Imam Ibn Taymiyyah al-Qadiriyyah as-Sufi?

By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong

“Thus the meaning of sufi alludes to the meaning of siddiq or one who has reached complete Truthfulness, because the best of human beings after prophets are the siddiqin…”
– Ibn Taymiyya, At-Tawassuf, Majmu’a Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya al-Kubra 11.

Imam Ibn Taymiyya then went on to say:

Some people criticized the Sufis and said that they were innovators and out of the Sunna… but the truth is that they are exercising ijtihad in view of obeying Allah just as others who are obedient to Allah have also done. So from them you will find the Foremost in Nearness (al-sabiq al-muqarrab) by virtue of his striving, while some of them are from the People of the Right Hand… and among those claiming affiliation with them, are those who are unjust to themselves, rebelling against their Lord. These are the sects of innovators and free-thinkers (zindiq) who claim affiliation to the Sufis but in the opinion of the genuine Sufis, they do not belong, for example, al-Hallaj. Tasawwuf has branched out and diversified and the Sufis have become known as three types:

  1. Sufiyyat al haqa’iq: the Sufis of Realities, and these are the ones we mentioned above;
  2. Sufiyyat al arzaq: the funded Sufis who live on the religious endowments of Sufi guest-houses and schools; it is not necessary for them to be among the people of true realities, as this is a very rare thing
  3. Sufiyyat al rasm: the Sufis by appearance only, who are interested in bearing the name and the dress etc.

Interesting… I wonder why I’ve never heard this from those who usually trumpet Ibn Taymiyya?

Obviously, no one disputes that as with most practices, there are those who are the genuine article, those who just do something as a job but whose heart isn’t in their work and those who are only concerned with appearances. Imam Ibn Taymiyya was right on the mark here. However, according to his own words, he clearly didn’t have anything against people who were genuinely and sincerely following the Sufi path.

When Imam Ibn Taymiyya wrote so much about tasawuf (Sufism) and claimed to be a Qadiri himself with only two people between him and the great Sheikh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, may Allah bless him, why is this Imam so widely cited by those who are otherwise so opposed to Sufism? How can they authentically referrence this scholar of Sufism as their evidence against it? Logically it doesn’t make any sense, but then again…

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