Ibn Taymiyya Under Public Scrutiny

In Saudi Arabia, teenaged twins are under government custody for killing their mother.  Her “crime” was that she was stopping them from joining ISIS.  A Saudi writer, Mohammad Ali al-Mahmoud, told Reuters, “Had this [murder of a mother] come from drug addicts or ignorant youth, it would not have been unusual.  The shock is that it came from a pair of religious children acting in the name of Islam.” An additional shocking aspect is that its goes directly against one of the basic doctrines of Islam that requires the respect and honor of parents, especially the mother, by the offspring.

Saudi Arabia is currently having “an impassioned debate” of whether the killing of a mother was justified on the basis of the Takfiri doctrine, which was the brainchild of Imam Ibn Taymiyya, “one of Islam’s most forceful theologians, who, as a member of the Pietist school founded by Ibn Ḥanbal.”  The Saudi government is not having any part of blaming Ibn Taymiyya, because Wahhabism, in reality, is inspired by the writings of Ibn Taymiyya.  The government’s position is typified in a statement issued by the Saudi Islamic Affairs Minister, Saleh bin Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh.  He was quoted as saying that, “Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa allowing a son to kill his father had been taken out of context.”  Any informed reader of Imam Taymiyya’s writings would dismiss that statement as a flimsy one.

In the ongoing public debate inside Saudi Arabia, “several writers and scholars said it was time to remove the sanctity from traditional theology that permits such actions, saying ancient teachings are not always appropriate in the modern age.”  That is precisely the point.

The entire writings of Ibn Taymiyya need to be publicly discussed in order to conclude that his doctrinal positions justifying violence and killing—which are wholeheartedly incorporated by ISIS to spread bloody mayhem in several Western and Muslim countries—need to be abandoned.  In the aftermath of the recent terrorist action inside its borders, the government of Saudi Arabia must consider playing a leading role in that discussion.