Ibn Arabi, Hallaj, etc…


Asalamu ‘alaikum.
Could you please share the “judgement” of Sunni scholars such as al-Dhahabi, Ibn Hajar, Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, Ibn Kathir on Sufi beliefs of people like Ibn Arabi, al Hallaj and those “sufis” today who accept and propagate their hérésies?


Alaykum al-Salam,

Imam Nawawi (rahimahullah) was asked about Ibn `Arabi (rahimahullah) and he was closer to him both geographically and historically than the four you mentioned. His only reply was:

تِلْكَ أُمَّةٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَلَكُم مَّا كَسَبْتُمْ وَلاَ تُسْأَلُونَ عَمَّا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do. (Surat al-Baqara, 2:134)

Al-Dhahabi warned in al-Muqiza:

Animosity against Sufis is a plunge from which none escapes unscathed except one thoroughly knowledgeable with all the evidentiary proofs of the Law. Note that I do not limit such knowledge to the branches [of the Law]. For, concerning many of the states described by those on the right (al-muhiqqin) among the Sufis, right cannot be told from wrong on the mere basis of knowledge of the branches. One must also possess firm knowledge of the foundations of the Law and be able to tell apart the obligatory from the possible, as well as the rationally impossible from the customarily impossible. It is, indeed, a position fraught with danger!

Al-Suyuti wrote:

The Scholars past and present have differed concerning Ibn `Arabi, one group considering him a friend of Allah (wali) — and they are correct — such as Ibn `Ata’ Allah al-Sakandari and `Afif al-Din al-Yafi`i, another considering him a heretic — such as a large number of the Jurists — while others expressed doubts concerning him, among them al-Dhahabi in al-Mizan. Two opposed verdicts are reported from Shaykh `Izz al-Din Ibn `Abd al-Salam, one attacking him, and one describing him as the Spiritual Pole (al-Qutb). What reconciles them is indicated by Shaykh Taj al-Din Ibn `Ata’ Allah in Lata’if al-Minan, namely, that Shaykh `Izz al-Din at the beginning acted in the fashion of jurists in passing quick judgment on the Sufis. When Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili went to pilgrimage and returned, he came to Shaykh `Izz al-Din before entering his own house and conveyed to him the salam of the Prophet (s). After that, Shaykh `Izz al-Din humbled himself and began to sit in al-Shadhili’s gatherings…. Our teacher, Shaykh al-Islam, the last remnant of the mujtahids, Sharaf al-Din al-Munawi replied, concerning Ibn `Arabi, that silence was safest. And this is the stance that befits every truly Godwary person who fears for himself. For my part, the last word concerning Ibn `Arabi — and this is accepted neither by his contemporary admirers nor by his detractors — is that he be considered a wali but reading his books is forbidden. He himself is related as saying, “We [Sufis] are a people whose books are forbidden to read.” This is because the Sufis, by convention, use a technical terminology known only to them and by which they refer to meanings in a way different from common usage. Therefore, whoever takes their language according to its outward meanings, both commits kufr and charges others with kufr (kafara wa-kaffara). Al-Ghazali stipulated something similar in one of his books and said, “It [the discourse of Sufis] is somewhat the same as with the ambiguities of the Qur’an and the Sunna. Whoever understands them literally commits apostasy and its actual meaning is other than what is commonly known. So, in the cases of the verses dealing with the Divine Face, Hands, Eye, Establishment over the Throne, etc.: whoever understands them according to commonly known meanings has definitely committed apostasy.” (Al-Suyuti, Tanbih al-Ghabi fi Tanzih Ibn `Arabi [Warning Imbeciles About the Innocence of Ibn `Arabi], p. 17-21).

As for al-Hallaj (rahimahullah), once again the earlier ulema consider him one of the Friends (awliya) of Allah, such as Ibn Khafif who visited him in jail in the year 300 and described al-Hallaj as “a true monotheist (muwahhid) and godly knower (`alim rabbani);” Abu al-Qasim al-Nasrabadhi, al-Qushayri, Ibn `Ata’ Allah, Ibn al-Hajj al-`Abdari, Ibn `Aqil (who wrote Juz’ fi Nasr Karamat al-Hallaj “Opuscule in Praise of al-Hallaj’s Miraculous Gifts), Ibn Qudama, al-Tufi, Ibn al-Mulaqqin, al-Munawi, al-Sha`rani, etc. Among his sayings: “Take care of your ego; if you do not make it busy, it shall make you busy.”

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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