[This article was published in the 17th issue of Nida'ul Islam
magazine (), February - March 1997]

The Role of Sheikh-ul Islam
Ibn Taymiyah in Jihad Against the Tatars

Sheikh-ul Islam Ahmad Ibn Taymiyah was not an ordinary Sheikh like those of today, or a scholar who centred a study circle, nor was he just a Friday khateeb or a mere teacher in a mosque. He was also not contented with instituting a school to educate his students the sciences of Shari'ah. For he took the role of the General Imam or the deputy of the rightly-guided Khaleefa in his absence. He fought innovations in the religion and established the truth with the force of the sword, without detaching from the teachings of his religion. He was not a hypocrite in the presence of rulers, nor did he fear the authority of a sultan or a prince.

Ibn Taymiyah's most significant achievement in his life was his Jihad against the Tatars after he unmasked the corruptions in their beliefs and their deceptive claims of embracing Islam. At that time, the Tatars were the greatest danger facing the whole Muslim nation. They had the largest military power and the most terrible warfare. Their pretence as Muslims was a big danger to the Muslim nation, exactly like the dangers posed by the Muslim leaders of today who falsely claim to belong to Islam and at the same time they butcher its faithful people.

He was not satisfied with addressing the princes and leaders only, but he also addressed the public and gave fatwas (religious verdict) necessitating the defending of Islam against its enemy, the Tatars. He held that the protection of Islam should be the primary objective of all Muslims and the condition to complete their faith.

His first letter of jihad that was addressed to the public stated the following:

"After Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem , To whom ever this reaches from the faithful and the Muslims, may Allah have mercy upon them in this life and the Hereafter. May He grant them perceived and concealed blessings, and may He grant them the dignified victory and great triumphs.

Peace and blessing of Allah be with you all. We praise Allah Almighty on your behalf, the One and Only God, the All-Capable".

He then started his letter by classifying the kuffar into a number of categories. He said that the first group of kuffar are the original kuffars , e.g. the Christians, Armenians, and the like. With this group, it is permissible to hold peace agreements with, eat from their food and slaughtering, marry from their women, can be released if they fell as fell as prisoners of war, and their women are not to be killed unless they were fighting.

The second group consists of apostates (murtaddun) who return to their infidel ways, like some Arab tribes, Persians, and Romans. These murtaddun are worse than the original kuffar. Therefore, fighting them is obligatory if they do not return to Islam and no peace agreement nor a covenant of security can be given to them. Their prisoners are not to be released, their food is not to be eaten, the Muslim man can not marry their women, and they are all to be fought and killed whether they have engaged in fighting or not, even their elderly and women.

The third group consists of those who claim to belong to Islam, but do not perform the Islamic rituals and practices, such as salat, zakat, hajj, nor do they carry out Jihad or take tributes (jizia) from the people of the book and the Sabbists, nor do they cease from killing Muslims and taking their money. This group, under the consensus opinion of Muslims, must be fought in the same way that Abu Bakr as-Sideeq (r.a.a.) fought the people who refused to pay zakat. Some of them are worse than kuffar, even if they prayed and fasted like the khawarij who Ali (r.a.a.) fought and the Prophet (s.a.w.) foretold about them: "they are the most evil of people amongst Allah's creation". And non of the companions or their successors disagree about the necessity to fighting them.

As for the fourth group, they are the most evil of all the groups. They are a group that rejected Islam while still claiming to belong to it. They are infidels, who reverted from Islam because they entered Islam without following its Shari'a . It is agreed upon, that they should be fought totally until they return to practice the fundamentals of Islam and to prevent affliction (fitna) so that the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone.

All these conditions are to be applied to them in their homelands. How about if they invaded the lands of Muslims and attack them for no other reason than to inflict injustice and injury upon the Muslim nation?. "Will you not fight a people who have violated their oaths (pagans of Makkah) and intended to expel the Messenger, while they did attack you first? Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him, if you are believers" (s9:v13). This verse clearly shows the truth about the Tatars and their contemporary sect, the Batiniah, and others who tried to corrupt the creed of Islam.

Following these words, Ibn Taymiyah began to show the merits of the Mujahideen, and the virtues of Jihad fo r Allah's sake. He explained that jihad will be ongoing till the day of judgment, by using the following authentic hadeeth as a proof: " There will always remain a group of people from my nation who establish the truth. They will never be agonised by those who let them down nor by those who disagree with them till the day of judgement" . And Ibn Taymiyah sees those people to be the people of Sham.

Ibn Taymiyah then narrated the different Ahadeeth and Ayat showing the importance of Jihad and the inevitable victory of the Muslims. He then started mentioning those faithful groups (mu'minoon ), and their role at his time. There is the victorious group (at-tai'fa al-mansourah), the Mujahideen warriors. There are those who disagree with them and think that the time for Jihad has not come yet, and that now at the preparation stage and organisation. But he proved that there is nothing higher in status than Jihad and no rank can rise above the level of Mujahideen for Allah's cause.

He concluded his message and soon after that, he took the responsibility to training the armies and to organise the Mujahideen groups. He was responsible for the raids against the Tatars military camps. He also attacked the region where the Batiniah people in the mountains of Sham abode, because they betrayed the Muslims and secretly cooperated with the enemies of Islam, the Tatars and the Crusaders. Although the Batini sect succeeded in deceiving Ibn Taymiyah when they pretended to repent and abandon their crooked creed and beliefs. But it was proven to him that they played a trick using taqqya (calculated deception), and that they remained on their strong animosity to Islam and Muslims. He did not hesitate to fight them and hound them, and gave fatwas (religious verdict) exposing their hidden beliefs and crooked creed and called for the necessity to fight them.

On the other hand, he never compromised the truth when accounting princes and the kings for their negligence in defending the land of Islam against internal and external enemies. This is clearly depicted through his letter to Sultan an-Nasser Muhammad Ibn Qalawoon. In the letter he threatened to develop a separate state from the Sultan authority, and give his loyalty to another leader who will not hesitate to defend and to stand agains t the invading Tatars.

When the city of Damascus fell for the second time to the Tatars, he refused to stand by idly, for he agreed with the leaders of the country to take an important step for the well being of all Muslims by meeting the Tatars leader. Alt hough they had no power to defend themselves with, nevertheless he took the necessary step of organising to meet the Sultan of the Tartar Qazaan, asking him for security for the people of Damascus without the handing over of the fortress. He was not a faint hearted coward like the other Sufi sheikhs who met Qazaan asking for his forgiveness and his approval of them. But he confronted Qazaan face to face and explained to him that their occupation of Damascus will no be long since the Muslims are revolting. The security was granted to the Muslims of Damascus owing to Ibn Taymiyah boldness and courageousness.

Ibn Taymiyah also partnered Sultan An-Nasser Ibn Qalawoon in his war against Qazaan who claimed to be Muslim and named him self Mahmood. It was proven to Ibn Taymiyah other wise, because Qazaan refused to completely uphold Islamic Shari' ah and He disrespected Allah's laws. He governed the Islamic country by the book of al-Yasiq which was a mixture of laws from Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the laws of Jinkeeze Khan himself. He discarded the laws that was sent down to the Muslims in the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

In the year 702 after hijrah , the news of the return of the Tatars to Sham spread. Ibn Taymiyah made haste to the sultan in Egypt seeking his help against the danger of the Tatars and their monstrosities which they were so famous for, especially when the rulers of Allepo and Hama a bandoned their cities and escaped to Damascus. By the time the Tartars reached Homs and Ba'albek, Ibn Taymiyah recruite d the remains of the army that left Hama and the other cities. He united the army and started the march to Damascus to be at the forefront of the ranks, until the armies of the Khaleefah al-Mustakfi and Sultan an-Nasser Ibn Qalawoon reached Damascus. On S aturday, the second of Ramadan, the Muslim army was complete, and the organisation for the battle had begun outside Damascus to safeguard the city from any damage. The site of the battle was in Marj as-Safar.

When the Tatars heard of their massing, they ma de haste to meet them outside Damascus. Hence the first plan of Ibn Taymiyah was successful in that he distracted the Tatars from further damaging the city. For the Tatar's first worry was to destroy the army of the Muslims, leaving the city unmolested.

The course of the Great Battle

The two armies then met, each have in mind the destruction of the other, and the battle started at once. It was Zuhur time and the Muslims in that army were fasting that day, every one of them wishing from Allah either Shahadah or victory. In their minds are the prophet's companions (r.a.a.) and their righteous successors. Their first worry was to defend Islam and to destroy the Tatarian enemy once and for all, making sure they never return to the land of Islam with their corruption, unlike the first time when the Tatars regrouped themselves after their defeat in the battle of A'een Jaloot and returned to attack the land of the Muslims.

Therefore, the main worry of the Khaleefah and the Sultan was to destroy the Tatars and elimi nate their danger once and for all. When the Tatars saw the Muslims apparent devotion and commitment to war, all their numbers came down to the battle, displaying their machinery and armour. They were the bounty of the Muslims by the end of the day.

With this battle, the Khaleefaah once again re-established his role as the Khaleefah of the Muslims, and so did the Sultan. While Sheikh-ul Islam delivered his role as the advisor. He was at the head of the army, sharpening the Muslims purpose, while on the other hand he would fight the enemy courageously, sending them reeling back to their homes. When the army saw their Khaleefah, Sultan and Imam at the head of their ranks, they started to crush Tatars, eliminating their danger and ridding the Muslims from their threat. Consequently, they left the enemy no hope to ever return to the land of Islam. The battle of Shaqhab was the last battle ever between the Tatars and the Muslim.

This battle had a fundamental role in Ibn Taymiyah's reply to the cowardly Murji' ah, Sufis, and others who tried to hinder and discourage the resolution of the Muslims. They used either try to scare the Muslims by exaggerating the might and strength of the enemy, or used to proclaim that the Tatars were Muslims, and hence, an excuse not to fight them. Ibn Taymiyah's response to the Muslims who were deceived by what was said about the prohibition of fighting the Tatars, was his statement: "If you find me in the ranks of the Tatars then kill me!" . His response on the battlefield was clearer in that he started fighting the Tatars, hence leaving no room for the Muslims who were deceived or had a second thought about the right decision in fighting their enemy.

Therefore Ibn Taymiyah's role, and his handling of the events is a clear response to those who argue today that it is forbidden to fight those who hinder Allah's deen and laws while they roam the earth destroying and corrupting it, even if they claim to belong to Islam.

By Br. Muhammad El-Halaby

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