Wednesday, January 13

Did Ibn Taymiyya have a screw loose?

I had written earlier about how the concept of Jihad took a wrong turn towards “bad” things primarily based upon the writings of Ibn Taymiyya. So it was pretty much expected that I get to hear from one of the great Muslim leaders that Ibn Taymiyya was not really a big fella and he wasnt really important. Well, I am constantly surprised on how little so many leaders know about their own history. But anyway, go read the wiki entry on him. The chap was seriously amazing, wrote a huge amount. Here are couple of eulogising sites and here.  And for those who think Taymiyya is not a big fella, many people have said that the only other person for whom so much has been written about is Mohammad himself.

But curiously, did you know that Ibn Battuta, the famous Muslim explorer, thought that Taymiyya had a screw loose? He literally said that “Ibn Taymiyya has a screw loose or has a bee in his bonnet”. As it so happens, Battuta was going around his travels and managed to land up in Damascus in 726/1326 and met this worthy himself and experienced this fella’s behaviour first hand. Check out this paper which talks about this issue. I quote one line from the paper:

“it will be evident, I think, to anyone who reads the sources that al-Dhababi’s opinion of Ibn Taymiyya was justified. Although he was obviously a great and brilliant man whose main virtues were courage, piety, self denial and vast knowledge, he also had the faults which al-Dhahabi named, the chief one being a violent temper (which, admittedly, he learnt to control), intolerance of human imperfection, and stern inflexibility”.

But the author concludes that he wasn't mad, and his statement about him having a screw loose arose more from Taymiyya’s inability to control his temper and constantly creating a public uproar rather than being certifiably mad. So I am afraid if anybody thinks that Taymiyya’s fatwa’s and work can be dismissed just because Ibn Battuta said he had a screw loose, then its not right…he was a reformer, and welcome to Islamic Reform :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its worth mentioning that it has been proven by several scholars that Ibn Battuta's account of seeing Ibn Taymiyyah never happened. Ibn Taymiyyah was not in Damascus at the time Ibn Battuta claimed he saw him on the minbar so his negative comments about Ibn Taymiyyah were probably due to his animosity towards him and nothing else. That being said, Ibn Taymiyyah's tremendous works speak for themselves. He was nothing short of brilliant, prolific, academic and unrivalled till this very day.