Imaam adh-Dhahabi's biography of Shaikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah
in 'Siyar A'laam un-Nubulaa' has been preserverd through Ibn al-Wazeer who quoted it in his extraordinary book 'al-'Awaasim min al-Qawaasim' (5/261-264).
Its verifier said:
And there occurs here in the manuscript 'jeem' a lengthy biography of Shaikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah which is not present in all of the manuscripts. So I saw it fit to affirm it in these footnotes, along with its text. On some of its lines there is some deficiency (in quality) on account of which some words have been cut off, and I have shown this by establishing the diacritical marks, and I have affirmed them here. This is because the volume of 'Siyar A'laam un-Nubulaa' in which this biography is found - and that is the last one - has not been printed, and this is because we have not found a manuscript which is fit for publishing. This is a biography of the Imaam, the 'Allaamah, Ibn Taymiyyah from 'an-Nubulaa' of adh-Dhahabee. I have quoted it here (only) because I have quoted from it frequently in this book, especially in this volume. Abu 'Abdullaah adh-Dhahabee said regarding him:
And then he brings the biography:
[Imaam adh-Dhahabi on Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah]
The Shaikh, the Imaam, the Scholar, the Mufassir (Exegete), the Faqeeh (Jurist), the Mujtahid, the Haafidh, the Muhaddith, the Shaikh of Islaam, the prodigy of the era, author of amazing works, and (a manifestation) of excessive intelligence, Taqee ud-Deen Abul-'Abbaas Ahmad the son of the Scholar, the Muftee, Shihaab ud-Deen 'Abdul-Haleem, the son of the Imaam, the Shaikh of Islaam, Majd ud-Deen Abul-Barakaat 'Abdus-Salaam, the author of 'al-Ahkaam' (meaning the book 'al-Muntaqaa') Ibn 'Abdullaah bin Abul-Qaasim al-Harraanee...
until his saying
...he heard from so and so and so and so and from (attending) many circles (of knowledge). And he increased, reached far limits and read over a group of people by himself. He also wrote with his own hand numerous chapters (of certain works) as well as 'Sunan Abu Daawood'. He looked at the various narrators of hadeeth and the hidden defects (in the chains of narration) and then became one of the Imaams of criticism and Scholars of the narrations, along with his recording of knowledge (in books), his piety, remembrance, and constant devotion.
Then he turned to fiqh, its minutae, its foundations, evidences, consensus, and matters of difference until sheer amazement would arise when he would mention one of the matters in which there was a difference of opinion, then he would bring evidence (from the texts), would evaluate and point out the stronger of the positions and would strive (in seeking out the truth), and all of that was deserving of him for the various conditions of making ijtihaad had combined in him.
Certainly, I have not seen anyone quicker in extracting the verses which would be relevant to the matter which he was discussing, and nor one who was greater in recalling the texts of the ahaadeeth...
Then he said:
He would constantly enjoin the good and forbid the evil and the reproach of the criticizer would not prevent him from the path of Allaah. He was a possessor of authority (i.e. in his knowledge and speech) and boldness. He had no concern with the jealous, and whoever mixed with him and knew him well will accuse me of falling short in describing him and whoever opposed and hated him will accuse me of overpraise and exaggeration... yet I do not believe that he is infallible.
Never, for he, despite the vastness of his knowledge, overflowing braveness, fluidity of mind, extreme respect and veneration for the sanctities of the deen, is a man from amongst me (i.e. of my likes). Zealousness would overcome him in study, and he would become angry ... hatred for him would develop in the souls and they would avoid him. And if he had not (been like this), by Allaah, if he had been kind with his antagonists, was kind to them, was amiable with them and made his speech cordial with them, their would have been a word of agreement and consensus...
Note here an indication of the fact that Ibn Taymiyyah was far superior to his opponents in soundness of argument and it was only due to the harsh nature of Shaikh ul-Islaam in defeating his opponents intellectually that they would not accept his stance. And what follows in the next few sentences strengthens this.
For certainly, their senior scholars and Imaams humbled themselves in front of the knowledge and sciences and fiqh he possessed, acknowledging (at the same time) that they disliked him. And it was as if they affirmed the rarity of his mistakes. I do not mean those scholars whose characteristic and habit is to belittle him and mock his excellence, who have such intense hatred of him that they declare him to be ignorant and also to be a disbeliever, who attack him without even having looked at his works, who do not understand his words and who do not have any share of vast understanding and cognizance.
However, a scholar from among them would do justice to him... with knowledge, and the route of intelligence (in this matter) is to remain quiet about what occurs between rivals, may Allaah have mercy upon them all. And I am the very least of those whose words speak of his greatness or whose pen makes his (mental and characteristic) composition clear. His associates and also his enemies humble themselves in front of his sciences, acknowledge the swiftness of his understanding, that he is a river which has no banks (i.e. no end), a treasure for which there is no equal, that he had determined generosity and that his braveness had no end.
However, they would seek vengeance against him and those who were fair and just in that will be rewarded, those who took the middle course (i.e. were not excessive) will be excused, those who were oppressive will be subdued and overcome, but most of them are in fact deceived - to Allaah do all affairs return and every man can have his saying accepted or rejected.
Perfection lies only in the Messengers and decisive proof is only in consensus. So may Allaah show mercy to a man who spoke about the scholars upon knowledge and who assiduously scrutinized their problematic pronouncements out of consideration and good understanding, who then sought forgiveness for them and spoke of excuses for them. And if this is not (the adopted path of an individual) then he is someone who does not know and who doesn't know that he doesn't know.
If you pardon the most senior of scholars for their errances and you do not pardon Ibn Taymiyyah for his limited mistakes then you have affirmed for your own soul (the following of) desires and the lack of justice.
And if you were to say, 'I do not pardon him because he is a disbeliever, the enemy of Allaah and His Messenger' then a portion from the people of knowledge and deen say to you, 'By Allaah, we do not know of him except that he is a believer who guards his prayers, ablutions, fasting in Ramadaan and who venerates the Sharee'ah both inwardly and outwardly'.
He would not approach (any matter) with a faulty and evil understanding, rather he had excessive intelligence. And nor would he approach any matter with lack of knowledge, for he was an overflowing ocean, having firm knowledge and insight of the Book and the Sunnah, without there being any equal to him in that. And nor was he one who played with the religion. For if he had been like that then he would have deceived his antagonists straight away, (pretending to) agree with them and he would have abandoned contradicting them. And he would not hold unique stances in certain matters due to personal desires and nor would he give a fatwa based upon something that was agreed upon, rather he would bring proof from the Qur'aan, the hadeeth or qiyaas (analogy) for all of his unique stances and he would prove them and argue in their favour. He would also narrate all the different opinions held in the issue and would lengthen his investigation of it, following in the footsteps of the Imaams before him.
If he erred then he has the reward of the one who strives to arrive at the truth amongst the scholars, and if he was correct then he acquires two rewards.
Certainly, reproach and hatred is only justified for one of two types of men; the one who gives a verdict in a matter based upon his desires and does not show any evidence, and the one who speaks in a matter without having the slightest amount of knowledge and nor the capacity to quote the narrations.
So we seek refuge in Allaah from the desires and ignorance. There is also no doubt that consideration is not to be given to the praise given to him by the leading personalities (accompanying him) and nor those who exaggerate in his affair, for their love of him led them to cover up his errors and they would often count them as good deeds for him. However, consideration is only given (to the testimony) of the people of piety and fear from among the two groups, those who speak with justice and who raise (only) for the sake of Allaah, even if it was against their own souls or against their fathers.
And as for this man, I do not desire the world, nor any wealth or status by what I have said concerning him from any aspect whatsoever and this is despite my perfect and complete knowledge regarding him. And it is not permitted for me in my deen and nor for my intellect that I conceal his good deeds, hide his excellencies, expose his sins which are forgiven due to the vastness of Allaah's generosity and highlight an individual page (of his writings) which would become obscure when compared to the ocean of his knowledge and generosity.
Allaah will forgive him and be pleased with him. He will also show mercy to us if we were to adopt and follow that which he (Shaikh ul-Islaam) followed, despite the fact that I differed with him in both fundamental and subsidiary issues. I have just made it plain and clear that his mistakes in these matters are forgiven, in fact Allaah will reward him for them to the extent of his good intention and sacrifice of his time and effort and Allaah is the One whom we shall meet at the appointed time. And I have also been harmed by his companions due to my words concerning him, so Allaah is sufficient for me as a reckoner...
Then he said:
...And I have followed in between the two groups. To the one who loves him, I am considered as one who falls short and to the one who hates him, I am considered immoderate and excessive. Never, by Allaah (is this the case).
This is one of many biographies written by Imaam adh-Dhahabee after the time of Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah and we will not see the followers of al-Kawtharee and the contemporary Jahmite Ash'aris do justice and quote these numerous biographical accounts. Here adh-Dhahabee has given his just estimation of Shaykh ul-Islaam and fair person can see that even if adh-Dhahabee disagreed with Shaykh ul-Islaam on some issues, he maintains utter respect and makes high praise of him.