim ibn Taymiyyah. He was one of the most eloquent and truthful men in analysing the lslamic mentality and methodology. Yet when we return to the lslamic heritage, we should not be solely and sentimentally attached to the past, without it materializing and forming the basis and drive for our present and future. This is what we hope to achieve in this book.

Much of the heritage of Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah has been published; yet it is still worth appreciating the age in which he lived and some of the features that it enjoyed, and crucially, the reasons behind the sending of the letters that are the subject of this book. The letters are predominantly extracted from two books: Majmu' al-Fatawa, and Al-'Uqud ad-Durriyyah, and, except the letter to the Christian king, are from his time in prison.

Ibn Taymiyyah was born on 10th Rabi al-Awwal 661H (1263CE) in the town of Harran in the province of Jazirah{qluetip title=[1]}Situated north of Syria and Iraq today.{/qluetip}. He was a descendent of a very well known and established family, characterized by excellent memories and beauty of expression. His father, the Shaykh, 'Abdul-Halim was a scholar of hadith, and his grandfather was Majd ad-Din Abu'l-Barakat, the author of Muntaqa al-Akhbar{qluetip title=[2]}A famous book that Imam Ash-Shawkani explained in his Nayl al-Awtar.{/qluetip}. Says the grandson, "Our grandfather was phenomenal in memorizing hadith, narrating them and in knowing people's schools of thought."

lbn Taymiyyah was born in an age of great cultural and political upheaval. It was only five years prior to his birth that Baghdad was ravaged and mercilessly destroyed by the Tatars, and his family had to flee to Damascus when he was young. The savagery of those invaders had undoubtedly given the boy a deep hatred of oppression, and further instilled in him courage to fight the enemy.

The age of lbn Taymiyyah was also characterized by the rise of many disciplines. The underlying themes of these sciences, were their depth, breadth, and their authors' attempts to fuse the rising sciences together. Indeed, many of the books resembled encyclopaedias. lbn Taymiyyah had benefited from such an environment, but at the same time he did not content himself to that which he was taught. Instead, he was diligent in learning but maintained an independence of thought. This meant that he was not restricted to one teacher or school of thought, and thereby he gained from all, and produced novel ideas. This search for knowledge led him to be familiar with many of his age's cultures and creeds. He wrote extensively on beliefs, explaining the true one and rebuking those who disagreed; but tafsir (explanation of the Qur'an) remained the subject that always captivated him. "I might read a hundred interpretations of one verse, but would still ask Allah's guidance in its comprehension saying, 'Oh teacher of Adam and lbrahim teach me!' I would also go to the deserted masajid and ask Allah, 'Oh teacher of lbrahim! Make me comprehend.' " His contemporaries were quick to recognise his merit, as al-Qadhi Az-Zamalkani gave a true description, "Just as Allah had made iron soft for Dawud, He made sciences supple for Ibn Taymiyyah's grasp."

Why was Ibn Taymiyyah such a distinguished figure, one might ask. Firstly, there was his constant and unbroken bond with the masses of Muslims, for he was their teacher and mentor, he would resolve their problems and defend their rights in the face of the rulers. He would try to keep them steadfast when their enemies attacked, he would enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and most especially, he was not diverted by mundane worldly matters. Therefore, the whole of his time was devoted to attaining knowledge and participating in jihad. Indeed, it was this strong connection that made the general masses of Damascus love, respect and honour him. Even the most jealous of his enemies were not able to harm him there, but instead they had their chance in Egypt where he was not as well known.

These sincere feelings for the affairs of Muslims can be sensed when Shaykh ul-Islam spoke regarding politics, "Civilisation is rooted in justice, and the consequences of oppression are devastating. Therefore, it is said that Allah aids the just state even if it is non-Muslim, yet withholds His help from the oppressive state even if it is Muslim." He also said, "There are sincere Muslims who perceive that commanding a high post{qluetip title=[3]}E.g. a judge, a minister, or an administrator.{/qluetip} inevitably leads to love of rule and wealth. Some common Muslims regard the acceptor of such responsibility, as a turning away from the 'religion of mercy and humbleness'. However, the correct attitude is that the appointment of the virtuous serves the Ummah far better than assigning posts to the wicked." His concern was also with the public in economic problems, attacking those who establish monopolies over foodstuffs, "In times of need, the ruler can force people to sell their goods at their original value!"

As the Tatars were approaching Damascus, fear gripped the population and some thought of fleeing. Yet Ibn Taymiyyah rejected such defeatist ideas and instead, he appealed for the people not to depart and to be steadfast. He would say in encouragement to the generals of the army, "Allah will grant us victory!" and they would respond by asking him to say, "Insha'Allah," but he would reply, "I say it in certainty and not in mere hope!" Indeed, he participated in the jihad against the Tatars in the battle of Shaqhab after announcing his famous Fatwa declaring the Tatars kaffir, due to their insistence upon the abandonment of some of the rites of Islam, even though they pronounced the Shahadah.

When one of the scholars was imprisoned, and the news reached Ibn Taymiyyah, he personally went and managed the scholar's release, after praising and vindicating him in front of the ruler of Damascus. In another instance, he heard of a man who blasphemed against the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa salam), so he stood to forbid the evil, and with the masses supporting him, he wrote the famous book, As-Sarim al-Maslul 'ala Shatem ar-Rasul{qluetip title=[4]}Meaning, "The Drawn Sword on the Blasphemer of the Prophet."{/qluetip}. Furthermore, his deep concern for the Muslims, and his intimate knowledge of their affairs in every country, their conditions, and their nearness or distance to Islam stands out. This is illustrated in his description of the Muslims in the lands of Sham{qluetip title=[5]}The lands of ash-Sham refer to the areas that were historically under the administrational Damascus, Syria, They include today's Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.{/qluetip} and Egypt who, were standing firm at his time, defending their lands.

"If one is to review the affairs of the world, one would inevitably realise that this group in Ash-Sham and Egypt are the most staunch group upholding the Din in knowledge, action and jihad. They are relieving the Muslims throughout the world of their obligation of jihad as they struggle against the hardened disbelievers. The prestige of all Muslims is derived from that group's glory ...

"For the inhabitants of Yemen are weak, and unable or unwilling to carry out jihad, subservient to their rulers ...

"The Hijazi peoples are swamped in the depths of innovations and misguidance, and their people of knowledge and faith are weak and subdued. lf that group in Ash-Sham and Egypt were to be subjugated - and I seek refuge in Allah from that - then those from Hijaz would be rendered the most degraded of Allah's servants.

"The lands of Africa{qluetip title=[6]}Referring to today's Libya, Tunisia and Algeria.{/qluetip} are led by its Bedouins and they are very wicked, and themselves deserving to be conquered by jihad. Further on, the lands of the Maghreb are all but occupied by the Europeans, yet Muslims there do not attempt their jihad. Had Tatars occupied those regions, they would have encountered timid people ...

"Therefore, it is clear that it is that group situated in Ash-Sham and Egypt who are the vanguard of Islam, their success is an honour for Islam, and their defeat is a calamity for it."

This lengthy quote is included for its importance and to demonstrate lbn Taymiyyah's up-to-date insight into the affairs of his time, and mistreat ability to interpret the social and psychological condition of the people. Secondly, next to his connection with the masses and knowledge of current affairs, he also possessed a depth of understanding and a high level of alertness. He noticed that, from the end of the second century hijri, there existed of a group of Muslims who were fascinated by the philosophies of Plato and the logic of Aristotle{qluetip title=[7]}Just as some are captivated by the discourse of the Orientalists today.{/qluetip}. That group tried to instil the theories of the philosophers into the pure creed, thereby disfiguring it, so that beneficial knowledge was turned into sterile debate and idle discussion. The abstract theories had never been able to grant felicity to mankind, which was always granted in the light of Prophethood. Truly, here is an Imam uninfected by an inferiority complex that diseased some scholars, past and present.

Thirdly, the letters, which were selected for this book, are another side of Ibn Taymiyyah. A side many people do not know of. Usually, it is his uncompromising stances and truthful, sometimes harsh retorts that are often remembered. However, there is a side of his character that writes a letter to his mother full of concern, leniency and respect. Other letters are for his brothers and students in Damascus, and are characterized by love and advice. He also shows forgiveness towards those who worked to imprison him. Another is a letter full of wisdom, eloquence and firmness to a Christian king. This is the side of his character unknown to many - that of Ibn Taymiyyah, the benevolent man with a heart full of eeman and mercy.

These letters were predominantly written in prison. But why was such a Shaykh imprisoned? He was neither imprisoned by a non-Muslim state nor by an oppressive ruler. Unfortunately, his gaoling was conspired by some of the envious Shayukh of his time, "due to his individual distinction in enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, for people's genuine love and adherence to him, and to the large number of his followers."{qluetip title=[8]}Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa'n-Nihayah, vol. 14, p. 37.{/qluetip} This is along with their Asabiyyah{qluetip title=[9]}Meaning unjustified blind following of a certain idea, party or place, belittling and rebuking those who are different. It does not mean mere following.{/qluetip} to what they themselves wrote in Fiqh or Beliefs, and although some did it with a good intention, they nevertheless all conspired to provoke the ruler against Ibn Taymiyyah, and as a result he was imprisoned in Cairo, Alexandria and Damascus.

Herein lies a serious problem. How can a scholar be imprisoned as a result of an ijtihad, by which he differed from other scholars yet never transgressed beyond the boundaries of ijtihad, and certainly not outside of Islam? How is it that we cannot accommodate another opinion by a scholar noted for his love for Allah and His Messenger? One says this not to solely dig into the past, but because currently, there are similar incidents and this is indeed a very pitiful state. Our hearts should be big enough to encompass disagreements as long as they are not in the areas of innovation, deviation or legislation contradicting Allah's command. We should not resort to replies and retorts, which show false piety and bravery, or to using titles to give the mistaken impression of a battle being waged against an enemy, as if with swords and not with the words that are being used.

We return to Shaykh ul-Islam in prison. The story began when he wrote a treatise entitled Al-Hamawiyyah in reply to a question from the town of Hama regarding Allah's Attributes in 698H. He was asked to explain the treatise in Damascus in a few public gatherings. There, he informed the Deputy Sultan that what was in the treatise was not novel, but had been written in his own book 'Aqidah al-Wasitiyyah a few years earlier, and that both books included the beliefs of Ahlus-Sunnah. None could debate or doubt his strong and evidence-based works. The Deputy tried to resolve the objections of other scholars, by announcing that Ibn Taymiyyah's works were following the tradition of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Ibn Taymiyyah rejected this appeasing attitude, and replied that it was the 'Aqidah of the predecessors, and was not exclusive to Imam Ahmad.

The Shayukh of Egypt succeeded where their counterparts in Damascus failed. This was due to his credibility and trustworthiness in the second capital Damascus, and his anonymity in the first (Cairo, Egypt). The Shayukh in Cairo had managed to incite the oppressive ruler, Ruknuddin Baybars the Jashangir whose personal Shaykh and mentor, was a fanatical Sufi named Nasr al-Manbaji{qluetip title=[10]}The Sultan then was Muhammad ibn Qalawun, but as he increasingly sensed that the strong man was the Jashangir and not himself, he left to perform Hajj and then settled in Karak (Jordan), in a face-saving exercise, but he returned later.{/qluetip}. As a result, a sultanate order was issued to bring Ibn Taymiyyah to Cairo for interrogation in 705H. Against the advice of the Deputy Sultan in Damascus, Shaykh ul-Islam decided to go to Egypt as he saw much benefit in being there. On his day of departure, says his student Ibn 'Abdul-Hadi, "People gathered to bid their farewells, overwhelmed by grief and surprise ... many weeping."{qluetip title=[11]}Al-'Uqud ad-Durriyyah, p. 249.{/qluetip}

When Shaykh ul-Islam arrived in Egypt, a tribunal chaired by the judge Ibn Makhluf al-Maliki was arranged. However, the Shaykh felt that his arbiter was also his opponent, and thus refused to answer questions. As a result, he was imprisoned in the Mount's Castle in Cairo with his brothers 'Abdullah and 'Abdur-Rahman. In the meantime, he sent a letter to one of his relatives wherein he mentions that he refused the gift of the Sultanate, not wanting to be defiled in anyway.

Eighteen months passed before Ibn Taymiyyah was released unconditionally after the intervention of an Arab Prince named Husamuddin ibn 'Isa in 707H. There were earlier initiatives that failed, due to Ibn Taymiyyah's captors attempting to attach conditions that were unacceptable to him. After his release, Ibn Taymiyyah stayed in Cairo where he established classes and circles of knowledge in masajid, to benefit the people thereby. Yet those who harboured rotten ideas, feared the light of guidance emanating from the presence of the Shaykh amongst them. After the Sultan received their complaints, he decided to expel Shaykh ul-Islam back to Syria, but with conditions, which he later accepted at the insistence of his followers. As he was embarking upon his trip, an orderers issued to re-imprison him{qluetip title=[12]}As Allah says, the Exalted in Might, about the people of Egypt regarding Yusuf: "Even after they had seen all the signs (of Yusuf's innocence) that they might as well imprison him for a time." It is also striking how the Shaykh stayed for seven years in Egypt, akin to the seven fertile years that Yusuf ('alayhis-salam) had told the good tidings of.{/qluetip}. One must relay the magnificent scene witnessed when Shaykh ul-Islam was re-jailed:

"When he entered prison, he saw the prisoners busy with all kinds of time-wasting games for entertainment, such as chess and dice games, leading to loss of prayer. The Shaykh rebuked them strongly, and commanded them to keep the prayers, and turn towards Allah in worship, repentance and good deeds. He taught them from the Sunnah what they needed to know, encouraging them to do good, and bolstering their faith, and thereby rendered the prison a haven for seekers of the knowledge of religion. Such a place became better than schools and circles. Some of the released prisoners preferred staying with him rather than being free; and those frequenting his company increased to a point where the prison became full of them!"{qluetip title=[13]}Al-'Uqud ad-Durriyyah, p. 269.{/qluetip}

This state of affairs did not please the envious, and so he was sent to a prison in Alexandria. Soon afterwards, the self-exiled Sultan Muhammad ibn Qalawun, who had a great deal of respect for the Shaykh returned in triumph. The Sultan asked for Ibn Taymiyyah to be returned to Cairo. When he came to the Sultanate court, it was full of princes and scholars. The Sultan stood up for the Shaykh greeting him warmly, and then took him to a distant corner and asked, "There are amongst those scholars present here, those whose oath was given to the Jashangir (Qalawun's former rival), and had slandered you.'' He then asked for his opinion (fatwa) to exterminate them. The Shaykh strongly objected and replied, "If they were to go, none of the same calibre could then be found in your country. As for what they have done to me, and my right to extract a punishment, I forgive them, and they are free."{qluetip title=[14]}Ibid. p. 282.{/qluetip} And thus the coming of Shaykh ul-Islam to Cairo was sealed, where he resided near Al-Husayn Masjid, with his ever-present commitment to the spreading of knowledge, and courageous enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

In 712H, Ibn Taymiyyah returned to Damascus after an absence of seven years and few days. The Egyptian Army that had been dispatched to block the attack of the Tatars accompanied him. He later resettled in Damascus returning to publicise the knowledge of the religion. Yet again, his opponents would not leave him as he gave a fatwa that contradicted their opinions. This was coupled with what they had found in his book Iqtida 'as-Sirat al-Mustaqim in the form of a chapter on 'Travelling in Order to Visit Graves' and its unlawfulness according to the texts. By this time, the envious scholars had managed to change the mind of the hitherto sympathetic Sultan, who in turn ordered Ibn Taymiyyah's arrest to the Castle in Damascus. Shaykh ul-Islam was uttering the verse whilst entering his cell:

"And thereupon a wall will be raised between them, with a gate in it. Within it will be grace and mercy, and the outside thereof suffering." [Al-Qur'an 57:13]

In prison he continued to write, working on tafsir, reciting the Qur'an, and worshipping his Lord. He was later refused access to ink, paper and books, and soon after that, the enlightened heart stopped, and the pure soul passed to the grace of its Lord in the confines of prison in 728H. May Allah have mercy on him, please him and be pleased with him. Thus was the story of the reformer and revivalist Imam. The example of knowledge, jihad and chivalry ... of one who forgave his opponents save those enemies of Allah and His Messenger.

Letter One

The letter of Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah to his mother, in which he apologises for his stay in Egypt. A stay he felt was necessary to educate the people.

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Dispenser of Mercy.

From Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah to my dear and honourable Mother, may Allah bless her amply, and grant her peace and comfort, and make her amongst the best of His servants, Assalamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

We praise Allah, the most worthy of praise. There is no deity worthy of worship but He, and He has Power over all things. We ask Him to bless the Seal of the Prophets and Imam of the pious, Muhammad His servant and Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam).

Indeed the bounties of Allah come abundantly, and His aid is never ending. We praise Him for it, and ask Him to increase His favour. It will not escape you, my contented mother, the fact that our stay in Egypt is for an important issue. The abandonment of such a task leads to the corruption of our Din and of our life.

Yet it was not our choice to be far from you. Had birds been able to carry us, we would have come to you. But the absent one has his reason; and had you been able to look deeply into the affairs of the Muslims, you would not choose for me another place to the one I am in now. Nevertheless, I had never intended to reside here permanently. Instead, I pray to Allah to guide you and I to the right choice, and I pray for your well-being. I ask Allah to bless us and the rest of the Muslims, with His goodness and what that goodness encompasses of safety and benefit.

Allah had opened for me His gates of blessings, mercy and guidance in a way I have never conceived of before. Yet I am always considering travel towards you, making the prayers of Istikharah. It is inconceivable for me, if given the choice, to favour any of this life's mundane issues or of the lesser obligations of the Din, to being close to you. Yet there are great issues which l cannot abandon for fear of their general and personal dangers{qluetip title=[15]}Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahrah comments on his book Ibn Taymiyyah that the general danger is the corruption of people. The personal one is that as a Scholar, he has to fulfil his obligation of guiding the people to the right way. There is also another danger which, is that Ibn Taymiyyah came to Egypt whilst accused in his belief, and that he has a right to defend and vindicate himself.{/qluetip} - and the witness sees what the absent does not.

I beseech you to supplicate to Allah profusely. Ask Him to guide us to choose our best paths, for He Knows and we do not, and He is able and we are weak. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

"It is from the happiness of the son of Adam to practice Istikharah and be pleased wîth what Allah had ordained for him. And it is from the misery of the son oaadam to drop tbe Istikharah of Allah and be displeased at Allah's decrees." {qluetip title=[16]}Shaykh Hamed al-Faqi commented of this hadith by saying that it was related by at-Tirmidhi and he called it hasan gharib; and it was also narrated by Ahmad, Abu Ya'la and al-Hakim who said of it: Sahih al-Isnad. (Al-'Uqud ad-Durriyyah, p. 257){/qluetip}

Indeed, the travelling trader might fear the loss of his money, so he resides at a place until he is able to travel once again. The matter that we are in the middle of is too great to describe, but there is no power or ability but through Allah.

Finally, convey my salam to the entire household, young and old, and the rest of neighbours, friends and relatives one by one.

Was salamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh!

Praise be to Allah, and may His Blessings and Peace be upon Muhammad, his family and companions.

Letter Two

This is the first of two letters especially written for the benefit of his students and brothers in Damascus. It is apparent that this letter was sent after the first release from gaol where lbn Taymiyyah was imprisoned for 18 months from the beginning of 705H. Upon his release, the Deputy Sultan asked the Shaykh to stay in Cairo which he did, proclaiming the Da'wah and contacting people. Also apparent in this letter, is his forgiveness towards his opponents, asking his brothers not to harm them because of him. These are the manners of the intelligent and chivalrous scholar. He said after praising Allah and conveying blessings upon the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam):

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Dispenser of Mercy.

Truly Allah, the most worthy of praise, Has bestowed upon me great rewards and immense merits that oblige me to thank Him, and be steadfast upon His worship, and be patient at all times in fulfilling the obligations. Patience is an obligation in itself, commanded by Allah in times of ease more than at times of unease. Allah says:

"Thus it is, if We let man taste some of our grace, and then take it away from him - behold, he abandons all hope, forgetting all gratitude (for our past favours). And thus it is if we let him taste ease and plenty after hardship had visited him, he is sure to say: 'Gone is all affliction from me' - for, behold, he is given to vain exultation, and glories only in himself. [And thus it is with most men] save those who are patient in adversity and do righteous deeds: it is they whom forgiveness of sins awaits, and a great reward." [Al-Qur'an 11:9-11]

My brothers, you know that Allah, the Exalted in Might, had favoured me in this matter{qluetip title=[17]}Referring to his trial and subsequent imprisonment in Egypt. In it, a virtuous quality became known, even though it was through the work of the envious. So, although he was tried and punished, a great benefit shone through the bars of his prison, and his Da'wah became known in that place as never before.{/qluetip}, with favours He usually reserves for the assistance of His soldiers in order to elevate His Word, aid His religion, strengthen Ahlus-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah, and humiliate the people of innovation and deviation{qluetip title=[18]}Ibn Taymiyyah referred to them as Ahlul-Bid'ah wa'l-Firqah.{/qluetip}. The guidance of the Sunnah was proclaimed conclusively with proofs. This lead to the truth prevailing to so many people, and their returning to the way of Ahlus-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah. You should know that one of the great principles of this religion is the bringing of Muslims' hearts together and unifying their call. Allah the Glorified says:

"Remain conscious of Allah, and keep alive the bonds of brotherhood among yourselves." [Al-Qur'an 8:1]

"And hold fast, all together, to the rope of Allah, and do not draw apart from one another." [Al-Qur'an 3:103]

"And be not like those who have drawn apart from one another and have taken to conflicting views after all evidence of the truth has come to them." [Al-Qur'an 5:105]

Similarly, one of the fundamental themes of the Sunnah is obedience to the Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Therefore the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said in the authentic hadith related by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah:

"Allah is pleased with you on three occasions. (Firstly) when you worship Him and do not associate any partners with Him. (Secondly) when you hold fast, all together to the bond of Allah and do not draw apart and, (thirdly) when you advise the good rulers whom Allah had placed in charge of your affairs."

Furthermore, in the hadith of Zayd ibn Thabit and Ibn Mas'ud, who were both among the scholars from the companions that the Messenger of Allah said:

"May Allah brighten the face of a man who hears me and then relays to another who has not. It impossible that a carrier of knowledge is not himself knowledgeable, or that the carrier of knowledge will deliver it to someone more knowledgeable. Three things purify the heart of a Muslim. The sincerity in working for the Sake of Allah, taking-up the task of advising the rulers, and not departing from the group of Muslims."

In order to implement this principle on a personal note, I say that it is not my wish for any Muslim to be harmed because of me overtly or covertly. This applies to all Muslims, but more specifically to our companions and acquaintances. Neither do I want any of them to be blamed or condemned, as they are still worthy of honour and respect. Indeed, man does not escape being classified into one of three categories: a correct mutjtahid, a wrong one, and a sinner. The first is rewarded and praised, the second is rewarded yet forgiven for his blunder. Regarding the third, I ask Allah to forgive him, us and the rest of the Muslims.{qluetip title=[19]}There is nothing beyond this forgiveness, and it can only come from a scholar who has undoubtedly inherited the tradition of the Prophets.{/qluetip}

Therefore, we shall turn a new leaf on those who had erred and not fulfilled this aforementioned principle{qluetip title=[20]}He is probably referring to some of his brothers and companions in Damascus who grew weak during his trial, and who did not continue on the methodology of their Shaykh. He is barring his companions from harming them, and at the same time excuses them showing that he has no ill feelings towards them in his heart. Instead he values them and loves them for the Sake of Allah.{/qluetip}. Yet I know of some who say "this man erred" and "this man did not do what he should have", or "the Shaykh was harmed because of this man."

Those words that have harmed some brothers I do not condone, nor do I pardon those who utter them.

You should also know that we are all joining to assist one another. It is obligatory upon us to aid each other, more so now than before. So whomsoever thinks that harming some brothers as a result of the hardship experienced in Damascus and Egypt, then he is wrong. It is true that a believer to a believer is like the two hands, one cleans the other. And it is also true that some kinds of dirt can only be washed by hard scrubbing, yet this treatment will be justified when the outcome appears to the restoration of that botherly love. Let no one think that the believer can be economical with helping their brothers, and in aiding them. If some of our companions had neglected us before, they came to us, their status will rise higher than before. You might also know - may Allah be pleased with you - that issues like this one often occur due to a difference of opinion and variations that might even befall the people of eeman due to the whispers of Shaytan. Allah says:

"Yet man took it [the trust] up - for, verily, he has always been prone to the most wicked, most foolish. [And so it is] that Allah imposes suffering on the hypocrites, both men and women, as well as on the men and women who ascribe divinity to anything besides Him. And [so too, it is] that Allah turns in His Mercy unto the believing men and believing women: for Allah is indeed much forgiving, a dispenser of grace." [Al-Qur'an 33:72-73]

Even the excesses that took place in this issue{qluetip title=[21]}The issue refers to his being falsely accused in the subject of 'aqidah, and the envious Shayukh ill treatment towards him, and his subsequent imprisonment as a result, although his opinion was correct.{/qluetip}, including the misconceptions, both desires and also the lies and fabrications, were all a bonus and benefit as Allah says:

"Verily, numerous among you are those who would falsely accuse others of unchastity: [but, O you who are thus wronged,] deem it not a bad thing for you. No, it is good for you. [As for the slanderers,] to every one of them [will be accounted] all that he has earned by [thus] sinning; and awesome suffering awaits any of them who takes it upon himself to enhance this [sin]." [Al-Qur'an 24:11]

Those who erred towards me, I pardon. As for those who abused the rights of Allah, then let them repent and Allah will forgive them. If they do not, then Allah's Rule should be imposed upon them. For if the human were to be thanked for his errors, I would have thanked everyone responsible in this matter for the subsequent benefits in this life and in the next{qluetip title=[22]}He is referring to his exposing innovation and the many lessons he taught in masajid and schools.{/qluetip}. But Allah is the most worthy of praise, and the believer seeks the good in all of His decrees. Similarly, those with good intention are thanked for that, and those who do good are praised for their work. But to those who perform bad deeds, we ask Allah to forgive them. And this is what you are accustomed to of my manners, and what I know of this matter and I what I have experienced is great and more grave than what you perceive.

Nevertheless, the rights of people to one another, and the rights of Allah upon them, are all under His Rule, and He will be the eventual arbiter.

Let us not forget the incident involving the Siddiq (truthful one) Abu Bakr during the trial of Ifk{qluetip title=[23]}Al-Ifk here denotes a false accusation of unchastity. It refers to an incident, which occurred on the Prophet's return from the campaign against the tribe of Mustaliq in the year 5H. The Prophet's wife 'A'ishah, who had accompanied him on that expedition, was inadvertently left behind when the Muslims struck camp. After spending several hours alone, she was found by one of the Prophet's companions, who led her to the next halting-place of the army. This incident gave rise to malicious insinuations of misconduct on the part of 'A'ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr. These rumours were short-lived and her innocence was established beyond all doubt in the Qur'an 24:11-20.{/qluetip} about which some verses of the Qur'an were revealed. In it, Abu Bakr promised that he would no longer assist the companion Mistah ibn Athathah. The reason behind Abu Bakr's decision to exclude Mistah from the many Muslims he helped on a regular basis, was based on the latter's involvement in the spreading of lies. So Allah revealed:

"Hence, [even if they have been wronged by slander,] let not those of you who have been graced with [Allah's] favour and ease become remiss in helping [the erring ones among] their near of kin, and the needy, and those who have forsaken the domains of evil for the sake of Allah, but let them pardon and forbear. [For] do you not desire that Allah should forgive your sins, seeing that Allah is much forgiving, a dispenser of grace." [Al-Qur'an 24:22]

The reaction of Abu Bakr when this verse was revealed was, "Of course! By Allah, I wish for Him to forgive me." Abu Bakr, the father of the wrongly accused promptly returned to helping Mistah.

"Allah will in time, bring forth people whom He loves and who live Him - humble towards the believers, proud towards the disbelievers. They strive hard in Allah's cause and do not fear to be blamed by anyone who might blame them: such is Allah's favour, which He grants unto whom He wills. And Allah is Infinite, All-Knowing. Behold, your only helper shall be Allah, and His Messenger, and the believers - those that are constant in prayer, pay Zakat and bow down before Allah. For, all those who ally themselves with Allah and His Messenger and those who believed - behold, it is they, the partisans of Allah who shall be victorious." [Al-Qur'an 5:54-56]

Was salamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullah!

And praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and may His Blessings and Peace be upon our leader Muhammad.

(s) Ibn Taymiyyah's Letters from Prison, Message of Islam

Contents[Hide]

Introduction

All praises are due to Allah. We praise Him, seek His help, and ask for His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil in our souls and from our sinful deeds. Whoever Allah guides, no one can misguide. And whoever Allah misguides, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah. And I bear witness that Muhammad, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, is His servant and Messenger.

In their search for worthy examples, people tend to look to the past, hoping to resurrect the legacy of those great and honourable men who contributed greatly to the Ummah through their knowledge, wisdom, and courage. It is said that the people agonise when they find no one of significance to look up to. Fortuitously, society does not solely consist of the living, but also the dead. The greatest of the dead are still alive amongst us.

One of those unique men in lslamic heritage was the dignified Scholar and valiant Mujahid: Ahmad ibn 'Abdul-Halim ibn Taymiyyah. He was one of the most eloquent and truthful men in analysing the lslamic mentality and methodology. Yet when we return to the lslamic heritage, we should not be solely and sentimentally attached to the past, without it materializing and forming the basis and drive for our present and future. This is what we hope to achieve in this book.

Much of the heritage of Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah has been published; yet it is still worth appreciating the age in which he lived and some of the features that it enjoyed, and crucially, the reasons behind the sending of the letters that are the subject of this book. The letters are predominantly extracted from two books: Majmu' al-Fatawa, and Al-'Uqud ad-Durriyyah, and, except the letter to the Christian king, are from his time in prison.

Ibn Taymiyyah was born on 10th Rabi al-Awwal 661H (1263CE) in the town of Harran in the province of Jazirah{qluetip title=[1]}Situated north of Syria and Iraq today.{/qluetip}. He was a descendent of a very well known and established family, characterized by excellent memories and beauty of expression. His father, the Shaykh, 'Abdul-Halim was a scholar of hadith, and his grandfather was Majd ad-Din Abu'l-Barakat, the author of Muntaqa al-Akhbar{qluetip title=[2]}A famous book that Imam Ash-Shawkani explained in his Nayl al-Awtar.{/qluetip}. Says the grandson, "Our grandfather was phenomenal in memorizing hadith, narrating them and in knowing people's schools of thought."

lbn Taymiyyah was born in an age of great cultural and political upheaval. It was only five years prior to his birth that Baghdad was ravaged and mercilessly destroyed by the Tatars, and his family had to flee to Damascus when he was young. The savagery of those invaders had undoubtedly given the boy a deep hatred of oppression, and further instilled in him courage to fight the enemy.

The age of lbn Taymiyyah was also characterized by the rise of many disciplines. The underlying themes of these sciences, were their depth, breadth, and their authors' attempts to fuse the rising sciences together. Indeed, many of the books resembled encyclopaedias. lbn Taymiyyah had benefited from such an environment, but at the same time he did not content himself to that which he was taught. Instead, he was diligent in learning but maintained an independence of thought. This meant that he was not restricted to one teacher or school of thought, and thereby he gained from all, and produced novel ideas. This search for knowledge led him to be familiar with many of his age's cultures and creeds. He wrote extensively on beliefs, explaining the true one and rebuking those who disagreed; but tafsir (explanation of the Qur'an) remained the subject that always captivated him. "I might read a hundred interpretations of one verse, but would still ask Allah's guidance in its comprehension saying, 'Oh teacher of Adam and lbrahim teach me!' I would also go to the deserted masajid and ask Allah, 'Oh teacher of lbrahim! Make me comprehend.' " His contemporaries were quick to recognise his merit, as al-Qadhi Az-Zamalkani gave a true description, "Just as Allah had made iron soft for Dawud, He made sciences supple for Ibn Taymiyyah's grasp."

Why was Ibn Taymiyyah such a distinguished figure, one might ask. Firstly, there was his constant and unbroken bond with the masses of Muslims, for he was their teacher and mentor, he would resolve their problems and defend their rights in the face of the rulers. He would try to keep them steadfast when their enemies attacked, he would enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and most especially, he was not diverted by mundane worldly matters. Therefore, the whole of his time was devoted to attaining knowledge and participating in jihad. Indeed, it was this strong connection that made the general masses of Damascus love, respect and honour him. Even the most jealous of his enemies were not able to harm him there, but instead they had their chance in Egypt where he was not as well known.

These sincere feelings for the affairs of Muslims can be sensed when Shaykh ul-Islam spoke regarding politics, "Civilisation is rooted in justice, and the consequences of oppression are devastating. Therefore, it is said that Allah aids the just state even if it is non-Muslim, yet withholds His help from the oppressive state even if it is Muslim." He also said, "There are sincere Muslims who perceive that commanding a high post{qluetip title=[3]}E.g. a judge, a minister, or an administrator.{/qluetip} inevitably leads to love of rule and wealth. Some common Muslims regard the acceptor of such responsibility, as a turning away from the 'religion of mercy and humbleness'. However, the correct attitude is that the appointment of the virtuous serves the Ummah far better than assigning posts to the wicked." His concern was also with the public in economic problems, attacking those who establish monopolies over foodstuffs, "In times of need, the ruler can force people to sell their goods at their original value!"

As the Tatars were approaching Damascus, fear gripped the population and some thought of fleeing. Yet Ibn Taymiyyah rejected such defeatist ideas and instead, he appealed for the people not to depart and to be steadfast. He would say in encouragement to the generals of the army, "Allah will grant us victory!" and they would respond by asking him to say, "Insha'Allah," but he would reply, "I say it in certainty and not in mere hope!" Indeed, he participated in the jihad against the Tatars in the battle of Shaqhab after announcing his famous Fatwa declaring the Tatars kaffir, due to their insistence upon the abandonment of some of the rites of Islam, even though they pronounced the Shahadah.

When one of the scholars was imprisoned, and the news reached Ibn Taymiyyah, he personally went and managed the scholar's release, after praising and vindicating him in front of the ruler of Damascus. In another instance, he heard of a man who blasphemed against the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa salam), so he stood to forbid the evil, and with the masses supporting him, he wrote the famous book, As-Sarim al-Maslul 'ala Shatem ar-Rasul{qluetip title=[4]}Meaning, "The Drawn Sword on the Blasphemer of the Prophet."{/qluetip}. Furthermore, his deep concern for the Muslims, and his intimate knowledge of their affairs in every country, their conditions, and their nearness or distance to Islam stands out. This is illustrated in his description of the Muslims in the lands of Sham{qluetip title=[5]}The lands of ash-Sham refer to the areas that were historically under the administrational Damascus, Syria, They include today's Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.{/qluetip} and Egypt who, were standing firm at his time, defending their lands.

"If one is to review the affairs of the world, one would inevitably realise that this group in Ash-Sham and Egypt are the most staunch group upholding the Din in knowledge, action and jihad. They are relieving the Muslims throughout the world of their obligation of jihad as they struggle against the hardened disbelievers. The prestige of all Muslims is derived from that group's glory ...

"For the inhabitants of Yemen are weak, and unable or unwilling to carry out jihad, subservient to their rulers ...

"The Hijazi peoples are swamped in the depths of innovations and misguidance, and their people of knowledge and faith are weak and subdued. lf that group in Ash-Sham and Egypt were to be subjugated - and I seek refuge in Allah from that - then those from Hijaz would be rendered the most degraded of Allah's servants.

"The lands of Africa{qluetip title=[6]}Referring to today's Libya, Tunisia and Algeria.{/qluetip} are led by its Bedouins and they are very wicked, and themselves deserving to be conquered by jihad. Further on, the lands of the Maghreb are all but occupied by the Europeans, yet Muslims there do not attempt their jihad. Had Tatars occupied those regions, they would have encountered timid people ...

"Therefore, it is clear that it is that group situated in Ash-Sham and Egypt who are the vanguard of Islam, their success is an honour for Islam, and their defeat is a calamity for it."

This lengthy quote is included for its importance and to demonstrate lbn Taymiyyah's up-to-date insight into the affairs of his time, and mistreat ability to interpret the social and psychological condition of the people. Secondly, next to his connection with the masses and knowledge of current affairs, he also possessed a depth of understanding and a high level of alertness. He noticed that, from the end of the second century hijri, there existed of a group of Muslims who were fascinated by the philosophies of Plato and the logic of Aristotle{qluetip title=[7]}Just as some are captivated by the discourse of the Orientalists today.{/qluetip}. That group tried to instil the theories of the philosophers into the pure creed, thereby disfiguring it, so that beneficial knowledge was turned into sterile debate and idle discussion. The abstract theories had never been able to grant felicity to mankind, which was always granted in the light of Prophethood. Truly, here is an Imam uninfected by an inferiority complex that diseased some scholars, past and present.

Thirdly, the letters, which were selected for this book, are another side of Ibn Taymiyyah. A side many people do not know of. Usually, it is his uncompromising stances and truthful, sometimes harsh retorts that are often remembered. However, there is a side of his character that writes a letter to his mother full of concern, leniency and respect. Other letters are for his brothers and students in Damascus, and are characterized by love and advice. He also shows forgiveness towards those who worked to imprison him. Another is a letter full of wisdom, eloquence and firmness to a Christian king. This is the side of his character unknown to many - that of Ibn Taymiyyah, the benevolent man with a heart full of eeman and mercy.

These letters were predominantly written in prison. But why was such a Shaykh imprisoned? He was neither imprisoned by a non-Muslim state nor by an oppressive ruler. Unfortunately, his gaoling was conspired by some of the envious Shayukh of his time, "due to his individual distinction in enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, for people's genuine love and adherence to him, and to the large number of his followers."{qluetip title=[8]}Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa'n-Nihayah, vol. 14, p. 37.{/qluetip} This is along with their Asabiyyah{qluetip title=[9]}Meaning unjustified blind following of a certain idea, party or place, belittling and rebuking those who are different. It does not mean mere following.{/qluetip} to what they themselves wrote in Fiqh or Beliefs, and although some did it with a good intention, they nevertheless all conspired to provoke the ruler against Ibn Taymiyyah, and as a result he was imprisoned in Cairo, Alexandria and Damascus.

Herein lies a serious problem. How can a scholar be imprisoned as a result of an ijtihad, by which he differed from other scholars yet never transgressed beyond the boundaries of ijtihad, and certainly not outside of Islam? How is it that we cannot accommodate another opinion by a scholar noted for his love for Allah and His Messenger? One says this not to solely dig into the past, but because currently, there are similar incidents and this is indeed a very pitiful state. Our hearts should be big enough to encompass disagreements as long as they are not in the areas of innovation, deviation or legislation contradicting Allah's command. We should not resort to replies and retorts, which show false piety and bravery, or to using titles to give the mistaken impression of a battle being waged against an enemy, as if with swords and not with the words that are being used.

We return to Shaykh ul-Islam in prison. The story began when he wrote a treatise entitled Al-Hamawiyyah in reply to a question from the town of Hama regarding Allah's Attributes in 698H. He was asked to explain the treatise in Damascus in a few public gatherings. There, he informed the Deputy Sultan that what was in the treatise was not novel, but had been written in his own book 'Aqidah al-Wasitiyyah a few years earlier, and that both books included the beliefs of Ahlus-Sunnah. None could debate or doubt his strong and evidence-based works. The Deputy tried to resolve the objections of other scholars, by announcing that Ibn Taymiyyah's works were following the tradition of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Ibn Taymiyyah rejected this appeasing attitude, and replied that it was the 'Aqidah of the predecessors, and was not exclusive to Imam Ahmad.

The Shayukh of Egypt succeeded where their counterparts in Damascus failed. This was due to his credibility and trustworthiness in the second capital Damascus, and his anonymity in the first (Cairo, Egypt). The Shayukh in Cairo had managed to incite the oppressive ruler, Ruknuddin Baybars the Jashangir whose personal Shaykh and mentor, was a fanatical Sufi named Nasr al-Manbaji{qluetip title=[10]}The Sultan then was Muhammad ibn Qalawun, but as he increasingly sensed that the strong man was the Jashangir and not himself, he left to perform Hajj and then settled in Karak (Jordan), in a face-saving exercise, but he returned later.{/qluetip}. As a result, a sultanate order was issued to bring Ibn Taymiyyah to Cairo for interrogation in 705H. Against the advice of the Deputy Sultan in Damascus, Shaykh ul-Islam decided to go to Egypt as he saw much benefit in being there. On his day of departure, says his student Ibn 'Abdul-Hadi, "People gathered to bid their farewells, overwhelmed by grief and surprise ... many weeping."{qluetip title=[11]}Al-'Uqud ad-Durriyyah, p. 249.{/qluetip}

When Shaykh ul-Islam arrived in Egypt, a tribunal chaired by the judge Ibn Makhluf al-Maliki was arranged. However, the Shaykh felt that his arbiter was also his opponent, and thus refused to answer questions. As a result, he was imprisoned in the Mount's Castle in Cairo with his brothers 'Abdullah and 'Abdur-Rahman. In the meantime, he sent a letter to one of his relatives wherein he mentions that he refused the gift of the Sultanate, not wanting to be defiled in anyway.

Eighteen months passed before Ibn Taymiyyah was released unconditionally after the intervention of an Arab Prince named Husamuddin ibn 'Isa in 707H. There were earlier initiatives that failed, due to Ibn Taymiyyah's captors attempting to attach conditions that were unacceptable to him. After his release, Ibn Taymiyyah stayed in Cairo where he established classes and circles of knowledge in masajid, to benefit the people thereby. Yet those who harboured rotten ideas, feared the light of guidance emanating from the presence of the Shaykh amongst them. After the Sultan received their complaints, he decided to expel Shaykh ul-Islam back to Syria, but with conditions, which he later accepted at the insistence of his followers. As he was embarking upon his trip, an orderers issued to re-imprison him{qluetip title=[12]}As Allah says, the Exalted in Might, about the people of Egypt regarding Yusuf: "Even after they had seen all the signs (of Yusuf's innocence) that they might as well imprison him for a time." It is also striking how the Shaykh stayed for seven years in Egypt, akin to the seven fertile years that Yusuf ('alayhis-salam) had told the good tidings of.{/qluetip}. One must relay the magnificent scene witnessed when Shaykh ul-Islam was re-jailed:

"When he entered prison, he saw the prisoners busy with all kinds of time-wasting games for entertainment, such as chess and dice games, leading to loss of prayer. The Shaykh rebuked them strongly, and commanded them to keep the prayers, and turn towards Allah in worship, repentance and good deeds. He taught them from the Sunnah what they needed to know, encouraging them to do good, and bolstering their faith, and thereby rendered the prison a haven for seekers of the knowledge of religion. Such a place became better than schools and circles. Some of the released prisoners preferred staying with him rather than being free; and those frequenting his company increased to a point where the prison became full of them!"{qluetip title=[13]}Al-'Uqud ad-Durriyyah, p. 269.{/qluetip}

This state of affairs did not please the envious, and so he was sent to a prison in Alexandria. Soon afterwards, the self-exiled Sultan Muhammad ibn Qalawun, who had a great deal of respect for the Shaykh returned in triumph. The Sultan asked for Ibn Taymiyyah to be returned to Cairo. When he came to the Sultanate court, it was full of princes and scholars. The Sultan stood up for the Shaykh greeting him warmly, and then took him to a distant corner and asked, "There are amongst those scholars present here, those whose oath was given to the Jashangir (Qalawun's former rival), and had slandered you.'' He then asked for his opinion (fatwa) to exterminate them. The Shaykh strongly objected and replied, "If they were to go, none of the same calibre could then be found in your country. As for what they have done to me, and my right to extract a punishment, I forgive them, and they are free."{qluetip title=[14]}Ibid. p. 282.{/qluetip} And thus the coming of Shaykh ul-Islam to Cairo was sealed, where he resided near Al-Husayn Masjid, with his ever-present commitment to the spreading of knowledge, and courageous enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

In 712H, Ibn Taymiyyah returned to Damascus after an absence of seven years and few days. The Egyptian Army that had been dispatched to block the attack of the Tatars accompanied him. He later resettled in Damascus returning to publicise the knowledge of the religion. Yet again, his opponents would not leave him as he gave a fatwa that contradicted their opinions. This was coupled with what they had found in his book Iqtida 'as-Sirat al-Mustaqim in the form of a chapter on 'Travelling in Order to Visit Graves' and its unlawfulness according to the texts. By this time, the envious scholars had managed to change the mind of the hitherto sympathetic Sultan, who in turn ordered Ibn Taymiyyah's arrest to the Castle in Damascus. Shaykh ul-Islam was uttering the verse whilst entering his cell:

"And thereupon a wall will be raised between them, with a gate in it. Within it will be grace and mercy, and the outside thereof suffering." [Al-Qur'an 57:13]

In prison he continued to write, working on tafsir, reciting the Qur'an, and worshipping his Lord. He was later refused access to ink, paper and books, and soon after that, the enlightened heart stopped, and the pure soul passed to the grace of its Lord in the confines of prison in 728H. May Allah have mercy on him, please him and be pleased with him. Thus was the story of the reformer and revivalist Imam. The example of knowledge, jihad and chivalry ... of one who forgave his opponents save those enemies of Allah and His Messenger.

Letter One

The letter of Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah to his mother, in which he apologises for his stay in Egypt. A stay he felt was necessary to educate the people.

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Dispenser of Mercy.

From Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah to my dear and honourable Mother, may Allah bless her amply, and grant her peace and comfort, and make her amongst the best of His servants, Assalamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

We praise Allah, the most worthy of praise. There is no deity worthy of worship but He, and He has Power over all things. We ask Him to bless the Seal of the Prophets and Imam of the pious, Muhammad His servant and Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam).

Indeed the bounties of Allah come abundantly, and His aid is never ending. We praise Him for it, and ask Him to increase His favour. It will not escape you, my contented mother, the fact that our stay in Egypt is for an important issue. The abandonment of such a task leads to the corruption of our Din and of our life.

Yet it was not our choice to be far from you. Had birds been able to carry us, we would have come to you. But the absent one has his reason; and had you been able to look deeply into the affairs of the Muslims, you would not choose for me another place to the one I am in now. Nevertheless, I had never intended to reside here permanently. Instead, I pray to Allah to guide you and I to the right choice, and I pray for your well-being. I ask Allah to bless us and the rest of the Muslims, with His goodness and what that goodness encompasses of safety and benefit.

Allah had opened for me His gates of blessings, mercy and guidance in a way I have never conceived of before. Yet I am always considering travel towards you, making the prayers of Istikharah. It is inconceivable for me, if given the choice, to favour any of this life's mundane issues or of the lesser obligations of the Din, to being close to you. Yet there are great issues which l cannot abandon for fear of their general and personal dangers{qluetip title=[15]}Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahrah comments on his book Ibn Taymiyyah that the general danger is the corruption of people. The personal one is that as a Scholar, he has to fulfil his obligation of guiding the people to the right way. There is also another danger which, is that Ibn Taymiyyah came to Egypt whilst accused in his belief, and that he has a right to defend and vindicate himself.{/qluetip} - and the witness sees what the absent does not.

I beseech you to supplicate to Allah profusely. Ask Him to guide us to choose our best paths, for He Knows and we do not, and He is able and we are weak. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

"It is from the happiness of the son of Adam to practice Istikharah and be pleased wîth what Allah had ordained for him. And it is from the misery of the son oaadam to drop tbe Istikharah of Allah and be displeased at Allah's decrees." {qluetip title=[16]}Shaykh Hamed al-Faqi commented of this hadith by saying that it was related by at-Tirmidhi and he called it hasan gharib; and it was also narrated by Ahmad, Abu Ya'la and al-Hakim who said of it: Sahih al-Isnad. (Al-'Uqud ad-Durriyyah, p. 257){/qluetip}

Indeed, the travelling trader might fear the loss of his money, so he resides at a place until he is able to travel once again. The matter that we are in the middle of is too great to describe, but there is no power or ability but through Allah.

Finally, convey my salam to the entire household, young and old, and the rest of neighbours, friends and relatives one by one.

Was salamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh!

Praise be to Allah, and may His Blessings and Peace be upon Muhammad, his family and companions.

Letter Two

This is the first of two letters especially written for the benefit of his students and brothers in Damascus. It is apparent that this letter was sent after the first release from gaol where lbn Taymiyyah was imprisoned for 18 months from the beginning of 705H. Upon his release, the Deputy Sultan asked the Shaykh to stay in Cairo which he did, proclaiming the Da'wah and contacting people. Also apparent in this letter, is his forgiveness towards his opponents, asking his brothers not to harm them because of him. These are the manners of the intelligent and chivalrous scholar. He said after praising Allah and conveying blessings upon the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam):

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Dispenser of Mercy.

Truly Allah, the most worthy of praise, Has bestowed upon me great rewards and immense merits that oblige me to thank Him, and be steadfast upon His worship, and be patient at all times in fulfilling the obligations. Patience is an obligation in itself, commanded by Allah in times of ease more than at times of unease. Allah says:

"Thus it is, if We let man taste some of our grace, and then take it away from him - behold, he abandons all hope, forgetting all gratitude (for our past favours). And thus it is if we let him taste ease and plenty after hardship had visited him, he is sure to say: 'Gone is all affliction from me' - for, behold, he is given to vain exultation, and glories only in himself. [And thus it is with most men] save those who are patient in adversity and do righteous deeds: it is they whom forgiveness of sins awaits, and a great reward." [Al-Qur'an 11:9-11]

My brothers, you know that Allah, the Exalted in Might, had favoured me in this matter{qluetip title=[17]}Referring to his trial and subsequent imprisonment in Egypt. In it, a virtuous quality became known, even though it was through the work of the envious. So, although he was tried and punished, a great benefit shone through the bars of his prison, and his Da'wah became known in that place as never before.{/qluetip}, with favours He usually reserves for the assistance of His soldiers in order to elevate His Word, aid His religion, strengthen Ahlus-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah, and humiliate the people of innovation and deviation{qluetip title=[18]}Ibn Taymiyyah referred to them as Ahlul-Bid'ah wa'l-Firqah.{/qluetip}. The guidance of the Sunnah was proclaimed conclusively with proofs. This lead to the truth prevailing to so many people, and their returning to the way of Ahlus-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah. You should know that one of the great principles of this religion is the bringing of Muslims' hearts together and unifying their call. Allah the Glorified says:

"Remain conscious of Allah, and keep alive the bonds of brotherhood among yourselves." [Al-Qur'an 8:1]

"And hold fast, all together, to the rope of Allah, and do not draw apart from one another." [Al-Qur'an 3:103]

"And be not like those who have drawn apart from one another and have taken to conflicting views after all evidence of the truth has come to them." [Al-Qur'an 5:105]

Similarly, one of the fundamental themes of the Sunnah is obedience to the Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Therefore the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said in the authentic hadith related by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah:

"Allah is pleased with you on three occasions. (Firstly) when you worship Him and do not associate any partners with Him. (Secondly) when you hold fast, all together to the bond of Allah and do not draw apart and, (thirdly) when you advise the good rulers whom Allah had placed in charge of your affairs."

Furthermore, in the hadith of Zayd ibn Thabit and Ibn Mas'ud, who were both among the scholars from the companions that the Messenger of Allah said:

"May Allah brighten the face of a man who hears me and then relays to another who has not. It impossible that a carrier of knowledge is not himself knowledgeable, or that the carrier of knowledge will deliver it to someone more knowledgeable. Three things purify the heart of a Muslim. The sincerity in working for the Sake of Allah, taking-up the task of advising the rulers, and not departing from the group of Muslims."

In order to implement this principle on a personal note, I say that it is not my wish for any Muslim to be harmed because of me overtly or covertly. This applies to all Muslims, but more specifically to our companions and acquaintances. Neither do I want any of them to be blamed or condemned, as they are still worthy of honour and respect. Indeed, man does not escape being classified into one of three categories: a correct mutjtahid, a wrong one, and a sinner. The first is rewarded and praised, the second is rewarded yet forgiven for his blunder. Regarding the third, I ask Allah to forgive him, us and the rest of the Muslims.{qluetip title=[19]}There is nothing beyond this forgiveness, and it can only come from a scholar who has undoubtedly inherited the tradition of the Prophets.{/qluetip}

Therefore, we shall turn a new leaf on those who had erred and not fulfilled this aforementioned principle{qluetip title=[20]}He is probably referring to some of his brothers and companions in Damascus who grew weak during his trial, and who did not continue on the methodology of their Shaykh. He is barring his companions from harming them, and at the same time excuses them showing that he has no ill feelings towards them in his heart. Instead he values them and loves them for the Sake of Allah.{/qluetip}. Yet I know of some who say "this man erred" and "this man did not do what he should have", or "the Shaykh was harmed because of this man."

Those words that have harmed some brothers I do not condone, nor do I pardon those who utter them.

You should also know that we are all joining to assist one another. It is obligatory upon us to aid each other, more so now than before. So whomsoever thinks that harming some brothers as a result of the hardship experienced in Damascus and Egypt, then he is wrong. It is true that a believer to a believer is like the two hands, one cleans the other. And it is also true that some kinds of dirt can only be washed by hard scrubbing, yet this treatment will be justified when the outcome appears to the restoration of that botherly love. Let no one think that the believer can be economical with helping their brothers, and in aiding them. If some of our companions had neglected us before, they came to us, their status will rise higher than before. You might also know - may Allah be pleased with you - that issues like this one often occur due to a difference of opinion and variations that might even befall the people of eeman due to the whispers of Shaytan. Allah says:

"Yet man took it [the trust] up - for, verily, he has always been prone to the most wicked, most foolish. [And so it is] that Allah imposes suffering on the hypocrites, both men and women, as well as on the men and women who ascribe divinity to anything besides Him. And [so too, it is] that Allah turns in His Mercy unto the believing men and believing women: for Allah is indeed much forgiving, a dispenser of grace." [Al-Qur'an 33:72-73]

Even the excesses that took place in this issue{qluetip title=[21]}The issue refers to his being falsely accused in the subject of 'aqidah, and the envious Shayukh ill treatment towards him, and his subsequent imprisonment as a result, although his opinion was correct.{/qluetip}, including the misconceptions, both desires and also the lies and fabrications, were all a bonus and benefit as Allah says:

"Verily, numerous among you are those who would falsely accuse others of unchastity: [but, O you who are thus wronged,] deem it not a bad thing for you. No, it is good for you. [As for the slanderers,] to every one of them [will be accounted] all that he has earned by [thus] sinning; and awesome suffering awaits any of them who takes it upon himself to enhance this [sin]." [Al-Qur'an 24:11]

Those who erred towards me, I pardon. As for those who abused the rights of Allah, then let them repent and Allah will forgive them. If they do not, then Allah's Rule should be imposed upon them. For if the human were to be thanked for his errors, I would have thanked everyone responsible in this matter for the subsequent benefits in this life and in the next{qluetip title=[22]}He is referring to his exposing innovation and the many lessons he taught in masajid and schools.{/qluetip}. But Allah is the most worthy of praise, and the believer seeks the good in all of His decrees. Similarly, those with good intention are thanked for that, and those who do good are praised for their work. But to those who perform bad deeds, we ask Allah to forgive them. And this is what you are accustomed to of my manners, and what I know of this matter and I what I have experienced is great and more grave than what you perceive.

Nevertheless, the rights of people to one another, and the rights of Allah upon them, are all under His Rule, and He will be the eventual arbiter.

Let us not forget the incident involving the Siddiq (truthful one) Abu Bakr during the trial of Ifk{qluetip title=[23]}Al-Ifk here denotes a false accusation of unchastity. It refers to an incident, which occurred on the Prophet's return from the campaign against the tribe of Mustaliq in the year 5H. The Prophet's wife 'A'ishah, who had accompanied him on that expedition, was inadvertently left behind when the Muslims struck camp. After spending several hours alone, she was found by one of the Prophet's companions, who led her to the next halting-place of the army. This incident gave rise to malicious insinuations of misconduct on the part of 'A'ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr. These rumours were short-lived and her innocence was established beyond all doubt in the Qur'an 24:11-20.{/qluetip} about which some verses of the Qur'an were revealed. In it, Abu Bakr promised that he would no longer assist the companion Mistah ibn Athathah. The reason behind Abu Bakr's decision to exclude Mistah from the many Muslims he helped on a regular basis, was based on the latter's involvement in the spreading of lies. So Allah revealed:

"Hence, [even if they have been wronged by slander,] let not those of you who have been graced with [Allah's] favour and ease become remiss in helping [the erring ones among] their near of kin, and the needy, and those who have forsaken the domains of evil for the sake of Allah, but let them pardon and forbear. [For] do you not desire that Allah should forgive your sins, seeing that Allah is much forgiving, a dispenser of grace." [Al-Qur'an 24:22]

The reaction of Abu Bakr when this verse was revealed was, "Of course! By Allah, I wish for Him to forgive me." Abu Bakr, the father of the wrongly accused promptly returned to helping Mistah.

"Allah will in time, bring forth people whom He loves and who live Him - humble towards the believers, proud towards the disbelievers. They strive hard in Allah's cause and do not fear to be blamed by anyone who might blame them: such is Allah's favour, which He grants unto whom He wills. And Allah is Infinite, All-Knowing. Behold, your only helper shall be Allah, and His Messenger, and the believers - those that are constant in prayer, pay Zakat and bow down before Allah. For, all those who ally themselves with Allah and His Messenger and those who believed - behold, it is they, the partisans of Allah who shall be victorious." [Al-Qur'an 5:54-56]

Was salamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullah!

And praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and may His Blessings and Peace be upon our leader Muhammad.

(s) Ibn Taymiyyah's Letters from Prison, Message of Islam

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A man who wanted to write hadith would [learn] manners and worship for twenty years before starting.
- Sufyan ath-Thawri (d. 167H), may Allah have mercy upon him