Ibn Qayyim AI-Jawziyyah (691-751 A.H.)
"Through patience and poverty one attains leadership in religion. The seeker of truth needs the will that will inspire him and push him upward and (religious) knowledge that will lead him and guide him."
These words of Ibn Qayyim AI-Jawziyyah sum up the personality of this great man, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, who is better known as Ibn Qayyim AI-Jawziyyah or Ibn AI-Qayyim, for short. He was born in 691 A.H.
He began his long journey on the road of learning early in his life, moving from one teacher to another to quench his thirst for knowledge. At the age of 21 (in 712 A.H.) Al-Qayyim met his teacher Ibn Taymiyyah another great hero of Islam and a revivalist of the faith. Their companionship lasted to the end of the teacher's life, Ibn Al·Qayyim kept close company to Ibn Taymiyyah with whom he suffered the pains of prison and flogging many a time.
Apparently, it was from Ibn Taymiyyah that he learnt many special qualities such as frankness and courage, in defiance of the falsehood of others, including those in authority. For to both truths had to be said regardless of the consequences. But unlike his teacher, or Ibn AI-Qayyim was less fierce in his attacks (in words or action). The 8th century' Hijra witnessed a state of ignorance and feuds in the Muslim community. Muslims were fighting each other and each trying to impose his authority in everything including religious opinion and scholarship which suffered from stagnation. For the majority of religious scholars acted more like 'recorders' of knowledge rather than true scholars and teachers. To them their teachers were the main. If not the sale, source of knowledge, and the schools of thought they blindly imitated were the only acceptable ways.
Like his teacher Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn AI·Qayyim spent his life in attempting to correct the wrong course the community was following. He fought the exaggerated reverence for the tombs of the pious despite the strong resistance he met with from the masses. He tried to show the errors committed by the misled sects and their blind followers.
For he considered that the disputes and fights among the Muslims of his time were caused by their sectarian attitude and chauvinistic practices, each one considering himself and his sector school of thought the only right one, and claiming that everyone else was on the wrong path.
Ibn AI-Qayyim spent most of his time and great efforts trying to unite the people, pointing out to them the dangers of blind imitation of the predecessors. He explained that a Muslim should be open-minded; i.e., he should accept what is right and good regardless of the teacher as long as what he or she accepts is consistent with the Qur'an and the Sunnah and the consensus of the scholars and the general spirit of the faith. To him imitation was wrong in the following cases:
1) If it entails violation of Divine teachings.
2) If it represents an act of blind following of people we are not sure of their knowledge.
3) If it is in defiance of truth after finding it.
It was blind imitation that caused stagnation in scholarship and differences among people. Some so-called scholars, he pointed out, were not really scholars of Islam but rather simple propagators of others opinions. To those people the words and views of their teachers or leaders were the only correct way of understanding the faith to the extent that they subjected even the interpretation if the Qur'an and the Prophetic teachings to the views of their teachers, which they wrongly took for the ultimate criteria.
Ibn AI-Qayyim considered that the sources of religious knowledge were to be taken in the following order:
1) The Qur'an.
2) The Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad's teachings).
3} The teachings of the companions of the Prophet.
To these one could add consensus of Muslim scholars and analogy. Intolerance and Prejudice were to him the enemies of learning. To propagate his views, Ibn AI-Qayyim wrote scores of books besides direct teaching.
In his own private life Ibn AL-Qayyim was a very pious and sincere worshipper who spent most of his time in prayers and recitation of the Qur'an. He was in fact an ascetic who rejected the unorthodox practices of some Sufis (mystics) who claimed that religious teachings had external and internal sides, meaning that religious obligations (such as Prayers, Fasting During Ramadan etc. etc.) did not apply to them.
As pointed out earlier Ibn AI-Qayyim was a man of courage and frankness to whom truth was the ultimate goal. His open-minded and flexible attitude is reflected in his views on the correct understanding of religious laws (Sharia), and that these should be interpreted in the light of the circumstances of time and place, because Islam is intended and practicable for all mankind at all times. He wrote many books to explain this invaluable principle. Many of his views find their application in the legal system of modern nations more than six centuries after his death in 751 A.H.