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Assalamou 'Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wa Barakaatuh

Did Ibn Taymiyyah say that Ibn Umar (radwiy Allahu anhu) is a Bidati?

Some people said that he did say this, and sent me the following as proof:

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Please, can you clarify this matter?

Jazaak Allahu Kahyr

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    You should share a translation of the Arabic text in English, so that a bigger audience could benefit from the question and answer! – Medi1Saif Nov 4 '17 at 20:13
  • The text seems to lead to your conclusion however it seems that the author explained his opinion elsewhere which leads to a different interpretation so far I've only read comments saying so. – Medi1Saif Nov 4 '17 at 20:25
  • Well, I am not that familiar with Arabic language.. that's why I asked the question, so that you people can help me through... – Salman Nov 5 '17 at 4:42
  • Also, I want to confirm whether Ibn Taymiyyah said this about the Sahabi Ibn Umar or it is just an allegation ? – Salman Nov 5 '17 at 4:44
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Yes, the partial quote provided is by Ibn Taymiyyah, but as typically is the case, the quote is either chopped, taken out of context, or misquoted altogether. The quote is from Iqtidā' al-Ṡerāt al-Mustāqīm (Arabic: اقتضاء الصراط المستقيم لمخالفة أصحاب الجحيم), Dār 'Ālam al-Kotob (Arabic: دار عالم الكتب), Beirut, Lebanon: 1999, Vol. 2, pp. 276-279.

No, Ibn Taymiyyah did not say 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar committed or used to commit or promoted innovation in religion (bid'ah, Arabic: بدعه). This is a petitio principii fallacy (using a premise to support itself). The long answer is below.


Detailed answer

First, the definition of bid'ah (see IslamWeb Fatwa 189297, Arabic only) is what has been innovated in the religion without general or special evidence (Arabic: ما أحدث في دين الله عز وجل وليس له أصل عام ولا خاص يدل عليه).

ِAccording to Al-Shātibi in his book Al-Muāfaqāt and Ibn Taymiyyah in his book Iqtidā' al-Ṡerāt al-Mustāqīm, a bid'ah is:

  1. Doing a religious act that the Prophet ﷺ and the rightly-guided caliphs did not do (Arabic: فعل لم يفعله الرسول أو الخلفاء الراشدين المهديين)
  2. with the intention of the act being to please Allah ﷻ or to get closer to Him, (Arabic: بنية التقرب لله أو إرضائه)
  3. while there was a need at the time of the Prophet ﷺ or the rightly-guided caliphs to do said act, and (Arabic: مع وجود المقتضي له), and
  4. there was no reason or condition to stop them from doing said act. (Arabic: وعدم وجود المانع أو فوات شرط)

Pillar of Aisha

Second, the background behind what Ibn Taymiyyah said is that inside the masjid of the Prophet, there are named pillars (see picture). Salama ibn al-Akwa' used to pray at the pillar in the picture anytime he could. When asked why, he said that the Prophet ﷺ used to pray in that spot any time he could.

In the same book of Iqtidā' al-Ṡerāt al-Mustāqīm, Vol. 2, pp. 143, Ibn Taymiyyah said (NOTE: My own translation, so treat with care:):

فأما مقامات الأنبياء والصالحين، وهي الأمكنة التي قاموا فيها، أو أقاموا، أو عبدوا الله سبحانه، لكنهم لم يتخذوها مساجد ؛ فالذي بلغني في ذلك قولان عن العلماء المشهورين:

أحدهما: النهي عن ذلك وكراهته، وأنه لا يستحب قصد بقعة للعبادة، إلا أن يكون قصدها للعبادة مما جاء به الشرع، مثل أن يكون النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قصدها للعبادة كما قصد الصلاة في مقام إبراهيم، وكما كان يتحرى الصلاة عند الأصطوانة وكما يقصد المساجد للصلاة، ويقصد الصف الأول ونحو ذلك.

والقول الثاني: أنه لا بأس باليسير من ذلك، كما نقل عن ابن عمر: أنه كان يتحرى قصد المواضع التي سلكها النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، وإن كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قد سلكها اتفاقا لا قصدا. قال سندي الخواتيمي: سألنا أبا عبد الله عن الرجل يأتي هذه المشاهد، ويذهب إليها، ترى ذلك؟ قال: أما على حديث ابن أم مكتوم: أنه سأل النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أن يصلي في بيته حتى يتخذ ذلك مصلى. وعلى ما كان يفعله ابن عمر، يتتبع مواضع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وأثره، فليس بذلك بأس، أن يأتي الرجل المشاهد، إلا أن الناس قد أفرطوا في هذا جدا، وأكثروا في هذا المعنى، فذكر قبر الحسين وما يفعل الناس عنده

As for the sanctity of the places of the prophets and the righteous where they lived or resided or worshiped Allah (may He be exalted) in, but did not turn said places into masjids, I have come to learn of two opinions by known scholars:

The first opinion is that such an act is forbidden and detestable (makrūh). It is not desirable to deliberately single out a spot for worship, except places which are intended for worship as stated by a rule, such as the Prophet deliberately praying in Maqām Ibrahim or where he intentionally prayed at the pillar ['Ā'isha's pillar in his masjid], or for us to pray in masjids in the first row, and so on.

The second opinion is that it is acceptable to do so sparingly, as what was narrated by Ibn 'Umar that he used to deliberately single out certain spots on the roads the Prophet ﷺ used to take, albeit that the Prophet ﷺ used such roads out of convenience rather than intention. Sindy al-Khawātīmi said: "Abu 'Abdullah asked me about a man who would frequent such places and go to them, what do you see [about this matter]?" He said that as for the hadith of Ibn Umm-Maktum when he asked the Prophet ﷺ to pray at home regularly (full text of hadith here) and what Ibn 'Umar did by intentionally following the Prophet's spots and footsteps, this is acceptable for a man to do so. However, people have been overexaggerating such acts, and this is becoming more frequent, then he mentioned the burial place of ِAl-Husayn and what takes place there.

As you can see from the above quote from the same book that:

  1. Ibn Taymiyyah quoted Ibn 'Umar for evidence, which means he did not consider him as an innovator.
  2. He stated that what Ibn 'Umar did was acceptable.

Finally, as for the quote you provided in specific (which is in a different chapter), Ibn Taymiyyah referred to the differences between three acts: following the Prophet (ittibā' as in Surat Al-'Imran 3:31), following the Prophet's Sunnah, and innovation.

He gave an example of someone trying to single out a spot for worship when possible (yataharra, Arabic: يتحرى), and someone intentionally singling out a spot for worship without evidence (ītān, Arabic: إيطان). He elaborated that the difference is when a person intentionally aims for a spot for worship (as Ibn Umar or Salama did), this is acceptable, but when people consider without textual evidence that conducting worship rituals anywhere other than said spots invalidates the ritual, this becomes an innovation.

He wrote about the argument of people who take the acts of Ibn 'Umar alone as evidence for their innovation being Sunnah is not a valid argument; they single out the act of one companion where said act was not adopted by other companions as Sunnah. Here is a quote from the paragraph just preceding the one you quoted to put it all in context:

وقد ظن بعض المصنفين أن هذا مما اختلف فيه وجعله والقسم الأول سواء، وليس بجيد. فإنه هنا أخبر أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يتحرى البقعة. فكيف لا يكون هذا القصد مستحبا؟ نعم: إيطان بقعة في المسجد لا يصلى إلا فيها منهي عنه كما جاءت به السنة، والإيطان ليس هو التحري من غير إيطان.

Some scholars thought that this is a matter of difference of opinions, and ruled the first group similarly as not good. Here the Prophet used to try to pray in a specific spot. How can this not be desirable? Yes, an imam that will always single out a spot in the masjid and not pray elsewhere is an act that is forbidden as per the Sunnah, for this is ītān and not taharri, and they are not the same thing.

As you can see, Ibn Taymiyyah considered trying to single out a spot as the Prophet did is a desirable act. Then he continued:

فيجب الفرق بين اتباع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، والاستنان به فيما فعله، وبين ابتداع بدعة لم يسنها لأجل تعلقها به. وقد تنازع العلماء فيما إذا فعل فعلا من المباحات لسبب، وفعلناه نحن تشبها به، مع انتفاء ذلك السبب، فمنهم من يستحب ذلك ومنهم من لا يستحبه، وعلى هذا يخرج فعل ابن عمر رضي الله عنهما، بأن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يصلي في تلك البقاع التي في طريقه، لأنها كانت منزله، لم يتحر الصلاة فيها لمعنى في البقعة. فنظير هذا: أن يصلي المسافر في منزله، وهذا سنة.

It is crucial to differentiate between following the Prophet ﷺ and following his Sunnah from innovating an act as Sunnah and attaching it to the Prophet. Scholars have argued if the Prophet ﷺ did a permissible act which we followed suit considering it Sunnah without any reason to do so: some scholars considered this recommended (mustahabb), while other scholars did not consider it recommended and this is where the act of Ibn 'Umar is classified as the Prophet ﷺ used to pray in those spots on his way where he stopped, so a traveller should pray when he stops as this is sunnah.

Then he goes to prove that singling out Ibn 'Umar as evidence that praying in specific spots is Sunnah (your first paragraph) is not a valid argument. In other words, what Ibn Taymiyyah said is that a traveler should pray when he stops in between his point of departure and destination as the Prophet ﷺ did so on his trips, but intentionally stopping at the same exact spot every time is not Sunnah as the Prophet did so out of convenience, albeit that Ibn 'Umar did so:

فأما قصد الصلاة في تلك البقاع التي صلى فيها اتفاقا، فهذا لم ينقل عن غير ابن عمر من الصحابة، بل كان أبو بكر وعمر وعثمان وعلي، وسائر السابقين الأولين، من المهاجرين والأنصار يذهبون من المدينة إلى مكة حجاجا وعمارا ومسافرين، ولم ينقل عن أحد منهم أنه تحرى الصلاة في مصليات النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم. ومعلوم أن هذا لو كان عندهم مستحبا لكانوا إليه أسبق، فإنهم أعلم بسنته وأتبع لها من غيرهم.

As for those who deliberately aim for specific spots that [the Prophet] prayed at out of convenience, it was passed unto us that only Ibn 'Umar did so, but no other companion. Even Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali and the other first forerunners in faith among the Muhajireen and the Ansar, they used to go from Medina to Mecca on hajj or 'umrah and it was not passed unto us that they tried to pray in the specific spots where the Prophet ﷺ prayed. It is known if this was mustahabb, they would have raced to it as they were the most knowledgeable about his Sunnah.

Of course, quoting only the last paragraph without the context or referring to other chapters in the book may make it seem to some as if Ibn Taymiyyah is saying Ibn 'Umar was an innovator, which is definitely not the case.

  • Jazaak Allaahu Khayr Akhi !! – Salman Nov 9 '17 at 20:01

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