As anyone who is intellectually honest and observant in either the Muslim or non-Muslim communities cannot have failed to notice, there is a seemingly disproportionate amount of mention of the 13th/14th century Islamic scholar Taqi Ad – Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah by Muslim speakers and apologists.
This is first of all strange because in the fourteen – century history of Islam, it is odd that there is one guy who is so much more noteworthy than the literally millions of other Islamic scholars. It is likewise inexplicable why he came midway through Islamic history: His fame and mention would be more understandable if he was from the early period (like, say, Imam Shafi (RA)) or he was a recent phenomenon (like say, Qutb).
Amongst many Islamic speakers and apologists, it seems as if there is no authority other than this man and his most loyal student Ibn Quyyam Al Jawzi. These include such notable U.K speakers as Hamza Tzortzis and Tarek El Diwany (to mention just two) who can’t seem to speak publicly at all without mentioning Taymiyyahs’ name and gushing praises on him. This becomes all the more surprising since they tend to speak about the existence of God and the Islamic financial system respectively. One would think there would be an abundance of scholars to chose from.
This apparent overuse of a particular individual in and of itself requires an explanation, but the situation becomes more worrying when one understands that Ibn Taymiyya was a highly controversial figure: That’s the best case scenario, at the worst he might have been an outright heretic.
So why is a man who is so controversial and divisive so frequently mentioned by certain elements (mainly but not exclusively, of a ‘Wahhabi’/’Salafi’ persuasion)? Would it not make more sense to refer to someone less contested or at least have balance with the opinion of other authorities?
I think the reasons will become evident on examination of the man and his doctrines and why he is popular amongst certain groups of Muslims. Yet it is difficult to get at the truth as there is a whole industry built around apologising for this man. Hamza Tzortzis and Tarek El Diwany are leading lights of this it seems, though their publicly stated mandate is ‘dawah carriers’.
I think you may find some of these articles useful: they show some of the areas where Ibn Taymiyya is controversial and can be a useful starting point before doing ones’ own research. I hope you guys will take a look!
[Oh, and note to Tzortzis and El Diwany: What would we think about the balance and intellectual competence of a economist who quoted and used only one economist as an authority or a Christian speaker who quoted only from Aquinas? We would question both their learning and their good sense.]
1) An excellent article by GF Haddad, a convert to Islam and a scholar, about Ibn Taymiyya in English:
2) A short article by Nuh Hamim Keller, another convert who became a scholar:
3) An excellent article about these types of creedal differences:
4) A copy of the full scholarly article investigating Ibn Taymiyyas’ position on the Satanic Verses (i.e. he supports it):
5) Deobandis opinion (they are often sympathetic to him):
6) Here is a video by an American guy talking about him – this is responding to defences of Ibn Taymiyya by American Wahhabis and is very detailed and needs patience!