In introducing Dr. Anjum, Dr. Ermin Sinanović stated that the legacy of Ibn Taymiyya has been misappropriated over time and we need the educated intervention of people such as Dr. Anjum to set things right, calling his book, “one of the best or the best survey of Islamic political thought” in recent times.
Dr. Anjum began his talk by sharing the numerous roles Ibn Taymiyya played in his life: scholar, mujahid, theologian, philosopher, linguist, activist, among others. He mentioned scholars such as Imam al-Shatibi, Shah Waliullah, and Fazlur Rahman who were completely fascinated by Ibn Taymiyya and drew from his prolific works. Indeed, Ibn Taymiyya was “admired by his most trenchant opponents,” Dr. Anjum remarked.
In contrast to most intellectuals who are only concerned with research and educational endeavors, Ibn Taymiyya was actively involved in state matters and was a figure of political clout. He emphasized that the caliphate is an obligation, a continuous link to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, confirmed Dr. Anjum. At the same time, he deemed it a “rational obligation” as opposed to a ritual one. “If there isn’t justice or God’s law being upheld, the khilafah is worthless,” Dr. Anjum specified.
Ibn Taymiyya was very reverent of the ‘ulema and yet “pushed back against the authority of the ‘ulema,” Dr. Anjum said. When Ibn Taymiyya is read as the final version of Islam and in isolation, his larger vision and philosophy is compromised. However, al-Qaradawi and other scholars do what he recommends them to do: accept what he says and question it too, stated Dr. Anjum.
While “Ibn Taymiyya was a scripturalist and literalist, he also has a theology of divine love. In that sense, he was a very Sufi figure,” Dr. Anjum indicated. His political vision was anchored in an active worship and love of God: the necessity to love and to act out of love.
In that sense, Dr. Anjum declared, he was an optimist and had a “theology of hope.” He believed that the Muslim community can act to change things rather than simply wait for the Messiah. He also held that “humans can know ethical truth, the difference between good and evil,” Dr. Anjum explained.
Ibn Taymiyya was the first to declare that government is necessary with proof from the Qur’an and Sunnah – previously the scholars would always validate it through the actions of the Sahabah. In fact, there is no book titled “al-Siyasah al-Shar’iyyah” in the first seven centuries, but many such titles since that time, Dr. Anjum revealed.
In this way, Ibn Taymiyya reconstructed the notion of an Islamic political tradition, rooted in scriptural sources, in the aftermath of the Mongol destruction of Baghdad, posited Dr. Anjum.
His talk was followed by a brief question and answer session, after which he signed copies of his book for audience members.