Sunday, 7 November 2010

Izz Al-Din ibn Abd Al-Salam al-Sulami

Sultan al-`ulama' al-`Izz ibn `Abd al-Salam al-Sulami

(b.578 AH- d.660 AH) (1182 CE-1261 CE)

"Sultan of the Scholars"

The Shaykh al-Islam of his time, he took hadith from the hafiz al-Qasim ibn `Ali ibn `Asakir al-Dimashqi, and tasawwuf from the Shafi`i Shaykh al-Islam Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi (539AH-632AH)

He also studied under Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili (d. 656AH) and his disciple al-Mursi.

It is related that al-`Izz would say, upon hearing al-Shadhili and al-Mursi speaking:

"This is a kind of speech that is fresh from Allah." 2

The shaykh said, “Most of the time scholars are veiled from their knowledge of Allah and His attributes, otherwise they would be among the gnostics whose knowledge is continuous, as befits the demand of true virtue. And how could the gnostics and the jurists be the same, when Allah says: "The noblest among you in Allah's sight are the most godwary" (49:13)?... and by the "erudite" (`ulama) in His saying "The erudite among His bondsmen fear Allah alone"(35:28), He means those who know Him, His attributes, and His actions, not those who know His rulings... A sign of the superiority of the gnostics over the jurists is that Allah effects miracles at the hands of the former, but never at the hands of the latter, except when they enter the path of the gnostics and acquire their characteristics.


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calls him:

“The shaykh, the imam, the scholar, the zahid, the knower, the Muhaddith, Shaykh al-Islam, the Peerless One of the Sufis…”

( al-Dhahabi, Siyar a`lam al-nubala’ [#969])


Imam Al-Izz Ibn Abd Al-Salam

“Sultan al-`ulama’”(“Sultan of the Scholars.”)

mentions that the Sufis are those meant by Allah ’s saying:

“Allah ’s party” ( 5:56 , 58:22), and he defines tasawwuf as “the betterment of hearts, through whose health bodies are healthy, and through whose disease bodies are diseased.” He considers the knowledge of external legal rulings a knowledge of the Law in its generalities, while the knowledge of internal matters is a knowledge of the Law in its subtle details.”

(al-`Izz ibn `Abd al-Salam, Qawa`id al-ahkam (Dar al-sharq li al-tiba`a, 1388/1968) 1:29, 2:212).


Ibn `Abd al-Salam


Ash`ari Ta'wil

(Figurative Interpretation of the Mutashâbihât)
by GFH

The great Imâm `Izz al-Dîn Ibn `Abd al-Salâm wrote a treatise on the principles of metaphorical interpretation of the Holy Qur'an according to the Ash`arî School entitled:

al-Ishâra ilâ al-Ijâz fi Ba`d. Anwâ` al-Majâz

(Ed. `Uthmân H.ilmî, Cairo:`at al-`Amira, 1313/1895)

In it he states:

“When Allâh is described by something that is inapplicable to Him literally (bi-h.aqîqatihi), He is described by it only metaphorically, as is the case in the following:

1. Mercy ( = According to the Shaykh [al-Ash`arî], it means the willing (irâda) of Allâh, for His servant, of whatever one that shows mercy wills for the one who is shown mercy.

2. Friendship (al-mah.abba) = It entails willing munificence (ikrâm) towards the beloved and making him content (ird.â').

3. Love (al-wudd) = the will of Allâh or His treatment of the one He loves in the manner of the lover towards the beloved.

4. Contentment (al-rid.â) = the will of Allâh or His treatment in the manner of the one who is content towards the one who made him content; in this sense it is an Attribute of the Essence. Or, the actual treatment of the servant by Allâh in the manner of the one who is content towards the one who made him content; in this sense it is an Attribute of act (1) (s.ifatu fi`l) as in the h.adîth. Literally, it means "peace of mind at whatever the mind is content with" – and Allâh is exalted above that.

5. Gratitude (al-shukr) = A metaphor based on similitude (majâz al-tashbîh) between His treatment towards one who obeys Him and the treatment of the grateful one towards one he thanks. Or a metonymy (majâz tasmiya) naming the result by the name of the cause, as to thank Him is expressed by obeying Him. (2)

6. Laughter (al-d.ah.ik) = His satisfaction (rid.â) and acceptance (qabûl).

7. Happiness (al-farah.) = He wills, for repentent sinners, whatever happiness brings about in the one who is happy. Or He treats the repentent sinners in the same manner as happiness treats the one who is happy.

8. Patience (al-s.abr) = He treats His servants in the way that the enduring one behaves toward what he dislikes. This is a metaphor based on similitude.

9. Jealousy (al-ghîra) = A metaphor of similitude with the legal category of abomination (karâhiyya) which applies to indecencies, or a metaphor for the emphatic repetition of the prohibition of indecencies.

10. Shyness or shame (al-h.ayâ') = A synecdoche (3) (majâz al-mulâzama) naming as shame the abandonment of what causes shame. Or a metonymy (4) (majâz tasmiya) naming that result by the name of the cause. Allâh does not depart from right unlike one who shies from it.

11. His testing (ibtilâ') through benefits and wrongs, good and evil = A metaphor of similitude between Him and an examiner, although He knows everything.

12. His sarcasm (sukhriyya), mockery (istihzâ'), scheming (makr), and deceit (khid`) = All of these are metaphors of similitude or metonymies naming the result by the name of its cause, His sarcasm being caused by theirs, His mockery by theirs, His scheming by theirs, and His deceit by theirs.

13. His astonishment (`ajab) = A metaphor of similitude with either the ugliness of what causes astonishment or its excellence.

14. Reference to Him with the pronoun "That One" (dhâlika, dhâlikum) which indicates distance = The remoteness of His Entity from similitude with all other entities (dhawât), and the remoteness of His Attributes from similitude with all other attributes.

15. His hesitancy (taraddud) = In the hadith qudsî (5) "Nor do I hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take back the believer's soul, for he hates death and I hate to hurt him,"(6) a metaphor of the superlative rank of the believer in the Divine presence and synechdoche for a lesser hurt to prevent a greater harm, as in the case of a father's severance of his son's gangrened hand so as to save his life.

16. His establishment (istiwâ') over the Throne = A metaphor for establishing dominion (istîlâ') over His kingdom and disposing of it, as the poet said:

qad istawâ Bishrun `alâ al-`Irâq
min ghayri sayfin wa-damin muhrâq

Bishr established mastery over Iraq
without sword and without shedding blood. (7)

It is a metaphor of similitude with kings, who dispose of the affairs of their kingdoms while sitting among the dynastic princes. The Throne may also express rank, as in `Umar's saying, Allah be well-pleased with him: "My Throne would have toppled if I had not found a merciful Lord."(8)

17. His freeing Himself in the verse {We shall soon be free to dispose of you} (55:31) (9) = A metaphor of similitude for the immense significance attributed to the judgment of creatures.

18. The baring of His Shin = A metaphor for His aggravation of the judgment of His enemies and their humiliation, defeat, and punishment. The Arabs say of one that acts earnestly and intensely that "he has bared his shin."(10)

19. His wrath (ghad.ab) = A metaphor of similitude for the attribute of act which consists in the punishment He exacts from those who disobey Him.

20. His resentment (sukht. or sakhat.) = The will of Allâh of whatever one who resents wills for the object of his resentment; or a metaphor of similitude; or a metonymy attributing resentment to their disbelief in the sense of attributing a verb to its cause.

21. His grief (asaf) = His anger. {When they grieved Us, We exacted retribution from them} (43:55) meaning "When they made us angry, we punished them."

22. His hatred (qilâ): {Your Lord has not forsaken you nor does He hate you} (93:3) meaning "He has never forsaken you since He brought you near, nor hated you since He loved you."

23. His spite (maqt) i.e. the height of hatred (bughd.) = Allâh wills for the misguided whatever one who bears hatred wills for the object of his hate, or He curses or treats them in the manner that one who bears hatred curses or treats the object of his hate. Or it is a metaphor of similitude in terms of the above.

24. His enmity (`adâwa) = His treatment of His enemies in a way so as to cause them harm for the most part.

25. His malediction (la`n) = His banishment of sinners from His door, far from His reward.”(11)


(1) Meaning an act attributed to Allâh.

(2) Abû Sahl al-Sulûkî narrates that as a boy al-Junayd heard his uncle being asked about thankfulness, whereupon he said: "It is to not use His favors for the purpose of disobeying Him." In al-Qushayrî, Risâla (p. 148-150); Ibn `Imâd, Shadharât al-Dhahab (2:228-230); al-Dhahabî, Siyar (11:153-155 §2555); Ibn al-Subkî, Tabaqât (2:260-275 §60).

(3) "Synecdoche: a figure of speech in which a part is used for a whole, an individual for a class, a material for a thing, or the reverse of any of these (Ex.: bread for food, the army for a soldier, or copper for a penny)." Webster's.

(4) "Metonymy: a figure of speech in which the name of one thing is used in place of that of another associated with or suggested by it (Ex.: 'the White House' for 'the President')." Webster's.

(5) Meaning a narration in which Allâh Most High speaks in the first person, but in a wording given by the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, unlike the Qur'ân where both the meaning and wording are spoken by Allâh.

(6) Hadîth qudsî of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, narrated from Abû Hurayra by al-Bukhârî.

(7) See our article Istiwâ' is a Divine Act.

(8) Narrated as a dream seen after `Umar's death. See the following under the entry `arsh: Lisân al-`Arab, Ibn al-Athîr's al-Nihâya, al-Râghib's Mufradât Alfâz. al-Qur'ân, al-Bas.â'ir (4:24), and `Umdat al-H.uffâz..

(9) "That is: for the reckoning of the Day of Judgment, and He is in no way occupied – exalted is Allâh beyond that! The meaning of the verse is: We shall proceed to take account of you." Al-Qushayrî, Lat.â'if.

(10) This is the authentic interpretation of Ibn `Abbâs and the view of the massive majority, which al-Tabarî references to Ibn `Abbâs, Ibn Mas`ûd, Abû Mûsâ al-Ash`arî, Mujâhid, `Ikrima, al-Dahhâk, Qatâda, and Ibrâhîm al-Nakha`î, which none denies except those Allâh misguides and blinds to the truth, for the Qur'ânic verse{The Day that the shin shall be bared} (68:42).

Ibn `Abbâs explained: "This is a day of affliction and hardship" and in another version: "It means the Day of Resurrection due to its hardship." Narrated by al-T.abarî in his Tafsîr (28:38-42), al-H.âkim (2:499-500 isnâd s.ah.îh. =1990 ed. 2:542), al-Bayhaqî in al-Asmâ' wal-S.ifât (Kawtharî ed. p. 345-346=H.âshidî ed. 2:183-185 §746-748) with two fair chains and one sound chain according to Ibn H.ajar in Fath. al-Bârî (1959 ed. 13:428), Ibn H.ibbân (16:382) with a fair chain according to al-Arna'ût., al-Qurt.ubî (18:248-249),`ânî (3:310) and al-Shawkânî (5:275-278) and other Tafsîrs. Cf. Pickthall's ad sensum translation: "On the day when affliction befalls them in earnest."

Ibn Qutayba in Mukhtalif al-H.adîth states that the baring of the shin is a metonymy for travails in which one hitches up one's lower garments, baring the legs.

Ibn al-Jawzî in Daf` Shubah al-Tashbîh (p. 15) and Zâd al-Masîr (8:341) cites Ibn Qutayba and relates from Ibn `Abbâs, Mujâhid, Ibrâhîm al-Nakha`î, Qatâda, "and the vast majority of the scholars," the same meaning. Cf. al-Qushayrî in Lat.â'if al-Ishârât (6:189), Ibn Fûrak in Mushkil al-H.adîth (p. 442), al-Khat.t.âbî, Ibn Bat.t.âl, al-Râzî, Ibn H.azm in (2:129), Abû al-Su`ûd in his Tafsîr (9:18), al-Bayd.âwî in his, Ibn Kathîr in his (4:408-409), al-Wâh.idî in his (2:1124), Jalâlayn (p. 760), al-Suyût.î in al-Durr al-Manthûr (8:254-256), al-Karmî al-H.anbalî in Aqâwîl al-Thiqât (p. 174), al-Zarkashî in al-Burhân (2:84) who cites it (2:179) as an example of a metaphor which it is extremely offensive to interpret literally, and others.

This explanation applies to the h.adîth of Abû Hurayra and Abû Sa`îd al-Khudrî on the sight of Allâh Most High in al-Bukhârî and Muslim.

When Sa`îd ibn Jubayr (d. 94) was asked about it he became very angry and said: "Some people claim that 'Allâh uncovers His Shin'!! Rather, He but uncovers affliction and hardship." Narrated by `Abd ibn H.umayd in his Musnad and Ibn al-Mundhir as cited by al-Suyût.î in al-Durr al-Manthûr (8:255).

(11) Ibn `Abd al-Salâm, al-Ishâra ilâ al-Ijâz (p. 104-112).

GF Haddad
[SP 2006-11-25]

The Belief of the People of Truth

(Al-Mulha_Fī_I’tiqād Ahl al-Haqq)

Sultān al-‘Ulamā al-‘Izz Ibn ‘Abd al-Salām

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ʿIzz al-Dīn b. ʿAbd al-Salām’s

Categorization of the Term “Bidʿa” and the

Distinction Between its Lexical and Legal Definitions

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Bidayat as-sul fi Tafdil ar-Rasul
The Beginning Of The Quest Of The High Esteem Of The Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace)
Imam 'Izz ibn 'Abd al-Salam

Bidayat as-sul fi Tafdil ar-Rasul (The Beginning of the Quest for the High Esteem of the Messenger) is a concise work summarising succinctly forty distinctive virtues and characteristics of the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace)

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Imam 'Izz ibn 'Abd al-Salam, nicknamed the Sultan of Scholars was' born in Damascus in 577/1181. He had the honour of being a student of several eminent scholars of those days such as Fakhr ud-din ibn 'Asakir, Saif ud-din Amedi and Hafiz Abu Mohammad al-Qasim. According to certain annalists, he started education quite late but he soon acquired such a proficiency in the then sciences that his contemporaries have paid glowing tributes to his deep learning and brilliance of mind, Ibn Daqiq al-cId calls him Sultan ul-Ulema (king of scholars) in some of his works.

When Izz ud-dinmigrated to Egypt in 639 A. H., Hafiz Abdul Azim al-Munziri, the witer of al-Targhib wat-Tarhib, suspended giving legal-opinions. When he was asked the reason for it, he said : "It does not behove any jurist to give legal-opinion where Izz ud-din happens to be present." Another scholar Sheikh Jamal ud-din ibn al-Hajib was of the opinion that in Fiqah (jurisprudence) Izz ud-din excelled even al-Ghazali,

Al-Zahabi writes in his book entitled al-Ebar:"In his knowledge of Fiqah, devotion to religion and awe of God he had attained that degree of perfection which makes one capable of Ijtihad i. e. of interpreting the revealed law of God and of deducing new laws from it." ‘Izz ud-din occupied the chair of professor for a fairly long period in the Madrasa Zawiyah Ghazaliyah of Damascus along with holding the offices of Khatib and Imam in the principal mosque of the city called the Ummayyad Mosque. Sheikh Shahab ud-din Abu Shama relates that ‘Izz ud-din vehemently opposed the innovations and later-day accretions like Salat-al-Raghayeb and the special prayers of mid-Shaban which had become so popular in his time that several scholars of note thought it prudent to keep silence about these.

Al-Malik al-Kamil insisted on ‘Izz ud-din for accepting the office of Qadi in Damascus which he accepted reluctantly after imposing a number of conditions. During the same period al-Malik al-Kamil appointed him as his envoy to the court of the then Abbasid Caliph

The Translator:
Aisha Abdurrahman at Tarjumana Bewley



Rasa’il fi ‘l-Tawhid


Imam ‘Izz al-Din ‘Abd al-Salam

The following is a small set of short works by the great Imam ‘Izz al-Din ‘Abd al-Salam on the issue of tawhid and in response to certain scholars of his time who had Hashawi inclinations and had exerted significant influence upon the then governor of Egypt. These four treatises included in this short book of less than fifty pages serve as a presentation of the Imam’s views on true tawhid and the sound approach to the contentious issue of Allah’s speech and sound (sawt). The treatises (the first being al-Milhah fi I’tiqad Ahl al-Haqq) also serves as a defence from false accusations that had been hurled against him.



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