[This is the letter that al-Hafidh Imam ad-Dhahabi, may Allah endow His Mercy upon him, wrote to Ibn Taymiyyah– ad-Dhahabi’s former Sheikh –when he realized that he was deviating from the ^Aqidah of Ahlu-s-Sunnah wa-l-Jama^ah.]
I start with the Name of Allah, whose mercy accommodates the believer as well as the blasphemer in this world, and He is the One who will be merciful to only the believers in the Hereafter.
Praise is to Allah for my lowliness. O Lord, be merciful to me, diminish my mistakes, and preserve my belief for me. What sadness do I encounter at my lack of sadness; what sorrow over the Sunnah and the departure of its people; what longing do I harbor for believing brothers to share with me in weeping; what grief over the loss of people who were illuminating lanterns of Sacred Knowledge, men of piety and Godfearingness, and treasure-troves of every good; what a pity for not finding a dirham that is lawful or a brother who is loving. Great good tidings to him whose own faults divert him from those of others, and woe to one which the faults of others divert him from his own.
For how long will you see the speck in your brother’s eye and forget the stump in your own? How long will you praise yourself, your prattle, your style, while blaming religious scholars and searching out people’s shameful points, knowing as you do that the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, forbade it by saying: “Mention not your dead save with good, for they have gone onto what they have sent ahead.”
Of course, I am cognizant of that you will defend yourself by telling me the attacks are only against those who have never smelled the scent of Islam and do not know what Muhammad, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, brought and that it is your jihad.
Not so, by Allah those whom you attack know what is even better than the amount that suffices, if the servant acts on it, to make him succeed. Moreover, they are ignorant of a great deal that does not concern them. And “the excellence of a person’s Islam includes leaving what does not concern him.”
By Allah man! Give us respite from you, for you are an eloquent polemicist who neither rests nor sleeps. Beware of doubt-creating, problematic religious questions. Our Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, was burdened by too many questions, found fault with them, and forbade excessive asking. He also said: “The thing I fear most for my people is the eloquent hypocrite.”
Too much talking, if free of mistakes, hardens the heart when it concerns the lawful and unlawful. So how should it be when it concerns the words of the Yunusiyyah, the philosophers, and expressions of blasphemy, which make hearts go blind?
By Allah, we have become a laughing stock in existence. How long will you disinter the details of philosophical expressions of blasphemy for us to refute with our minds? You have swallowed, man, the poison of the philosophers and of their works more than once; and by too much using of poison ones constitution gets addicted. It collects, by Allah, in the body.
O, what longing for a group among whom the Qur’an is recited with reflection, where awe is experienced through its meditation, where there is silence from its contemplation.
O, what longing for an assembly where the pious are mentioned, for Mercy descends where the righteous people are remembered, not where the righteous are spoken of with contempt and curses.
The sword of al-Hajjaj and the tongue of Ibn Hazm were brothers –in harming Muslims– and now you have joined the family. By Allah, give us a break from talking about “the innovation of Thursday”, and “eating the grains”, and rather make a serious effort to remember the innovations we used to consider the source of all misguidance, which have now become the “genuine Sunnah” and the “basis of Tawhid”, and whoever does not know them is a blasphemer, or a donkey, and whoever does not call him a blasphemer is a bigger blasphemer than Pharaoh.
You consider the very Christians like us. By Allah, there are misgivings in hearts. You are fortunate if your faith in the two Testification of Faith has remained unscathed. Oh the disappointment of him who follows you, for he is exposed to corruption in basic beliefs and to dissolution. Particularly if he is short of learning and religion, a self-indulgent idler who does well for you by fighting on your behalf with his hand and tongue, while he is actually your enemy in his being and heart. What are your followers but hidebound do-nothings of little intelligence, common liars with dull minds, silent outlanders strong in guile, or dryly righteous without understanding?
If you don’t believe it, just look at them and honestly assess them. The donkey of your lusts, O Muslim, has stepped forward to applaud your self. How long will you dote on your ego and attack the finest people? How long will you credit it, and disdain the pious? How long will you exalt it, and despise the devotees? How long will you be its closest friend, and detest the abstinent? How long will you praise your own words in a manner you do not even use for the Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim? Would that the Hadiths of the two Sahihs were safe from you, as you continually attack them, by suggesting weakness, considering them fair game, or with figurative explanations and denial.
Has not the time come to give up? Is not it time to repent and atone? Are not you at that tenth of a man’s life when he reaches seventy years and the final departure has drawn near? Indeed, By Allah, I do not recall that you remember death much. You sneer at whoever remembers death.
So I don’t think you will take to my words or hear my exhortation. You will, instead, probably show great energy and concern to demolish this piece of paper with weighty volumes, snipping off for me the ends of my sentences until you gain the upper hand and can close the argument with a triumphant “…at all. And he was silent.”
If this is how you stand in my eyes, and I am someone sympathetic to you, fond and affectionate, how do you think you stand with your enemies? By Allah among your enemies, there are the righteous and intelligent men and virtuous ones, just as among your friends there are the wicked, liars, ignoramuses, layabouts, the vile, and cattle.
I can accept that you should publicly disparage me, while secretly benefiting from what I have said. “May Allah have Mercy on the man who shows me my faults” [words attributed to ^Umar, may Allah accept his deeds]. For I have many faults and sins, and woe to me if I myself do not repent, and how enormous my disgrace from Him who knows the Hidden.
The sole remedy for me is the forgiveness of Allah and His clemency, His giving success and His guidance. Praise is to Allah, Lord of the worlds. Allah bless our master Muhammad, the Last of the Prophets, and his family members and companions one and all.