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the Sunn kings.

He moreover counter-attacks, once again on the two fronts of history


and theology of the imamate. Historically, it is for him beyond doubt that the victories of
the Muslims on the battleeld had all been achieved by Sunn armies. Theologically, the
Sunn rulers might have been sinning, unjust, far from perfect, but such leaders are still
better, in respect of the objectives of the imamate, than the putatively perfect and
infallible, but generally powerless, imams in whom the Twelvers believe, and than the
one whose return they wait for, an inexistent imam, who has no reality.
As for the value of the Sunn religious scholarship denigrated by al-H

ill , Ibn
Taymiyyas certainty that it is superior is based on his trust in a collective quality
control of knowledge. All Muslims earnestly desire to know everything about the
Prophet and his Message. But in by far greater numbers more people prefer to follow,
for example, the teachings of Malik, al-Sha and Ibn H

anbal rather than those of the


seventh, the eighth and the ninth Sh imams. Why is this so, Ibn Taymiyya asks,
except because the people learn more from, and have more condence in, those
Sunn scholars than the Sh imams? Indeed, the numbers speak for themselves, and
the Damascene theologian obviously relishes contrasting the multitude of Sunn
scholars with the very limited number of Sh shaykhs of some fame. More than sixty
Sunn ulema of different periods are mentioned by name in these three sections,
against ve Sh ones other than the imams. For Ibn Taymiyya, the discrepancy
between Sunn and Sh religious scholarships is thus enormous and the various
Sunn subgroups are all more knowledgeable, more just, and further from ignorance
and injustice. Even more important, Sunn s are ready to learn from Sh scholars,
whereas Sh s reject Sunn scholarship.
Ibn Taymiyya expresses various other views in the text introduced here but they are
less central to our project of archaeological excavation of the ideological sources, or
expressions, of the sectarian divide between Sunn s and Sh s. To evaluate the validity
of Ibn Taymiyyas Islamic historiography is a task for the historians of Muslim societies.
Whatever that evaluation may be, at this point what is more important is to underline
the constant Taymiyyan concern to refute al-H

ill , not only as a Sunn faq h, but as an


historian. The divide between these two authors and, inasmuch as they are champions
of their respective communities, the divide between Sunn s and Sh s reects the
profound divide between a concern for historical events and realities, and an indul-
gence of myth, legend, and fable. Moreover, we cannot fail to remark, in the
imamologies of Ibn Taymiyya and al-H

ill , the realism, pragmatism, populism of the


former and the idealism, absolutism, elitism of the latter. If such traits also characterize
their respective communities, their mutual otherness is a meta-theological reality they
had better learned again to live with, lest they unite in a mutually assisted destruction
of each other.
I leave to the disciples of Edward Said to decide whether these conclusions are, or
are not, too orientalistically essentialist wa la ubal . . . As for whether the majority of
Muslims being Sunn s and the Sh s being a minority is a cause or effect of the
characteristics just mentioned, Allahu alam . . .
Ir T:i:s Cri+itr or Sni i I:oioc
115 2014 Hartford Seminary.
him. Likewise, when he attends with people the Friday prayer, a collective prayer,
sessions of knowledge (majlis al-ilm), and makes a raid with them, the fact that one of
those associated with him in such [activities] has sins that are peculiar to him does not
harm him. The authorities in charge of the [public] affairs (wulat al-umur ) are in the
same position (manzila) as others: one shall associate himself with them in what they do
in the matter of obedience to God and not associate himself in what they do in the matter
of disobedience to God. This was the way (s ra) the imams of the people of the House
behaved with others. Whoever follows them in this is thus the one who takes them as
models, not someone who disassociates (tabarraa) himself from the early vanguard [of
Islam], the mass of the people of knowledge and religion, and assists the unbelievers and
the hypocrites in their enmity against them, as is done by those of the erring Rad

s who
do it.
9) The ninth viewpoint will consist in saying [this]:
Better than an inexistent imam, who has no reality, is a capable imam by whom
the commandment over people
131
is organized concerning most of what is advantageous
for them. By him the roads are thus made secure; by him is implemented what is
implemented of the penalties; by him is repelled what is repelled of injustice; by him
obtains what obtains as to waging jihad against the enemy; by him is obtained what is
obtained as full acknowledgement of ones rights. [115] The Rad

s lay claim to an
infallible (mas

um) imam although they have nothing, inwardly, except an inexistent


(madum) imam and, outwardly, except someone highly unbelieving (kafur ) or highly
unjust (z

alum). The imams of the people of the Sunna, even if one postulates what was
postulated about them in the matter of injustice and sins, are better than the imams
having appeared in whom the Rad

s believe, and better than an inexistent imam, who


has no reality. As for the rest of the imams, who were existent, the people of the Sunna
follow the example (itamma bi-) of these as they follow the example of their like. They
and their like are indeed imams. Someone following the example of these [Sh imams]
together with [the example of] their like among the rest of the Muslims is better than
someone following their example exclusively. Knowledge is indeed [both] reporting
(riwaya) and comprehending (diraya). The more numerous ulema are in [some
knowledge] and the more in agreement they are thereon, the stronger [this knowledge]
is and the more deserving it is to be followed. Among the Sh s there is no good about
which the people of the Sunna do not associate themselves with them. As for the good
which is particular to the people of the Sunna, the Sh s do not associate themselves with
them about it.
10) The tenth viewpoint will consist in saying [this]:
For everyone among the people of the Sunna it is possible to counter what this
Imam said by means of something which will be stronger than what [he said]. About the
like of Sa d b. al-Musayyab, Alqama, al-Aswad [b. Yaz d], al-H

asan al-Bas

r , At

a b. Ab
131
Amr al-nas. Another possible meaning: the affairs of people.
Ir T:i:s Cri+itr or Sni i I:oioc
135 2014 Hartford Seminary.
just as the religion of Muh

ammad, God bless him and grant him peace, is triumphing


over the rest of the religions.
The religion of Muh

ammad, God bless him and grant him peace, never triumphed
over the other religions except through the people of the Sunna. For instance, during the
caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar andUthman,
140
Godbe pleasedwiththem, it was triumphant
in a manner unprecedented in any of the religions. As for Al , God be pleased with him,
though he is among the rightly-guided caliphs and the masters of the early vanguard [of
Muslims], the religionof Islamwas not triumphant during his caliphate. Rather, dissension
( tna) took place between its people, and their enemy the unbelievers, the Nazarenes,
and the Magians hoped to defeat (t

amaa f ) them [118] in Syria and the Orient.


After Al , one knows of neither people of knowledge and religion, nor of people of
hand and sword, by means of whomGod rendered Islamvictorious, except the people of
the Sunna. As for the Rad

s, either they cooperated with the enemies of Islam, or they


abstained from helping the two groups
141
to victory. Now, there is no doubt that God,
Exalted is He, will judge on the Day of resurrection between the early vanguard of the
139
From Ibn Taj al-D n ASTARA

BA

DI

, Tuh

fat, p. 190.
140
Under the three rst rightly-guided caliphs, i.e. between 11/632 and 35/656, the realm of Islam
expanded as far as Tunisia, Armenia, Abyssinia and Eastern Iran.
141
I.e. the Muslims and their enemies.
The sixth imam, Jafar al-S

adiq, entering paradise


139
Ir T:i:s Cri+itr or Sni i I:oioc
137 2014 Hartford Seminary.