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Ajhar, al-Quds al-Arabi, 14 December 2011 The terms and conce ts that ha!e achie!ed "ide circulation "ith the Arab re!olutions # those such as democracy, tyranny, ci!il society, and citi$enshi # ha!e no lace in the "ritin%s o& 'slamist thinkers be&ore the (ahda eriod) Ho"e!er, the "ritin%s o& one such re(ahda1 thinker, 'bn Taymiyya *d) +2,-1.2,/, contain material that could enable his &ollo"ers to ado t a di&&erent mentality, one that "ould %uide them # "ith a little e&&ort 0 to these re!ailin% conce ts o& the a%e) The 'bn Taymiyya "hom "e read about is not the real 'bn Taymiyya1 he is a theoretical re roduction and re&abrication that has made him into one o& the authorities &or reli%ious e2tremists amon% both his su orters and detractors alike) The real 'bn Taymiyya, on the other hand, the one "ho needs to be read by 'slamists ascendin% to the olitical &ore&ront, is one "ho "ill hel these 'slamists ado t a &le2ible, rationalistic mode o& thinkin%, and erha s chan%e many o& the intellectual assum tions these &orces still li!e by and consider to be &undamental tenets not subject to re!ie") 'bn Taymiyya theoretically belon%s to the Hanbali school, "hich is held to be synonymous "ith, or the basic source o& the contem orary 3ala&i mo!ement in one "ay or another) 'n reality, ho"e!er, 'bn Taymiyya critici$ed the Hanbali school 2 more than any other thinker # "hether &rom "ithin the Hanbali school or "ithout # and his criticisms "ere ro&ound enou%h to a&&ect the &oundations o& the "hole school) 4or e2am le, he critici$ed the literalism o& the Hanbalis5 readin% o& the te2t o& the Qur5an, "hich is one o& their major tenets, and called &or an inter retation o& the Qur5an that di&&ers &rom traditional inter retations such as the those o& the 6u5ta$ilites and later Ash5arites. "ho a lied the theory o& &i%urati!e lan%ua%e in this matter) 'bn Taymiyya resorted to a di&&erent theoretical &oundation to e2 lain his rinci le o& inter retation, "hich relies on the idea o& the 7meanin% o& the te2t,8 or the 7intention o& the te2t)8 (ot only does 'bn Taymiyya5s inter retation 0 "hich deri!es &rom a consideration o& the te2t5s intention 0 di&&er &rom lin%uistic inter retation, but it also di&&ers &rom the theory o& e2oteric and esoteric meanin% that 3u&is and some other reli%ious %rou s em loyed) 'bn Taymiyya announces his stance su orti!e o& inter retation "hen he acce ts the
e2 lanation o& the "ell-kno"n Qur5anic !erse that states1
7(one kno"s its inter retation, sa!e only 9od) And those &irmly rooted in kno"led%e say, :;e belie!e in it)584
7.8 and that 9od alone is the one "ho kno"s this1 He mono oli$es it &or himsel& and "ill re!eal it on <esurrection Day) Those holdin% this !ie" back it u "ith a !erse that says1 7Do they look &or au%ht else but its inter retation= The day its inter retation comes>8 ? 4or the Hanbalis and many conser!ati!e currents.8 thus re&usin% to s lit the !erse and limit inter retation to 9od alone) This readin% is the inter retation o& a minority o& thinkers in the history o& 'slamic thou%ht "ho ossessed %reat intellectual darin%. be&ore they emer%e &rom the Di!ine Cssence as audible e2 ressions able to be s oken and recorded by human bein%s) 'bn Taymiyya con&irms his !ie" "ith a Qur5anic !erse that is e2 licit on this matter1 7(o <emembrance &rom their Dord comes to them lately rene"ed)8 E . such as 'bn Arabi and 'bn <ushd.'bn Taymiyya makes 7those &irmly rooted in kno"led%e8 %rammatically conjoined "ith 79od. the Qur5an is a te2t that is closed-o&& on many sides. and re&lection is im ossible "ithout understandin%)8@ 'n this conte2t. "hich says that 7those &irmly rooted in kno"led%e8 do not 7kno" its inter retation.hat !irtue lies in obscure assa%es such that 9od kee s the kno"led%e o& their meanin% to himsel&=8 'bn Taymiyya didn5t sto thereB rather. lack o& e2 erience and o& holdin% a literal understandin%) He asks the.. he critici$es the Hanbalis and some 3unnis "ho "ithout com lete e2 erience> su osed that only 9od kno"s the meanin% o& the obscure assa%es8 and "ho "ould say1 7te2ts con&orm to their e2ternal sense. 7Don5t re&lect on the obscure assa%es. and did not e2em t anythin% &rom re&lection) He did not say. and that human bein%s # to "hom this te2t "as sent # are able to understand it throu%h re&lection and unco!er its intended meanin%s) 6oreo!er. and that its "ords ori%inate in 9od5s essence little by little accordin% to the needs o& re!elation. "hich adds a sort o& secrecy and ambi%uity to it) This is in contrast "ith 'bn Taymiyya. as he considered the Qur5an to be 7ori%inated8 . this understandin% is not the e2clusi!e ossession o& s eci&ic reli%ious or s iritual authorities. and they reject any inter retation that contradicts the e2ternal sense)8 'bn Taymiyya le!els harsh criticism at this understandin% and accuses those "ho hold this belie& # "ho are mostly Hanbalis and Aahiris + # o& contradiction. "ho thou%ht that the Qur5an "as an o en. com letely com rehensible te2t. he ro!ided all the hiloso hical remises to justi&y his theory o& inter retation. but rather is %ranted to any educated or learned erson) 'bn Taymiyya says on this oint1 9od %a!e an absolute command to re&lect on the Qur5an. and it contradicts the !ie"s o& most conser!ati!e schools in 'slam) 'bn Taymiyya rejects the Hanbali osition.
he breaks "ith one o& the most er!asi!e ideas in 'slam # creation ex nihilo # as is held by Hanbalis. then these otentialities are trans&erred to e2ternal essences and sensory e2istents) 'bn Taymiyya belie!es that the true intention behind the Qur5anic !erse that says o& 9od 7C!ery day He is u on some labour81? is that ori%ination "ithin the Cssence is an eternal rocess) The Qur5an is not too obscure &or human understandin%B it is com letely com rehensible by the erson able to re&lect u on it and unco!er its !arious meanin%s and intentions) . as Aristotle be&ore him had hy othesi$ed) 'bn Taymiyya rejects intermediary entities. His "ill and His e&&icacy) This is "hat uts the "orld in a state o& eternal creation) This eternal creation is ro!en by the Qur5anic !erses that re&er to this %radation in the creation o& one thin% a&ter another "ith no be%innin%. since 'bn <ushd has decided that the transition &rom 9od5s eternity to the rocess o& creation reHuires intermediary entities.'bn Taymiyya. since he belie!es that the "orld has no be%innin% and no end and is an eternal rocess o& creation and re-creation. and ar%ues that the transition &rom eternity to the cor oreal "orld takes lace throu%h ori%ination "ithin the Di!ine Cssence) His inter retation o& ori%ination is that it is the trans&eral o& the Di!ine Attributes &rom their "hole osition as %enera and s ecies to indi!idual intellectual otentialities "ithin the Cssence. Ash5arites. the entire hea!enly messa%e becomes . 6u5ta$ilites and the jurists)10 He backs u his ers ecti!e by inter retin% the Di!ine 'ntention. since it is im ossible &or 9od5s e&&icacy to be osterior to His "ill.ithout this belie& about understandin% the Qur5anic te2t. 7Then FheG sat Himsel& u on the Throne)814 All this con&irms the e2istence o& a chain o& creation and its lack o& a be%innin%) 'bn Taymiyya here seems !ery close to 'bn <ushd5s understandin% o& the same issue. such as1 7Then He li&ted Himsel& to hea!en "hen it "as smoke812 7His Throne "as u on the "aters81. ado ted inter retations o& the Qur5an "hose boldness e2ceeded that o& 6uslim hiloso hers recedin% him. but he is e!en bolder. and accordin% to necessity and the rinci le o& causality) 'n this "ay. and &or His "ill to be osterior to His !ery e2istence) There&ore. such as lanets and s heres. there are three necessary thin%s that are co-eternal1 9od. and that the "orld mo!es accordin% to its o"n nature. the Qur5anic !erse that says 73urely thy Dord accom lishes "hat He desires811 means that 9od is eternally accom lishin% thin%s. as he says "hen he treats a %rou o& Qur5anic !erses that ro!e his theory) Accordin% to 'bn Taymiyya. on the other hand.
8 and he allo"s that the ronoun 7his8 re&ers to 7The 6erci&ul8 and not to man)1@ 'bn Taymiyya does not intend anthro omor hi$ation. and it is &or this reason that 9od sent ro hets) C!en those eo le &or "hose sake ro hets "ere sent do not acce t this truth because it comes &rom hea!en.8 as mentioned in the ro hetic hadith1 7All human bein%s are born "ith innate dis osition>)8 This is the human nature that enables a erson to attain the truth "ithout the hel o& anyone. but rather he means somethin% close to 'bn Arabi5s understandin% o& the hadith. "ho %ro"s u outside o& human society and is i%norant o& any lan%ua%e to communicate "ith. "hereas they e2ist in human bein%s as relati!e attributes o& !aryin% de%ree) There&ore. and are the ori%inators o& their actions and res onsible &or them. because these actions are the natures themsel!es that 9od laced "ithin e!erythin%. human bein%s act on the basis o& this truth. is able to attain the ultimate truth o& the "orld just throu%h his natural ca abilities as a human bein%) Human nature is dis osed to seek kno"led%e and to "ill this kno"led%e. 'bn Taymiyya rejects the !ie" that man is inca able o& attainin% the truth by his o"n &aculties) 4or him.meanin%less. and in his . and it "ould be &utile &or 9od to bar mankind &rom kno"led%e o& all its details. es ecially its obscure and ambi%uous assa%es) 6ankind enjoys the hi%hest !alue in the uni!erse because the Di!ine Attributes ha!e been trans&erred to him in !aryin% amounts) They e2ist in 9od in their ca acity as attributes o& er&ection. because the messa%e is aimed at mankind. but because their innate dis osition acce ts it. includin% mankind) 6an is ca able o& &reedom. there are a number o& eo le "ho cannot or do not "ant to reach the truth throu%h their o"n o"ers. des ite eo le5s !aryin% le!els o& "ill in seekin% and attainin% it) Because o& this !ariation in the "ill to kno"led%e. ro hets "ould not succeed in the &irst lace.?/ in his story 7Hayy ibn JaHdhan)8 The child Hayy. 'bn Taymiyya acce ts the Iro hetic hadith that says1 7The 6erci&ul created man in His o"n ima%e. since the innate dis osition itsel& that %uides some eo le to the truth is also "hat causes hea!enly ins iration to be acce ted) Kn the other hand. as his &ollo"ers and his detractors understood it. since the success o& ro hets is connected "ith the re aredness o& man5s innate dis osition to acce t their messa%e and &or no other reason) '& not &or this dis osition. "here man is in a certain sense the ima%e o& 9od) 't is throu%h this ima%e that man reco!ers the attributes that he has lost. mankind is ca able o& kno"in% the truth throu%h his natural o"ers kno"n as his 7innate dis osition. and thereby reco!ers his central status) Because o& mankind5s status. and e!en "ithout the hel o& hea!enly ins iration) 'bn Taymiyya here a ears in com lete a%reement "ith the Arab Andalusian hiloso her 'bn Tu&ayl *d) ?.1-11.
no secret "orld. and 9od does not !eil any "onders &rom human understandin%) The uni!erse and its major truths are subject to our human nature. and "hich ushes him to think about e!erythin%.human acti!ity he roceeds accordin% to the rinci le o& 7seekin% bene&it and a!oidin% loss. they &all "ithin the &ield o& our erce tion and our intellectual a titudes) 'bn Taymiyya.hat "e do not kno" today is merely somethin% "e oursel!es ha!e not been able to &i%ure out. and about the &act that he ossesses a de%ree o& truth # ho"e!er much eo le may disa%ree in their conce tions and creeds) 1.8 and this is the Qur5anic conce t o& di!ine %uidance) LonseHuently. "hich makes e!erythin% in the uni!erse com rehensible) . and no ambi%uity surroundin% the &acts o& the "orld) 'bn Taymiyya com letely rejects the belie& held by some eo le that only 9od Himsel& understands His o"n actions. all human actions are e2 lained accordin% to their actual conditions in terms o& bene&its and losses) This is "hat causes the uni!erse. includin% the 'slamic intellectual herita%e) ↩ . "ho is considered the s iritual &ather o& the 3ala&i mo!ement and one o& the major authorities in 'slamic thou%ht. "hich must be understood on this basis) The "orld is %o!erned and ordered by its la"s. 'bn Taymiyya breaks the secret about that com le2 trio in 'slam 0 the Qur5an. and the kno"led%e o& all this comes about because o& our "ill to kno"led%e) (ot e!en 9od5s acts are o& the secret and obscure ty e. nor does he conceal anythin% &rom mankind) His actions are subject to inter retation like anythin% else) . "hich "itnessed moderni$in% re&orms in many &ields. needs to be re-e2amined.ith these ro&ound conce tions. the "orld. 9od5s actions roceed &rom his "isdom and are necessarily in harmony "ith the la"s o& thin%s and the uni!erseB conseHuently. and mankind to be %o!erned by cause and e&&ect. and that "e cannot use lo%ic to understand them 0 "hich is a "ides read !ie" in the o ular understandin% o& 'slam) Lontrary to this. includin% natural objects. as 9od5s actions are justi&ied by "isdom and by cause) 9od does nothin% in !ain. but "e "ill &ind it out tomorro") The "orld is not obscure or a secret. since there is another as ect to his thou%ht that trains his &ollo"ers and others to think rationally and to reach a ne" understandin% o& 'slam) This is an understandin% that restores to man his status and his ability to enetrate the "orld5s secrets. ro hecy and 9od 0 and narro"s the circle o& the sacred that 6uslims ha!e "o!en around it &or a lon% stretch o& their intellectual history) 'bn Taymiyya lea!es the "orld and all its relati!e and absolute truths o en to human kno"led%e %o!erned by reason) C!erythin% that occurs or "ill occur tomorro" is in the %ras o& our erce tions and our kno"led%e1 there is no "ide circle o& sacred thin%s. The (ahda1 a eriod o& culture a"akenin% that took lace in the Arab "orld in the late 1Eth and early 20th century.
Qur5an . sa!e only 9od and those &irmly rooted in kno"led%e) They say :"e belie!e in it5>8 This "as e!idently 'bn Taymiyya5s readin% o& the !erse) A) N) Arberry5s The Ooran 'nter reted is the translation used throu%hout &or Qur5anic citations) ↩ 5. "hether because they are obscure or are in a arent con&lict "ith 'slamic doctrine *&or e2am le. <e%ardin% the "orld to be eternal is a belie& most commonly associated in the 'slamic intellectual tradition "ith the hiloso hers # those such as al-4arabi and 'bn 3ina. 7inter retation8 is renderin% ta’wil and not ta&sir) ↩ 4. and consider it to be heretical) ↩ . "ere a &i&th le%al school in 'slam.1+B the Arabic te2t is ambi%uous. ) 2@. "hose most rominent e2 onent "ere the 6u5ta$ilites. 7Kri%inated81 in Arabic. kno"n &or their em hasis on adherin% to the 7e2ternal sense. !erses that use anthro omor hic lan%ua%e to describe 9od/) Lontrary to the Hanbalis. the 6u5ta$alites and the Ash5arites re&erred to inter reted these !erses on the basis that they are em loyin% &i%urati!e lan%ua%e. and could also be read as 7(one kno"s its inter retation. "hich is calledtafsir) Throu%hout this translation. ↩ 6. 6u5ta$alite and Ash5arite are t"o major schools o& theolo%y "ithin 'slam) The debate the author is obliHuely re&errin% to here is o!er ho" to handle assa%es in the Qur5an that ose a certain di&&iculty.2. at one time. The Aahiris. Tafsir of Surat al-Ikhlas. in contrast to the more strai%ht&or"ard e2 lanation o& unambi%uous assa%es. and so mana%ed to resol!e any ambi%uity or discre ancy) This ty e o& inter retation. but rather "as created by 9od at a certain oint in time) This !ie". "hich "as not "ithout contro!ersy as it in!ol!ed "hat some considered an unlicensed de!iation &rom the Qur5anic te2t. ha!in% been dis laced by the Ash5arite belie& that the Qur5an is uncreated and hence coeternal "ith 9od) ↩ 9. "ho &ollo" Aristotle in this matter) 6ost orthodo2 theolo%ians reject this !ie". muhdath) The idea that the Qur5an is not coeternal "ith 9od. Qur5an 2112) 7Dately rene"ed8 is ho" Arberry renders muhdath here) ↩ 10. "ho clun% to a ri%id literalism in dealin% "ith such assa%es. ↩ 7. Hanbali1 one o& the &our schools o& la" "ithin 3unni 'slam) Msually re%arded as the most conser!ati!e and literalistic) ↩ 3.8 or $ahir o& the Qur5an and other reli%ious te2ts) The school is no" considered e2tinct) ↩ 8. is kno"n in Arabic as ta’wil. Qur5an +1?. is no" a minority !ie" in 'slam.
Qur5an 11110+ ↩ 12.11. Qur5an 41111 ↩ 13. Qur5an +1?4 ↩ 15. Qur5an ??12E ↩ 16. The Arabic ronoun in the hadith is ambi%uous) 'nter reters "ho "ished to a!oid the anthro omor hic connotations the hadith im lies ar%ued that 7his8 re&erred to 7man8 and not 7the 6erci&ul.8 thus %i!in% the hadith the sense1 7The 6erci&ul created man in man5s o"n ima%e)8 ↩ . Qur5an 111+ ↩ 14.
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