The Doctrine of Ibn Kathir Was In Sunnism As Opposed to Ash’ari Kalam



One of the polemical issues between modern pseudo asharism and salafism is the identification of the theological views of Hafidh Ibn Kathir رحمه الله. It is of my humble view that this was never an issue in the history of Islam since everyone under the sky were obviously aware of Ibn Kathir’s salafi athari doctrinal certitude. The most widely concrete evidence of this is directly in his expressions and views as he outlines doctrine propelling the salafi athari creed and dispelling the kalam theology of Ash’aris. This is done as he outlines in his own words the sunni creed as well as how he portrays his master, Ibn Taymiyya رحمه الله, against the Ash’aris in debates. He even does this with other salafi sunni athari theologians against the heretics among the Ash’ari theologians in his Bidaya wan-Nihaya and how he nullifies the potency of the Ash’ari mutakalimin juxtaposed with the salafi athari scholars he sides with.

So the question would be how is this an issue now? It is my theory that when one of my teachers spear headed the project with many translators (one of them being another shaykh of mines) to bring a translation of a synopsis of Ibn Kathir’s tafsir titled “Misbah al-Munir” to the English language which was a tahqiq (authentification) of the original tafsir ibn Kathir, coupled with Darussalams marketing ploy to simply sell it as the tafsir ibn Kathir itself, the widespread receipt of the western Muslim community of the celebrated tafsir of the Qur’an rose ibn Kathir’s popularity.

Before this feat, pseudo Ash’aris and their sympathizers would have never dreamed of making a hardcore defender of their most hated enemy, ibn Taymiyyah, as one of their own.

There have been a lot of back and forth discussions between salafis and pseudo asharis on the topic. The latest and most profound piece among the modern Ash’aris was an unacademic work mainly fueled by innuendo and half truths titled “Imam al-Mizzi, His Brief Incarceration and the Khalq Af’al al-Ibad of Imam al-Bukhari” by Dr. Abul Hasan Hussein Ahmed. So this synopsis aims to dispel not just this 67 page publication, but the entire polemic in far less than this 67 page document.

So without further ado, lets get straight into the polemic for the reader shall we!

Section 1: The History of 7th-8th Century Syria

A brief summary of what happened should suffice the reader. After the Ash’ari movement arose from the fringe minority of the late 500 hijra and into the 600 hijra, the Ash’ari movement began to dominate the political intellectual sphere of scholarship via securing an unholy alliance with Nidhamul-Mulk similar to how the Wahabis of Najd secured an alliance with the Sa’ud dynasty. Just like the M’utazilah secured the Abbasid power of reign and security during the theological inquisition known as the Mihan events of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. By the time late 7th century hijri comes along, the sultanate authorities allowing the Ash’aris free reign in the intellectual sphere of Islamic thought. This is where the events of Syrian Islam became known as the mihan events of Ibn Taymiya during the time of Ibn Taymiyya and afterwards, resulting in the incarceration of al-Mizzi and the athari scholars having to publicly declare themselves to be Ash’ari just in order to survive. Otherwise they’d be out of a job. Of all the Athari scholars, the only one most famous for not submitting to the plot was Hafidh Imam adh-Dhahabi رحمه الله.

Ash’aris like to parrot the following two points of contention and the first one is a refutation of their own claim. The very quote that they like to use is actually a proof against them. The next point is one which lacks the social context of why Imam as-Subki makes his claim.

Asharis love to parrot the following story narrated in the Durar al-Kamina of Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani رحمه الله.

Firstly, he mentions that ibn Kathir and Ibrahim bin Muhammad, the son of ibn Qayyim got into a dispute. Its narrated

روى الحافظ ابن حجر العسقلاني في ترجمة ابراهيم نجل ابن القيم الجوزية رحمه الله كما جاء في كتابه الدرر الكامنة ما نصه :

ابراهيم بن محمد بن أبي بكر بن أيوب بن قيم الجوزية … تقدم وأفتى ودرس , وذكره الذهبي في المعجم المختص فقال : تفقه بأبيه وشارك في العربية وسمع وقرأ واشتغل بالعلم ..ومن نوادره أنه وقع بينه وبين عماد الدين ابن كثير منازعة في تدريس الناس فقال له ابن كثير : أنت تكرهني لأنني أشعري . فقال له : لو كان من رأسك الى قدمك شعر ما صدقك الناس في قولك أنك أشعري وشيخك ابن تيمية !! )) انتهى كلام الحافظ ابن حجر

ذكر في الدرر الكامنة للحافظ ابن حجر

Ibn Kathir said to him, “You dislike me because I am Ash’ari.”

Ibrahim replied, “If there was hair (sha’r) all the way from your head to your feet, people would not believe you if you say that you are an Ash’ari while your shaykh was ibn Taymiyyah.”

Secondly, another point mentioned in this debate is that as-Subki mentions in “Tabaqat ash-shafi’ iyya” volume 10 page 398 that a condition to teach at the house of hadith “Al-Ashrafiyya” was to be Ash’ ari in ‘aqida and that Ibn Kathir occupied the post of professor at this house of Hadith in the month of Muharram in the year 772H.”

Ok. So lets break down the severely poor understanding polemical Ash’aris typically employ in their arguments against ahlu-sunnah wal-jama’ah.

The conversation that Ibrahim bin Muhammad (the son of Ibnul-Qayyim) is having with Ibn Kathir) is understood in one way and in one way only. Scientifically, Ash’ari refers to the adherent of a certain theological school. Linguistically, it is tied to sh’ar which means “hair”. That is why Ibrahim bin Muhammad replied in the rhetoric that he replied.

In short, Ibn Kathir was literally trolling Ibrahim bin Muhammad. He was like “you dont like me because Im Ash’ari (innit)” with a satire typical to this following emoji expression “😜”.

Ibrahim bin Muhammad responds back saying, “you, (my friend), even if you were covered with hair (sh’ar) from head to toe, people wouldn’t believe you’re Ash’ari while your shaykh is Ibn Taymiyya”. Literally saying that no one on planet earth will believe your claim to be an Ash’ari even if your body was covered from head to toe with hair “sh’ar” (again, which is a semantical play on words that reveals the satire of the story).

In other words, this comical story, in its entire linguistic and historical context is a refutation of the literalists Ash’ari depiction that divorces ibn Kathir’s statement “you dont like me because I am Ash’ari” from its idiomatic, historical, and even context regarding the companionship that Ibn Kathir had with Ibrahim bin Muhammad, ibnul-Qayyim’s own son. In other words, the Ash’ari depiction of this story is simply to erase everything that surrounds what made this entire conversation possible along with Ibrahim’s reply. Yet, they call us “literalists”.

An Ash’ari sympathizer posits that we atharis have made “so much t’awil” here on this story. I beg to differ and the following is why.

The problem here is in lack of basis. I dont mind or care if someone can actually prove someone of high status converted to asharism. Im not bothered, nor is my Islam affected by who became salafi or Ash’ari. Where my contentions lie is in the basis of the data submitted. One example that comes to mind is a bigot Ash’ari who said that ibn taymiyyah became an Ash’ari at the end of his life. If you can prove this, then fine. But the fact there exist no such indication in any textual contribution towards the islamic sciences whatsoever is just disappointing juxtaposed to the claim. What makes it more preposterous is that

A. His entire life basis was spent in the repelling of ilmul-kalam

B. His very imprisonment and death came at the hands of the Ash’aris he defended and saved from the political rulers of his time. He died in prison as a “heretic” according to the Ash’aris of his time and obviously a master of the Sunni Muslims as is evidenced by his hundreds of thousands of people deep janazah prayer while his ashari heretic contemporaries could only dream of amassing the love and sympathy of the Muslim public typical to orthodox (salafi) Imams when they pass away. Ibnul-Qayyim who remained with him till the very end records no such thing as his teacher having reneged the sunni creed for asharism.

How on earth it was concluded ibn taymiyya became an Ash’ari is the type of ridiculousness that is beyond asinine.

The same with ibn Kathir. Every single aqidah point that is a mas’ala of controversy between salafis and Ash’aris, he advocates the salafi stance in every instance. This would be tantamount to claiming ibn qudama as an Ash’ari.

However, when the major scholars of old and current times cite references to Imam al-Ghazali’s iljam reneging the Ash’ari school, that is actual citational proof. These claims dont come out of thin air.

As for ibn Kathir, the strongest proof of integrity of a claim is in their actual established works as those are their own dictions to their thoughts and views.

For someone to say that we’re “making tawil” on ibn Kathir being salafi, that would only make sense had ibn Kathir been known for outlining Ash’ari concepts in any of his works. The fact that he opposes them and outlines salafi (athari) concepts in his works dispels this myth that we are making t’awil that he was salafi. Rather, if anything, the only ones making t’awil of him being an Ash’ari are Ash’aris. Because the only instance of his life that seems to help them [key word is seems] in propelling this myth is the only single time in his life where he claims to be Ash’ari only to secure a job that his salafi father in law, al-Mizzi, did the same before him. And when he says it verbatim, he is doing it to troll Ibnul-Qayyim’s son Ibrahim bin Muhammad. Ours is not a tawil, it is in fact thee historical context of the entire incident. Only someone who lacks cognitive reasoning and understanding of basic language could arrive at a conclusion that ibn kathir somehow dismisses his entire salafi track record for opting to asharism on the sole basis of his trolling Ibrahim bin Muhammad narration and a generic statement of as-Subki about the position of darul-hadith that has no relevance to this specific context of this narration.

However, we don’t need to rely on Ibn Kathir’s troll factor alone here. Ibn Kathir’s own portrayal of Abul Hasan al-Ash’ari’s life further explains the matter. Ibn Kathir views that al-Ash’ari had three stages of his theological career. The first forty are his days as a M’utazili heretic. He then records in his Bidaya wan-Nihaya how al-Ash’ari left the M’utazili method and adopted a way in between that and sunnism. This was the development of what became known as the Ash’ari school. Ibn Kathir then records he left this path towards the complete way of the Sunnah and uses the authoring of al-Ibanah fi Usul ad-Diyana as proof his coming to complete sunni orthodoxy (salafism). Thus, when the criminal Ash’ari syndicate of his time cornered the market on Islamic academia at the time and stipulated certain political ambitions to ciphon off further legitimacy to their insideous madhab by political mandate that the heads of institutions and even teaching posts had to have its members publicly declare themselves to be Ash’ari, Ibn Kathir having the final stage of al-Ash’ari’s life being completely sunni (athari/salafi), will find no qualms with publically declaring being an Ash’ari! Under this monkey wrench in the mix, I too can claim to be Ash’ari as a salafi athari.

To finally tie off this section and move onwards, I end with my own understanding that seems strongly indicative of the facts that other shiyukh have also expressed

It seems like, according to the wording of the story between ibn Kathir and Ibrahim bin Muhammad, that they had a wager whereby he himself (ibn Kathir) would get the job by claiming to be Ash’ari but he told him I will intend to be Ash’ari upon the school of al-Ash’ari himself when he leaves asharism and back to sunnism (the third stage of his life). Since ibn Kathir himself records (by inference) that al-Ash’ari had three stages of his life. His mutazili days, then the madhab he built (Ash’ari days), then the salafi athari days finalized by authoring his al-ibanah fi usul ad-diyana. So ibn kathir has no qualms to say he is Ash’ari in order to secure a job with this meaning in mind.

So ibn Kathir does his own move to claim being Ash’ari to secure the position just as his father-in-law (al-Mizzi) performed his own stunt to nulllify his claim to be Ashari through action. So the narration of the story seems to be Ibrahim bin Muhammad reaffirming that even had you been covered with hair all over your body (sh’ar, which was a play on the term Ash’ari), then nobody would believe you to be one considering who your shaykh is, ibn taymiyya.

Section 2: Ibn Kathir’s Historical Portayal Of Salafi Sunnism Destroying Ash’ari Dogma

Now, this section will be to cite Ibn Kathir’s portrayal of the Sunni creed in destroying Ash’ari creed in his Bidaya wan-Nihaya (his history book that means “from The beginning to the end”).

• The debate of Hafidh Abdul-Ghani al-Maqdisi on the aqida issues of Nuzul, al-‘Uluw, Harf and Sawt in the eyes of Ibn Kathir.

Ibn Kathir said regarding Hafidh Abdul-Ghani al-Maqdisi (Student of Shaykh Abul Qadir al-Jaylani and cousin of Ibn Qudama al Maqdasi).

فذكر يوما عقيدته على الكرسي فثار عليه القاضي ابن الزكي، وضياء الدين الدولعي، وعقدوا له مجلسا في القلعة يوم الاثنين الرابع والعشرين من ذي القعدة سنة خمس وتسعين.

وتكلموا معه في مسألة العلو ومسألة النزول، ومسألة ا لحرف والصوت، وطال الكلام وظهر عليهم بالحجة، فقال له برغش نائب القلعة: كل هؤلاء على الضلالة وأنت على الحق؟ قال: نعم، فغضب برغش من ذلك وأمره بالخروج من البلد.

He (Abdul-Ghani) mentioned his aqida regarding the Kursi due to which Qadi Ibn al-Zaki and Dia al Din al Dawl`ee attacked him, And they held a majlis for him on Monday the 24th thil Qa`da 595h, And they did debate in detail on the issue of al-‘Uluw (Allah’s actual Rising Himself), the issue of Nuzul (Allah’s actual Descent), the issues of Harf (that Allah’s Kalam consists of letters) and Sawt (that Allah actually speaks with sound that can be heard audibly), He (Abdul-Ghani) overpowered them because of the irrefutable evidences (presented). The deputy of the castle Berghash asked him, all of these people are on misguidance and you are on truth?, He said: Yes. this made Berghash angry and he ordered that he (Abdul-Ghani) should go out from the city.

[Source: al-Bidaya wan Nihaya vol 12, tarjuma of Abdul-Ghani al-Maqdisi]

Mind you, these four issues are direct specific doctrinal core differences between Sunnis versus the Ash’ari mutakalimin. These are not vagueries that Ash’aris like to quote our own Imams to somehow use against us as somehow refuting us.

Al-‘Uluw– Salafis believe Allah actually exists and that His Existence is above all other existences, whereas Ash’aris disbelieve this by saying there is no elevation of Allah and that this would be tantamont to anthropomorphism. Thus they came up with the theory that essentially is synonymous with atheism, that Allah has no existence. He is nowhere, neither above, below, left, right, inside, nor outside of creation. Responding to this, four Classic Sunni orthodox (salafi) Imams have said this is a type of atheism.

Nuzul– Salafis believe that when Allah actually confirms to us of His Descent and in the sunnah of the Messenger, that He does what He says He does and is not incapable of doing so. Ash’aris say otherwise, and that Allah does not really mean what He says about Himself.

Al-Huruf– Salafis believe that Allah spoke the Qur’an as His actual speech, for if He did not speak it, then it cannot be called “Kalamullah” i.e. The Speech of Allah. Ash’aris side with the Jahmiya and the Mutazilah in that Allah did not speak the Qur’an and that it is in fact created as attested by Imam ibnul-Juwayni رحمه الله. Ask any pseudo Ash’ari “who said Alif Lam Meem”!!!

Sawtiyah– Allah’s actual audibility of His Act of Speaking. Salafis believe in a Lord that Speaks whenever He likes for He is فَعَّالٌ لِمَا يُرِيدُ i.e. He Does whatever He wishes. And that when Allah speaks (in a point in time, which Ash’aris also disbelieve in) that He can be heard. And the sunnah obviously depicts the Lords audible speech as relayed by Imam al-Bukhari himself in refuting the Jahmiyah in his Khalq Af’al al-Ibad. In other words, Ash’ari dogma’s conception of God is in a mute Lord wa iyadhubillah. Ask them “Who spoke to Musa at Mount Tur and who’s voice was Musa hearing if it was not His Lord? The jinn?” This invented concoction of the Ash’aris caused them to invent a new doctrine called kalam nafsi which completely defies all logic and common sense for people who believe in a God.

As the reader can see, these are very intricate core issues that severely highlight differences between the salafi sunni creed of the people of Islam in general that Muslims have always held as their belief represented by the entire nation of the Salaf Imams notable among them Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal versus the Ash’ari theosophical dialectic that opposed this orthodox tradition. Yet here, Ibn Kathir رحمه الله is expressing how Hafidh Abdul-Ghani al-Maqdisi al-Hanbali virtually creamed the Ash’aris whom he was debating.

•The debate between Ibn Makhluf Maliki with the brother of Ibn Taymiyah on Arsh and Nuzul in the eyes of Ibn Kathir.

Ibn Kathir said:

وفي هذا الشهر يوم الخميس السابع والعشرين منه طلب أخوا الشيخ تقي الدين شرف الدين وزين الدين من الحبس إلى مجلس نائب السلطان سلار، وحضر ابن مخلوف المالكي وطال بينهم كلام كثير فظهر شرف الدين بالحجة على القاضي المالكي بالنقل والدليل والمعرفة، وخطأه في مواضع ادّعى فيها دعاوى باطلة، وكان الكلام في مسألة العرش ومسألة الكلام، وفي مسألة النزول.

On thursday the 27th of this month both of the brothers of Ibn Taymiyyah i.e. Sharfu-din and Zainu-din were brought to the sitting held by deputy of Sultan Salaar. Ibn Makhluf al-Maliki also came and they argued. Sharfu-din was dominant on Qadhi Maliki in the textual scriptures as well as being cognizant its evidences. And he made many of his claims to be patently false. The debate was on the Mas`ala of Arsh, kalam (Speech of Allah) and Nuzul

[Source: Al-Bidaya wan Nihaya 14/59]

Again, core issues of fundamental dichotomy between Salafis and Ash’aris, and ibn Kathir sides with and claims victory for the salafi side while reducing the intellectual potency of the Ash’aris

•Ibn Kathir’s portrayal of Safi-u-Din al-Hindi’s debate with Ibn Taymiyyah on the Aqidatu-Wasitiya versus Taj as-Subki’s distorted vitriolic propagandized version of the facts

Ibn Kathir said:

وفي يوم الاثنين ثامن رجب حضر القضاة والعلماء وفيهم الشيخ تقي الدين بن تيمية عندنائب السلطنة بالقصر وقرئت عقيدة الشيخ تقي الدين الواسطية وحصل بحث في أماكن منها وأخرت مواضع إلى المجلس الثاني فاجتمعوا يوم الجمعة بعد الصلاة ثاني عشر الشهر المذكور وحضر الشيخ صفي الدين الهندي وتكلم مع الشيخ تقي الدين كلاما كثيرا ولكن ساقيته لاطمت بحرا ثم اصطلحوا على ان يكون الشيخ كمال الدين بن الزملكاني هو الذي يحاققه من غير مسامحة

On Monday 8th of Rajab Judges and Scholars came and Ibn Taymiyyah was also present in the palace with Deputy Sultan. The Aqeedah al-Wasatiyah of Shaykh Taqi-u-din was read and many of its parts were discussed and others were left for the next sitting. They gathered on 12th of same month. Shaykh Safi-u-din al-Hindi also came and argued with Shaykh Taqii-u-din about many things but his small waterwheel was up against a vast ocean (Ibn Taymiyyah). Then, they agreed that Kamalu-Deen ibn Az-Zamalkani whould debate the Shaykh (Ibn Taymiyyah) unbiasedly.

[Source: Al-Bidaya wal Nihaya 14/52]

Now, let us examine this exact same debate, but with the typical beligerant Ash’ari twist that Ash’ari propagandists are known for in the corruption of the religion, using Taju-din as-Subki’s own depiction of the event. In Tabaqaat ash-Shafi’iyah under the biography of al-Hindi

فلما شرع يقرر أخذ ابْن تيمية يعجل عليه على عادته , ويخرج من شيء إلى شيء ، فقال له الهندي : ما أراك يابْن تيمية إلا كالعصفور ، حيث أردت أن أقبضه من مكان فر إلى مكان آخر

“When he debated Ibn Taymiyya, He (Ibn Taymiyya) precipitated as was his habit moving from one issue to another. al-Hindi said to him: I do not see you except like a sparrow O Ibn Taymiyah that I when I try to catch it at a place, it moves to another. (end quote)

Unlike Ibn Kathir’s pro-salafi depiction who said “his (al-Hindi’s) small waterwheel was up against a vast ocean (Ibn Taymiyyah’s), as-Subki and his pro-ashari depiction of the event relays it in a completely different fashion altogether. So who was the accurate relayer of the event here one might ask? Who was the one guilty of propaganda for the sake of repelling sunnism against their dogmatism?

The student of Safi-u-din al-Hindi, Kamalu-din bin Zamalkani (who himself argued with Ibn Taymiyyah regarding aqidatu-wasitiyyah) said regarding the debates of Ibn Taymiyyah:

ولا يعرف أنه ناظر أحداً فانقطع معه، ولا تكلم في علم من العلوم – سواءً كان من علوم الشرع أو غيرها – إلا فاق فيه أهله والمنسوبين إليه،

“It is not known that he debated any point and was put to shame. Whatever be the subject matter about which he spoke, whether religious or discursive, he surpassed the authorities on that particular subject.”

[Sources: Uqud ad-Durriyah by Ibn Abdul Hadi, Al-Kawakib-ud-Durriyah fi Manaqib al-Mujtahid Ibn Taymiyyah by Imam Mar’i bin Yusuf al Karmi p. 60, Imam ad-Dahabi quoted this from his teacher Kamalu-din bin Zamalkani in his seperate book الدرة اليتيمية في السيرة التيمية]

This corroborating report by none other than a pro Ash’ari, the student of Safi-u-Din al-Hindi himself lays to waste as-Subki’s portrayal of the event and sanctifies Ibn Kathir’s accuracy in relaying the event as well as his integrity in relaying information in general. This is one proof, among many, that taju-deen as-Subki, when it comes to Ash’ari antics and dogma, can only be regarded as a bigot and must be rendered useless completely in his portrayal of doctrine altogether.

•Ibn Kathir praises the Entirety of the Hanabilah while the bigot Taju-Din as-Subki ferociously renders them into misguidance!

Ibn Kathir says:

وهم أهل سنة وأكثرهم حنابلة لا يستطيع مبتدع أن يسكن بين أظهرهم.

“They are Ahlus-Sunnah and most of them are Hanbalis and the innovators have no courage to live with them”

[Source: Al-Bidaya wan Nihaya 14/61]

Contrary to this, Taju-Din as-Subki records in his Tabaqat ash-Shafi’iyah

“Since when did the Hanbalis win a debate?”

Hafidh as-Sakhaawi commented on this saying,

This is very odd and reflects the worst type of bigotry!”

Note: Hanbalis represents the Sunni school of salafism or atharism.

Look at the original statement made by Ibn Kathir. Look how Ibn Kathir renders those who dislike the Hanbalis, obviously due to their creedal stances, as “innovators” who “have no courage to live with them”. Ibn Kathir regards the critics of the Hanbalis as “innovators” and Ash’aris along with some of the Maturidis are the lone critics of the Hanbalis. Well, not considering the Mutazilah and the jahmiya before the Ash’aris who also hated the Hanbalis and called them “hashawiya” just as the heretics among today’s pseudo Ash’aris claim we are hashawiya today. How on earth would anyone claim Ibn Kathir was an Ash’ari in reality considering his view of Ash’aris as being innovators, which IS THEE standard salafi position since the inception of Ash’arism into the ummah that Ash’aris are not from ahlu-sunnah but innovators regarded as ahlul-bid’a.

Furthermore, look at Hafidh as-Sakhawi, who leaned more towards Ash’ari t’awil even as he opposed the basis of asharism (‘ilmul-kalam), in how he renders Taju-deen as-Subki as having “the worst type of bigotry”. This, the claim of as-Subki being a bigot is no light matter nor is it something for which I, Ali Boriqee, am alone in for this is well known among credible Muslim academia.

Allow me to refute would could develop as an argument that I know pseudo Ash’aris well enough to convolute such a theory. They would likely cite specific references of Imam Ibn Kathir praising and defending clearly known Ash’aris in history. This convolution is demonstrated by the fact that either they are completely ignorant of the notions of hukm al-amm versus a hukm that is mu’ayyan. Or, they like to decieve their audiences with the conflation of such facts like these. Well, to dispel this conflation, ibn Kathir adopts the well known salafi stance that Ash’arism, as in the general sense, and its advocacy represents a heresy to traditional orthodox Islam (salafism). However, that does not detract from the fact that people who were or may be Ash’aris are required to somehow be condemned for being innovators due to a multitude of reasons that prevent us from highlighting here as it is beyond the topic. Just because I respect, benefit, commemorate Imam ibnul-Juwayni from his immense and beneficial works in Islam does not exhonorate asharism from being a repugnant heretical innovation that is not allowed for Muslims to adopt. But for some reason, when Ash’aris find salafi scholars praising Ash’ari scholars, they somehow wantonly interpret this action as somehow

•indicative that they are Ash’aris

•that the ones they praised are somehow exhonorated from mistaken notions of doctrine

And while we, as normal sunni Muslims, make excuse and have forbearence of great scholars, this act of forberence and mercy is a testimony to ourselves and Islam that Islam engrains in us a repudiation of being sanctimonious, where we have a “we’re saved and you’re not” syndrome. In other words, our practice is a purification of our selves more so than somehow a tawthiq of doctrinal contraversy of the one who may have adopted them.

•Ibn Kathir’s Regard for the Aqidatu-Wasitiya of ibn Taymiyya

Ibn Kathir mentions:

فتناظرا في ذلك وشكر الناس من فضائل الشيخ كمال الدين بن الزملكاني وجودة ذهنه وحسن بحثه حيث قاوم ابن تيمية في البحث وتكلم معه ثم انفصل الحال على قبول العقيدة وعاد الشيخ إلى منزله معظما مكرما

“Then they (Ibn Taymiyyah and Kamal ud din bin Zamalkani) engaged in a debate and people commended the merits of Shaykh Kamaal Al-Deen ibn Az-Zamalkaani, his wittiness, and careful researching as he debated Ibn Taymiyyah and talked with him. Finally, he accepted Al-‘Aqidah (Al-Wasitiyyah) and Ibn Taymiyyah went home honored and revered.”

[Source: Al-Bidaya wan Nihaya 14/52]

Ibn Kathir constantly praises, commemorates, and gives high regard for the content within al-Wasitiya authored by his master Ibn Taymiyya. How is the Wasitiya viewed by the Ash’aris of his time and the pseudo Ash’aris of today? It is almost an ijm’a by Ash’aris that the contents that are relayed in the Wasitiya represent heresy, kufr, the misguidance tajsim (describing Allah with bodily features), tashbih (anthropomorphism), and basically a book of complete heresy and misguidance. Heck, that is the very reason the medieval Ash’ari scholars debated ibn Taymiyya about the Wasitiya in the first place. Because they found it problematic. Yet Ibn Kathir does not!!!!! Why? Why is this? If Ibn Kathir was an Ash’ari, why does he not find problems with the Wasitiya? Why does he agree with its contents? Why does he sanctify its contents and its author? Why does he render those who disputed it as intellectually stupid (as can be seen how he portrays ibn Taymiyyah’s detractors against the book)??? These are legitimate questions that pseudo Ash’aris, who are given to this myth of ibn kathir being an Ash’ari, are unable to answer. If he was Ash’ari, why does he act extremely salafi about the Wasitiya and oppose the Ash’aris in their reaction to the Wasitiya?

As a slight side bar note, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali mentions in his Dhayl that after the three majalis (meetings) on the Aqida of Ibn Taymiyyah:

وقع الإتفاق بعد ذلك على أن هذه عقيدة سنية سلفية

They [all the scholars present in the majlis] agreed after commencing the discource, that this [the contents of the Wasitiya and thus the creed of Ibn Taymiyyah] is the SUNNI, SALAFI creed.

[Source: Dhayl Tabaqat al-Hanabilah of Ibn Rajab al-hanbalee 4/396]

Allahu Akbar. Hafidh Ibn Rajab is not the only one who relays this. This is relayed by both salafi and Ash’ari commentators as well. Ibn Kathir, adh-Dhahabi, and many others cited that the ending of the Islamic court tribunal held in front of the Sultan ended with the emancipation of Ibn Taymiyyah being the proponent of Islamic orthodoxy (salafism) and rendering the prosecution among the Ash’ari heretics AS the heretics they were always known to be. Not only that, but it was an emancipation of the very contents of al-Wasitiya itself, that it correctly relays the creed of the sunni Muslim orthodoxy, the creed of the salaf”

Section 3: Ibn Kathir’s Salafi Theological Convictions in His Own Writings Against the Ash’aris

Ibn Kathir spoke against the meaning taken by the jahmiya that Istiwa is Isteela. Consequently, the Ash’aris have unsurprisingly followed them in their understanding of istiwa just as they followed them in understanding most of the issues of doctrine in Sifat.

He says in al Bidayah wan-Nihaya Volume 9, page 262 when speaking about al Akhtal who was an Arab Christian poet :

وكان الأخطل من نصارى العرب المتنصرة، قبحه الله وأبعد مثواه، وهو الذي أنشد بشر بن مروان قصيدته التي يقول فيها:

قد استوى بشر على العراق * من غير سيف ودم مهراق

وهذا البيت تستدل به الجهمية على أن الاستواء على العرش بمعنى: الاستيلاء وهذا من تحريف الكلم عن مواضعه، وليس في بيت هذا النصراني حجة ولا دليل على ذلك، ولا أراد الله عز وجل باستوائه على عرشه استيلاءه عليه، تعالى الله عن قول الجهمية علواً كبيراً.

فإنه إنما يقال: استوى على الشيء إذا كان ذلك الشيء عاصياً عليه قبل استيلائه عليه، كاستيلاء بشر على العراق، واستيلاء الملك على المدينة بعد عصيانها عليه، وعرش الرب لم يكن ممتنعاً عليه نفساً واحداً، حتى يقال استوى عليه أو معنى الاستواء الاستيلاء، ولا تجد أضعف من حجج الجهمية، حتى أداهم الإفلاس من الحجج إلى بيت هذا النصراني المقبوح، وليس فيه حجة، والله أعلم

al Akhtal was a Christian from the Arab Al-Mutnasrah, (Ibn Kathir prayed against him and said) And he vocalized his qaseeda to Bishr bin Marwan, in which he said:.

“Bishr established mastery over Iraq without sword and without shedding blood.”

Ibn Kathir says

“The Jahmis take evidence from this poetry that Istiwa’ over the Throne means: al Istila’ (to conquer), and this is from the distortion of the speech, and there is no proof in this Christian’s poetry for that and there is no evidence for it.

And Allah the Almighty didn’t intend by His Istiwa on the Throne that He conquered it, Allah the exalted is far above from the saying of the Jahmiyyah. Because it is said: Istawa upon something if that thing was rebellious or resistant to him before he took it over, like the conquering of Bishr over Iraq, and the taking over of a city by the king after its rebellion against him.

And the Throne of the Lord was not forbidden or inaccessible for Him, for one to say: Istawa over it or the meaning of Istiwa’ is “isteela”

A pseudo Ash’ari sympathizer defended this jahmi distortion of creed by saying

In a time when there are mushabbihah and mujassimah then it is necessary. They had people around them who wouldn’t attribute place and direction to Allah so there was no need. That is the earliest generation. As for after, these qualifications are found in their affirmation

This logic of this pseudo Ash’ari sympathizer is absurd as it is weak. The problem with this distortion of facts is that the Ash’aris have misrepresented reality and history. The greatest demonstrable and tangible framework for anthropomorphism was in their era. By the age of Daraqutni nearing the 400 hijra, the only remnance of an anthropomorphic madhab was the rafidhi shia, who had remained mushabiha anthropomorphists as recorded by Shahrastani in Milal wan-Nihal, ar-Razi in his ‘Itiqad al-Firaq al-Muslimin wal-Mushrikin as well as Ibn Taymiyyah in Aqidatu-Wasitiya. The rafidhi sects of the time were the Hashimiyun from Hisham ibnul-Hakam, as well as the Jawaliqiya from Hisham bin Salim al-Jawaliqi, the Yunusiya of Yunus ibn Abdur-Rahman al-Qumi, and the Shaytaniya (literally the Satanists) from the one who adopted the name Shaytan at-Taq and his kunya was Abu J’afar. The last remaining mujasimma were the karamiya mujasima among the Hanafiya before the madhab converted to Maturidiya later on in the fifth century. Before this conversion, the bulk of Hanafi theology was centered on Athari Salafism as can be witnessed in the creed of Imam at-Tahawi رحمه الله, the remainder being the karamiya mujasimah. Most sectarian protagonists know nothing of these historical facts.

As for later among ahl-sunnah, these cults became extinct. They ceased to exist, and thus their threat level remained insignificant. However it was among the Ash’aris who’s distorted perception of reality as a result of their convoluted theories and invented dogma continued the existence of the “emerging threat of tashbih” which is literally the theological equivolent of todays secular boogyman of “the threat of terrorism” while completely overlooking the imperial terrorism that is the source of all terrorism in the world. This is ironic considering the source of anthropomorphic thinking in today’s world is the Ash’ari approach in looking at the Quranic texts whereby when they read what their Lord says of Himself, their brains employ a defacto conception of anthropomorphic visions of what they are reading as opposed to ahlu-sunnah who have warned the Muslims in orthodox doctrine that the texts are NOT to be understood like this. Hence Ash’ari doctrine is centered around tanzih, which is to sanctify and purify Allah from such abominations but their method to do that winds up traveling to point c, d, e, f, g thru z and all the way to b as opposed to ahlu-sunnah’s routing method of going from point a directly to point b and NOT committing all types of innovations and atrocities in theology against Allah in the process as their Ash’ari counterparts.

As for this pseudo Ash’ari’s further distortion of reality, he claimed that in the era of the salaf, they had nobody among their midst who would “attribute place and direction for Allah”. This makes no sense in light of the entire Muslim world and its scholarship confirming Allah’s fawqiya “aboveness” over His Throne in the a real sense, not metaphorically, and its scholars condemning the mutazilah for adopting metaphorical depictions of the orthodox creed. And they’ve confirmed Allah is “fi sama”. The fact this jahmi claims this is attributing a “place” for Allah denotes the atheism apparent in the Ash’ari psyche but thats an entirely different subject matter altogether.

Asharis have a plethora of deceptive tools at their disposal. One of them is in citing an obscure example in which they will cite Imam Abdullah Bin Yahya Al-Mubarak (d 237H) in Gharib Al Qur’an Wa Tafsiruhu, a book where he says that he does t’awil of istiwa to mean qahara, thereby sanctioning the istila distortion as somehow an acceptable sunni extraction of the Quranic ayah.

This Imam Abdullah bin Yahya al-Mubarak is a ploy to somehow pass him off as the great known tabi’i ibnul-Mubarak. His actual name is

أبو عبد الرحمن عبد الله بن أبي محمد يحيى بن المبارك بن المغيرة العدوي

He is more famously known as Ibn al-Yazidi. He was an Imaam in al-Nahw.The following is the passage in his tafsir on page 243

قال اليزيدي ص243 في قوله تعالى: (الرحمنُ على العرشِ استوى) في سورة طه: استوى: استولى.

Ibnul-Yazidi was a Jahmi. He is not the famed sunni Imam Abdullahi Ibnul-Mubarak.

It’s interesting to note that Sa’eed Al Fawda, a hardcore anti salafi Ash’ari states that Ash’aris should distinguish whether Ibn Kathir agreed with them on a few issues or on the fundamentals of their school of thought! He says

أرجو من الإخوة الذين يقولون إن ابن كثير أشعري أو الذهبي أو ابن قدامة أو نحوهم…. أن يدلل على ذلك بإيراد آراء ابن كثير المطابقة للأشاعرة في وخصوصا في المسائل التي يتميز بها الأشاعرة كالكلام النفسي والعلاقة بين الأسباب والتأويل وجوازه والتفويض ونفي التجسيم (نفي الحد والجسمية ونفي حلول الحوادث …الخ) وكلامهم في النبوات والمعجزات وصفات الله تعالى وتعلقاتها ونحو ذلك من المسائل وإثبات وجود الله تعالى، حتى يتضح فعلا هل هو أشعري في تلك الأصول أم إنه وافقهم في بعض المسائل كالتفويض في بعض الأحيان والتأويل في بعض أخرى….

ولكن فرق بين موافقته لهم وبين أن يقال إنه أشعريٌّ فالأشعرية ليست مجرد الموافقة في هذا القدر من المسائل، فإنك قد تجد المعتزلة والإباضية والزيدية وغيرهم يوافقونهم في هذا القدر، وقد يزيدون عليهم وقد ينقصون ، ومع ذلك فلا يقال إنهم أشاعرة، بل يقال إنهم وافقوا الأشاعرة في ذلك.

وكذلك قد تجد كلا من الذهبي وابن قدامة موافقا للأشاعرة في أمور ومخالفا لهم في أمور، ولا يكفي قدر الموافقة في إطلاق اسم الأشعري عليه، خصوصا مع تبريه منهم وعدم نسبة نفسه إليهم…!!

Ash’aris like to quote texts from ibn Kathir in which they try to somehow depict that he somehow refutes the salafi creed. An example of this is how they would posit that Imam Ibn Kathir practiced Tafwid. Here they mean “tafwid al-m’ana”, they dont mean here tafwid bil-kayfiya.

Imam Ibn Kathir says in his Tafsir of the verse ثُمَّ ٱسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى ٱلْعَرْشِ translated by some as: “Then He ‘was established’ (istawa) upon the Throne” (Qur’an 7:54)

وأما قوله تعالى: { ثُمَّ ٱسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى ٱلْعَرْشِ } فللناس في هذا المقام مقالات كثيرة جداً ليس هذا موضع بسطها، وإنما نسلك في هذا المقام مذهب السلف الصالح مالك والأوزاعي والثوري والليث بن سعد والشافعي وأحمد وإسحاق بن راهويه وغيرهم من أئمة المسلمين قديماً وحديثاً، وهو إمرارها كما جاءت من غير تكييف ولا تشبيه ولا تعطيل، والظاهر المتبادر إلى أذهان المشبهين منفي عن الله، لا يشبهه شيء من خلقه و

{ لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَىْءٌ وَهُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ }

…people have many positions on this matter, and this is not the place to present them at length. On this point, we follow the position of the early Muslims (salaf)—Malik, Awza‘i, Thawri, Layth ibn Sa‘d, Shafi‘i, Ahmad, Ishaq ibn Rahawayh, as well as others among the Imams of the Muslims, ancient and modern—namely, to let the verse pass as it has come, without saying how it is meant (bi la takyif), without any resemblance to created things (wa la tashbih), and without nullifying it (wa la ta‘til), and the literal outward meaning (dhahir) that comes to the minds of anthropomorphists (al-mushabbihin) is negated of Allah, for nothing created has any resemblance to Him: “There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him, and He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing”

Firstly, the Ash’ari mistranslated “من غير تكييف” as “without saying how it is meant (bi la takyif)“.

We will overlook this blunder. The correct translation is “without saying how it is described” NOT “meant” for Imam Ibn Kathir is an athari LIKE the Salaf Imams he is relaying their positions like Ahmad, Thawri, Awza’i, Ishaq, Layth bin S’ad, Shafi’i, ALL of whom affirmed the meanings of Allah’s Sifat in His revelation and in the Messenger’s ﷺ sunnah. The term “takyeef” means “description”. When our salaf said we affirm the meanings “bila kayf” or similar linguistic constructions, it means without going into descriptive details on describing Allah for this is what is described what we do not know. This is known as tafwid bil-kayfiya. What Ash’ari propagandists have tried to do was to somehow equate our salafi Imams conveying of our own creed “bila kayf” (without how/description) and somehow tried to distort that the salaf meant tafwid bil-m’ana. The nature of the salaf in performing tafwid was to relegate the nature of the Attribute of Allah, and not the meaning that is apparently understood from the Attribute.

Secondly, there is absolutely nothing here that Imam Ibn Kathir brings here that refutes a shred of salafi beleif. Rather this is precisely the outline of Salafi beliefs that Ibn Kathir perfectly articulates.

Thirdly, ibn Kathir extracts this creed from his master Ibn Taymiyya and which is precisely what is taught and understood in his Wasitiya, a tract on creed that we have proven above in which Ibn Kathir constantly defends throughout his works. How on earth someone could conflate this salafi principle that Ibn Kathir pontificates here as somehow a repudiation of the Salafi creed is either ignorant of the salafi creed, ibn Kathir, or both.

Fourthly, how does this come under the topic of indicating he was an Ash’ari when the Imam of the Ash’ariya of his time, al-Qushayri authors a book in refuting the jahmi invention of tafwid bil-m’ana. The original Ash’ari madhab’s stance was to affirm the sifat khabariya and not making tafwid of the meaning.

Fifthly. The pseudo Ash’aris may wish to highlight the statement in the quote to somehow prove that it has something to do with Salafism’s view of God. The statement is

and the literal outward meaning (dhahir) that comes to the minds of anthropomorphists (al-mushabbihin) is negated of Allah”

Firstly, the translation is incorrect because the meaning of “dhahir” means “apparent” or “obvious”. It does not mean “literal” or “literal outward” as is strangely mistranslated by the Ash’aris. So the correct translation is “and the apparent meaning (dhahir) that comes to the minds of anthropomorphists (al-mushabbihin) is negated of Allah.

There is nothing here to refute. This is exactly what the salafi athari conception of Islamic doctrine is based on. We confirm that this is the salafi creed. How on earth could Ash’aris conflate this to somehow refute us is utterly asinine. To further prove our athari salafi premise on this, i bring Ibn Kathir’s fellow athari co-madhabist Imam adh-Dhahabi, you know, the one who did NOT allow himself to claim to be an Ash’ari just to secure a job, says in his al-‘Uluw:

The latter ones from the speculative theologians (ahl al-nadhar, i.e. Ash’aris) invented a new belief, I do not know of anyone preceding them in that. They said: ‘These attributes are passed on as they have come and not interpreted (la tu’awwal), while believing that the apparent meaning is not intended (dhahiruha ghayr murad).’

This follows that the apparent meaning (dhahir) could mean two things:

First; that it has no interpretation (ta’wil) except the meaning of the text (dilalat al-khitab), as the Salaf said: ‘The rising (al-Istiwa) is known’, or as Sufyan and others said: ‘Its recitation is in fact its interpretation (tafseer)’ – meaning, it is obvious and clear in the language, such that one should not opt for interpretation (ta’wil) or distortion (tahrif). This is the Madhab of the Salaf, while they all agree that they do not resemble the attributes of human beings in any way. For the Bari has no likeness, neither in His essence, nor in His attributes.

Second; that the apparent meaning (dhahir) is what comes to imagination from the attribute, just like an image that is formed in one’s mind of a human attribute. This is certainly not intended, for Allah is single and self-sufficient who has no likeness. Even if He has multiple attributes, they all are true, however, they have no resemblance or likeness

Thus Imam adh-Dhahabi proliferates the salafi creed here while condusively making clear here in the text that there is nothing even remotely applicable to salafism in Ibn Kathir’s statement, rather it is one of the Salafi tenants of doctrine.

Where Ash’ari thought departs from base common sense and reason is in their misrepresentation of sunnism. When Ahlu-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah advocate that the basis for understanding the Attributes of Allah are to be understood upon their apparent meaning (ala dhawahiruha) which was advocated by every sunni Imam on earth from Imam Abu Bakr al-Khatib al-Baghdadi and everyone before and after him, the “apparent meaning” here is respective of what is understood in the rules of Arabic language, not some figment of someone’s imagination unchecked by the rules of Arabic and what is linguisticly known and feesible in the language of the Arabs. Ash’aris distort this by saying that our tenant to understand the Attributes upon their apparent meaning is the very basis of tashbih in the religion. This is why Ash’aris are the arch nemesis of pure sunnidoctrine because sunni doctrine is based on the belief that the apparent meanings of the Qur’an are indicative of sound belief and holy guidance. Whereas Ash’ari theologians have stated that to believe in the apparent meanings of the Qur’an is in fact kufr and from the principles of kufr. They reason that the Qur’an’s apparent wording is misleading and reveals misguidance of anthropomorphism and that to purify Allah from this corruption, then the Qur’an is in need of their own rationalist (nadhr) reinterpretation of the text in order to remove the kufr that the Qur’an apparently reveals.

All in all, in conclusion, there is no shred of evidence anyone can produce that decisively proves Ibn Kathir was either Ash’ari or somehow became Ash’ari. It simply doesn’t exist except for the lone trolling quote where ibn Kathir trolls the son of ibnul-Qayyim as “im an Ash’ari”. And the document ibn Kathir had to sign in order to secure the position at darul-hadith al-asharfiya. Yet his entire life legacy, writings, contributions to doctrine, and his defence of salafi Imams and ibn taymiyyah versus the Ash’aris all contradict these two incidences, again which are explained by their historical circumstances. The reason scholars had to sign a document declaring their asharism was because it was a political tool of enshrining their cult into the mainstream. And the conversation between ibn Kathir and Ibrahim bin Muhammad was obviously Ibn Kathir trolling him, nothing more.