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Al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyyah on Fanaticism

Translated by Suhaib Webb

The Proof of Islam, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, d. 505 a.h, wrote:

“If you see a scholar declaring others infidels and misguided, shun him and do not busy your heart or your tongue with him! Provocations in knowledge are undoubtedly  from people’s nature, and the ignorant one is unable to exercise patience with them. And due to  this, differences have multiplied amongst people. If knowledge was forcefully taken from the ignorant, then differences would subside.”

Al-Hafidh al-Dhahabi [may Allah have mercy upon him] wrote,

“I heard our shaykh, Ibn Taymiyyah, d. 728 a.h, say towards the end of his life, ‘I will never declare anyone from the people of the qiblah (direction of prayer) as an infidel.'”

May Allah bless us to marry our knowledge with sound adab (good manners).

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  • yes, so true…

    as long as they say the shaddah they are muslims… the only ones I do not accept as muslims are ahmadis or qadnis. The refuse to accept Mohammed(SAW) as the last prophet and claim a guy named Mirza Mohammed was the last prophet. That is wrong. Everything else I can accept Allah will decide but to go against the first belief as a muslim not matter what sect. How can they claim to be muslim? They are not.

  • as-salamu `alaykum,

    I think that the subject of Takfir might have been a problem 10 years ago, especially in the UK, but the problem is a more subtle one now. The problem now is of spoiled brats who often are students at “The Islamic University of X, Y, Z” declaring everyone who doesn’t agree with them as deviant. They’ll start a forum, get a gang of groupies and just bash the living daylights out of scholars and laymen alike with no mercy. We’ve been so desensitized by the rampant Takfir of the last decade that their horrible manners become excused while wiping the brow with, “Well. At least he’s not making Takfir.” Then you have the excuses that deprecate `Umar (رضي الله عنهم) with, “Ma sha’ Allah, he has the temprament of `Umar!”

    When people claiming knowledge behave like beasts, they need to be shunned no matter how truly awesome and chosen by God that they think themselves to be. Allah knows best.

  • as salaamu alaikum
    To the akh Shibli Zaman: Not to condone the bad manners of the people you’re referring to, but refuting those people who have beliefs that are contradictory to the beliefs of ahl as sunna is a fundamental principle of ahl as sunna. Many books by the scholars of ahl as sunna are replete with refutations of misguided individuals and sects. Albeit, this issue is for scholars and shouldn’t be the ‘bread and butter’ of da’wah or the main focus when instructing the people nor should it be completely disregarded.
    Historically, after the advent of the khawaarij, the reactionary movement was the murji’a which was the antithesis of the khawaarij and today the same thing is relflected in the neo khawarij movement (takfeeris) which has brought about a neo murjia (reformists, apologists, modernists, secularists, etc.) reaction of people who reject anything that may take a person outside the fold of Islam. So for them a person cannot become a kaafir after saying the shahada under any circumstance. The writings of Sheik Al Islam Ibn Taymiya have several examples of him stating an action or belief as kufr in the general since and that if a person fell into one of these beliefs or actions, then he has fallen into kufr (in the general sense). Of course with reagrds to specific individuals, there are conditions which must be met and excuses that a person may have which prevent the label of kufr being attributed to him and most importantly it is an issue FOR THE SCHOLARS and not laymen. Unfortunately many people today, who want to distance themselves from the label of takfeer (rightfully so) or extremist have gone to the other extreme of saying that nothing can remove a person from Islam accept denial of the shahada or istihlaal of something haram which is not correct.

  • Ya Akhi al-Karim Aba Jeenan, with all due respect, what did that lengthy comment have to do with anything I said?

    Refuting what you *believe* to be contrary to the principles of Ahl al-Sunnah can be done without behaving like a foul mouthed street kid. Correct?

    My point was that some people need to take deep, deep breaths and wash their faces before they start typing. If they find themselves having to do that often then perhaps they *aren’t* the Superheros of the Sunnah that they thought they were.

  • Dear Akh Shibli Zaman,
    The post had to do with the misunderstanding people have about ‘refutations’ and the people who seem to carry this out. Also, the misunderstanding (read the other posts) that many have regarding the position of Ibn Taymiya due to what some explain as being his position (i.e. the initial post by akah Suhaib) and the general issue of takfeer. In terms of manners and etiquette, to compare your brothers to beasts or foul mouthed street kids or that they consider themselves to be chosen by Allah (which is an accusation you could never prove, i.e. baseless commentary on your part) is not leading by example, nor is it an example of the beautiful character of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or his companions when dealing with people who may have mistaken. Maybe if you advised yourself and led by example, you could be a catalyst in rectifying the ‘character’ problems you addressed in your post.

  • Ya Akhi al-Karim Aba Jeenan (وفقكم الله), when I see someone describe a very qualified Shaykh as a “fat [expletive] who needs to get his fat head out of his fat [expletive]”, then I am in no way, shape or form failing in conduct when I say such individuals are “beasts” or “foul mouthed street kids or that they consider themselves to be chosen by Allah”.

    Do you disagree with this?

    Please, my brother, do not lecture me on etiquette when you, yourself, should admit you are from one of those forums I am talking about.

    Please spare us the excuses and attempts to draw others into a speculative dogmatically loaded debate about Iman and Kufr. Jazakumullahu khayran. was-salam.

  • As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah
    Jazak Allah khairan akhi Shibli Zaman. To accuse me of being part of some forum of which I know nothing about shows that in your discourse you base your comments and opinions on dhan as opposed to what’s actually being discussed. I know nothing of the forum you’re referring to, nor have I participated in anything that has been written there nor have I even read it for that matter. Another person’s bad character is not an excuse to display bad character nor does it remove you from the sin of backbiting nor does it do anything to correct those brothers who have fallen into expletive laden diatribes.
    Also, I wasn’t trying to drag anyone into a debate. I made a point regarding an issue which is surrounded by misinformation (illustrated by the commentary) and is an issue that is of primary relevance to both the West and the East. Jazak Allah khairan wa ahsan Allahu ilayk wa booreka feek!!

  • Very good, brother. How can this statement of Ibn Tamiyyah be reconciled with his fatwa against the Mongols? Also, with the mutual takfir that occured between the Saudi tribe and the Ottoman sharifs? Isn’t there a point where we have to put our foot down and say such-and-such deeds are Kufr? Do we declare the deeds to be Kufr but not the people if they face the Qiblah? Reconciling these points has troubled me lately.

    Jazak Allah Khayr.

    • I was wondering the same thing in terms of Ibn Tamiyyah. I’m not sure if that was our Dear Sheikh trying to reconcile his fatwa with what he felt at the current time of his last statement. Maybe Imam Suhaib you can elaborate a bit more on this for us.

      Also, the fact that you point out labeling actions as Kufr rather than the individual himself…..I wonder about this as well. I also have a hard time with a lot of leaders who are from so called “Muslim Nations”, but yet there actions are worse than that of a disbeliever. Yet, we know that not every wrong action makes a person a disbeliever.

      • What I was told was that declaring a Muslim a disbeliever as a means to punish them is the job of the Qadi (judge) only. Takfir for apostasy becomes equivalent to the crime of treason. However, the vast majority of Muslims should not judge another Muslim’s faith, even if they are probably hypocrites.

        The problem is certain trends of “scholars” make takfir on Muslim for comparatively small issues that are matters of difference of opinion. I guess the best thing is to tell the common Muslims not to concern themselves with it and to never make takfir, ever. Allah knows best.

  • Asalaam Alaikum Shaykh Suhaib,

    It may be worth writing an article (or series) on the fiqh perspective of kufr, (Its different types, implications, and what a Qadi would do to actually declare someone to have left Islam.)

    Shaykh Abu Ja’far al-Hanbali explains some of these things in his excellent blog article [link removed]

  • I don’t really understand how this makes sense, because Ibn Taymiyyah was known for cursing people who had different interpretations of Islam than he did. He especially cursed many Sufis and Shias, and he openly used harshness against them. So how is this person the same one who says that he would not call the person of the qiblah an infidel? The people he openly cursed were people of the qiblah.

    • U cant call a person of the Qibla kafir unless u see open kufur or shirk on them…that’s how understand it..Islam

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