First Biography

The Salafi Imam became well-known with the title 'Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah' because his father was the principal of the 'Al-Jawziyyah' school in Damascus. As for his name, it is Shams ad-Din, Abu 'Abdullah, Muhammad the son of Abu Bakr the son of Ayub az-Zura'i (an ascription to Azra' which is in the south of Syria), then Dimashqi, Hanbali.

He was born on the 7th of Safar in the year 691H (1292CE), and was raised in a house of knowledge and excellence. This offered him the chance to take knowledge from the senior scholars of his time, a time when the various sciences of knowledge flourished. He studied under Ash-Shibab an-Nabilisi, Abu Bakr ibn 'Abd ad-Da'im, Al-Qadhi Taqi ad-Din Sulayman, 'Isa al-Mut'im, Fatimah bint Jawhar, Abu Nasr al-Baha' ibn Asakir, 'Ala' ad-Din al-Kindi, Muhammad ibn 'Abdul-Fath al-Ba'labaki, Ayyub ibn Al-Kamal and Al-Qadhi Badr ad-Din ibn Jama'ah.

He took knowledge of the laws of inheritance from Isma'il ibn Muhammad and read the Arabic language to 'Abdul-Fath al-Ba'labaki and Al-Majd at-Tunisi. He studied fiqh with a certain groups of scholars, amongst them being Isma'il ibn Muhammad al-Harrani, and he took 'Usul al-Fiqh from As-Safi al-Hindi. As for his greatest teacher and his shaykh whom he accompanied for seventeen years of his life, and who left the greatest impact upon him - then that is the Imam, the Mujaddid (Reviver), Taqi ad-Din ibn Taymiyyah. Ibn Al-Qayyim took the same methodology as him and traversed his path in waging war against the people of Innovations and Desires and those who deviated from the religion.

As for his own students, then they are many. Amongst them were his son 'Abdullah; Ibn Kathir - the author of Al-Bidayah wa'n-Nihayah; the Imam and Hafidh, 'Abdur-Rahman ibn Rajab al-Baghdadi al-Hanbali - the author of Tabaqat al-Hanabilah; and also Shams ad-Din Muhammad 'Abdul-Qadir an-Nabilisi.

Ibn Al-Qayyim lived in a time in which there was strife and internal confusion and chaos, as well as an external threat which was menacing the Islamic state. For this reason, he used to order with holding fast to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger, and the rejection of separation and disunity. Amongst his goals was the purging of the religion from the innovations and desires and returning it to its pure and original fountains. So he called for the destruction of the madhhab of blind-following (taqlid), a return to the madhhab of the Salaf and traversing upon their way and methodology. [The last sentence may be understood incorrectly by people, and for a proper discussion as to the manhaj of the salaf regarding taqlid refer to the fiqh section of this site.] Because of this we see that he did not restrict himself to the Hanbali madhhab and often he would take the opinion and view of one of the various madhahib, or sometimes he may have had an opinion which confliucts with the opinion of the all the other madhahib. Thus, his madhhab was ijtihad and the rejection of taqlid [and this is the position with all the scholars of past and present but not that of the common person or muqallid]. As a result of this he incurred great harm and was imprisoned with his Shaykh, Ibn Taymiyyah, in the same prison, though in isolation from him. He was not released from the prison until after the death of the Shaykh. [The previous sentence may seem to indicate that they were imprisoned because of their not following a madhhab, yet their imprisonment had more to do with their 'aqidah, which was deemed to be deviant by the many powerful and ignorant scholars of the time, may Allah have mercy upon them.]

He took to teaching and giving verdicts for a number of years and (all) the people without exception benefitted from him. The scholars also testified to his knowledge and piety. Ibn Hajar said about him, "He had a courageous heart, was vast in knowledge and was well acquainted with the differences (of opinion) and the madhahib of the Salaf." Shaykh ul-Islam, Muhammad ibn 'Ali ash-Shawkani said, "He restricted (himself) to the (most) authentic of evidences, and admired acting upon them. He did not depend upon opinion (ra'i), would overcome (others) with the truth and would not be harsh with anyone with respect to it."

Ibn Kathir said, "He was attached to occupying himself with knowledge, day and night. He would pray and recite the Qur'an much and was of excellent character, and showed great affection and friendship. He would not be jealous or envious." Ibn Kathir also said, "I do not know, in this time of ours, anyone in the world whose worship is greater than his. He used to have a particular manner with respect to the prayer. He would lengthen it a great deal, would extend its bowing and prostrating. Many of his associates would censure him at times but he would never return and leave alone this (action of his), may Allah have mercy upon him."

Mulla 'Ali al-Qari said, "And whoever investigates the book Sharh Manazil as-Sa'irin (i.e., Madarij as-Salikin), it will become plain and clear to him that both of them (meaning Ibn Al-Qayyim and Ibn Taymiyyah) were amongst the most senior from Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah and amongst the Awliya' (of Allâh) of this Ummah." Al-Hafidh As-Suyuti said, "And he became one of the senior scholars in exegesis (tafsir), hadith, 'usul, subsidiary matters (furu') and Arabic language."

He authored and compiled in the field of fiqh, 'usul, biography (siyar), history and the sciences of hadith. Alongsde this he was a linguist, well-acquainted with grammar. He also wrote much poetry.

He passed on to the mercy of His Lord at the latter time of Isha', on the night of Thursday, 13th of Rajab in the year 751H (1350CE) and was buried at the foot of Mount Qasiyun by Damascus, leaving behind many written works, amongst the most famous of which are:

  • Shifa' al-Alil
  • Miftah Dar as-Sa'adah
  • Za'ad al-Ma'ad fi Haydi Khayri'l-'Ibad
  • Hadiy al-Arwah ila Biladi'l-Afrah
  • Ighathatu'l-Lahfan fi Hukm Talaq al-Ghadban
  • Al-Jawab al-Kafi li man Sa'ala 'an Dawa' ash-Shafi'i
  • Madarij as-Salikin fi Manazil as-Sa'irin
  • Tahdhib Sunan Abi Dawud
  • As-Sawa'iq al-Mursalah 'alal-Jahmiyyah wa'l-Mu'attilah
  • Raf' Yadayn fi's-Salat
  • Kitab al-Kaba'ir
  • Hukm Tarik as-Salat
  • Al-Kalam at-Tayyib wal-'Amal as-Salih
  • Sharh Asma' al-Husna
  • A'lam al-Muqaqqi'in 'an Rabb al-'Alamin

May Allah have mercy upon this great and noble Imam, benefit the world by him and elevate his position, rank after rank, in the Hereafter. Amin.

 From the introduction to Al-Fawa'id (pp. 5-7)

Second Biography

For most Muslims who have heard of him, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah's name is inseparable form that of his teacher, the 7th / 13th century Hanbali reformer, Ibn Taymiyyah. It is true, in fact, that Ibn Al-Qayyim was the principle compiler and editor of his teacher's writings, and had it not been for him, that voluminous body of work might never have survived. It is also true that Ibn Taymiyyah's point of view had a profound effect on the young man, who at twenty-one years age, became his student and companion. One of Ibn Al-Qayyim's own students would later write, "Above all, his love for Ibn Taymiyyah was so great that he would never disagree with anything he said. Rather, he supported him in everything and was the one who edited his books and spread his teachings." In fiqh and theology, both men wrote from a Hanbali position, and Ibn Al-Qayyim criticized the same things that his shaykh had so adamantly opposed: innovation (bid'ah), Greek influenced Muslim philosophy, Shi'ism, the doctrine of wahdatu'l-wujud, or 'oneness of being' (attributed to Ibn Arabi) and by extension, the extreme forms of Sufism that had gained currency particularly in the new seat of Muslim power, Mamluk Egypt and Syria.

However, two elements set Ibn Al-Qayyim's writings apart from those of his shaykh. The first is his tone. Ibn Taymiyyah wrote 'with the eye', as it were, and Ibn Al-Qayyim added to that 'the heart'. As a contemporary editor of his works has written, "Although he moved within the sphere of Ibn Taymiyyah's influence, following him in most of his religious rulings, he was more ready than his teacher to be lenient and amiable to those with whom he differed." A typical example of this may be found in his magnum opus, Madarij as-Salikin (The Traveler's Stages), which is a long commentary on a treatise by the 5th / 11th century Hanbali Sufi, 'Abdullah al-Ansari al-Harrawi. Taking exception to something Al-Ansari wrote, Ibn Al-Qayyim prefaced his comments with, "Certainly I love the shaykh, but I love the truth more."

The second is Ibn Al-Qayyim's great interest in Sufism. Some of his major works, such as Madarij, Tariq al-Hijratayn (Path of Two Migrations) and Miftah Dar as-Sa'ada (Key to the Abode of Happiness), are devoted almost entirely to Sufi themes, but this allusions to these themes are found in nearly all his writings. There is no doubt that Ibn Al-Qayyim addressed those interested in Sufism in particular and al-umur al-qalbiyyah - the matters of the heart - in general. In fact, in the introduction to his short book Patience and Gratitude, he states, "This is a book to benefit kings and princes, the wealthy and the indigent, Sufis and religious scholars; (a book) to inspire the sedentary to set out, accompany the wayfarer on the path (as-sa'ir fi't-tariq) and inform the one journeying towards the Goal."

The subjects dealt with by Ibn Al-Qayyim - the way to God, the maladies of the heart, and the virtues - are undoubtedly also those of tasawwuf. Ibn Al-Qayyim's role is, thus, somewhat similar to that of Al-Ghazali (d. 505H / 1111CE) two hundred years before him: to rediscover and restate the orthodox roots of Islam's interior dimension, with the added task of correcting what he saw as new errors that had arisen due to the powerful influence of Ibn Arabi's works. In this sense, he might be descried as a reviver of what he considered to be an authentic inclination of the heart towards Allah, and the path towards Him.

This is the formula which, in all likelihood, accounts for the ongoing popularity of Ibn Al-Qayyim's works throughout the Arabic speaking world. His thirty or so extant books have been reprinted many times; the principle ones, including the titles cited above, have all been reprinted in both inexpensive and scholarly editions since 1990. The reader who might be attracted to the inner dimension of Islam but not by much of what passes nowadays as Sufism, finds in Ibn Al-Qayyim an exposition of the Way to God, free of 'mythology' or the exclusive terminology of Sufism, written for the generality of believers and with strict insistence upon the main sources of orthodoxy; the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and the practices of the first two generations of Muslims.

The Life of Ibn Al-Qayyim

Shams ad-Din Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah was born in 691H / 1292CE in az-Zur'i, a small village fifty-five miles from Damascus. Little is known of his childhood except that he received a comprehensive Islamic education thanks to the fact that his father was principle of the Madrasah al-Jawziyyah, one of the few centres devoted to the study of Hanbali fiqh in Damascus; hence, the name by which he came to be known: Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah - son of the principle of the Jawziyyah school - or simply, Ibn Al-Qayyim.

After completing his fundamental studies at the Jawziyyah, Ibn Al-Qayyim continued his learning in the circles of the shaykhs who filled the city's mosques. It appears that for some period of time, he came under the influence of Mu'tazili teachings and probably of certain mystics. In the epic-length Ode he wrote in later years, he refers to this period as being one of confusion and misguidance: "All these [ways] did I try, and I fell into a net, fluttering like a bird that knows not where to fly."

This period came to an end in the year 712H / 1312CE, when at twenty one years of age he met the man who would shape his life's orientation in Islam: Taqi ad-Din ibn Taymiyyah. Ibn Taymiyyah had just returned to Damascus from a seven-year stay in Egypt, the last of which he spent under house arrest. His reputation for being an uncompromising defender of the Sunnah and of Hanbali theology was well known to the people of Syria. Perhaps it was his certitude and strength that appealed to the young Ibn Al-Qayyim, who "like a bird caught in a net, did not know where to fly." In any event, a bond formed between the two men which lasted for 16 years until Ibn Taymiyyah's death.

Between 712H / 1312CE and 726H / 1326CE, Ibn Al-Qayyim married and had three sons - Ibrahim, 'Abdullah and Sharaf ad-Din. He earned his living as teacher and Imam at the Jawziyyah school. His lessons on Hanbali fiqh and his sermons probably showed the strong influence of his teacher for, in 726H / 1326CE, when the authorities of Damascus ordered the arrest of Ibn Taymiyyah and his followers, Ibn Al-Qayyim was among them.

This imprisonment came after Ibn Taymiyyah had been summoned before a council of religious scholars (ulama) for questioning on a point of fiqh: was it permissible for someone visiting the Prophet's - sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam - mosque in Madinah to shorten the prayers? Since the council knew in advance that In Taymiyyah strongly condemned the practise of visiting saint's tombs for the purpose of receiving blessing (tabarruk), they could easily portray his chary answer as proof that he himself propagated a dangerous innovation (bid'ah) by discouraging Muslims form visiting the burial place of their beloved Prophet - sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. This pretext was used to remove from the public eye a man they regarded as a source of unrest. The council ruled that Ibn Taymiyyah and all those in Damascus who propagated his teachings - including Ibn Al-Qayyim- should be rounded up and imprisoned in the citadel of the town. Although a few days later the authorities released Ibn Taymîyah's followers, Ibn Al-Qayyim alone chose to stay at the side of his teacher in prison.

Unlike his house arrest in Egypt, during which he was permitted to write and teach his followers, this time Ibn Taymiyyah was not only locked up, but also denied both books and writing materials, a much harder condition for him to bear than prison itself. It has been recorded that during that final imprisonment he would find scraps of discarded paper and write with pieces of charcoal. In 728H / 1327CE, however, having been separated for two years from all those things he had lived for, he passed away. Then and only then did Ibn Al-Qayyim come out of prison to join the multitudes who followed the body of Ibn Taymiyyah to the burial.

It appears that only after his teacher's death did Ibn Al-Qayyim begin his own profile as a writer. This stage of his life was also marked by much travel, learning and teaching, as well as several pilgrimages to Makkah, where he lived for some time.

Our picture of Ibn Al-Qayyim in the last twenty-five years or so of his life is derived mainly from recollections of his two most illustrious students, Ibn Rajab and Ibn Kathir. The latter wrote, "He recited [the Qur'an] beautifully and was loved by a great many people. He neither envied nor harmed anyone, nor tried to find fault with them, nor harboured malice towards them. In short, there were few people like him ... He was dominated mostly by goodness and a virtuous nature."

Ibn Rajab writes, "May Allah bless him, he was a person of worship and night prayers, someone who used to make prayer last as long as possible; he was devoted to remembrance (dhikr), constant in his love of Allah, in turning back to Allah, in seeking forgiveness, in his dependence on Allah and in humility before Him. He reached a level of devotion which I have never witnessed in anyone else, nor have I seen anyone more vast in learning or more knowledgeable of the meanings of the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and the inner realities of faith. And while I know he was not infallible, yet I have never seen anyone who was closer to the meaning of this word."

In addition to these isolated glimpses of the man, there is evidence that he loved books so much that after his death his sons had to sell off much of his library, keeping only what they themselves could make use of.

Ibn Al-Qayyim died in 751H / 1350CE, when he was scarcely 60 years old. It is recorded that the funeral prayer, attended by many people, was offered at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. He was buried a the cemetery of Bab as-Saghir, near the grave of his father - rahimahumallah.

 From the introduction to Al-Wabil as-Sayyib min al-Kalim at-Tayyib, translation by Micheal 'Abdur-Rahman Fitzgerald and Moulay Youssef Slitine

Be Mindful O Mankind!

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