Few people outside of the Islamic world have heard of the Medieval Muslim scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, but in the Muslim world, he is often hailed as “The Sheikh of Islam”, while Western critics usually condemn him as the father of modern Islamic terrorism.
Among modern Islamic fundamentalists, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Salafis, you will continuously find among them reliance on the fatwas of Ibn Taymiyyah.
However, Ibn Taymiyyah’s current reputation is largely a modern fabrication, as his ideas were first revived by British agent, Mohammed Abdul Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, the fundamentalist cult now promoted by Saudi Arabia.
The reasons for the revival of his reputation will become evident, as we consider how his fanaticism fit in well with the goals of modern terrorist groups and their sponsors.
Few Muslims today, due to the effective propaganda of the Saudi state, are aware of Ibn Taymiyyah’s true pronouncements and the controversy of his career.
In fact, Ibn Taymiyyah spent much of his career in jail, placed there by the religious authorities of his time, usually for the accusation of anthropomorphism, or ascribing human attributes to God. Islamic theology is very clear about safeguarding the notion of God’s uniqueness and transcendence.
This is interesting because, despite all their numerous tangents into various other details, the Wahhabi and Salafi scholars are devoted to ideas derived from Ibn Taymiyyah’s anthropormorphism. It’s there. It’s never very overt, but it is always there.
Ibn Battuta, the renowned Muslim traveller, recorded that Ibn Taymiyyah “had a screw loose”, because during a sermon, he descended from the pulpit, and as he walked down its steps, he said that, when God descends from the highest heaven, “he descends like this”. (Little, Donald P. “Did Ibn Taymiyya have a screw loose?”, Studia Islamica, 1975, Number 41, pp. 95)
It is this anthropomorphism that suggests he may have had an occult connection. Ibn Taymiyyah was born in Harran, which in the occult tradition, is one of the most important cities in its history, besides Babylon, Athens and Alexandria.
Harran was the seat of the Sabians. This was a Gnostic group, that cleverly identified themselves with the Sabeans of the Koran to escape persecution. But they were nothing of the sort. Instead they were satanists who practiced human sacrifice, worshipped Tammuz, and practiced Neoplatonism and Hermeticism.
In fact, when the Muslims began their great program of collecting and studying the works of the philosophers, by which the West eventually acquired this knowledge, it was the Sabians they turned to as translators.
What happens then is that it is Sabian influence that results Sufism, and a very important occult work known as the “Epistles of the Brethren of Sincerity”, or in Arabic, Rasa’il ikhwan as-safa’ wa khillan al-wafa. It was largely composed by Ismailis under Sabian influence.
And so it is that the basis of Scottish Rite Freemasonry is that the Templars supposedly learned their secret doctrines from the Sabians.
Scholars avoid that subject, but they do study the possible connection between Sabianism and the sudden advent of the Kabbalah in the 12th century AD, following the return of the Templars to Europe. For instance, Gershom Scholem, who is known as the great authority on the subject, devoted his “Origins of the Kabbalah” to a study of the subject.
What is puzzling is that the ideas of the Medieval Kabbalah were ones that had all but disappeared from Judaism for about 1200 years. So, considering the similarities, Scholem suggest that one possible avenue would have been the Sabians (also known as Mandeans).
And recently, probably the most advanced study of the Kabbalah is Nathaniel Deutsch’s The Gnostic Imagination: Gnosticism, Mandaeism and Merkabah Mysticism. First he connects Gnostcism with early Kabbalah, but then examines the extensive similarities between Mandaism and Medieval Kabbalah, to conclude that one must necessarily have influenced the other. According to Deutsch:
“at present, we must be satisfied with acknowledging the phenomenological parallels between the Mandaean and Kabbalistic traditions, although we must also seriously consider the possibility that both Mandaean and Kabbalistic sources drew on a common pool of earlier (Jewish?) theosophic traditions.”
In fact, the one point which lends the most credence to this hypothesis, is the existence of an elaborate anthropomorphic doctrine among the Sabians. In the Kabbalah, it is known as the descriptions, or the Shiur Khomah, of the image of God called the Adam Kadmon. It mirrors similar speculations among the Sabians about a Cosmic Adam.
In order to understand the connection, we need consider that the founder of the Salafi movement was a Jamal ud Din al Afghani, the Grand Master of the Egyptian Freemasons, who referred to each other as the Rasa’il ikhwan as-safa’ wa khillan al-wafa (Rafaat, Freemasonry in Egypt)
One possible explanation about the mysterious teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah can be explained from information exposed recently by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, that Ibn Taymiyyah had an esoteric doctrine, that he taught only to his closest initiates.
This is from Keller’s article:
“Abu Hayyan, of Andalusion origin, settled in Damascus, knew Ibn Taymiya personally, and held him in great esteem, until the day that Barinbari (d. 717/1317) brought him a work by Ibn Taymiya called Kitab al-‘arsh [The book of the Throne]. There they found, in Ibn Taymiya’s own handwriting (which was familiar to Abu Hayyan), anthropomorphic suggestions about the Deity that made Abu Hayyan curse Ibn Taymiya until the day he died… Abu Hayyan, in his own Qur’anic exegesis of Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:258) in surat al-Baqara, recorded something of what so completely changed his mind:
I have read in the book of Ahmad ibn Taymiya, this individual whom we are the contemporary of, and the book is in his own handwriting, and he has named it Kitab al-‘arsh [The book of the Throne], that “Allah Most High is sitting (yajlisu) on the Kursi but has left a place of it unoccupied, in which to seat the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace)” [italics mine]. Al-Taj Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Abd al-Haqq Barinbari fooled him [Ibn Taymiya] by pretending to be a supporter of his so that he could get it from him, and this is what we read in it (al-Nahwi, Tafsir al-nahr al-madd, 1.254).
As Keller notes, “This is of interest not only because it documents (at the pen of one of Islam’s greatest scholars) that Ibn Taymiya had a “double ‘aqida [theology],” one for the public, and a separate anthropomorphic one for an inner circle of initiates”
Ibn Taymiyyah just happened to live in Harran at a time to witness the end of the Sabian community, as a result of the conquest of the city by the Mongols. This may explain his continuing vociferous opposition to these new Mongol rulers.
Because, Ibn Taymiyyah was unique in his pronouncements of the legality and necessity of fighting the Mongols. The Mongols had converted to Islam, but Ibn Taymiyyah argued that it was permitted to fight against them, because they had not been fully orthodox in their application of Shariah.
The same arguments have been employed in the 20th, in deliberate reference to Ibn Taymiyyah, by the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood, to argue for terrorist activities against the various regimes of the Arab world. In most cases, such as the assassination of the Anwar Sadat, or the “Jihad” in Afghanistan, the fatwas of Ibn Taymiyyah have been cleverly used to manipulate these terrorists to serve a Western agenda.