Even if one was to denounce Ibn Battuta’s account as being a false and fabricated statement, one may wish to know that the greatest scholar of Ĥadīth in his time:
Shaykh al-Islam al-Ĥāfidh Aĥmad ibn Ĥajar al-Asqalânī
(b.773AH - d.852 AH) raĥimahullah has reported an incident in
al-Durar al-Kamīna (vol. 1, pp. 164)
where again Ibn Taymiyyah descended the steps of the Minbar in order to illustrate his understanding of how Allah descends (nuzūl) as early as the year 705/1305
Note: some 21 years before Ibn Battuta’s account!
Hāfidh Ibn Ĥajar’s source for this incident was one of Ibn Taymiyyah’s own disciples by the name:
Sulaymân Najm al-Dīn al-Tufi al-Ĥanbalī (d. 716/1316).
Also Taqī al-Dīn mentioned it who lived before the Ĥāfidh Ibn Ĥajar al-Asqalânī.
Ibn Taymiyyah’s conception of Allah’s bodily descent is also stated in his own writings, as shown from the following excerpt from his
al-Ta’sis fi al-radd `ala asas al-taqdis
The Creator, Glorified and Exalted is He, is above the world and His being above is literal, not in the sense of dignity or rank. It may be said of the precedence of a certain object over another that it is with respect to dignity or rank, or that it is with respect to location.
For example, respectively: the precedence of the learned over the ignorant and the precedence of the imam over the one praying behind him.
Allah’s precedence over the world is not like that, rather, it is a literal precedence (i.e. in time). Similarly the elevation above the world could be said to be with respect to dignity or rank, as for example when it said that the learned is above the ignorant.
But Allah’s elevation over the world is not like that, rather He is elevated over it literally (i.e. in space). And this is the known elevation and the known precedence
Source: Ibn Taymiyyah, (d.728) [al-Ta’sis al-radd `ala asas al-Taqdis, vol. 1, pp. 111]
written as a refutation of Imām al-Rāzī who was a fierce enemy of the Karramiyya and other anthropomorphists!
Ibn Taymiyya said in his Fatawa:
"The establishment of Allah over the Throne is real,
and the servant's establishment over the ship is real"
(lillahi ta`ala istiwa'un `ala `arshihi haqiqatan wa li al-`abdi istiwa'un `ala al-fulki haqiqatan).
[Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu` al-Fatawa, Vol. 5 entitled al-Asma' wa al-Sifat (5:199).]
As Ibn Batutah has mentioned pulpit, Baytar has raised some strange questions regarding it. Had the same expression been not employed in the same context by Ibn-e-Taymiyya’s own disciple and biographer, the historian, Hafiz Shams al-Din Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ahmed bin Abd al-Hadi, Baytar may have declared Ibn Batutah as a liar on this account as well.
In view of Ibn Hadi’s admission of the fact, he has resorted to something odd. (1)
He contends that Ibn Batutah speaks of pulpit whereas Ibn-e-Taymiyya used to deliver sermons while sitting on a chair, as is also reported by Dhahabi thus:
“Ibn-e-Taymiyya gained fame and his name was spread everywhere. On Fridays he used to present tafsir based on memory while sitting on a chair.”
The historian Ibn Abd al-Hadi states:
“As usual on Friday Ibn-e-Taymiyya spoke in
Ibn Abd al-Hadi presented his account in . Ibn-e-Taymiyya used to
deliver sermons in mosques from pulpit after
Friday Prayer up to Asr.” Egypt
Since Ibn Abd al-Hadi has not specified the Friday mosque pulpit, he means anything which is raised from the ground level. Baytar thus charges Ibn Batutah with having missed this point.
Ibn Batutah’s is a first-hand account. He is not guilty of any neglect. Negligence is the part of those writings which are intentionally prepared. Baytar found a passage of Dhahabi’s writings in a book and since that passage was meaningful for him, he proved it as original and on its basis offered Ibn Abd al-Hadi’s version according to his whims. And he declared Ibne Batutah as the man of negligence.
In one of his writings Dhahabi refers to (Ibn-e-Taymiyya’s) chair and in another to (his speaking from) pulpit.
The historian and jurist Abu al-Falah Abd al-Hayy ibn al-Imad al-Hanbali in his work on history (d. 728H) provide a six pages long account of Ibn-e-Taymiyya.
He quotes Dhahabi to the effect:
“Ibn-e-Taymiyya, in place of his father, took to presenting his tafsir on Friday from the mosque pulpit”. (2)
On closely studying Dhahabi’s writings it emerges that he is not very particular about the use of exact words; he is more interested in conveying his message. So, at one place he speaks of chair and at another of pulpit.
Had Baytar studied the matter carefully, he would not have raised such points.
Ibn Kathir, an ardent admirer of Ibn-e-Taymiyya, reports (3):
“One Friday 10 Safar 683H Ibn-e-Taymiyya started his tafsir session at Jamey Umawi from a special pulpit provided for him.”
In Durur al-Kaamina Hafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalani states (4):
“He used to deliver sermons from pulpit.
Further he mentioned:
“They explained that he (Ibn-e-Taymiyya) talked about Hadith nuzul and descended two steps down his pulpit, asserting that the descent is like his stepping down.” (5)
It is clear from Ibn Kahtir’s writing that a pulpit was provided to Ibn-e-Taymiyya.
It could be of three steps, as is prescribed by Sunnah. In Arab countries it has generally twelve steps.
Since it was a smaller pulpit, Dhahabi may have referred to the same as a chair. It is nonetheless certain that Ibn-e-Taymiyya used to speak from the pulpit.
Baytar, however, charges a pious traveller with lying.
1 Hayat Shayk al-Islam Ibn-e-Taymiyya p. 47
2 Shadhrat al-Dhahb 6, p. 81.
3 Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya 13, p. 330
4 Al-Durur al-Kaamina , 1, p. 53
5 Al-Durur al-Kaamina, 1, p. 154