Islamic Studies

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be pleased with him) on tolerance

By Sheikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah | Translated by Suhaib Webb


(1) on tolerance:

“It is not allowed to declare any Muslim an apostate for a sin he committed, or a mistake he made. Such as, an error related to differences surrounding issues of Ijtihad (3) . Allah says in His noble book, “Forgive us our Lord. And to You is the final return.” (4) It is related in the al-Sahih (5): that Allah (may He be exalted) answered this supplication and forgave the believers for any mistakes they committed.

The Khawarij

Thus, the heretical khawarij, who the Prophet (sa) ordered to be killed, were eventually put to death by the Leader of the Believers, Ali in Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him), and the scholars from the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and their students (tabi’in) agreed (with Sayidna Ali) on this issue. However, Ali ibn Abi Talib, S’ad ibn Abi Waqas and others form the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) did not declare the khawarij as apostates, and even though they exercised capital punishment on them, they still considered them as Muslims. For that reason Ali (and the others) did move towards killing the khawarij until they had committed mass murder and ravaged the wealth of the Muslim community” (6) Thus, they were killed, not because they were considered apostates, but because of their rebellion against the state and the carnage that took place because of them. (7)

The Reason

Thus, if this was the case of those who’s misguidance had been firmly established by the texts and scholarly consensus and still (even after that) they were not declared as apostates (by the Companions and their students), then what (do we say) of those (groups) from the Muslim who differ regarding issues in which arriving at an exact truth is very difficult?

Therefore, it is not allowable for any of these groups (those who differ on such issues) to declare each other as apostates, nor to declare the spilling of the others blood, or the taking of the others property, permissible even if the innovation (of one of the parties) is clearly established. And, most of the time, both parties are ignorant regarding what they differ over.(9)

We ask Allah to for His assistance, mercy and to unite our hearts.

1. D. 728 A.H

2. See Majmo’ al-fatawa 3:272-288

3. It is reported form a large number of early scholars that they used to say, “Indeed matters of Ijtihad (if differences exist) should not be rejected with the hand. And it is not for anyone to force others to follow his opinion. However, what is allowable is a discussion in which each party presents knowledge based proofs. Thus, for the one who the correctness of one group becomes apparent, then there is no harm in following that group. And for the one who the second groups stance seems more correct, then there is no harm in following that as well.” See the Risalah of Imam al-Shaf’i

4. Quran 2/286

5. Meaning Sahih Muslim, vol.2 pg (s). 145-146 in Imam al-Nawawi’s (may Allah be pleased with him) explanation.

6. The point here is that they were not killed because of the heretical ideas, but because of the crimes they committed such as: mass murder and wide spread theft.

7. For that reason the funeral prayers were offered for the khawarij, their properties where not taken and their inheritance was distibuted.

8. Meaning an issue where the law permits multiple possibilities regarding interpretation (Ijtihad)

9. One only has to look at the different Muslim on-line forums to see this. Arguments and accusations are made with very little adab or concern for others feelings (sdw)

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