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Islam / Theology /
Ibn Taymiya
Arabic: 'ibn taymīya

(1263-1328) Islamic conservative theologian and jurist, representing the first founding father of Wahhabism and to a great degree modern Islamism.
Ibn Taymiya belonged to the pietistic Hanbali school of Sharia. By using other theological techniques than his fellow Hanbali theologians, he came to add a number of clarifications and new definitions to this orientation. Among his methods, were reasoning by analogy, qiyas, but he rejected related methods like taqlid (imitation of a case law) and ijma (consensus). He claimed to adhere strictly to the content of only the Koran and the Hadiths, and rejected all bid'a (inventions).
The most known doctrine of his is the condemnation of the cult of Muslim saints and prophets, which very popular in the Muslim world in his time as well as in modern times. Other conclusions of Ibn Taymiya were actually contrary to ijma, like stating that the payment of non-compulsory taxes frees a man from paying zakat and that divorce stated towards a women while she was in her menstrual period was void.
Ibn Taymiya promoted statements indicating a corporeal quality of God, which were met with much resistance from other Islamic scholars. While most Islamic orientations propagated the transcendency of God, Ibn Taymiya wrote about God's "hand", "foot", "shin" and "face" as they were literal attributes. Mainstream Islam then, before and ever since consider such ideas as heresy, and Ibn Taymiya spent much time in prison for these ideas. He was also condemned for ideas more in correspondance with mainstream Islam.
Ibn Taymiya was also involved in hefty debates with all non-Sunni Islamic orientations, but of special attention to him were the Shi'is of Mount Kasrawan in Lebanon, the Rifa'yah Sufis and the Ittihadiya school.
Ibn Taymiya's courage was so strong that he publicly stated that several of the most central leaders of early Islam had made mistakes. Among the many he claimed had made numerous mistakes were Ali and Umar, as well as later theologians like al-Ghazzali.
Ibn Taymiya also attacked other religions like Judaism and Christianity, and he propagated strongly against both the building of and the maintenance of churches and synagogues. Moreover, he accused both these religions of having changed the meaning of word and passages in their own sacred texts, hence he accused them of heresy. The latter notion has become intrinsic to mainstream Islam.
Despite his controversial ideas in some fields, Ibn Taymiya was generally admired for his eloquent writing and his enormous factual knowledge. In his time, hardly any Islamic scholar could remember and quote Koranic verses as fast and precisely as him.

1263 January 22: Born in Harran, Mesopotamia (corresponding to modern Iraq).
1268: Ibn Taymiya's family flees the hardship of the Mongols in Mesopotamia, and takes refuge in Damascus.
1278: Completes his studies.
1282: Upon his father's death, Ibn Taymiya succeeds his father as professor in Hanbali law.
1292: Performs his pilgrimage to Mecca.
1293: Challenges the authority of juridical authorities after they had condemned a Christian who had insulted the prophet Muhammad.
1298: Is accused of ascribing human characteristics to God.
1306: As part of a campaign against his understanding of Sharia, Muslim law, Ibn Taymiya is exiled to Cairo.
1313: Returns to Damascus, which at the time under grave threat from the Mongols. He returns to his position as professor.
1318: Is forbidden by the sultan to issue fatwa on the question of repudiation of someone's wife.
1320: Is sentenced to imprisonment for not following the command of the sultan.
1321: After spending 5 months in prison, Ibn Taymiya is released.
1326: Issues a fatwa negative to the popular cults of the tombs of holy men and women.
1328 September 27: Dies in Damascus after 3 weeks of illness. About 200,000 men and 15,000 women attend his funeral.

By Tore Kjeilen