Response to my post about comments on the al-Maqrizi thread

as-salamu ‘alaykum,

As expected, a response is penned by one of The Translators’ Blog contributors (Yusuf Ibn Yusuf [Abul-Hussein]), I display it here in the spirit of brotherhood and if there is any good in what he has written then I hope we all benefit from it, I love him as my brother in Islam.

I am not going to defend myself or my comments on the matter as what I have written is pretty clear to anyone with some semblance of common sense and contains no personal attacks or defamations, they are observations based on what I have read from The Translators’ Blog and other comments by “them”, “them” being this new brand of “unity” Salafis. Abul-Hussein’s piece is quite sarcastic in places, not really a scholarly response or what I expect from someone with all the scholarly credentials he lists on his blog, he is also rather selective in quoting from what I have written. Yursil Kidwai on his blog has penned an excellent response to the blog entry on his blog and covers most of what I would have said if I could be bothered to respond.

If we can stick to issues of mutual benefit and concern then fine, but the bottom line is that the “Unity Salafis”, in general, are not really about unity, they are about pushing the “Salafi dawah”, same product different packaging to what we have had to suffer with over the last 10 or 15 years.

wa’as-salam

Mas’ud
www.masud.co.uk

DP comments on the al-Maqrizi thread

as-salamu ‘alaykum,

The article on al-Maqrizi by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad (GFH) was posted on DeenPort recently to clarify who al-Maqrizi was as he was extensively quoted in an article posted on The Translators’ Blog (which is fed to the blogtracker on DP), the blog in question is mainly run by Imam Suhaib Webb (ISW). The Translators ran an article on the “History of the Ashari School” which has since been removed for the second time and used al-Maqrizi as evidence against the Ashari school. Therefore, this research by Shaykh GFH is timely and pertinent to the discussion. ISW asked for the thread to be deleted [see Omar Tufail’s (DeenPort webmaster) recent stance on deletion of threads on the thread DP DefCon1], however, Sh GFH’s article is extremely useful and needs to be made available to show the flaws in the basis of the anti-Ashari piece that was on the Translators’ Blog.

My own comments on DP were not so much about the content of either al-Maqrizi or Sh GFH’s piece about him but about the relevance of The Translator’s blog to DP and the DP community. DP has The Translators’ blog on its blog tracker and my point is that if The Translators’ blog makes posts that are anti-Ashari or problematic for those of Ashari/Maturidi aqidah then the posts should be fair game to discuss, criticise and refute on the DP forums. We either allow the discussions or we remove the blog. We shouldn’t play the unity card when we come under scrutiny and we shouldn’t ask for such threads to be deleted when they scrutinise certain claims and “evidences”.

My initial comment on the matter was:

“In light of Shaykh Gibril’s research, where does that leave The Translator’s post on ‘The History of the Ashari School’, it seems to me that it is discredited in light of this research and people should take heed. JazakAllahu-khayran Shaykh Gibril.”

and then

“I think it is a valuable analysis of al-Maqrizi, whether the thread stays or goes must be dependent upon the usefulness and accuracy of the article and whether or not it will reduce the thread to bad mannered slanging (which I don’t think it will). I deem the article a very useful biographical account of this scholar who was cited in opposition to the Ashari school. The sources cited are all very credible and nowhere does Sh GFH’s own opinion cloud the sources cited.Whether Imam Suhaib has taken the decision to remove the original article [from The Translators’ Blog] in the first place should not be the basis for removing this biography [from DP], since it is just a biography of a scholar and aside from the fact that the scholar in question was cited in Imam Suhaib’s article it has no direct bearing on that original article. Even if the thread gets removed, insha’Allah, I will carry it on my blog and in the biographies section on masud.co.uk with the permission of Sh GFH.”

and then after the requests for deletion of the thread:

“You are quite right that certain things should be in their proper places. However, since The Translators’ blog is being fed into DPs blogtracker we will probably get the occasional anti-Ashari post flagged on DP (as was the case here), therefore it is only right and proper that we allow for the ensuing discussion on DP to take place or we pull the plug on an occasionally controversial blog so as not to generate these discussions. In all honesty (and I didn’t want to get to this point), The Translators does not really fit the profile of most people who visit DP (Maddhhabi, Sufi, Ashari/Maturidi – I may be mistaken in this assumption). Wallahi, I love Imam Suhaib for the sake of Allah and he has much good to offer to all Muslims under the banner of Unity, he is charming, charismatic and eloquent, he is someone who has embarked on a quest for knowledge and wants to share what he has learned, with others, such a noble thing that many of us (including me first and foremost) should appreciate, may Allah reward him more than he can imagine and increase him. But when you dabble in the issues of aqidah and call into question the validity of the Ashari school and its history, call some of its proponents bigots, don’t expect people (and knowledgeable ones at that) not to respond and expose the flaws, inaccuracies and shortcomings in the research. My advice to Imam Suhaib is that if you really want the Unity of Muslims, put your aqidah issues on one side and deal with the day to day and common issues. Forgive me if I have offended but I felt I had to make this post.Whilst singing from different qasa’id sheets can be illuminating and uplifting, different aqa’id are an other matter entirely and should not be taken lightly.”

The Translators’ Blog has raised an important issue of one of the directions in which Salafism is moving and is re-branding or re-marketing. Gone are the discussions against the Madhhabs (in most Salafi circles) and there is even a nod of acknowledgement to Tasawwuf which before would have been a scowl. However, there is still this underlying hatred intense dislike for the Ashari aqidah (and by extension the Maturidi aqidah) that still seems to generate a reaction in them that they can’t resist taking a dig and casting aspersions. Alhamdulillah, we have ulama who are more than able to respond to such absurdities (and have done so for the last 10 years). The other issue is the assertion that the Salafi aqidah is the same as the Athari aqida, whilst I am not qualified in anyway to say one way or the other, but from what little I have read and what I have taken from those more knowledgeable in such matters, they are not the same thing and any attempt to conflate and [mis]represent the two as one and the same is disingenuous and to further suggest that Ibn Taymiyya is the custodian of the Athari aqidah is pushing it.

ISW (on a thread in DP) said that he considers the Ashari school of the Ahl al-Sunnah, the fact is that the Ashari (and Maturidi) school ARE Ahl al-Sunnah, the real question is whether Salafism is of the Ahl al-Sunnah…

wa’as-salam

Mas’ud
www.masud.co.uk

GF Haddad on al-Maqrizi

as-salamu ‘alaykum

The Translators’ Blog recently cited al-Maqrizi against the Ashari school of aqida in a post entitled “The History of the Ashari School”. The original post has since been deleted, twice in actual fact after being withdrawn initially after complaints that it was disrespectful and then reinstated after Imam Suhaib “didn’t find anything wrong with it”, and it has been deleted again without comment. Shaykh Gibril F. Haddad researched and wrote a short biography as to who he was so as to contextualise al-Maqrizi’s comments on the Ashari school, the bio is quite a telling and an interesting read:


AL-MAQRIZI
by GF Haddad

Ahmad ibn `Ali ibn `Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Tamim ibn `Abd al-Samad Taqi al-Din al-Ba`li al-Misri al-Maqrizi (766-845) “the Sufi” (Ibn Rafi`), “the Reliance of Historians” (Ibn `Imad), “our rafiq and sahib” (Ibn Hajar), Allah Most high have mercy on him. This great specialist of Egyptian history grew up as a Hanafi then chose the Shafi`i school in his twenties. His family originated in Ba`labakk in Lebanon.

Among his teachers were his grandfather the major erudite muhaddith Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn al-Sa’igh al-Hanafi; al-Burhan al-Nashawari; al-Burhan al-Amidi; al-`Izz ibn al-Kuwayk; al-Najm ibn Razin; al-Shams ibn al-Khashshab; al-Tanukhi; Ibn Abi al-Shaykha; Ibn Abi al-Majd; al-Siraj al-Bulqini; al-Zayn al-`Iraqi; al-Haythami; al-Farasisi; al-Shams Ibn Sukkar; al-Amyuti; Qadi Abu al-Fadl al-Nuwayri; Sa`d al-Din al-Isfarayini; Abu al-`Abbas ibn `Abd al-Mu`ti, and others. He received certificates of transmission from al-Shihab al-Adhru`i, al-Jamal al-Isnawi, Abu al-Baqa’ al-Subki, `Ali ibn Yusuf al-Zarandi, and others.

Al-Sakhawi says “I have read in his hand-writing that his works exceeded 200 large volumes and that his teachers numbered 600” but he dismisses al-Maqrizi’s claim of having heard from Ibn Kathir the “pattern-chained hadith of firstness” as “hardly true.”

Al-Maqrizi’s greatness lies in his writing of geographical history, “particularly that of Egypt” (Ibn Hajar). He founded the genre of urban topography in which he left his encyclopedic Khitat – which al-Sakhawi said is indebted to his coming into possession of the large Khitat Misr wal-Qahira by the Egyptian historian Shihab al-Din Ahmad ibn `Abd Allah al-Awhadi (761-811) – among other lasting and numerous contributions in universal, metropolitan, political, Prophetic, genealogical, and biographical history such as:

  • Al-Bayan wal-I`rab `amma fi Ardi Misra min al-A`rab
  • Al-Durar al-Mudiyya fi Tarikh al-Dawlat al-Islamiyya
  • Durar al-`Uqud al-Farida fi Tarajim al-A`yan al-Mufida, chronicling contemporaries from his birthday to his death. al-Ilmam fi man Ta’akhkhara bi-Ardi al-Habasha min Muluk al-Islam
  • `Iqd Jawahir al-Asfat fi Muluk Misr wal-Fustat.
  • Imta` al-Asma` bi-ma lil-Rasuli `alayhi al-Salatu wal-Salamu min al-Abna’ wal-Am/hwal wal-Hafadati wal-Mata` in 6 volumes. o Itti`az/Iqaz al-Hunafa bi-Akhbar al-Fatimiyyin al-Khulafa, in which he argues for the Fatimi lineage of the `Ubaydis, from which he said he descended.
  • al-Khabar `ani al-Bashar, in five volumes on Arab tribes and the Prophetic lineage.
  • Majma` al-Fara’id wa-Manba` al-Fawa’id, of which he finished between 80 and 100 volumes, “on the two sciences of reason and transmission in earnest and in jest.”
  • al-Mawa`iz wal-I`tibar bi-Dhikr al-Khutati wal-Athar, his masterpiece, of which a Turkish translation was made in 969 for the Emir Ibrahim al-Daftari.
  • Muntakhab al-Tadhkira
  • al-Suluk li-Ma`rifati Duwal al-Muluk in many volumes chronicling events up to the author’s death, which his student Ibn Tughriburda began to continue, he said “in the author’s lifetime from the year 840,” naming the continuation “Hawadith al-Duhur fi Mada al-Ayyam wal-Shuhur.”
  • al-Tarikh al-Kabir al-Muqaffa in 16 volumes, which he said would have reached 80 if he could have finished it.

Al-Maqrizi also wrote more specialized monographs such as:

  • al-Awzan wal-Akyal al-Shar`iyya
  • Daw’ al-Sari fi Ma`rifati Khabar Tamim al-Dari
  • al-Dhahab al-Masbuk fi Dhikri man Hajja min al-Muluk
  • Husul al-In`am wal-Mayr fi Su’al Khatimat al-Khayr
  • Ighathat al-Umma bi-Kashf al-Ghumma
  • al-Isharatu wal-I`lam bi-Bina’i al-Ka`bati Bayt Allah al-Haram
  • al-Isharatu wal-Ima’ ila Halli Lughz al-Ma’
  • al-Maqasid al-Saniyya li-Ma`rifati al-Ajsad al-Ma`daniyya
  • Ma`rifatu Ma Yajibu li-Al al-Bayt al-Naawi min al-Haqqi `ala man `Adahum, a work on the immense precedential merit of the Prophetic Household in which he cites in full a nine-page passage from the Futuhat al-Makkiyya which he introduces with the words, “The gnostic (al-`arif) Muhyi al-Din Abu `Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn `Arabi said….” I had the honor of reading this book in full with al-Sayyid `Abd al-Maqsud Faris al-Idrisi al-Hasani of the Ulema of al-Azhar, the rector of Madrasat al-Junid in Singapore.
  • al-Tanazu` wal-Takhasum fi-ma bayna Bani Umayya wa-Bani Hashim, a book against the Banu Umayya edited and published by a Rafidi.
  • Shudhur al-`Uqud fi Dhikr al-Nuqud, on Islamic mintage.
  • Tajrid al-Tawhid al-Mufid.
  • al-Turfat al-Ghariba min Akhbari Hadramawt al-`Ajiba

He preached, sat as judge, and taught hadith at various points but his employment was mostly in financial administration (hisba) until he retired from public life and devoted himself completely to writing.

Ibn Hajar casts doubt over al-Maqrizi’s `Ubaydi lineage in Inba’ al-Ghumr (year 845), for which the latter’s only proof is that his father took him into al-Hakim’s mosque in Cairo and told him: “This is your grandfather’s mosque!” while al-Sakhawi in al-Daw’ al-Lami` comments on his unreliability when it came to the early history of Islam, biography, and hadith narrators, adding: “How excellent is someone’s comment that ‘some of what is in it gives pause.'” He also says it would be “foolhardiness” (mujazafa) to call him a hafiz in the technical hadith sense, as he only had “a little knowledge” of fiqh, hadith, and nahw. Accordingly only the Cairene historian al-Jabarti (1167-1237) calls him a hafiz in `Aja’ib al-Athar and Nafh al-Tib while Ibn Qadi Shuhba (779-851) does not mention him in his Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya.

In his biographical notice on Ibn Khaldun (732-808) al-Shawkani writes:

The hafiz Abu al-Hasan [Nur al-Din] al-Haythami used to disparage Ibn Khaldun a lot. The hafiz Ibn Hajar said: “When I asked him about the reason, he replied that the news reached him that he had said about al-Husayn the Prophetic grandson, Allah be well-pleased with him, that ‘he was killed with his grandfather’s sword’ and after he mentioned that, weeping, he cursed Ibn Khaldun.” Ibn Hajar continued: “This statement is not found in the Tarikh in existence nowadays and it seems that it was found in the version from which he recanted.” Then he said: “What is astonishing is that our friend al-Maqrizi was so excessive in praising Ibn Khaldun because the latter positively affirmed the authenticity of the [Fatimi] lineage of the Banu `Ubayd, the caliphs in Egypt, opposing others [who considered it spurious] and dismissing what is related from the Imams that disputes such lineage. He would say: ‘They only recorded such [aspersions] to please the `Abbasi caliph.’ Al-Maqrizi himself claimed he descended from the Fatimis, as we already said, so he loved Ibn Khaldun for having affirmed their lineage and was ignorant of Ibn Khaldun’s intent, as the latter hated the `Alawis so much that he affirmed the `Ubaydis descended from them because their loathsome beliefs had become well-known, as some of them were propagandists of heresy and some claimed divinity, such as al-Hakim, so Ibn Khaldun wanted such [a lineage] to provide an avenue for aspersions [against `Alawis].” Thus did al-Sakhawi relate it from Ibn Hajar, and Allah knows best about the truth. For, if Ibn Khaldun ever said such a statement, then {Allah sent him astray purposely} (45:23).

The Encyclopedia of Islam mentions that “[al-Maqrizi’s] contemporaries were somewhat critical of his scholarship” and that “he seems to have had professional and perhaps personal difficulties with his fellow historians” such as al-`Ayni and Ibn Hajar. Indeed, his close student Ibn Tughriburda in al-Nujum al-Zahira relies on al-Maqrizi but nevertheless does not spare his criticism of his sharp tongue, and mentions his “fumbling in the dark” (takhbit) at one point while Ibn Qutlubagha and al-Sakhawi accuse him of plagiarism and Al-`Ayni accuses him of having been engrossed with geomancy (raml). Al-Sakhawi says he “looked up Ibn Khaldun’s horoscope to the point it is related he pinpointed a day for his appointment to some office and it came to be as he had predicted…. Yet, the eminent personalities honored him, either to placate him out of fear of his pen or because his conversation was pleasant.” Ibn `Imad al-Hanbali states “he was fanatically anti-Hanafi and other than them due to his leaning to the school of Zahirism” of which, Ibn Hajar says, “he actually knew nothing.” The French historian of Mamluk intellectual history Eric Geoffroy considers him a Taymiyyan qadi inimical to ill-educated Sufis but highlights his meticulousness in not blaming Ibn `Arabi for doctrines of which he is innocent.

In doctrine it appears that al-Maqrizi indirectly imputed anthropomorphism to the Hanbali school of anthropomorphism for their opposition to the Ash`ari school when he (reportedly, in the Khitat 4:184-5) says:

The reality of the school of al-Ash`ari, may Allah have mercy upon him, is that he followed a way between the negation of attributes, that being the Mu`tazili school, and the affirmation thereof, that being the school of the anthropomorphists…. there remains no school today that opposes the Ash`ari school, with the exception of the school of the Hanbalis, the followers of Imam Abu `Abdullah Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be well-pleased with him. For they are upon what the Salaf were upon, that is, to avoid allegorical interpretation of texts pertaining to attributes.

By describing the Hanbalis as opposing the way which he himself defined as “a way between the negation of attributes and the affirmation thereof, the latter being the school of the anthropomorphists,” al-Maqrizi, either deliberately or otherwise, confirmed the fact that whatever the anti-Ash`aris Hanbalis characterize, with regard to affirming the attributes, as “the school of the Salaf,” is actually the way of the anthropomorphists.

Accordingly, in order to reflect this witting or unwitting authorial distance between the letter of the Hanbali self-identification as the *school of the Salaf* and its actual meaning under al-Maqrizi’s pen – and as Imam Ibn `Abd al-Salam had warned in his treatise (al-Mulha) when he flayed the camouflaging (tasattur) of the deviant Hanbalis of his time – quotation marks should be inserted both in the last sentence above and in the sentence where he refers to Ibn Taymiyya thus:

For ‘they [Hanbalis] are upon what the Salaf were upon’….

He [Ahmad ibn Taymiyya] undertook to champion ‘the school of the Salaf’ and did his utmost to refute the Ash’aris.

However, even if we should doubt that al-Maqrizi had mastered, like al-Dhahabi, the art of subtle allusion, it remains that his interpretation of the historico-doctrinal dynamics of the spread of the Ash`ari School and its subsequent opposition by Ahmad ibn Taymiyya is unreliable because of the judgments of the scholars concerning him and, at best, superficial. In the words of a perceptive student of history:

The historical contextualisation of events such as the rise of the Ash`ari school, which ostensibly limits its appeal to the effects of political patronage, could be applied to any event in Islamic history (in order to undermine its authenticity, as many anti-Islam Orientalists have done over the centuries)…. All of our scholarship could be argued away on this basis.

And Allah knows best.


Sources:

  • Ibn Tughriburda, al-Nujum al-Zahira (year 841);
  • Ibn Hajar, Inba’ al-Ghumr (year 845);
  • al-Sakhawi, al-Daw’ al-Lami` (2:21-25);
  • Ibn `Imad, Shadharat al-Dhahab (year 845);
  • al-Shawkani, al-Badr al-Tali` (p. 338);
  • `Abd al-`Alim Khudr, al-Muslimun wa-Kitabat al-Tarikh (IIIT, 1993);
  • Eric Geoffroy, Le Soufisme en Egypte et en Syrie sour les derniers Mamelouks et les premiers Ottomans (IFEAD, p. 470-471, 481).

GF Haddad