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Ibn al-Jawzi: A Lifetime of Da'wah
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Ibn al-Jawzi, (ابن الجوزي), ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Ali b. Muhammad Abu al-Faraj, a jurist, traditionist, historian, preacher, one of the most famous Hanbalis of Baghdad, where he was born, most probably, in the year 511/1127[1], and whose ancestry goes back to Abu Bakr (ra). He was orphaned at the age of three and thereafter raised in care of his mother and paternal aunt, who later brought him to the mosque of Abu al-Fadhl Ibn Nasir, to be taught traditions (hadith). At this stage, Ibn al-Jawzi was probably no more than six years old.

Early Learning and Teachers

Being his first teacher as well as his maternal uncle, Ibn Nasir introduced him to many other teachers. Ibn al-Jawzi shows his gratitude to Ibn Nasir by writing the following in his notice: “He heard numerous traditions, and had copious knowledge in that regard. He studied lexicography under Abu Zakariya. He is the one whom Allah Ta’ala appointed for the purposes of guiding me to knowledge. He would exert great effort on my behalf during my childhood and take me to teachers.  He made me study the Musnad of Imam Ahmad by reading it to Ibn al-Husayn, as well as collections of shorter chains (‘awali). I, at that time, hadn’t a clue what learning is, due to my young age. He would make record of all traditions I heard. I studied with him for thirty years and did not benefit from anyone as I benefited from him.”[2]

Thus, Ibn al-Jawzi began his learning career from a very young age, and had over 90 teachers, three of whom were women.[3] His teachers who taught him traditions include Abu al-Sa’adat al-Mutawakkili, who gave him the authorisation (ijaza) to transmit works from al-Khatib al-Baghdadi; Ibn al-Husayn who taught him Musnad of Imam Ahmad; and of course, Ibn Nasir who started his career as a Shafi’i-Ash’ari, but later converted to Hanbalism in doctrine and jurisprudence, due to a dream he saw to that effect.[4] 

Amongst his Qur’an teachers was Abu al-Karam al-Hashimi - another convert from Shafi’ism to Hanbalism, of whom Ibn al-Jawzi states: ‘He is the first to teach me the Quran when I was a child’[5] - and most notably Abu Muhammad al-Muqri’ from whom he learnt various modes of recitations.[6]

His education in jurisprudence began with one of the leading Hanbali authorities of the time, Ibn al-Zaghuni, which continued for several years. After the latter’s death in 527/1133, Ibn al-Jawzi became the student of Abu Bakr al-Dinawari until his death in 532/1137-8, after which he continued his law studies with other prominent Hanbali figures, such as Abu Ya’la al-Saghir, then finally, Abu Hakim al-Nahrawani. Later Ibn al-Jawzi became an assistant teacher for al-Nahrawani in his institute, and upon his death in 556/1161, Ibn al-Jawzi succeeded him as the professor.

His preaching career (wa’z) also began at a very young age, when his teacher Ibn Nasir introduced him to Abu al-Qasim al-‘Alawi al-Harawi, who taught him the art of preaching. It was not long before he encouraged Ibn al-Jawzi to ascend the pulpit and deliver his first sermon attended by a crowd of 50,000, at the tender age of ten.[7] However, al-‘Alawi soon left Baghdad, after which Ibn al-Jawzi’s training on wa’dh was continued by Ibn al-Zaghuni until his death in 527/1133.

In addition to his professors, he held in great admiration three scholars, even though he never personally met them: Abu al-Wafa’ ‘Ali b. ‘Aqil al-Hanbali; the Ash’ari-Shafi’i historian, a biographer and the author of Hilyat al-Awliya’, Abu Nu’aym al-Isfahani; and al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, a famous traditionist and a historian, a Hanbali who converted to Shafi’ism.[8]

His Preaching Career

Although, Ibn al-Jawzi was a prolific author, who wrote extensively on many topics and sciences, his fame is due to his glorious preaching career, which in turn made him an influential religious political figure in Baghdad.

As preceded, he gave his first sermon at the age of ten, but his career only advanced at the age of fifteen, upon the death of his teacher Ibn al-Zaghuni in 527/1133 when he requested that he should replace his teacher’s position. However, due to his young age, his proposal was turned down, yet his persistence led him to the vizier, who officially appointed him to deliver sermons in al-Mansur mosque.[9]

By year 544/1149, Ibn al-Jawzi was appointed by Ibn Hubayrah, the pious Hanbali vizier, to hold his sermons every Friday in his palace, which was open to the public. His ever increasing popularity moved the Caliph al-Mustanjid to appoint him to deliver sermons in the Palace mosque, which were regularly attended by 10,000 to 15,000. Ibn al-Jawzi used this opportunity to show great valour in defence of sunnah and briskly attacked the ever growing madhab fanaticism in his time, as well as scholastic theological schools such as Mu’tazilism and Ash’arism.[10]

However, after Ibn Hubayra became a victim of his rival conspirators and was subsequently martyred in 560/1164, life became difficult for Ibn al-Jawzi. The following year one of the colleges under the supervision of Ibn al-Jawzi was seized. Hence, his activism and influence vanished from the scene for five years, but reappeared after the death of Caliph al-Mustanjid in 566/1170.

During the reign of al-Mustadhi’, Ibn al-Jawzi developed strong ties with the Caliph, due to which he became of the most influential persons of Baghdad. This special relationship is illustrated by Ibn al-Jawzi’s work al-Misbah al-Mudhi fi Dawlat al-Mustadhi’, which he wrote in praise of the Caliph. In 567/1171 when Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi re-established the ‘Abbasid Khutba in Cairo after defeating the Fatimids, Ibn al-Jawzi demonstrated his rejoice by writing Kitab al-Nasr ‘Ala Misr, after which he was authorised by the Caliph in 568/1172 to deliver sermons at the Badr gate in presence of the Caliph. In the same year he delivered many popular sermons that attracted extraordinarily large crowds of 100,000 attendees.

In 569/1173, Ibn al-Jawzi was invited by the people of al-Harbiyya and Bab al-Basra, the two quarters of West Baghdad, to deliver a sermon in an open area between the two quarters. The sermon, however, was attended by people from all parts of the city. Ibn al-Jawzi led the multitude of congregation to the place of meeting and delivered the sermon. Since the meeting was held after sunset, the people of al-Harbiyya and Bab al-Basra – men, women and children – came out with candles to receive him. The number of attendees were estimated at 300,000, while the candles were estimated at a thousand, lighting up the plain and dramatising the occasion.

In 570 he built his own college at Darb Dinar and on the first day delivered a series of fourteen lectures on different sciences. In the same year, he concluded his exegeses of the Quran and prostrated on the pulpit, claiming to be the first one to have completed a series of Quran exegeses in sermons since it was revealed. In the same year he was given the custody of another college, on which the name of Imam Ahmad was inscribed, along with a declaration that it had been relegated to the supervision of the champion of the sunnah, Ibn al-Jawzi. Such a growing influence of Ibn al-Jawzi, and by extension the Hanbali Madhab, alarmed the members of other schools.

In 571/1178-9 the Caliph granted Ibn al-Jawzi inquisitorial powers to combat the increasing Rafidhite influence in Baghdad. Ibn al-Jawzi ascended the pulpit and proclaimed to the crowds: “Amir al-Mu’minin has heard about the growth of Rafdh, and has conferred upon me inquisitional powers to combat heresies. If you hear anyone from the public reviling the Companions, then inform me, for I will raze his house and land him in prison.”[11] It is said that it was during this period Ibn al-Jawzi penned his famous Talbis Iblis (The Devil’s Deception), in critique of numerous heresies, social ills, and in particular, the distorted version of Tasawwuf that had become widespread.

Ibn al-Jawzi’s career and popularity reached its zenith in the year 574/2278 AH, which in turn empowered the Hanbalis in Baghdad. At this same time, the Caliph ordered that an inscription be engraved on the tomb of Imam Ahmad stating: ‘This is the grave of the crown of sunnah, the most noble of the Ummah, one with high ambitions, the embodiment of the Book and the sunnah of Allah’s Messenger, al-Imam Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani – may Allah be merciful with him’, ending with the date of his demise and Ayat al-Kursi. However, the followers of other madhabs became concerned at the growing Hanbali influence on the Caliph and complained, since it was never customary for the ruler to bestow the title of ‘Imam’ to anyone other than a caliph.[12]

Ibn al-Jawzi writes, describing the pinnacle of his success in the same year: “Today I am the director of five colleges, and the author of 150 works in all subjects. More than 100,000 repented at my hands, and I cut off the hair of more than 10,000 lax young men.[13] No preacher saw a crowd as great as mine, which was attended by the Caliph, the vizier, sahib al-makhzan (Dhahir al-Din) and the senior scholars.”[14] 

After the death of al-Mustadhi’, al-Nasir ascended to power in 575/1179. Whilst it has been noted that al-Nasir inclined towards Shi’ism, the early part of his reign did not appear to reflect any change in Ibn al-Jawzi’s relation with the caliphate. This, nevertheless, was soon to change and land Ibn al-Jawzi in utter disgrace in year 590/1194.

His Trial

Year 590/1194 marks Ibn al-Jawzi’s fall from grace. In this painful episode of his life, he was subjected to severe tribulation, exile and imprisonment. The cause of his trial was the bitter feud between him and the descendants of the famous Sufi Hanbali Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani.

During the vizierate of Abu al-Mudhaffar b. Yunus, – a supporter of Ibn al-Jawzi and like him, also a student of al-Nahrawani – a tribunal was setup for Rukn al-Din, the grandson of ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani. The tribunal, which took place in the presence of Ibn al-Jawzi and other leading scholars, concluded in burning of his books, which contained zandaqah, heresies, astrology and in particular rasa’il ikhwan al-safa. Consequently, Al-Jaylani’s institute, much to the disgrace of Rukn al-Din, was snatched away from him and placed in the care of Ibn al-Jawzi.

However, after the dismissal of the vizier Ibn Yunus in 590/1194, Ibn al-Qassab, described by Ibn Rajab as ‘a vile Rafidite’ (rafidhi khabith), was instated as the vizier. Ibn al-Qassab, then went in pursuit of his rival, Ibn Yunus and his supporters.

Rukn al-Din seized this opportunity to entrap Ibn al-Jawzi, and incited Ibn al-Qassab against him by suggesting that the former was a Nasibi (detractor of the Prophet’s family) and a descendant of Abu Bakr, enough reason for him to be disgraced and persecuted. Ibn al-Qassab, after seeking the permission of the Caliph al-Nasir, unleashed Rukn al-Din upon Ibn al-Jawzi. Rukn al-Din then proceeded to the house of Ibn al-Jawzi, where he publicly humiliated him and dragged him out of his house, which was then sealed off and his family dispersed. Ibn al-Jawzi was taken to Wasit in the middle of the night by Rukn himself and house arrested. Rukn, still seeking to further humiliate Ibn al-Jawzi, requested permission from the superintendent of Wasit to imprison Ibn al-Jawzi in an underground basement. The superintendent, who was also a Shi’ite, rebuked Rukn saying: “O ye Heretic! Should I throw him therein merely upon your request?! Bring me the written decree of the Caliph, for by Allah, if he was of my sect, I would have sacrificed my soul and wealth in his service!” Hence, Rukn simply returned to Baghdad.

Ibn al-Jawzi’s imprisonment in Wasit did not prevent him from utilising his time to write and teach, whilst cooking and cleaning, at a very old age without any help. It is reported that Ibn al-Jawzi would complete the Quran daily, yet omitting Surah Yusuf, due to his deep sorrow over his son who shared the same name.

It was after five years, in 595/1198-9 that his son, Muhiy al-Din Yusuf, became prominent through his preaching sessions, and successfully managed to intercede with the mother of the Caliph on behalf of his father, and thereby, facilitating Ibn al-Jawzi’s return to Baghdad.

His arrival in Baghdad was emotionally celebrated by the inhabitants, who enthusiastically came out to receive him with a warm welcome. It was then announced that he would be holding a preaching session the following Saturday. The people thus began to reserve places for themselves immediately after having prayed the Friday prayer. Despite heavy rains that night, the masses could not be deterred from the much awaited sermon. The next morning, Ibn al-Jawzi began to deliver his sermon to an extraordinary large audience, such that many, due to the vast numbers present, were unable to hear his voice.

His death and funeral

He continued to give sermons and author numerous works, until the Ramadan of 597/1200. On the 7th of Ramadan, he sat at the mausoleum of the Caliph’s mother to deliver his last sermon. After addressing the congregation, he fell ill for five days, and passed away on Friday between Maghrib and ‘Isha at the age of eighty-six or eighty-seven. The next morning, his funeral was prepared and brought out of the house. The entire city of Baghdad came to a standstill as the masses gathered to attend the funeral. At first, his funeral was taken to the spot where he would deliver his sermons, and prayed over by his son, Abu al-Qasim. The crowds then carried the funeral to al-Mansur mosque, where he was prayed over again. By the time the crowds reached his grave, which was located near the grave of Imam Ahmad, it was time for the Friday prayer. It was one of the most extraordinary funerals in Baghdad, where the inhabitants of Baghdad showed their utmost remorse at the loss of an inspirational Islamic figure, a charismatic and earnest preacher, and a source of pride.

His Descendants

Ibn al-Jawzi left behind three sons and six daughters:

1) ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, his eldest son, who settled and preached in Mosul. He died at a very young age.

2) Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali, his second eldest son. He began his preaching career at a very young age but left shortly, and instead, degenerated into an idler and accompanied irreligious people. He was extremely rebellious towards his noble father, such that when the latter was sent in exile to Wasit, he sold most of his father’s books away for a dirt cheap price. Due to his behaviour, Ibn al-Jawzi had shunned him for years until he died. He would often say about his son: ‘I pray against him every last third of the night.’[15]

3) Muhiy al-Din Yusuf, his youngest son, who followed his father’s footsteps in learning and preaching. He also took responsibility for the ‘Ministry of Commanding Virtues and Forbidding Evil’ in Baghdad, taught his Hanbali colleagues at al-Mustansiriyya institute, and later formed al-Jawziyya institute in Damascus. He was killed, along with the Caliph at the hands of the Tatars upon Hulagu Khan’s invasion of Baghdad.

4) Sitt al-‘Ulama senior, the eldest daughter and the wife of the jurist, Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad al-Hammami; 5) Rabi’a, the mother of Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi; 6) Sharaf al-Nisa’, the wife of ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-‘Iyabi al-Hanbali; 7) Zaynab; 8) Jawhara and 9) Sitt al-‘Ulama junior, the youngest daughter.[16]

Students          

Ibn al-Jawzi produced many students, the most notable of them were:

  • Yusuf b. al-Jawzi, Abu al-Faraj Ibn al-Jawzi’s son who established al-Jawziyya institute in Damascus. He, along with his three sons, was killed by the Tatars upon the invasion of Baghdad by Hulagu Khan. His works include: Ma’adin al-Ibriz fi Tafsir al-Kitab al-‘Aziz in exegesis, al-Madhab al-Ahmad fi Madhab Ahmad, and al-Idah fi al-Jadal.
  • Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, his grandson from his daughter Rabi’a, a historian and a preacher like his grandfather. He was born and raised in Baghdad under the supervision of his grandfather, who then travelled to Damascus and settled therein. His works include: Mir’at al-Zaman fi Tarikh al-A’yan, al-Jalis al-Salih, al-Intisar wal-Tarjih, and many others. He was a convert from Hanbalism to Hanafism and apparently, Rafidhi-Shi’ism.
  • ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi, one of the most prominent Hadith masters with outstanding knowledge on the narrators of traditions. He is the author of many famous works, such as al-Kamal fi Asma al-Rijal and ‘Umdat al-Ahkam.
  • Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi, one of the major Hanbali authorities and the author of the profound and voluminous book on Law, al-Mughni, which became popular amongst researchers from all juristic backgrounds.

His Works

Ibn al-Jawzi is perhaps the most voluminous author in Islamic history. Al-Dhahabi states: “I have not known anyone amongst the ‘ulama to have written as much as he (Ibn al-Jawzi) did.”

According to Ibn al-Jawzi, he wrote his first book only at the tender age of thirteen.[17] It has always been difficult to determine the exact number of works authored by Ibn al-Jawzi. Al-Zirikli estimates it to be around 300[18], while Dr. al-‘Alwaji counted up to 574 works in his Mu’allafat Ibn al-Jawzi. However, this figure is far from accurate, and perhaps exaggerated, for al-‘Alwaji often repeats a title with a different wording, and gives it a separate count. Ibn al-Jawzi himself determined 150 works, at the time he was writing his rich historical piece al-Muntadham; and 250 by the time of his death.[19] Ibn Rajab lists over 180 compositions, whereas Ibn Taymiyyah, being an avid reader of Ibn al-Jawzi’s works, claimed to have counted over 1000 works, and later found even more, a claim that Dr. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-‘Uthaymin, deems gross exaggeration.

Although, Ibn al-Jawzi’s works range from law (fiqh), traditions (hadith), history and biography, his best contribution, as asserted by Ibn Taymiyyah were his Manaqib biographical series on some of the prominent Islamic figures.

The following is a list of his works as documented by Ibn Rajab:

Quranic Sciences

1) Al-Mughni fi al-Tafsir, 81 parts
2) Zad al-Masir fi ‘Ilm al-Tafsir, 4 volumes
3) Taysir al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran
4) Tadhkirat al-Arib fi Tafsir al-Gharib
5) Gharib al-Gharib
6) Nuzhat al-‘Uyun al-Nawadhir fi al-Wujuh wa al-Nadha’ir
7) Al-Wujuh wa al-Nawadhir fi al-Wujuh wa al-Nadha’ir, a summary of Nuzhat al-‘Uyun al-Nawadhir
8) Al-Ishara ila al-Qira’at al-Mukhtara, 4 parts
9) Tadhkirat al-Mutanabbih fi ‘Uyun al-Mushtabih
10) Funun al-Afnan fi ‘Uyun ‘Ulum al-Quran
11) Ward al-Aghsan fi Funun al-Afnan
12) ‘Umdat al-Rasikh fi Ma’rifat al-Mansukh wa al-Nasikh, 5 parts
13) Al-Musaffa bi Akuffi Ahl al-Rusukh min ‘Ilm al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh


Theology

14) Muntaqad al-Mu’taqid
15) Minhaj al-Wusul ila ‘Ilm al-Usul, 5 parts
16) Bayan Ghaflat al-Qa’il bi Qidam Af’al al-‘Ibad
17) Ghawamidh al-Ilahiyat
18) Maslak al-‘Aql
19) Minhaj Ahl al-Isaba
20) Al-Sirr al-Masun
21) Daf’ Shubhat al-Tashbih, 4 parts
22) Al-Radd ‘Ala al-Muta’assib al-‘Anid


Traditions and Asceticism

23) Jami’ al-Asanid bi Alkhas al-Asanid
24) Al-Hada’iq, 34 parts
25) Naqiy al-Naql, 5 parts
26) Al-Mujtab
27) Al-Nuzha, 2 parts
28) ‘Uyun al-Hikayat
29) Multaqat al-Hikayat, 13 parts
30) Irshad al-Muridin fi Hikayat al-Salaf al-Salihin
31) Rawdhat al-Naqil
32) Ghurar al-Athar, 30 parts
33) Al-Tahqiq fi Ahadith al-Ta’liq, 2 volumes (ISBN: 9775704480)
34) Al-Madih, 7 parts
35) Al-Mawdhu’at min al-Ahadith al-Marfu’at, 2 volumes
36) Al-‘Ilal al-Mutanahiya fi al-Ahadith al-Wahiya, 2 volumes
37) Ikhbar Ahl al-Rusukh fi al-Fiqh wal-Tahdith bi Miqdar al-Mansukh min al-Hadith (ISBN: 9771420054)
38) Al-Sahm al-Musib, 2 parts
39) Akhyir al-Dhakha’ir, 3 parts
40) Al-Fawa’id ‘an al-Shuyukh, 60 parts
41) Manaqib Ashab al-Hadith
42) Mawt al-Khidhr
43) Mukhtasar Mawt al-Khidhr
44) Al-Mashyikha
45) Al-Musalsalat
46) Al-Muhtasab fi al-Nasab
47) Tuhfat al-Tullab, 3 parts
48) Tanwir Mudlahim al-Sharaf
49) Al-Alqab
50) Fadha’il ‘Umar b. al-Khattab
51) Fadha’il ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz
52) Fadha’il Sa’id b. al-Musayyab
53) Fadha’il al-Hasan al-Basri
54) Manaqib al-Fudhayl b. ‘Ayadh, 4 parts
55) Manaqib Bishr al-Hafi, 7 parts
56) Manaqib Ibrahim b. Adham, 6 parts
57) Manaqib Sufyan al-Thawri
58) Manaqib Ahmad b. Hanbal
59) Manaqib Ma’ruf al-Karkhi, 2 parts
60) Manaqib Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya
61) Muthir al-‘Azm al-Sakin ila Ashraf al-Amakin (ISBN: 9775227593)
62) Safwat al-Safwa, 5 parts, abridgment of Hilyat al-Awliya’ by Abu Nu’aym
63) Minhaj al-Qasidin, 4 parts
64) Al-Mukhtar min Akhbar al-Akhyar
65) Al-Qati’ li Muhal al-Lijaj bi Muhal al-Hallaj, a rebuttal against the supporters of al-Hallaj, the pantheist who was executed by the agreement of the jurists from four schools.
66) ‘Ujalat al-Muntadhar li Sharh Hal al-Khidhr
67) Al-Nisa’ wa ma yata’alluq bi adabihin
68) ‘Ilm al-Hadith al-Manqul fi Anna Aba Bakr Amma al-Rasul
69) Al-Jawhar
70) Al-Mughlaq


History

71) Talqih Fuhum Ahl al-Athar fi ‘Uyun al-Tawarikh wal-Siyar
72) Al-Muntadham fi Tarikh al-Muluk wal-Umam, 10 volumes
73) Shudhur al-‘Uqud fi Tarikh al-‘Uhud
74) Tara’if al-Dhara’if fi Tarikh al-Sawalif
75) Manaqib Baghdad


Fiqh

76) al-Insaf fi Masa’il al-Khilaf
77) Junnat al-Nadhir wa Jannat al-Nadhar
78) ‘Umad al-Dala’il fi Mushtahar al-Masa’il
79) Al-Mudhab fi al-Madhab
80) Masbuk al-Dhahab
81) Al-Nubdha
82) Al-‘Ibadat al-Khams
83) Asbab al-Hidaya li Arbab al-Bidaya
84) Kashf al-Dhulma ‘an al-Dhiya’ fi Radd Da’wa Ilkiya
85) Radd al-Lawm al-Dhaym fi Sawm Yawm al-Ghaym


Art of Preaching (wa’dh)

86) al-Yawaqit fi al-Khutab
87) al-Muntakhab fi al-Nuwab
88) Muntakhab al-Muntakhab
89) Muntakhal al-Muntakhab
90) Nasim al-Riyadh
91) Al-Lu’lu’
92) Kanz al-Mudhakkir
93) Al-Azaj
94) Al-Lata’if
95) Kunuz al-Rumuz
96) Al-Muqtabis
97) Zayn al-Qisas
98) Mawafiq al-Marafiq (ISBN: 2745134647)
99) Shahid wa Mashhud
100) Wasitat al-‘Uqud min Shahid wa Mashhud
101) Al-Lahab, 2 parts
102) Al-Mudhish
103) Saba Najd
104) Muhadathat al-‘Aql
105) Laqt al-Juman
106) Al-Muq’ad al-Muqim
107) Iqadh al-Wasnan min al-Raqadat bi Ahwal al-Haywan wal-Nabat, 2 parts
108) Nakt al-Majalis al-Badriyya, 2 parts
109) Nuzhat al-Adib, 2 parts
110) Muntaha al-Muntaha
111) Tabsirat al-Mubtadi’, 20 parts
112) Al-Yaquta, 2 parts (ISBN: 9775141494)
113) Tuhfat al-Wu’adh


Various sciences

114) Dham al-Hawa, 2 volumes
115) Sayd al-Khatir, 65 parts
116) Ihkam al-Ish’ar bi Ahkam al-Ash’ar, 20 parts
117) Al-Qussas al-Mudhakkirin (Also available in English: A critical edition, annotated translation and introduction by Merlin L. Swartz ASIN: B0007KE23O)
118) Taqwim al-Lisan
119) Al-Adhkiya
120) Al-Hamqa
121) Talbis Iblis, 2 volumes (A small part of the book has been translated and abridged into English by Dr. Bilal Philips)
122) Laqt al-Manafi’ fi al-Tibb, 2 volumes
123) Al-Shayb al-Khidhab
124) A’mar al-A’yan
125) Al-Thabat ‘ind al-Mamat, 2 parts
126) Tanwir al-Ghabash fi Fadhl al-Sud wal-Habash, 2 parts
127) Al-Hath ‘ala Hifdh al-‘Ilm wa Dhikr Kibar al-Huffadh
128) Ashraf al-Mawali, 2 parts
129) I’lam al-Ahya bi Aghlat al-Ihya, a criticism of Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din by al-Ghazzali
130) Tahrim al-Muhill al-Makruh
131) Al-Misbah al-Mudhi’ li Dawlat al-Imam al-Mustadhi’
132) ‘Atf al-‘Ulama ‘ala al-Umara wal-Umara ‘ala al-‘Ulama
133) Al-Nasr ‘Ala Misr
134) Al-Majd al-‘Adhudi
135) Al-Fajr al-Nuri
136) Manaqib al-Sitr al-Rafi’
137) Ma Qultuhu min al-Ash’ar
138) Al-Maqamat
139) Min Rasa’ili
140) Al-Tibb al-Ruhani
141) Bayan al-Khata wal-Sawab fi Ahadith Ibn Shihab, 16 parts
142) Al-Baz al-Ashhab al-Munqadh ‘ala man Khalafa al-Madhab, a treatise in Fiqh, and not another title of Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbih according to Ibn Rajab.
143) Al-Wafa bi Fadha’il al-Mustafa, 2 volumes
144) Al-Nur fi Fadha’il al-Ayyam wal-Shuhur
145) Taqrib al-Tariq al-Ab’ad fi Fadha’il Maqbarat Ahmad
146) Manaqib al-Imam al-Shafi’i
147) Al-‘Uzlah
148) Al-Riyadha
149) Minhaj al-Isaba fi Mahabat al-Sahaba
150) Funun al-Albab
151) Al-Dhurafa wal-Mutamajinin
152) Manaqib Abi Bakr
153) Manaqib ‘Ali
154) Fadha’il al-‘Arab
155) Durrat al-Iklil fi al-Tarikh, 4 volumes
156) Al-Amthal
157) Al-Manfa’ah fi al-Madhahib al-Arba’ah, 2 volumes
158) Al-Mukhtar min al-Ash’ar, 10 volumes
159) Ru’us al-Qawarir, 2 volumes
160) Al-Murtajal fi al-Wa’dh
161) Dhakhirat al-Wa’idh, several volumes
162) Al-Zajr al-Makhuf
163) Al-Ins wal-Mahabba
164) Al-Mutrib al-Mulhib
165) Al-Zand al-Wariy fi al-Wa’dh al-Nasiriy, 2 parts
166) Al-Fakhir fi Ayyam al-Imam al-Nasir
167) Al-Majd al-Salahi
168) Lughat al-Fiqh, 2 parts
169) ‘Aqd al-Khanasir fi Dhamm al-Khalifat al-Nasir
170) Dhamm ‘Abd al-Qadir, a censure of ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani
171) Gharib al-Hadith
172) Mulah al-Ahadith, 2 parts
173) Al-Fusul al-Wa’dhiya ‘ala Huruf al-Mu’jam
174) Salwat al-Ahzan, 10 volumes
175) Al-Ma’shuq fil-Wa’dh
176) Al-Majalis al-Yusufiyya fil-Wa’dh
177) Al-Wa’dh al-Maqbari
178) Qiyam al-Layl, 3 parts
179) Al-Muhadatha
180) Al-Munaja
181) Zahir al-Jawahir fil-Wa’dh, 4 parts
182) Al-Nuhat al-Khawatim, 2 parts
183) Al-Murtaqa li man Ittaqa
184) Hawashi ‘ala Sihah al-Jawhari
185) Mukhtasar Funun Ibn ‘Aqil, 10 odd volumes

Criticisms by Ibn al-Jawzi

Ash’ari theologians

Despite Ibn al-Jawzi’s doctrinal views on Allah’s Names and Attributes often appearing contradictory, as we will see, he was, nevertheless, an ardent follower of the traditional Hanbali hostility towards the Ash’aris.

His extremely hostile attitude towards the Ash’aris was well noted by Ibn Kathir as he states: “Ibn al-Jawzi mentions in this year[20], in al-Muntadham, the death of al-Ash’ari, where he spoke ill of him, disparagingly in accordance with the habitual criticisms by the Hanbalis directed towards the Ash’aris, past and present”[21]

Ibn Kathir is referring to the following note of Ibn al-Jawzi on al-Ash’ari: “He was born in 260 AH. He delved into the Kalam, and was upon the madhab of the Mu’tazila for a long time. He then decided to oppose them and proclaimed a doctrine which muddled up people’s beliefs and caused endless strife. The people never differed that this audible Qur’an is Allah’s Speech, and that Gabriel descended with it upon the Prophet – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. The reliable imams declared that the Quran is eternal, while the Mu’tazila claimed that it is created. Al-Ash’ari then agreed with the Mu’tazila that the Quran is created and said: ‘This is not Allah’s Speech. Rather, Allah’s Speech is an Attribute subsisting in Allah’s Essence. It did not descend on the Prophet, nor is it audible.’ Ever since he proclaimed this belief, he lived in fear for his life for opposing the orthodox community (ahl al-sunnah), until he sought refuge in the house of Abu al-Hasan al-Tamimi fearing his assassination. Then some of the rulers began to fanatically followed his madhab, and his following increased, until the Shafi’is abandoned the beliefs of al-Shafi’i and instead followed al-Ash’ari’s doctrine”[22] 

The vehement defence of sunna and palpable attacks on unorthodox views, and in particular the Ash’arite views on the Qur’an, were a distinct feature of Ibn al-Jawzi’s sermons. His attacks against the Ash’aris include his famous remark, once made on the pulpit: “The heretics claim; i) there is none in the Heavens, ii) neither is there Qur’an in the Mushaf, and iii) nor is there a Prophet in the grave; ‘your three shameful facets’”[23]

Ibn al-Jawzi writes, while complaining about certain Ash’arites indoctrinating the masses with the Ash’arite dogma: “A group of Persian (a’ajim) heretics arrived in Baghdad and mounted the pulpits to sermon the masses. They would claim, in most of their gatherings: There is no ‘Speech of Allah’ on this earth, and is the mushaf anything but paper, galls and vitriol?[24] Allah is not in the Heavens, and the slave-girl to whom the Prophet said: ‘Where is Allah?’ was dumb and therefore pointed towards the sky, meaning: He is not from the idols worshipped on this earth.[25]

They then said: ‘Where are the ‘letterists’, who claim that the Quran is composed of letters and sound? Rather, the Quran is only an expression of Jibril!’ They continued in this vein, until the sacredness of the Quran diminished from the hearts of many.”[26]

He then mentions at length, the arguments for the orthodox approach towards the Quran, and commends Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal for his rigid stance on the issue, which united the Muslims on one belief: the Quran, which is contained in the Mushaf, is the uncreated Speech of Allah. He then denigrates al-Ash’ari, saying: “Then, people did not differ in this issue, until there appeared ‘Ali b. Isma’il al-Ash’ari, who at first, held the beliefs of the Mu’tazilites. It then occurred to him, as he claimed, that Allah’s Speech subsists in the Divine Essence (sifah qa’imah bil-that). His claim, therefore, necessitated that the Quran we have is created.”[27]

Sufis

Ibn al-Jawzi was, in his early youth, influenced by abstentious Sufism, which left him with illness for several years, until he decided to abandon it.[28] His experience with Sufism, which by then had vastly drifted away from the sacred law, transformed him into one of the fiercest critics of the Sufis.

His austere anti-Sufi stance was clearly demonstrated in his sermons and many of his works. Although, he was never a detractor of the ascetics amongst the early Muslims, his criticisms were mainly directed towards the deviant and abnormal tendencies that took root amongst the ascetics, and by his time, became known as Tasawwuf.

Ibn al-Jawzi says in Talbis Iblis, whilst commenting on the origins of Tasawwuf:

“The Sufis are generally from the ascetics (zuhhad). Although, we have already mentioned the devil’s deception of ascetics, except that the Sufis varied from the ascetics by having specific qualities and states, and became known with certain characteristics, and hence, we had to single them out with criticism. Tasawwuf is a path (tariqa), the beginning of which was complete asceticism; however, later its followers permitted the enjoyment of songs and dancing.

“At the time of the Prophet, the attribution was only to Iman and Islam, and hence it was said: so-and-so is a Muslim, or a Mu’min. Then the terms ‘zahid’ (ascetic) and ‘‘abid’ (worshipper) were introduced. Then, there came a people who adhered to asceticism and worship, gave up the worldly life, devoted themselves to worship, and embraced a unique path and character.”[29]

Some have argued that despite Ibn al-Jawzi’s cynicism towards the Sufis, he did not discredit Sufism as a genre. To the contrary, they claim, he was in favour of Sufism, and this is reflected by a number of his works, such as his abridgement of Hilyat al-Awliya by Abu Nu’aym, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din by al-Ghazzali and various laudatory biographies of early ascetics, such as Hasan al-Basri and Ma’ruf al-Karkhi.

The above conclusion is not quite accurate, for while Ibn al-Jawzi undoubtedly paid great importance to asceticism, morals and manners, yet he did, nevertheless, regard the entire genre of Tasawwuf to be other than zuhd, and moreover, foreign to Islam and an absurdity. This is clearly reflected in his criticism of Abu Nu’aym’s Hilyat al-Awliya, where the latter considers the early generation of Muslims, including the Prophet’s companions and the four Imams, to be from the Sufis.

Thus, Ibn al-Jawzi states, while listing his objections against Hilyat al-Awliya: “The seventh objection comes against the ascription of Tasawwuf to the senior masters, such as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, al-Hasan, Shurayh, Sufyan, Shu’ba, Malik, Shafi’i, Ahmad, whereas they had no knowledge of Tasawwuf.  If one were to say: [Abu Nu’aym] meant by that, abstentious worldly life (zuhd), since they were all zuhhad. We say in reply: Tasawwuf is a school well-known amongst its followers, which is not simply restricted to Zuhd. Rather, the school has particular qualities and disposition, known to its masters. If Tasawwuf was not something further added to Zuhd, there would not have been narrations from some of the aforementioned in condemnation of Tasawwuf. In fact, Abu Nu’aym himself narrated in the biography of al-Shafi’i – may Allah be merciful with him – that he said: ‘Tasawwuf is built upon lethargy. If a person were to practise Tasawwuf in the morning, he would not reach the noon, except that he has become obtuse.’ I discussed Tasawwuf extensively in my book called: Talbis Iblis. (Devil’s Deception)”[30] 

Indeed, Ibn al-Jawzi dedicated two-thirds of his book Talbis Iblis to his scathing criticism of Tasawwuf. His abridgment of Hilyat al-Awliya, and summarisation of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din by al-Ghazzali, is not a proof for his Sufi tendencies. On the contrary, it is an illustration of his deep antagonism towards Tasawwuf. The sole purpose of abridging such works was to purge, what he considered the unorthodox content from such works, to make them conducive to the intellectual wellbeing of the masses. Ibn al-Jawzi’s criticism of Tasawwuf did not spare the famous and respected ascetics, such as al-Junayd, Bishr al-Hafi, and even his co-Madhabist, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani, in censure of whom he wrote Dhamm ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani (Censure of ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani).

Ibn al-Jawzi’s criticisms of the Sufis were directed at several fronts. He criticised them for the prevalence of pantheism amongst their ranks, and to that end he wrote Al-Qati’ li Muhal al-Lijaj bi Muhal al-Hallaj censuring al-Hallaj, the famous pantheist who claimed to be God, and was subsequently executed by the agreement of the jurists.[31]

He attacked the Sufis for demeaning all aspects of worldly life, such that they would wilfully and unwisely give away their belongings to remain poor. Ibn al-Jawzi states: “What the ignorant amongst the ascetics call ‘reliance’ (tawakkul), that is to spend all that one owns, is not legislated in religion. For the Prophet said to Ka’b b. Malik: Keep some of your wealth.”[32]

The Sufis were characterised by their deriding attitude towards the sacred knowledge, in favour of asceticism. Ibn al-Jawzi criticised them saying: “From the amazing ways in which the devil plays his tricks, is by beautifying abandonment of knowledge. Yet, they [the Sufis] did not simply stop at that, but also engaged in insulting those busy with knowledge. This, only if they understood, is tantamount to insulting the Shari’ah; for the Messenger of Allah said: ‘Convey from me’”[33]

Ibn al-Jawzi’s remarks, ridiculing the early ascetics, only underline his rigid anti-Sufi attitude. He says about the early ascetics: “I saw most of them in confusion. Those of them with good intentions are also not following the mainstream path in most of their affairs. A number of early ascetics wrote various books for their followers that are crammed full of abominations, and inauthentic reports, in which the authors instruct with that which is at odds with the Shari’ah; such as the works of al-Harith al-Muhasibi or Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Tirmidhi, Qut al-Qulub by Abu Talib al-Makki, or al-Ihya of Abu Hamid [al-Ghazzali] al-Tusi. If a beginner were to open his eyes and desire to tread the path through these books, they would have led him to blunders, for they based their works on awkward narrations.

“I saw most of the people deviating from the Shari’ah, to whom the words of the ascetics became the Shari’ah itself. Hence, it was claimed: Abu Talib al-Makki said: ‘From the Salaf were those who would weigh their daily intake against fresh branch-ends from palm-trees and notice it decreasing everyday!’ This practise was not known by the Messenger of Allah nor his Companions, rather they would eat but not to their fill.

“The life of the Messenger of Allah and his Companions was not like that of the ascetics of today. For the Messenger of Allah would laugh, joke, choose the best of things, race with ‘A’isha – may Allah be pleased with her. He would eat meat, love sweet dishes and water will be sweetened for him to drink. This is also how his companions were, until the ascetics discovered paths (tara’iq), as if it were the beginning of another Shari’ah.”[34]

It is also vital to bear in mind that the remarks above were directed to a very small minority of the Sufis. As for the vast majority, for them Ibn al-Jawzi had the following to say: “As for those who had incorrect intentions, from the hypocrites and the pretentious ones, for the sake of worldly gains, and for their hands to be kissed out of respect, then there is no discussion with them, and they are the majority of the Sufis!”[35] 

Philosophers

Ibn al-Jawzi dedicated a section of Talbis Iblis to the philosophers who had taken a route, other than that of the prophets in their search for the truth. He describes their intellectual ailment saying: “They believed in what their speculations dictated to them without referring to the prophets. From them are those who believed in the doctrine of al-Dahriyya that the world has no creator… Most of them affirmed an eternal cause (‘illa qadima) for the world, and then stated that the world is eternal, which has always been in existence along with Allah… They also concealed their doctrine by saying: ‘Allah is the creator of this world’, meaning: figuratively and not literally… Their doctrine also includes that the world is ever lasting; just as its existence has no beginning, it has no end.

“They also believed that Allah’s knowledge and ability is in fact His essence, in order to avoid affirming multiple eternal entities… The philosophers also denied the resurrection, the return of souls to the bodies, and the bodily existence of Paradise and Hell, claiming that the two were merely paradigms for people to understand the concept of spiritual reward and punishment.”

He then turns to the devil’s deceptions of the Muslim philosophers, who admired Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and others for their excellence in metaphysics, yet didn’t realise their mediocrity in theology. They were consequently, intellectually suspended in a world between Greek philosophy and Islamic theology. Ibn al-Jawzi remarks: “We noticed the philosophers from the adherents to our religion, that their philosophical path earned them confusion, hence, they adhered to neither philosophy, nor Islam. In fact, amongst them is one who fasts the Ramadan and prays, and then begins to object at the Creator and prophethood, and denies the resurrection.”

Ibn al-Jawzi then wonderfully summarises the underlying cause of deviancy amongst the so-called ‘Muslim philosophers’ and the ‘Muslim monks’, saying: “Because the philosophers were close in time to the advent of our Shari’ah, as were the monks; some of our co-religionists stretched out their hands for the former, while the others for the latter. Hence, you see many of the dull-witted, when they look into doctrine, they become philosophers; and when they look into asceticism, they became monks. We ask Allah to make us steadfast upon our religion”[36]

Other Philosophies and Schisms

Ibn al-Jawzi’s masterpiece Talbis Iblis, in part, is regarded to be a critical heresiographical work which accounts the doctrine and criticisms of various religions and sects. Amongst the list of religions and philosophies criticised by Ibn al-Jawzi were Sophisticism (sawfastaiyya), al-Dahriyya, Taba’iyyun, Dualism (thanawiyya), Paganism, Zoroastrianism, the pre-Islamic ignorance (jahiliyya), the denial of prophethood, the Jews, the Christians, the Sabians, Astrologers, deniers of resurrection, and the believers in metempsychosis (tanasukh). The schisms and sects criticised by Ibn al-Jawzi include the Khawarij, the Rafidites (shi’as) and the Esoterics (batiniyya).

Social and Ethical Ills

Ibn al-Jawzi’s age saw many social and ethical ills creeping amongst the ranks of notables such as the jurists, traditionists, linguists and preachers. Naturally, a considerable portion of Talbis Iblis reflects his efforts in challenging the growing corruption and an endeavour to bring about change.

He mentions the recitors of the Quran who, on one hand, devoted their lives learning the most eccentric modes of recitation, whilst neglecting the basics of Islamic knowledge. This, according to Ibn al-Jawzi, often caused the recitors to introduce practises and traditions previously unheard of in Islamic history.[37]

The traditionists also became a target of his criticisms for their excessive focus on transmission of the texts without understanding the essence and the meaning of those traditions. Their lack of understanding often forced them to pass erroneous and baseless verdicts. Another illness to be found amongst the traditionists at the time of Ibn al-Jawzi was their desire for fame by travelling far and wide in search of the shortest chains, or peculiar traditions. Some of the traditionists were accused by Ibn al-Jawzi of disparaging their colleagues whom they were jealous of, under the guise of al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil.[38]

Although, the jurists had always taken pride in objective and unbiased attitude towards juristic research, by the age of Ibn al-Jawzi, blind partisanship towards the established madhabs began to take root, which eroded the spirit of objectivity to an extent, and gave birth to madhabist bias in juristic discourse. Ibn al-Jawzi challenged the growing trend by saying: “Lethargy prevailed over the latter jurists that they could not study the science of traditions; so much so, that I noticed some of the senior jurists remark in their works about traditions found in authentic collections: ‘It is not possible for the Prophet to have said such-and-such!’ I then noted that he would support his argument in an issue saying: ‘Some of them narrated that the Prophet said such-and-such.’ He would then respond to the authentic tradition, which his opponent used in support of his argument, saying: ‘This tradition is not known!’ All of this is a crime against Islam.”

Ibn al-Jawzi equally criticised the jurists for associating with the authorities without censuring them for their oppression and unjust dealings, which, as he argues, resulted in three vices: “One: The ruler assumes, ‘if I was not correct, the jurist would have censured me. How can I not be right, when the jurist is happy to consume from my wealth?’ Two: The layperson assumes, ‘There is neither anything wrong with this ruler, nor his wealth, or his actions, for such-and-such jurist barely leaves his company.’ Three: The jurist, who thereby, corrupts his religion.

“The devil also deceived a group from the scholars, who remained aloof from the rulers and turned to worship and religion instead. The devil then beautified for them to backbite those of the scholars who enter upon the rulers, and therefore accumulated for them two wrongs: back biting others, and praise of one self.”[39]

Ibn al-Jawzi also focuses his criticisms on the preachers who failed to act upon that which they preached and sought fame; the poets and linguists who often lacked religiosity; the rulers who habitually bypassed the Shara’i injunctions in pursuit of their political goals; and the masses for their heedlessness and ignorance of their religious, social and moral responsibilities.

Ibn al-Jawzi’s criticisms, as presented in Talbis Iblis, proved to be a timeless collection of guidance and wisdom for the individual and the society, perhaps arguably, but sadly, more applicable in our time than his.

Criticisms of Ibn al-Jawzi

Ibn al-Jawzi, being a remarkable critic, was censured himself on a number of issues, some of which follow: 

Profuse errors in his works

Although Ibn al-Jawzi is remembered as a voluminous writer, the obvious disadvantage was the subsequent colossal number of errors in his works. For often, he would finish a book, and instead of revisiting it for corrections, he would begin another one; similarly, at times, he would write two books in different subjects simultaneously. He would frequently quote passages from various sources in different sciences, without thoroughly studying and researching. Thus, it is reported that he would say: “I am a compiler and not an author.”

His errors in Hadith

Although, Ibn al-Jawzi displayed great dislike for many authors to narrate week, and sometimes fabricated traditions in their works, while al-Ghazzali being the foremost of his victims; he, ironically, was guilty of the same.

According to al-Dhahabi, while he was known with the exalted title of ‘al-Hafidh’, it was not due to his mastery in the science of traditions, but as a result of his vast knowledge and memorisation of copious narrations.

Al-Dhahabi also mentions Ibn al-Akhdar being asked about Ibn al-Jawzi: “Would not you respond to some of the errors of Ibn al-Jawzi?” He said in reply: “One can only critically study someone whose errors are relatively few. As for him, then he has countless errors.” Al-Dhahabi then quotes al-Sayf’s unwarranted comment: “I have never seen anyone who is relied upon in his religion, knowledge and intellect, admiring Ibn Al Jawzi.” Al-Dhahabi then beautifully concludes: “If Allah is pleased with him, then they are irrelevant”.[40]

Al-Mawdhu’at is amongst the famous works of Ibn al-Jawzi on fabricated traditions, which received wide acceptance as well as criticisms, the primary reason for which was his inclusion of numerous traditions that were, perhaps weak (dha’if), but not at all fabricated (mawdhu’). Many of such traditions are found in the books of Sunan, and in fact, one in Sahih Muslim. A number of latter traditionists pursued his errors, such as al-Hafidh al-‘Iraqi, Ibn Hajar and al-Suyuti in his work al-La’ali al-Masnu’ah.

Self-eulogy

Ibn Rajab quotes Ibn al-Qadisi from his Tarikh that from the objections many had against Ibn al-Jawzi was that “his speech consisted of eulogy, pride, presumptuousness, and frequent claims; no doubt he was guilty of some of that, may Allah overlook his faults.”[41] Ibn al-Jawzi’s description of his sermons, fame and glory in his al-Muntadham are an obvious reflection of such objections, which often puzzles the average reader with respect to his piety and humility on one hand, and his eulogy and assertions on the other.

However, it seems Ibn al-Jawzi was well aware of such criticisms, and perhaps he even responded to them, albeit indirectly, saying: “After I had devoted myself to a study of these latter (i.e. the traditions) and to the sciences which fall under rubric of hadith, scarcely a tradition was mentioned to me but that it was possible for me to say: ‘It is a sound tradition (sahih),’ or ‘a good tradition (hasan),’ or ‘an absurd tradition (muhal).’ There are to be found in my books of wa’dh, achievements which even those experts [in this art] find impossible to match. I mention these achievements only out of gratitude, not out of pride, because those who see them will be astonished. But as for myself, I see only the excellence of the One who has made possible these achievements, and the inadequacy of my thanksgiving. Most assuredly, it was He who empowered me to speak extemporaneously for entire meetings without having to recourse to what I had memorised. Sometimes as many as fifteen verses [from the Quran] were recited in my presence at these meetings, following which I would immediately deliver a khutba relevant to each of the verses. And now I implore God to give me sincerity of purpose and assist me in profiting from my learning so that He may be the Master of that [learning] and the Sovereign Lord over it”[42]

Theological errors

Ibn al-Jawzi created a storm in the traditionalist-textualist Hanbali school by writing his infamous book Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbih bi Akuff al-Tanzih (Rebuttal of the Insinuations of Anthropomorphism at the Hands of Divine Transcendence), which drew fierce attacks from all corners of the Hanbali world. The book came is a reaction to Ibn Hamid, Abu Ya’la and his Shaykh Ibn al-Zaghuni, who too were accused of fanaticism in their approach to affirming Allah’s Attributes, for often they would use baseless and unfounded narrations to affirm them.

Ibn Taymiyya writes about the three aforementioned:

“…from the third category are those who heard the traditions and the narrations, glorified the beliefs of the early Muslims, yet also shared some of the principles of the Jahmite-Mutakallimun. They did not have as much expertise in the Quran, Hadith and traditions, as did the Imams of sunnah and hadith; neither from the angle of distinguishing between the Sahih and the Dha’if, nor from the angle of grasping the meanings of those texts. They also deemed some of the rational arguments of the Jahmite-negators to be correct, and therefore, saw a visible contradiction between the two (text and rationale). This was the case with Abu Bakr Ibn Furak, al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la, Ibn ‘Aqil, et al. Due to this, they would sometimes prefer the method of allegorical exegesis (ta’wil), as did Ibn Furak and his likes while commenting on problematic traditions; or sometimes, they would ‘leave the meanings to Allah’ (tafwidh) saying: the apparent meaning must be retained (tujra ‘ala dhawahiriha), as did al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la and his likes; and sometimes, their opinions would differ, hence, they would prefer the former method at times, and the latter at other times, as was the case with Ibn ‘Aqil and his likes. Moreover, they would often mention amongst the problematic traditions, narrations that were false and fabricated, not knowing that they were forged; or not knowing the same tradition with a different wording which may solve the dilemma.”[43]

Ibn al-Jawzi was more impressed with Ibn ‘Aqil than the others mentioned by Ibn Taymiyya, due to which he would often favour tafwidh, while sometimes opting for ta’wil. Such a contradictory stance is demonstrated by his interpretation (ta’wil) of the Face of Allah, as referring to Allah’s essence in Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbih[44]; and then the rebutting the Mu’tazilites for the very interpretation he is guilty of in Majalis Ibn al-Jawzi.[45] In a similar vein, he censures those who opt for Ta’wil and brands them ‘negators of Attributes’, and further denounces the Mu’tazalite interpretation of Hands as bounties, Ascension (istawa) as seizure (istawla), or Descent (nuzul) as mercy; yet he is found guilty of the same errors in Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbih.[46]

Towards the end of his work, Ibn al-Jawzi remarks: “When a group of ignorant ones learnt of my book, they were disappointed, for they had become accustomed to the beliefs of their anthropomorphist leaders. Thus they said: ‘This is not the madhab.’

I say (Ibn al-Jawzi): This is not your madhab, nor the madhab of your teachers whom you blind follow. I have, however, exonerated the madhab of Imam Ahmad, and cleared him from the false narrations and nonsense utterances, without blind following anyone in my beliefs.”[47]

No doubt, none can challenge Ibn al-Jawzi’s assertion with respect to himself; but as for exonerating Imam Ahmad of beliefs he considered anthropomorphic, then the scarcity of quotes from Imam Ahmad in his work, despite their copious presence in other popular and widely accepted Hanbali sources, remains a far cry from his claim. Al-Dhahabi also noticed Ibn al-Jawzi’s departure from the doctrine of Imam Ahmad and remarked: “… his excellence continued to increase and gain popularity until he died. May Allah have mercy on him and forgive him! Only if he had not indulged in allegorical exegeses (ta’wil) and opposed his Imam!”[48]

Inevitably, he received criticisms by various Hanbali authorities, from his age up until the present time. Amongst his contemporary critics was the Hanbali ‘Shaykh of Iraq’, Abu al-Fadhl Ishaq b. Muhammad al-‘Althi, who addressed Ibn al-Jawzi in harsh words in a letter, most of which was quoted by Ibn Rajab in Dhayl[49].

From the highlights of the letter, is al-‘Althi’s remarks addressing Ibn al-Jawzi:

“Amazing is of one who adheres to the madhab of the Salaf, and does not deem permissible to indulge in Kalam, who then moves to interpret that which he did not tolerate at first. He then says: If we say such and such, it would lead to such and such.

“If you interpret the divine Attributes based upon linguistic interpretations, deeming it permissible for you, and refuse to accept the advice, (then know that) this is not the madhab of the great Imam, Ahmad b. Hanbal – May Allah sanctify his soul. Therefore, it is not fitting for you to attribute yourself to him with such beliefs. So chose for yourself a different madhab, if it is possible for you. For our (Hanbali) colleagues have not ceased to proclaim the blatant truth at all times, even if they were struck with the swords, not fearing anyone’s criticism.”

Thus, Ibn al-Jawzi’s account in nearly all Hanbali biographical works remained tainted with this criticism. Ibn Rajab quotes Ibn al-Qadisi’s remarks on Ibn al-Jawzi’s controversy:

“[The error] for which he was criticised by a group of our scholars and Imams from the Maqdisis and the ‘Althis [Hanbalis], was his tendency towards allegorical exegesis (ta’wil) in some of his speech. Their criticisms were severe in that regard. No doubt, his beliefs in this issue were quite contradictory. Even though he was well-versed in traditions and narrations regarding the subject matter, he was not well-aware of the responses to the doubts of the Mutakallimun, nor the extent of their fallacy. He would also hold Abu al-Wafa Ibn ‘Aqil in great respect, and follow most of his beliefs, in spite of refuting him in some issues. Despite Ibn ‘Aqil’s excellence in Kalam, he was not au fait on traditions and narrations, due to which he was inconsistent in this subject, with variegated opinions. Ibn al-Jawzi’s opinions were as vegetated as his.”

Ibn Rajab then quotes Ibn Qudama saying:

“Ibn al-Jawzi was the leading authority on the art of preaching in his age. He also authored excellent works in various sciences, and his efforts were generally accepted. He would teach law (fiqh) and author works to that end, just as he had memorised traditions and also authored in that respect. However, we are not pleased with his writings with respect to sunnah (doctrine), nor his approach.’[50]

The latest rebuttal of Daf’ Shubhat al-Tashbih is a two volume book by a contemporary Hanbali theologian and a traditionist, Sulayman b. Nasir al-‘Alwan called: Ithaf ahl al-Fadhl wal-Insaf bi Naqdh Kitab Ibn al-Jawzi Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbih wa Ta’liqat al-Saqqaf (An Offering to the Noble and Just, by Rebuttal of the book by Ibn al-Jawzi Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbih, and commentary of al-Saqqaf thereupon)

Due to Ibn al-Jawzi’s theological slips, some modern-day, and rather zealous Ash’arites have described him as an Ash’ari who ‘took a staunch Ash`ari stance in doctrine’; which is a rather astonishing claim, since none from the Muslim biographers or historians ever described him as such. On the contrary, despite sharing some aspects of doctrine with the Ash’arites, he was nevertheless, a staunch Ash’ari detractor, as demonstrated above and in a number of his works.

Conclusion

Ibn al-Jawzi lived for over eighty-six years, which he dedicated to learning, teaching, preaching and correcting the ills in the society. He delivered his first sermon at the age of ten, and continued with his profession until he died, thus having preached for 71 years of his life, taking into account his detention in Wasit. After the birth of the publishing industry, many of his works gained extraordinary popularity amongst the masses, and were thus reprinted by various publishers, and even rendered into English and French by academics. Ibn al-Jawzi has also become a subject of numerous research papers and studies, which include: Ibn al-Jawzi by ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Ghazzawali; Ibn al-Jawzi wa maqamatuhu al-Matbu’ah by ‘Ali Jamil Muhanna; Abu al-Faraj Ibn al-Jawzi wa Ara’uhu al-Kalamiyya wal-Akhlaqiyya by Dr. Amina Muhammad Nasir; al-Usul al-Nafsiyya li al-Tarbiya ‘ind al-Imam Abi al-Faraj Ibn al-Jawzi by Hasan ‘Abd al-‘Aal; Mu’allafat Ibn al-Jawzi by Dr. ‘Abd al-Hamid al-‘Alwaji; and in the orientlist world he has been a subject of various studies by H. Laoust and Merlin Swartz.

ُEndnotes

[1] There is much dispute over the year of his birth. Ibn Rajab mentions five different dates: 508, 509, 510, 511 and 512; year 511 being the most probable due to several indications mentioned by Ibn Rajab in his Dhayl 2/462, ed. Dr. al-‘Uthaimin, Maktabat al-‘Ubaikan 2005

[2] Ibn al-Jawzi, Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad p. 706, Dar Hajar, 1988

[3] Ibn al-Jawzi, Mashyikha, al-Sharika al-Tunusia, Tunisia, 1988.

[4] Al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubula 15/74, Dar al-Fikr, 1997; Bakr Abu Zayd, al-Nadha’ir 113, Dar al-‘Aasima, 1423AH

[5] Ibn al-Jawzi, Al-Muntadham 10/205, Dar al-Fikr, 1995

[6] Ibid. 10/362

[7] Ibn Rajab, al-Dhayl ‘Ala Tabaqat al-Hanabila 2/464, ed. Dr. al-‘Uthaimin, Maktabat al-‘Ubaikan 2005

[8] H. Laoust, Ibn al-Jawzi, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brill

[9] Ibn Rajab, al-Dhayl ‘Ala Tabaqat al-Hanabila 2/465, ed. Dr. al-‘Uthaymin, Maktabat al-‘Ubaikan 2005

[10] Ibid. 2/466

[11] Ibid. 2/476

[12] Ibid. 2/478

[13] ‘A symbolic act indicating remorse for sins committed’, says Merlin Swartz in his edition of Kitab al-Qussas p 231, and further claims it to be an ancient Semitic practice.

[14] Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Muntadham 10/574, Dar al-Fikr, 1995

[15] Salah al-Safadi, Al-Wafi bil-Wafayat 21/147 Dar Ihya al-Turath 2000, and Al-Dhahabi, Siyar al-A’lam al-Nubala 15/494 and 16/285

[16] Ibn Rajab, Dhayl ‘Ala Tabaqat al-Hanabila 2/458-61, ed. Dr. al-‘Uthaimin, Maktabat al-‘Ubaikan 2005

[17] Ibid. 2/490

[18] Al-Zirikli, al-A’lam 3/316, Dar al-‘Ilm lil-Malayin

[19] Al-Dhahabi, Siyar al-A’lam al-Nubula 15/486, Dar al-Fikr 1997

[20] Year 331/942-3

[21] Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya 11/206, Maktabat al-Ma’arif Beirut

[22] Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Muntadham 8/219, Dar al-Fikr, 1995

[23] Ibn al-Jawzi made this statement in rebuttal of the Ash’arites who claimed i) Allah is not above the heavens, for He is directionless and limitless, and ii) Allah’s Speech is without letters or sound, and therefore, the mushaf which consists of letters is created and not Allah’s Speech. The third claim, that the Prophet is no longer a prophet after his demise, is based on the Ash’arite-atomist principle that accidents could not endure for two instances of time (al-‘aradh la yabqa zamanayn), and therefore, prophethood being an accident, must end with the demise of the Prophet. The attribution of the last claim to the Ash’arites is very much disputed, and vehemently rejected by the Ash’arites, and to this end, al-Bayhaqi wrote Hayat al-Anbiya fi Quburihim (Life of the Prophets in their grave), proving that the Prophets remained prophets after their death. It is also noted by some historians that the Ash’arite theologian, Ibn Furak, was actually killed by the Seljuki ruler, Ibn Subuktakin for the belief of the former that the Prophet is no longer a prophet; a claim strongly rejected by Ibn al-Subki. (cf. Ibn Hazm, al-Fasl 1/161, and Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat 4/130-133). ‘Your three shameful facets’ refers to the Quranic verse: ‘…three times of privacy for you’ 24:58. The incident is reported by Ibn Rajab in al-Dhayl.

[24] Galls (عفص), a well known fruit of which ink is made. Vitriol (زاج), ‘a well known kind of salt, which is a medicinal substance, and one of the ingredients of ink.’ See Lisan al-‘Arab (عفص و زوج) and Lane’s Lexicon.

[25] This is the opinion of the Asha’ri traditionist Ibn Furak, as he says in Mushkil al-Hadith wa Bayanuhu p. 159: ‘(The slave-girl) only pointed towards the sky, because she was dumb’

[26] Ibn al-Jawzi, Sayd al-Khatir p. 131.

[27] Ibid p. 132

[28] Ibid p. 29

[29] Ibn al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis p. 201, Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi 1993

[30] Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat al-Safwa 1/9, Dar Salah al-Din li al-Turath

[31] Ibn al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis p. 210, Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi 1993

[32] Ibn al-Jawzi, Sayd al-Khatir p. 51 Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi 2004

[33] Ibid. p. 176-7

[34] Ibid. p 309-10

[35] Ibid. p. 311

[36] Ibn al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis, p 59-65, Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi 1993

[37] Ibid. p. 137-40

[38] Ibid. p. 140-44

[39] Ibid. p. 145-50

[40] Al-Dhahabi, Siyar al-A’lam al-Nubula 15/493, ed. Muhibb al-Din al-‘Amri, Dar al-Fikr 1997

[41] Ibn Rajab, al-Dhayl ‘Ala Tabaqat al-Hanabila 2/487, ed. Dr. al-‘Uthaimin, Maktabat al-‘Ubaikan 2005

[42] Ibn al-Jawzi, Kitab al-Qussas al-Mudhakkirin 234, ed. Merlin L. Swartz, Dar El-Machreq, Beirut 1971

[43] Ibn Taymiyya, Dar’ Ta’arudh al-‘Aql wal-Naql 7/34

[44] Ibn al-Jawzi, Daf’ Shubhat al-Tashbih p. 12, ed. Al-Kawthari, al-Maktaba al-Azhariyya 1998.

[45] Quoted by al-‘Alwan in Ithaf Ahl al-Fadl wal-Insaf 1/128.

[46] Ibn al-Jawzi, Sayd al-Khatir p. 81, Majalis Ibn al-Jawzi p. 7

[47] Ibn al-Jawzi, Daf’ Shubhat al-Tashbih p. 80

[48] Al-Dhahabi, Siyar al-A’lam al-Nubula 15/484, Dar al-Fikr 1997.

[49] Ibn Rajab, al-Dhayl ‘Ala Tabaqat al-Hanabila 3/446-453, ed. Dr. al-‘Uthaimin, Maktabat al-‘Ubaikan 2005

[50] Ibid. 2/487-8



 


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