Ibn Taymiyya

Jon Hoover

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online April 2012 | | DOI:
Ibn Taymiyya


Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya (also Taymiyah or Taymiyyah) was born in 1263 in Harran—in modern southeastern Turkey—but in 1269 his family fled Mongol incursions from the east and settled in Damascus. He was a firm supporter of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria, especially in its resistance to the Mongol invasions of Syria in 1299–1303, but his reformist views and activism at times disconcerted the scholarly community and the political authorities. Ibn Taymiyya’s attacks on Ashʿari theology and Ibn al-ʿArabi’s philosophical Sufism, as well as attempts to quell Sufi antinomian behavior, resulted in public trials over his creed and seven years of exile in Egypt (1306–1313). Back in Damascus after his exile, Ibn Taymiyya’s views on divorce and the cult of the saints led him into conflict with the authorities on several occasions. He was imprisoned in the Citadel of Damascus in 1326 and died there in 1328 after having been deprived of his pen and paper. Ibn Taymiyya was one of the most incisive and prolific Muslim religious scholars of his time. His reform impulse derived from his conviction that Muslims had lost their way through sectarian division, theological irrationalities, Sufi antinomianism, and legal formalism. The way forward was to return to the belief and practice of the first few generations of Muslims, that is, the Salaf. Ibn Taymiyya thus strove to elucidate what he believed to be the rational religion of the Salaf and explain where later generations had gone astray. He wrote against Kalam theology, Aristotelian-Neoplatonism philosophy (falsafa), philosophical Sufism, and legal innovations of the Sunni law schools. In the same spirit of sifting true Islam from deviant religion, he also composed major refutations of Christianity and Twelver Shiʿism. Ibn Taymiyya’s writings had little impact within his immediate context. However, some of his ideas gained currency during Ottoman times, and he has become a major source of inspiration to a wide spectrum of reform-minded Muslims in the modern period, from the Wahhabis to the present day.

Article.  5812 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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