Prof. Dr. Yahya M. Michot dan Nasehat Ibn Taimiyah untuk Ulama


Menjadi ulama bukan sekadar mumpuni dalam keilmuan, tapi juga mesti menguasai skill berkomunikasi yang baik.  Darimana mendapatkan skill tersebut? Tidak usah jauh-jauh dan pusing. Seorang ulama yang akrab dengan teks klasik bisa menelusurinya melalui pemikiran Ibn Taimiyah. Hal inilah yang disampaikan Prof. Dr. Yahya M. Michot dalam Jakarta International Islamic Conference (JAIIC) pada 29 November-1 Desember 2016 lalu. Dalam event konferensi internasional yang diadakan MUI Provinsi DKI Jakarta tersebut, ia memang khusus bicara strategi dakwah menurut perspektif Ibn Taimiyah (661-728 H/1263-1328 M), seorang tokoh Muslim yang lahir di Haran, Syam, dan telah menuliskan banyak kitab.
Bagi Prof. Michot yang memang pernah riset dan menulis buku bertajuk Ibn Taymiyya: Muslim Under Non-Muslim Rule, banyak hal bisa digali dari pemikiran Ibn Taimiyah dan masih sangat relevan untuk konteks sekarang ini. Salah satunya strategi ulama untuk berdakwah. Ibn Taimiyah, jelas Prof. Michot, menekankan bahwa realitas kehidupan dunia ini tidak hitam-putih, melainkan berwarna-warni (alwan), multifaset, beranekaragam. Dalam hadits yang diriwayatkan Ibnu Majah disebutkan bahwa kelak ada suatu masa dimana manusia tidak mengenal shalat, puasa, dan lain-lainya kecuali hanya para orang tua yang sangat renta. Untuk itulah, guna menyikapinya, lebih-lebih dalam berdakwah, ulama sekadar berilmu saja tidak akan memadai,  perlu cara-cara khusus.
Lalu, bagaimana? Sebagian saran Ibn Taimiyah  berikut ini– yang penulis ikhtisarkan dari ceramah Prof. Michot–  bisa dijadikan acuan untuk para ulama berdakwah dan menginspirasi orang banyak.

  1. Mengikuti Cara Ulama Salaf. Ulama seyogyanya mengikuti cara-cara dan jejak-jejak ulama salaf dalam berdakwah. Sebab, cara-cara yang mereka lakukan itu lebih sempurna dan sahih.
  2. Ulama Dilarang Mengkafirkan. Ulama dianjurkan tidak mudah mengkafirkan seseorang atas dosa yang telah ia lakukan.    Hal ini karena ada dalam situasi tertentu dimana ia (ulama) juga bisa menjadi seorang yang kafir dan tidak beriman. Faktor lainya, seseorang yang tidak beriman atau kafir bisa jadi  karena memudarnya ajaran-ajaran Nabi Muhammad saw dalam kehidupan kaum Muslim. Kondisi demikian bukan karena kesalahan mereka yang kafir atau tidak beriman, namun karena langkanya para ulama yang mengajaknya untuk beriman.
  3. Ulama Mengajak Tadabbur. Ulama selayaknya mengajak umat untuk senantiasa mentadabburi (merenungi) ajaran-ajaran Islam .
  4. Ulama Membimbing Umat. Ulama semestinya memandu dan membimbing umat untuk lebih bertakwa semaksimal mungkin yang ia bisa, sebanyak mungkin yang ia mampu.
  5. Ulama Menyampaikan yang Memungkinkan Terjangkau Umat . Para ulama yang merupakan mujaddid (pembaharu) agama dan penghidup (muhyi) sunnah-sunnah Nabi Muhammad saw sebaiknya hanya mengkomunikasikan apa saja yang memungkinkan untuk diketahui dan dimpelementasikan bagi umat.

Demikian beberapa poin yang disampaikan Prof. Michot dalam konferensi bertemakan “Tantangan dan Solusi Dakwah di Berbagai Ibukota Negara”. Tentu saja, selain  hal tersebut, Prof. Michot juga menyinggung poin penting lainya dari Ibn Taimiyah, seperti berdakwah pada konteks kekinian dengan memerhatikan pentingnya al-bayan wal bulugh, bulughul risalah, qiyamul hujjah bilrisalah, dan lain-lainya. Lebih lengkap silakan anda kulik sendiri pada lampiran makalah di bawah ini yang beliau sampaikan pada forum JAIIC yang lalu. (Muaz)
Da‘wa and Communication Skills: Some Thoughts of Ibn Taymiyya
Prof. Yahya M. Michot, Hartford Seminary
For the Damascene mufti and theologian Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), this world’s reality is never black and white but alwân, multicoloured, multifaceted like a stormy sea, and navigating between its sharp reefs is always a dangerous, uneasy exercise requiring continuous attention, weighting of pros and cons, pondering of aims and effects relatively to each other, in order to make the right choices: lesser evils and greater goods. Moreover, humans are weak, inconstant, and mostly ignorant. The Prophet himself had to take this situation into account and did not expect from the believers anything that was impossible to achieve. Those wanting to guide the Muslims through da‘wa should therefore be extremely cautious not to take any unconsidered, irresponsible, absolute, measures. Ibn Taymiyya could indeed not come with a stronger, more explicit, statement: even commanding the proper and forbidding the reprehensible may sometimes be inappropriate:

  1. “When commanding the proper and forbidding the reprehensible necessarily entails more corruption (fasâd) than what it encompasses of goodness (salâh), it is not Lawful (lam yakun mashrû‘an). The imâms of the Sunna have detested one to take part in the fighting during the dissensions that many of the adepts of caprices cause[1] by commanding[2] the proper and forbidding the reprehensible; this, when commanding the proper and forbidding the reprehensible necessarily entails dissensions producing a more serious corruption than there would come from abstaining from doing so. The lesser of two corruptions shall indeed not be repelled by means of the highest one. One shall rather repell the highest of the two by bearing the lesser one, as the Prophet said, God bless him and grant him peace: ‘Shall I not inform you of something more eminent than the degree of fasting, praying, giving alms, commanding the proper and forbidding the reprehensible?’ – ‘Oh yes, o Messenger of God,’ the Companions said. – ‘To re-establish good relations (islâh dhât al-bayn),’ he said. ‘Have corrupted relations and there comes the woman who shaves! I do not say that she shaves the hair but, rather, that she shaves the religion’”[3] (Ibn Taymiyya 2000, i, 330). This passage confirms Ibn Taymiyya’s total awareness of the risks always inherent to the issuing of religious opinions, for da‘wa or other purposes. He is of course indefectibly attached to the “way of the Ancients (salaf)”.


  1. “The way of the Ancients is indeed more perfect in everything (fa-inna tarîq al-salaf akmal fî kull shay’). The Muslim shall nevertheless implement thereof what he is capable of (wa lâkin yaf‘al al-muslim min dhâlika mâ yaqdiru ‘alay-hi)” (Ibn Taymiyya 2000, i, 331).

This being said, what effectively constitutes true Salafism for Ibn Taymiyya is a faithfulness to the way of the Ancients both absolute (fî kull shay’) and mercifully conscious of man’s incapacity; in other words, an idealism both unconditional and tempered by reality. To justify this position, he could have quoted the verse of the Qur’ân, al-‘Asr – CIII, 2 “Indeed man is at a loss.” He chooses another verse and adds a Prophetic tradition:
III. “God Most High said (Q. al-Taghābun – lxiv, 16): ‘Fear God as much as you can!’ The Prophet, God bless him and grant him peace also said: ‘When I command something to you, execute thereof what you can!’[4] And there is neither power nor might except by God” (Ibn Taymiyya 2000, i, 331).
It is worth exploring further the theological rationale behind the pragmatic realism and merciful spirituality
which characterizes Ibn Taymiyya’s Salafism. A few points only will be highlighted here. Somehow, disobeying is less serious than innovating. As Ibn Taymiyya (1981, xi, 633) writes it,
IV. “Innovation is more loved by Iblîs than disobedience. Someone disobeying indeed knows that he is disobeying and repents. As for the innovator, he reckons that what he does is obeying and he does not repent.”
Christianity appears to the Damascene muftî as a religion of perpetual innovation in which the revealed norms are replaced, generation after generation, council after council, by new, man-made, innovated rules which the Church, or some of the Churches, then impose. Because of this normative evolution, practices that were scripturally forbidden yesterday become accepted today and not considered sins anymore. Evolutions are not unknown in Islamic societies but they result from a different deep logic. When they actually take place, it is not (in Sunnî Islam) because of the involvement of some central clerical authority imposing them but because a consensus (ijmâ‘) of the community develops that does not in fact see them as innovations. But if such evolutions indeed come to be judged, in the community, as unfaithful to the revealed and prophetic sources, they have no chance to last. The Qur’ân and Sunna keep their exclusive authoritativeness and are never to be replaced by any innovation. Although the scriptural norm thus remains the Norm, first and final, it is of course disobeyed in innumerable circumstances. As human beings and societies indigent of the mercy of the Lord, we indeed continuously disobey the commands and prohibitions of His religion. In doing so, we nevertheless remain aware that we are doing nothing better than sinning and are always invited to repent. In other words, we are not questioning God’s rule by associating with Him human religious or ethical authorities. Despite not usually living at the level of commitment required by this tawhîd al-hukm wa l-amr, we remain convinced that it is the only ideal worth striving for in order to go from darkness to the light. There will always be a gap between what we should do and what we effectively come up with. It creates a dynamic tension towards a better world which is at the heart of Ibn Taymiyya’s understanding of Islam. As expected with him, this understanding of the religion is once more a via media between two extremes – in this case two opposite ways of approaching human sinning: one by normalizing sins through innovated rules and thus reducing the divine commands and prohibitions to nothing, the other by denying the forgivable nature of sins and thus seing nothing else than God’s commands and prohibitions, without attention for His mercy.
God’s mercy is indeed, for Ibn Taymiyya, a fundamental principle. Firstly, as explicitly stated in the Qur’ânic verse al-Baqara – ii, 286, which he quotes in several occasions, “God does not burden a soul except with that which it is capable of carrying.” Moreover, the Shaykh al-Islam insists more than once on the following:
V. “Every man who makes an error is not on that account alone an unbeliever, nor a pervert (fâsiq). To the contrary, God has absolved the errors and forgetfulness of this community. Thus the Exalted has said in His Book, in the invocation of the Messenger, God pray over him and grant him peace, and of the believers: ‘Our Lord, do not hold us strictly to account if we forget or err!’ (Q. al-Baqara – ii, 286). And it is established in the Sahîh (Muslim 1916, i, 81) that God has said: ‘I have done so’” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, iii, 420).
Directly related to this tolerant approach of Muslims’ deficiencies is the cautiousness, to say the least, which Ibn Taymiyya expresses in the following passage vis-à-vis anathematizing other Muslims:
VI. “It is not permissible to call a Muslim ‘unbeliever’ (takfîr), not for a sin which he has committed, nor for anything about which he was in error, such as the questions about which the people of the Qibla dispute […] For none of these factions is it permissible to call the other ‘unbeliever’, nor to judge their blood and property lawful, even when there is in this faction a proven innovation (bid‘a muhaqqaqa).
How thus, a fortiori, will things be if the faction calling the other ‘unbeliever’ is itself innovating? It may be that the innovation of the latter people is grosser (ghalîz), just as it may be that the innovation of the former people is so. The most likely thing, however, is that all of them are ignorant of the truths about which they differ!” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, iii, 282–283).
In opposition to those who unconditionally resort to takfîr and to other practitioners of automatic condemnations, Ibn Taymiyya insists not only upon the divine mercy, but also upon the primacy of faith, circumspection and the Sharî‘a rules in the matter of issuing anathemas, the need to take account of circumstances, and the imperative requirement that the one accused have had some Islamic upbringing. Even the Ancients (salaf), he writes, sometimes had disagreements, questions or doubts about some topics!
VII. “The fundamental principle to follow in this subject is that, about spoken words that are expressive of unbelief vis-à-vis the Book, the Tradition (sunna) and the consensus (ijmâ‘), one will say in an absolute manner that they are words of unbelief, as demonstrated by the proofs of Legal nature. Faith is indeed among the statuses (hukm) fixed by God and His Messenger. It is not something of which people will judge according to their opinions and caprices! For any individual making such statements one must [however] not judge that he is an unbeliever until the conditions for accusing someone of unbelief (takfîr) have been established for him, and until the reasons forbidding doing so have been reduced to nothing. Someone may say for example that wine or usury are lawful on account of his adherence to Islam being recent, or because he grew up in remote steppes, or because of his having heard some sayings that he disputes and of which he has not believed that they come from the Qur’ân, nor that they are hadîths of God’s Messenger, God pray over him and grant him peace. So too certain among the Ancients (salaf) disputed certain things until it was established to their eyes that the Prophet, God pray over him and grant him peace, had said them. Similarly, the Companions had doubts about things like the seeing of God, etc., until the moment when they questioned God’s Messenger, God pray over him and grant him peace, about these subjects” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xxxv, 165).
For Ibn Taymiyya, how could an ulema show less mercy to the Muslims of his time than God? As a muftî, he is indeed well aware of the state of the society he lives in, with many of its people, including rulers like the Îlkhâns of Persia or the Mamlûks of Egypt and Syria, often born in the steppes of Central Asia or elsewhere, far away from the traditional centres of Islamic scholarship, and recently converted to Islam. The golden age of Medina is long gone and the people he has in view appear to him less close to the Companions of the Prophet and to the two generations of believers who followed them than to the latter-day Muslims portrayed in the hadîth, mostly ignorant but nevertheless forgiven by God. It could be added that these people are also quite similar to us…
VIII. “Many people may be growing up in places and times in which many of the sciences of prophethood have faded (indarasa), so much so that nobody remains there any more who might communicate that, of the Book and the Wisdom, with which God sent His Messenger. Not much is known any longer of that with which God sent His Messenger and there is no-one there who could communicate that. People finding themselves in a situation like that shall not be accused of unbelief. That is why there was agreement of the imâms on the fact that someone who has grown up in the steppe, far from the people of knowledge and faith, who has only recently converted to Islam and contests one or other of these outward (zâhir) prescriptions recurrent in the canonical sources, shall not to accused of unbelief until he has knowledge of that with which the Messenger came. That is why there is in the hadîth[5]: ‘A time will
come upon men when they will know neither prayer nor alms-tax, nor fasting nor pilgrimage any more, unless it be a very elderly man or a very aged old woman. “We would overhear,” someone will say, “our fathers in the midst of saying ‘No god but God’.” It was said to Hudhayfa: “To say ‘No god but God’ will not be of any use to them[6] if they do not know either prayer or alms-tax or fasting[7] or pilgrimage!” He said: [8]“That will save them from the Fire” ’ ” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xi, 407–408).
These texts, like many others that could also be quoted, certainly offer another image of the Damascene Shaykh al-Islam than the biased, caricatural, judgements still circulating too often about his personality and ideas. Hence the following question: five years after the Arab Spring offered the opportunity to so-called modern Salafî movements to come to power here and there in the Muslim world, do Ibn Taymiyya’s works remain pertinent to shed light on the ups and downs of the new societal alchemy initiated, to understand what sometimes went wrong, and to improve da‘wa in the coming years? Somehow, I would argue, yes.
On the one hand, it is of course true that, during the Arab Spring, the old demons of military dictatorship, anarchy or poverty did not die everywhere as quickly and definitively as had been hoped for by many.4 On the other hand, it seems impossible not to consider that, despite the best intentions animating them, some of the democratically elected religious governments born of the Arab Spring have sometimes been going too fast in the re-routing of their countries on the path of God (fî sabîl Allâh), with the consequence that a more or less important part of the populations affected drew back and opposed the societal evolution orchestrated by them. Or, at least, such are the thoughts suggested by a number of passages from Ibn Taymiyya’s Collection of Fatwas (Majmû‘ al-fatâwâ) and The Way of the Prophetic Tradition (Minhâj al-sunnat al-nabawiyya). When Muslim societies have been systematically cut from their past, westernized by force, culturally muzzled, secularized à la française and structurally de-traditionalized by more than a century of colonization and decades of dictatorial independence, it is useless to imagine possible to “re-islamize” them in an instant. The identity trouble is too deep, the societal trauma too serious to attempt anything else than a patient, subtle, gentle, and very slow therapy. It is therefore also useless to dream of re-establishing a new golden age of the Medinan type, or any type of caliphate, by double doses of commanding good and forbidding evil. But let us allow Ibn Taymiyya to explain himself how to conceive da‘wa in such times of religious lukewarmness, when the effects of the prophetic message have nearly totally faded and old people barely remember that their forefathers were saying Lâ ilâha illâ Llâh.
IX. “It is proper for the scholar (‘âlim) to ponder (tadabbur) these various kinds of questions. In some of them […] what is obligatory is to show leniency (‘afw) regarding the commanding and prohibiting of certain things, not to declare lawful (tahlîl) what is prohibited nor to forsake (isqât) what is obligatory. For example, there may ensue from a scholar’s commanding an act of obedience, the doing of an act of disobedience greater than it: he therefore abandons commanding it in order to repulse the occurrence of that act of disobedience […] For example, he abandons bringing a sinner before an unjust holder of power who, in chastising him, would be in enmity to the sinner more gravely harmful than his sin. Another example: by prohibiting some reprehensible thing (munkar), he might leave undone something proper (ma‘rûf) of far greater usefulness than the abandonment of this reprehensible things. He keeps quiet therefore rather than prohibiting it, for fear that prohibiting it necessarily entails abandoning something
that God and His Messenger have commanded, something that in his eyes is more important than the simple abandonment of that reprehensible thing” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xx, 58).
Ponderation (tadabbur) and leniency (‘afw)! And realizing that proceeding intelligently and mercifully does not automatically entail abandoning the commanding of good and forbidding of evil, i.e. replacing the divine norm, the religion, with some innovated rules, but just going for the lesser evil and the greatest good in complex situations! In some cases, it will even be obligatory for the authorities, religious or civil, to keep silent rather than to command and forbid:
X. “So the scholar sometimes commands and sometimes prohibits, sometimes he authorizes and sometimes he remains silent rather than commanding, prohibiting or authorizing—authorizing, for example, a sheer or preponderant virtue, or prohibiting a sheer or preponderant corruption. And, in case of incompatibility of two things, he will […] make the preponderant thing preponderant, according to what is possible. But if the one to whom command and prohibition are addressed does not, whether on account of his ignorance or on account of his injustice, even hold to what the one addressing these things to him judges it possible to say to him, and it is not possible to put an end to his ignorance and injustice, the best (aslah) is perhaps to abandon the attempt and to abstain from addressing commands and prohibitions to him. Thus it has been said that, among the questions that come up, there are some for which the appropriate answer is to remain silent, as the Legislator (shâri‘) was silent at the outset, rather than commanding certain things and prohibiting others, which situation continued until the time when Islam had the upper hand and triumphed (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xx, 58–59).
The Messenger sometimes kept silent… God Himself delayed some revelations until the appropriate moment… Rather than promoting Islamic revolutions or rushing in changing legal systems in place to impose the Sharî‘a, what E. Sivan’s so-called “Father of the Islamic Revolution” would recommend, as far as we can assume on the basis of the texts presented here, would be to prepare the ground until the right moment and to proceed progressively, very cautiously. This would notably require to build a true partnership between the people and their leaders. For him, there is indeed no effective authority without its acceptance by those over whom it is supposed to be exercised. Rejecting all forms of autocracy, Ibn Taymiyya underlines the necessity of a veritable association (mushâraka) between the authorities and the people. Just so he emphasizes that no imâm can claim to lead a congregational prayer or the Friday prayer if nobody is actually there to pray with him.
XI. “The imâm is the associate (sharîk) of the people in respect of matters of general interest (al-masâlih al-‘âmma). On his own, he is indeed not capable of accomplishing them unless he and they associate for that. Thus, it is not possible for him to execute the penalties (hadd), nor to recover people’s rights, nor to honour them, nor to lead the jihâd against an enemy – unless the people help him. Indeed, it is not even possible for him to lead the Friday prayer or the congregational prayer if they do not pray with him. Moreover, it is not possible that they do what he commands them if not with their force and their will. Since therefore they are his associates (mushârik) in respect of action and power (qudra), he will not isolate himself from them in these concerns. The same goes for knowledge and opinion: he must not isolate himself from them in respect of knowledge and opinion; rather, he must, concerning these, associate himself with them. He will therefore be helping them, and they will be helping him. Just as his power is deficient unless they are helping him, so his knowledge is deficient unless they are helping him” (Ibn Taymiyya 1989, vi, 409–410).
Reformists of our time wishing to improve da‘wa methods should thus, according to Ibn Taymiyya, become associates of the people. They should moreover be respectful of people’s freedoms. There is indeed a remarkable
text in which the Damascene Shaykh al-Islam strips the authorities of any special ideological power in favour, instead, of “the community of Muhammad as a whole”. And if this community is marked by diverse opinions, the authorities must not only accept this pluralism but protect it:
XII. “It is not for a magistrate to judge that such-and-such a matter has been commanded by God’s Messenger, God pray over him and grant him peace, nor that such-and-such an action is an act of obedience or devotion, or is not an act of obedience and devotion, nor that making a journey to mosques, tombs, and the tomb of the Prophet, is Legally prescribed or is not Legally prescribed. It is not at all for the magistrates to intervene in these matters except the way other Muslims intervene in them. Far rather, it is for the community (jamî‘ umma) of Muhammad as a whole, God pray over him and grant him peace, to speak of this, whoever has some knowledge speaking according to the knowledge he has” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xxxv, 382).
XIII. “When the muftî, the soldier (jundî), and the common man (‘âmmî) speak of a matter in expression of their ijtihâd – through ijtihâd or through taqlîd –, aiming thereby to follow the Messenger, according to their level of knowledge, they do not merit punishment – there is a consensus of the Muslims on that –, even if it is the case that they are committing an error, moreover an error about whose being an error there is a consensus! If they say ‘We have spoken the truth!’ and justify it with Legal proofs, it is not for any magistrate (hâkim) to force them simply to accept what he says, nor to judge that what he says is the Truth, and not what they say. Rather, it is the Book and the Sunna that shall judge between him and them” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xxxv, 379).
An empowerment of individual consciences with pure intentions goes hand in hand with Ibn Taymiyya’s magisterial empowerment of the community and doctrinal disempowerment of its governants. When there is no consensus of the community and no decision can be derived from the Qur’ân and the Sunna, Muslims must be allowed to hold to their opinions, each of them worshipping God according to his ijtihâd, and no magistrate can force anyone to accept the sayings of another. And, Ibn Taymiyya explicitly states, this respect for the diversity of opinions within the community was the way the Ancients (salaf) acted:
XIV. “That about which the Muslims are in agreement is a truth with which the Messenger came (mâ ittafaqa alay-hi l-muslimûn fa-huwa haqqun jâ’a bi-hi l-rasûl). There will indeed not be consensual agreement of his community, to God the praise is due, on something constituting a going-astray, just as he, God pray over him and grant him peace, informed us in saying: ‘God has preserved you, by the tongue of your Prophet, from reaching a consensus on something constituting a going-astray.’[9] What they dispute about they defer to the Book and the Sunna, just as the Exalted has said: ‘O you who believe, obey God, obey the Messenger and those among you who hold the command. If you dispute over a matter, defer it to God and the Messenger, if you believe in God and the last Day. That will be best and the best interpretation’ (Q. al-Nisâ’ – iv, 59).
It is thus that the Ancients (salaf) acted. One of them could have a hadîth that he had heard or a signification that he had understood while these were hidden from another. This other was nevertheless equally rewarded for his ijtihâd, and on him there was not at all any burden of sin in respect of what remained hidden from him after his ijtihâd. Thus it is reported in the two Sahîhs about the Prophet, God pray over him and grant him peace, that he said: ‘When the magistrate (hâkim) does ijtihâd and gets it right, there are two rewards for him. If he gets it wrong, there is one reward for him.’[10] If four persons pray
in four different directions, the sky being covered with clouds and each of them orienting his prayer in expression of his ijtihâd, each of them has obeyed God, Powerful and Majestic is He, and is acquitted of the obligation of that prayer. A single one of them however has hit upon the direction of the Ka‘ba and for him there are two rewards.” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xxvii, 373).
To conclude, what about da‘wa in our time?
For Ibn Taymiyya, what the religion is firstly about is “expounding and communicating” (al-bayân wa l-bulûgh), “communicating the Message” (bulûgh al-risâla), “notifying of the [divine] justification based on the Message” (qiyâm al-hujja bi-l-risâla). In a fetwa on Qalandars, he wrote:
XV. “These people will not be accused of unbelief until they have been notified of the justification based on the Message, as God, Exalted is He, said, ‘…in order that people should have no justification against God, after the [coming of the] Messengers (Q. al-Nisâ’ – iv, 165).’ God has absolved the errors and forgetfulness of this community” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xxxv, 166).
Similarly, he wrote concerning Râfidîs:
XVI. “This is also why the ulemas do not call ‘unbeliever’ someone who, because of the recent nature of his conversion to Islam, or because he has grown up in a far away steppe, considers lawful something which is forbidden. The judgement of unbelief indeed only occurs after communication of the message (bulûgh al-risâla). Now, many of those people, the texts going against what they think have perhaps not been communicated (balagha) to them” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xxviii, 501).
And just after the text X quoted above, he added:
XVII. “So it goes similarly for what concerns expounding (bayân) and communicating (balâgh): the scholar shall delay the exposition and communication of certain things until the moment when he has the possibility (waqt al-tamakkun) of doing so, just as God, Glorified is He, delayed the sending down of certain verses and the exposition of certain judgements (hukm) until the Messenger of God, God pray over him and grant him abundant peace, had the possibility of expounding them. What makes the situation really clear on this point is that God said: ‘We do not torment with a chastisement until We have sent a Messenger’ (Q. al-Isrâ – xvii, 15). The divine argument (hujja) against the servants rests on only two things. It has by way of conditions only that they have the possibility to have knowledge of what God has sent down as revelation and that they are able to implement it. Whoever is unable to know—like the madman—or is unable to act, neither command nor prohibition is imposed on him. When there is an interruption in the knowledge of a part of the religion or there is incapacity to implement a part of it, this situation, for the one who is incapable of knowing or implementing this part of what it says, is like the situation of someone who is cut off from the knowledge of the whole religion or incapable of implementing it in its entirety—like the madman, for example. Such are times of religious lukewarmness (awqât al-fatarât). When someone then comes along who, among the ulemas, or the emirs, or the whole of their two orders, takes the religion in hand, his exposition of that with which the Messenger came is done little by little (shay’an fa-shay’an), on the pattern of the exposition that the Messenger did of that with which he was sent, little by little (shay’an fa-shay’an). We know that the Messenger only communicates what it is possible to know and to implement, and the Law did not come all at once (wa lam ta’ti al-sharî‘a jumlatan). Thus it is said: ‘If you want to be obeyed, command what people are capable of’” (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xx, 59–60).
“Little by little” (shay’an fa-shay’an)… The religion was not established in one day but “little by little”, shay’an fa-shay’an… And those were golden days, not an era of religious tepidity and civilizational madness
like ours. This advice is actually more relevant in our fifteenth/twenty-first century than in Ibn Taymiyya’s days as we are even farther from the golden age of Medina than he was, and closer to the end of time. With its faithfulness to the Message of the Qur’ān and the Prophet, it offers a much better paradygm to deal with the traumas of Muslim and other modern societies.
These are some thoughts of Ibn Taymiyya I wanted to introduce to you in relation to da‘wa and communication skills: they come from a true Shaykh al-Islam and a reviver (mujaddid) of the kind which he himself describes and of which we are still in dire need today:
XVIII. “The renewer (mujaddid) of His religion and reviver (muḥyī) of his Sunna only communicates (ballagha) what it is possible to know and implement. So also it is not possible that he who enters Islam should see himself inculcated, at the moment that he enters it, with the whole of its prescriptions and commanded [to implement] them all. Similarly again, [for] the one who repents of his sins, the one who instructs himself, the one who seeks to be guided [by others], it is not possible to [communicate] to them at the outset all the commandments of the religion, nor to evoke before them the whole of the knowledge [to be acquired]. Indeed, they would not [be able to] bear it. Now, as they would not bear it, in this situation it would not be something obligatory for them. And as this would not be something obligatory, it would not be for either the scholar or the emir to make the whole obligatory from the outset. Rather, one shall with leniency abstain (‘afā ‘an) from commanding and prohibiting things that it would not be possible [for them] to know and implement, until the time when that becomes possible, just as the Messenger showed leniency (‘afā) in regard to what he showed leniency in regard to, until the time when he expounded (bayān) it. [To act] in this way shall not signify approving prohibited things, nor abandoning commanding the obligatory things. Obligation and prohibition are indeed conditional on the possibility of knowledge and action. Now, we have hypothesized that this condition was not achieved. Ponder this fundamental principle! It is useful.” Fa-tadabbar hādhā l-aṣl. Fa-inna-hu nāfi‘! (Ibn Taymiyya 1981, xx, 60) Indeed. And God knows better.
Abû Dâ’ûd. al-Sunan. Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hamîd ed., 4 vols. Beirut: Dâr Ihyâ’ al-Sunnat al-Nabawiyya, n.d. Bukhârî (al-). 1895, al-Sahîh. 9 vols. Bulaq: al-Matba‘at al-Kubrâ l-Amîriyya, 1311/[1893]–1313/[1895].
Ibn Hanbal. 1983. al-Musnad. 6 vols. Cairo: al-Bâbî l-HAlabî, 1313/[1896]. – Anastatic reprint: Beirut: al-Maktab al-Is-lâmî.
Ibn Mâja. 1954. al-Sunan. ‘Abd al-Bâqî ed., 2 vols. Cairo, 1373/1954. – Anastatic reprint: Beirut: Dâr al-Fikr, n.d.
Ibn Taymiyya. 1981. Majmû‘ al-fatâwâ. Abd al-Rahmân Ibn Qâsim ed., 37 vols. Rabat: Maktabat al-Ma‘ârif – King Khâlid edition (sigle F).
Ibn Taymiyya. 1989. Minhâj al-sunnat al-nabawiyya fî naqd kalâm al-Shî‘at al-qadariyya. Muḥammad R. Sâlim ed., 9 vols. Cairo: Maktabat Ibn Taymiyya.
Ibn Taymiyya. 2000. al-Istiqâma. Muḥammad R. Sâlim ed., 2 vols. Riyâdh: Dâr al-Fadîla li-l-Nashr wa l-Tawzî‘ – Beirut: Dâr Ibn Hazm li-l-Tibâ‘a wa l- Nashr wa l-Tawzî‘ (sigle: I).
Muslim. 1916. al-Jâmi‘ al-sahîh. 8 vols. Constantinople, 1334/[1916]. – Anastatic reprint: Beirut: al-Maktab al-Tijârî li-l-Tibâ‘a wa l-Nashr wa l-Tawzî‘, n.d.).
Sivan, Emmanuel. 1983. “Ibn Taymiyya: Father of the Islamic Revolution. Medieval Theology & Modern Politics”, Encounter, LX/v: 41–50.
Tirmidhî (al-). 1983. al-Sunan. ‘Abd al-Rahmân ‘Uthmân ed., 5 vols. Beirut: Dâr al-Fikr.
[1] yusabbibu-hā : yusammī-hā
[2] bi-l-amr : al-amr
     [3] The meaning of this shaving of the religion is that nothing remains of it. On this hadîth, see Abû Dâ’ûd, iv, 280, no 4919; al-Tirmidhî 1983, iv, 73, no 2627; Ibn Hanbal 1983, vi, 444–445.
[4] See al-Bukhârî 1895, ix, 94–95; Muslim 1916, iv, 102.
                [5] See Ibn Mâja 1954, ii, 1344–1345, no. 4049.
[6] fa-qîla li-Hudhayfa mâ yughnî ‘an-hum qawl lâ ilâha illâ Allâh + : Allâh
[7] wa lâ sawm + : zakâh
[8] To prevent any misunderstanding, let it be said clearly here that, in my opinion, democracy does not need to be protected by military coups and that the regimes born of such coups are illegitimate, be it in Egypt or anywhere else
                [9] See Abû Da’ûd, iv, 98, no. 4253.
[10] See al-Bukhârî 1895, ix, 108; Muslim 1916, v, 131.


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