IBN TAYMIYYAH’S REJECTION OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT

In this post, I will be quoting snippets from Hassan Radwan’s Translation of Ibn Taymiyyah’s: The Response to Those Who Say Heaven & Hell Will Pass Away (Al-Radd ‘ala man qala bi-fana’ al-janna wa al-nar), which can be accessed and downloaded from: https://www.academia.edu/49229114/_Response_to_Those_Who_Say_that_Heaven_and_Hell_Will_Pass_Away_by_Ibn_Taymiyyah.

These references will prove that Ibn Taymiyyah rejected the view of eternal punishment and refuted those who used the Quran and sunnah to prove otherwise. I highly encourage the readers to download and read the entirety of Radwan’s rendering of Ibn Taymiyyah’s rebuttal.

As for the view that the Fire will pass away: There are two known views from the Salaf and the Khalaf and the controversy about that is known from the Tabi’in and those after them15 and this is one of the two positions regarding the eternality of the punishment upon those who enter it.

So those who say their punishment has a limit at which it will cease and it is not eternal like the bliss of the Garden is eternal, they may say: ‘It may pass away’ and they may say: ‘They will come out of it so that no one remains in it’, but by that, it could be said they don’t mean they will come out while its punishment remains upon no-one, rather, that the punishment will pass away and that is the meaning of its fana’ (passing away.)16

This view has been narrated on the authority of ‘Umar (ibn al-Khattab), ibn Mas’ud, Abu Hurairah, Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri and others.

‘Abd b. Hamīd – one of the most eminent scholars of Hadith – related in his renowned tafsir,17 that Sulayman ibn Harb reported that Hammad ibn Salamah reported on the authority of Thabit on the authority of al-Hasan al-Basri that he said that Umar (ibn al-Khattab) said: “Were the People of the Fire to remain in the Fire like the amount of sand of ‘Alij they would18 have – despite that – a day in which they will come out.”

He (‘Abd b. Hamīd) mentioned that (narration) in his tafseer of God’s saying (T):19

“They remain in it for ages.” (78:23)20

This makes it clear that the likes of this great Sheikh (‘Abd b. Hamīd,) who is amongst the scholars of Hadith and Sunnah, relates from the likes of those religious authorities of Hadith and Sunnah, such as Sulayman ibn Harb who is one of the most eminent scholars of Sunnah and Hadith and the likes of Hajjaj ibn Minhal, in their account from Hammad ibn Salamah with his eminence in knowledge and Sunnah and which is related through two routes of narration, from the path of Thabit and from the path of Hamīd, this (narration) from al-Hasan al-Basri of whom it is said he is the most knowledgeable of those who remain of the Tabi’in in his time, relating it from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, even though al-Hasan only heard it from some Tabi’in , it makes no difference whether it was memorised directly from Umar or not,21 as such a hadith was circulated between these leading religious authorities without any of them rejecting it and they used to reject anyone who deviated from the Sunnah such as the Khawarij, the Mu’tazilah, the Murji’ah22 and the Jahmiyyah.

And Ahmad ibn Hanbal used to say: “The hadiths from Hammad ibn Salamah are a thorn in the throat of the innovators.”

So these are amongst the greatest authorities of Ahlul-Sunnah who would repudiate innovations of much less consequence, had this saying, in their view, been amongst the innovations that contradict the Qur’an, Sunnah and consensus (ijma’) as some people think.

15 i.e. Later generations.

16 i.e. two ways of articulating the same thing; cessation of punishment.

17 According to Al-Dhahabi’s Siyar A’lam al-Nubalaa (Lives of Eminent Figures): “He is the Imam, the Hafiz, the Hujjah, widely travelled, Abu Muhammad ‘Abd bin Hamīd bin Nasr Al-Kissi, also pronounced al-Kishi.”

18 A large desert on the way to Mecca, according to Yāqūt’s “Mu’jam ul-Buldān.”

19 I will use the following abbreviations for the honorific phrases: (T) Taʿālā (Exalted is He.) (S) Subhanuhu (Glorified is He.) (SWT) Subhanahu wa Taʿālā (Glorified and Exalted is He) (AWJ) ‘Azza wa Jalla (Mighty and Majestic.) (SAW) Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wassallam (“May God send blessings and peace upon him)

20 ahqaaba – a discussion of this will follow.

21 i.e. unnamed Tabi’in. Ibn Taymiyyah is preempting the objection that the isnad (chain of authority) is incomplete because the specific Tabi’in were not named.

22 An early theological school that argued judgment of sin and who is a Muslim should be left (irjaa’ = lit. postponing) to God alone.  (Ibid., pp. 6-7)

In the tafseer of Ali bin Abi Talhah Al-Walibi on the authority of ibn ‘Abbas – who is renowned and acclaimed and the vast majority of mufassirun who cite chains of authority in tafsir, transmit from him, such as ibn Jarir al-Tabari and ibn Abi Hatim and ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id al-Darimi and al-Bayhaqi, as well as those who cite abbreviated chains such as al-Thaʽālibī and al-Baghawī and those who don’t cite chains, such as al-Māwardī and ibn al-Jawzī. He said: His saying: “The Fire is your residence, wherein you will abide eternally, except for what Allah wills. Indeed, your Lord is Wise and Knowing.” (6:128) He (Ibn ‘Abbas) said about this verse: “No one has the right to judge on behalf of God regarding His creatures nor assign them to Heaven or Hell.”

Al-Tabari said: “It is related from ibn ‘Abbas that he used to deduce from this exception that God (T) has made the extent to which He will punish those people, subject to His Will.”

Abdullah (ibn Salih) narrated that Muawiyah (ibn Salih) narrated on the authority of ‘Ali (ibn Abi Talha) from Ibn ‘Abbas that he said (regarding): “The Fire is your residence, wherein you will abide eternally, except as God wills.” (6:128) he said about this verse: “No one has the right to judge on behalf of God regarding His creatures nor assign them to Heaven or Hell.”

The threat in this verse does not refer to the People of the Qiblah,29 for He said:

“And The Day when He will gather them together; “Oh company of jinn, you amassed many of mankind.” Their allies among mankind will say; ‘Our Lord, we profited from each other, but now we have reached our term, which you appointed for us.’ He will say; ‘The Fire is your residence, wherein you will abide eternally, except as God wills. Indeed, your Lord is Wise and Knowing.’ Thus We make the evildoers friends of one another for what they have earned.” (6:128-129)

So; “Their allies among mankind,” is an expression that unequivocally applies to the kuffar, because they are more rightly designated as their allies than disobedient Muslims.

And God (T) said30: “He (Satan) has no power over those who believe and put trust in 30 their Lord. His power is only over those who take him as an ally and those who ascribe partners unto Him.” (16:99-100)

And He (T) said: “We have made the devils allies to those who do not believe.” (7:27)

And He (T) said: “Indeed, those who fear Allah – when an impulse touches them from Satan, they remember [Him] and at once they have insight. But their brothers (the devils) increase them in error; then they do not stop short.” (7:201-202)

And He (T) said: “On the day when He will gather them all together, He will say unto the angels: Did these worship you? They will say: Be Thou Glorified. Thou (alone) art our ally, not them! Nay, but they worshipped the jinn; most of them were believers in them.” (34:40-41)

And He (T) said: “Do you take him (Satan) and his descendants as allies other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange.” (18:50)

And He, (T), has said: “So fight against the allies of Satan. Indeed, the plot of Satan is ever weak.” (4:76)

Thus it has been ordered to fight the allies of Satan – and they are the kuffar. And He said: “Satan has overcome them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah. Those are the party of Satan. Unquestionably, the party of Satan – they will be the losers.” (58:19)

And He (T) said: “And indeed do the devils inspire their allies to contend with you. And if you were to obey them, indeed, you would be mushrikun.” (6:121) He conveyed that they (the devils) inspire their allies amongst men to contend with you (the believers).

So these (verses) and their like make it clear that the kuffar are the allies of the devils. For they are more rightly the ones referenced in His saying: “Their allies among mankind will say; ‘Our Lord, we profited from each other, but now we have reached our term, which you appointed for us.’ He will say; ‘The Fire is your residence, wherein you will abide eternally, except as God wills.’ Indeed, your Lord is Wise and Knowing.” (6:128)

Ibn Abi Talha said on the authority of ibn ‘Abbas: “Indeed this verse requires that no one has the right to judge on behalf of God regarding His creatures nor assign them to Heaven or Hell.”

So in his view it shows that this exception31 requires distancing the punishment from them31 and this is the implication of the verse. It is because of this verse one must suspend (judgment) and not judge on behalf of God regarding His creatures nor assign them to Heaven or Hell.

And this contradicts those who say (“Except as God wills”) means except what He wills of different types of punishment or (“Except as God wills”) means the amount of time they await before entering (the Fire) from the moment they were resurrected up to when they entered (the Fire.) Because it’s already known that before entering it, they are not in it. As for those32 who say it means the people of the Garden, it is explicit that it refers to the kuffar.33

However al-Baghawi mentions: Ibn ‘Abbas said: “The exception refers to a people that God already knew would accept Islam and so will come out from the Fire,” without mentioning who related this from ibn ‘Abbas. However if that means; those who accepted Islam in this life, then that is not the case. Because the dialogue is directed at those who are the allies of Satan and the Jinn who listen to each other. While those (who accepted Islam in this life) are from the body of Muslims and God already knew that all those who accepted Islam would do so. It is as though the one who holds this view thinks this dialogue (in 6:128) is with the living (in this world), but that is not the case, on the contrary, this dialogue is taking place with them on the day of Judgment. As for if it means that they will accept Islam in Jahannam and then come out of it, this is contrary to what the Qur’an tells us in several places.

Furthermore it is related from ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud that he said: “There will come a time upon Jahannam when there will be no one in it and that will be after they have remained in it for ages (ahqaaba.)” And they are the kuffar – and a similar narration is related on the authority of Abu Hurairah. (Ibid., pp. 9-11)

29 Ahlul-Qiblah, i.e. Muslims – in this case, the reference is to sinful Muslims.

30 This and following verses are presented to emphasise that “allies of Satan” unequivocally refers to intractable disbelievers and not sinful Muslims. Which means the sentence: “The Fire is your residence, wherein you will abide eternally, except as God wills.” (6:128) refers to the former and not the latter.

31 “Except as God wills.”

32 These are two explanations adduced by those who maintain that the kuffar will suffer punishment eternally.

33 Sinful Muslims who will eventually enter the Garden. (Ibid., pp. 9-11)

As for His saying – (T): “Abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills. Surely your Lord does whatever He wills.” (11:107)

Ibn Abi Hatim said: It is mentioned on the authority of Ja’far ibn Sulayman from al-Jarir that he said: I heard Abu Nadrah say: “The whole of the Qur’an comes down to this verse:” “Surely your Lord does whatever He wills.”

Harb al-Kirmānī and Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi narrated on the authority of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri and from Qatadah regarding His saying: “As for the wretched, they shall be in the Fire wherein there shall be for them moaning and sighing. Abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills.” “God knows best about His exception regarding what will happen.”

Al-Tabari narrated on the authority of Yunus that ibn Wahb informed us that Ibn Zaid informed us regarding His saying: “Abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills. Surely your Lord does whatever He wills. As for those who will be glad they will be in the Garden, abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure except as your Lord wills: A gift not cut short.” (11:107-108)

“He (God) told us what he wills for the People of the Garden by saying: “A gift not cut short,” but He didn’t tell us what He wills for the People of the Fire.”

And on the authority of al-Suddi: “Except as your Lord wills.” “The day this verse was revealed (people) hoped they would come out.”

As for His saying: “Abiding in it forever (khalideena fiha abadan.)” (4:169) (33:65) (72:23) Al-Baghawi mentioned on the authority of ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd that he said: “God Most Glorified and High, told us what He wills for the People of Paradise, for He said: “A gift not cut short,” but He didn’t tell us what He wills for the People of the Fire.”45

And the scholars of Sunnah and Hadith have related many reports about this from the Sahaba and the Tabi’een such as that narrated by Harb al-Kirmani and Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi and Abu Ja’far al-Tabari and others on the authority of the Sahaba, regarding this.

In the Musnad of al-Tabarani, he mentioned: “Watercress will grow in it (Hell.)” but then he46 employs Qur’an, Sunna and sayings of the Sahaba, to argue against it passing away – even though those who take the view of its eternality do not have the support of the Book, nor the Sunnah nor the sayings of the Sahaba.

Regarding this: That which was narrated by Harb and al-Bayhaqi that Harb al-Kirmani said: “I asked Ishaq about His saying (T): “Abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills.” He said: This verse applies to every threat in the Qur’an.”

Ishaq said: ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Mu’ath informed us that Mu’tamar ibn Sulayman informed us, that he said: My father told me that Abu Nadrah informed us on the authority of Jabir or Abu Sa’id or some of the companions of the Prophet that he said: “This verse applies to the whole Qur’an: “Except as your Lord wills. Surely your Lord does whatever He wills.” Mu’tamar said my father said: “He meant every threat in the Qur’an.”47

Abu Ja’far ibn Jarir al-Tabari narrated in his tafsir, he said al-Hasan ibn Yahya informed us that ‘Abd al-Razzaq informed us that ibn al-Taymi informed us on the authority of his father from Abu Nadrah from Jabir or Sa’eed or from a man from the companions of the prophet regarding His saying (S): “Except as your Lord wills. Surely your Lord does whatever He wills,” he said: “This verse applies to the whole Qur’an and so he says wherever; “Abiding in it” is found in the Qur’an, it applies to it.”

Ibn Jarir said I was informed on the authority of ibn Al-Musayyib from one who mentioned it from Ibn ‘Abbas: “Abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills,” he said: “God (AWJ) made an exception.” He (Ibn ‘Abbas) said: “He will order the Fire to consume them.”48

He (Al-Tabari) said: Ibn Mas’ud said: “There will come upon Jahannam, a time when its gates will fail and there will be no-one in it. That will be after they have remained in it for ages.”

And he said Muhammad ibn Hamīd al-Razi informed us that Jarir informed us on the authority of Bayan from al-Sha’bi that he said: “Jahannam is the quickest of the two places49 to be inhabited and the quickest to be destroyed.”50

Harb al-Kirmānī said on the authority of Ishaq ibn Rahwayh that ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Mu’ath informed us that my father informed us that Shu’bah informed us on the authority of Abu Balaj that he heard ‘Amr ibn Maymun narrate from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr that he said: “There will come a day upon Jahannam when it’s gates will slam shut and there will be no-one in it.” And that will be after they stay in it for ages.

Ishaq said, ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Mu’ath informed us that my father informed us that Shu’bah informed us on the authority of Yahya ibn Ayyub from Abu Zar’ah from Abu Hurairah that he said: “As for what I say: Indeed a day will come upon Jahannam that no one will remain in it,” then he recited: “As for the wretched, they shall be in the Fire; for them sighing and wailing in it. Abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills.” (11:106-107)

First: Is that it is considering it to be ijma’. Many people believe this is agreed upon by51 consensus with no disagreement about it amongst the Salaf and if disagreement occurred, then it is from the statements of the People of bid’ah…

As for ijma’: Firstly it is unknown. These matters have not been definitively decided upon53 by consensus. Yes, it is presumed that there is consensus upon it, but that’s before being aware of the disagreement. For indeed the disagreement was known past and present. In fact up to now I do not know of any Sahaba who said: “It will never pass away!” Instead the evidence transmitted from them contradicts that. But the Tabi’un related such and such from54 them.

45 Ibn Taymiyyah stated previously he regards eternally therein to mean eternally therein as long as the Fire exists. However one could argue “eternally” cannot refer to a finite period. This passage and following passages appear to be a response to that. Since he emphasises God’s promise of eternal felicity will “not be cut short,” but the threat of eternal punishment is qualified by “Except as God wills.” i.e. he makes a distinction between God’s promise (wa’d) and His threat (wa’eed.) The former will never be broken but the latter can be, as it is qualified by “Except as God wills” which as he mentions later, applies to all of God’s threats.

46 Implying Hell will one day no longer be a place of punishment as vegetation will start growing in it.

47 Related by al-Bayhaqi in al-asmaa’ wa al-sifaat

48 ta’kuluhum lit. eat them i.e. ‘finish them off’ as opposed to repeatedly re-creating their skins.

49 Bayan ibn Bishr al-Ahmasi.

50 Related by al-Tabari and al-Suyuti

51 The Prophet said: “God will not let my Ummah agree upon error.” (Tirmidhi) Therefore once consensus was reached on a matter, it was considered binding…

53 Although later scholars may have agreed upon this matter, Ibn Taymiyyah considers the early generations to be the only basis for consensus and argues that there was no consensus amongst them on this matter. (Ibid., pp. 15-17)

FURTHER READING

IBN TAYMIYYAH’S VIEW OF HELL REVISTED

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