As-Salaamu Alaikum, Al-Hajj.
I have a question regarding something I heard recently. There was a statement made by someone in a gathering that the Hambalee madhhab has not been taught at Al-Azhar for some 900 years. After that, disparaging remarks were then mentioned about Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah. Please clarify this issue.
Wa-Alaikum us-Salaamu wa Rahmatullah,
Thank you for the question and may Allah reward you. Let it be understood that the spelling for the madhhab of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal is Hanbali (or Hanbalee) and not Hambalee. Although it is pronounced this way, it is not spelled in this fashion. One will not see Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s name spelled in this way.
1) As for the question regarding the individual making the claim, it would be enough to quote a number of scholars from the school that were teaching there to show this individual (who is supposed to have some affiliation to Al-Azhar) to be a liar.
Imam Muhammad ibn Muhammad as-Sa`di (d. 900 AH/AD 1495), may Allah have mercy on him, attended Al-Azhar and was also teaching there and was also an advisor.
Imam Taqi ud-Din Al-Futuhi (d. 972 AH/AD 1565), may Allah be pleased with him, also taught people at the veranda of Al-Azhar and was among the greatest scholars in Egypt. Imam Mansur al-Buhuti (d. 1051 AH/AD1656), may Allah be pleased with him, at one point taught there and was at the veranda teaching the people.
The first scholar to pass a fatwa against the selling of land to European Jews invading Sham was none other than Imam Muhammad `Abdul Latif as-Subki (d. 1391 AH/AD 1970), Azhari scholar and also head of judiciary. He is also the first to write a detailed refutation of Sayyid Qutb.
`Abdul Karim as-Subki, may Allah preserve him, also taught there in the early sixties and seventies for tajwid. Even today, the writer knows two people that are at the level of mufti and faqih and teach on the grounds of Al-Azhar.
This is only some of what makes it sufficient to brand such a person a liar, not to mention the fact that Imam `Abdullah al-Qaddumi (1331 AH/AD 1919) and others from Nablus had either passed through or were on post there and teaching.
Perhaps a few things should be kept in mind,
- Most of the great Hanbali scholars did not affix the title “Al-Azhari” to their name. One of the reasons for this is that (especially recently) how closely Al-Azhar is associated with the government (which is socialist) and limits the speaking and movement of the scholars by government appointments.
- Hanbalis throughout history have always remained politically independent to avoid the fiqh and the madhhab itself from becoming distorted.
- There has not been a Hanbali “Shaikh ul-Azhar” in history as far as I have researched. Some of the reasons for this are the following: 1) Hanbalis could not and have never accepted the Ash`ari creed as the sole representative creed of Muslim Orthodoxy, a position advanced by some Azhar Imams; 2) Since the socialist takeover, Azhar heads have been mostly government appointed and Hanbalis despise big government (as can be seen in Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah and all the violence between governments and Hanbali Imams) and high authority and would not give up their autonomy; 3) the fact that the University was a Shi`a haven (and is starting to become one again ever since Mahmud Shaltut declared them from Muslim Orthodoxy) in times past is also a reason why they would be concerned.
- The Hanbali Imams at the veranda of Al-Azhar – then and now – have been able to remain autonomous and free from the government and its’ tentacles.
- Think: when was the last time a Hanbali told Muslim students in France (as the Shafi`ii Sayyid at-Tantawi distorted his madhhab) that removing their khimar was compulsory and protecting the welfare of Muslims is more important?
- When was the last time a Hanbali Imam told followers (as the Hanafi Yusuf al-Qardawi) that their Imam was backward in many ways? When was the last time a Hanbali Imam stood (as the Hanafi Mu`tazilah Mahmud Shaltut did) and said that the Prophet `Isa, peace be upon him, was dead and will not return and also riba is permitted? The closer one is to government, the more dangerous it is to their faith and it will have an impact on the rulings.
Al-Qadi Abu Ya`la the Elder thought rightly when he answered the khalifah of his time when requested to be chief Qadi after Ibn Makula. He gave him a number of conditions, one of which was that he could not be prevented, rebuked or prosecuted for what he would say or influenced by any officials.
When the khalifah agreed, he basically made Al-Qadi Abu Ya`la head over the khilafah but without being responsible to the bureaucracy or the khalifah himself. This is the benefit of staying independent.
2) Regarding the same one disparaging Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d. 751 AH/AD 1350), may Allah have mercy on him, this is to be expected. There were some 11 masa’il that he differed with Muslim Orthodoxy on in creed/fiqh and some other peripheral issues. However some have used this as a reason to disparage him as an Imam altogether; this has then graduated to people vandalising his grave and the grave of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (the people I overhead bragging about it mentioned urinating on their graves).
Both of these Imams were at the level of mujtahid murajjih and despite those divergences should still be respected for that. They did not found a cult, a religion and never believed that they were outside of the madhhab of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him.
At times they wrote as if they believed themselves to be outside of many of the parameters of taqlid (but Fakhr ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah did the same thing and was chided for his statements), however this had to do with their ijtihad and insight.
When speaking with Imam `Ata’ullah al-Iskandari, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah was referred to as a faqih. They are not mu`tamad, rajih or a first fatwa in the school of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, but they are respected.
The most I can say to you is to stay away from these people, as with sweeping statements and self exaltation they are not ready to guide you or mentor you. These are entertainers, only interested in tickling the ears of the ten people in the room with them. If they are a small footnote at the bottom of the last page of history, that will be too good for them.
And with Allah is every success,
Brother in Islam,
Al-Hajj Abu Ja`far al-Hanbali