Shams ad-Din Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah was born in 691H / 1292CE in az-Zur’i, a small village fifty-five miles from Damascus. Little is known of his childhood except that he received a comprehensive Islamic education thanks to the fact that his father was principle of the Madrasah al-Jawziyyah, one of the few centers devoted to the study of Hanbali fiqh in Damascus; hence, the name by which he came to be known: Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah – son of the principle of the Jawziyyah school – or simply, Ibn al-Qayyim.
After completing his fundamental studies at the Jawziyyah, Ibn al-Qayyim continued his learning in the circles of the shaykhs who filled the city’s mosques. It appears that for some period of time, he came under the influence of Mu’tazili teachings and probably of certain mystics. In the epic-length Ode he wrote in later years, he refers to this period as being one of confusion and misguidance: “All these [ways] did I try, and I fell into a net, fluttering like a bird that knows not where to fly.”This period came to an end in the year 712H / 1312CE, when at twenty-one years of age he met the man who would shape his life’s orientation in Islam: Taqi ad-Din ibn Taymiyyah. Ibn Taymiyyah had just returned to Damascus from a seven-year stay in Egypt, the last of which he spent under house arrest.
His reputation for being an uncompromising defender of the Sunnah and of Hanbali theology was well-known to the people of Syria. Perhaps it was his certitude and strength that appealed to the young Ibn al-Qayyim, who “like a bird caught in a net, did not know where to fly.” In any event, a bond formed between the two men which lasted for 16 years until Ibn Taymiyyah’s death.
Between 712H / 1312CE and 726H / 1326CE, Ibn al-Qayyim married and had three sons – Ibrahim, ‘Abdullah and Sharaf ad-Din. He earned his living as teacher and Imam at the Jawziyyah school. His lessons on Hanbali fiqh and his sermons probably showed the strong influence of his teacher for, in 726H / 1326CE, when the authorities of Damascus ordered the arrest of Ibn Taymiyyah and his followers, Ibn al-Qayyim was among them.
This imprisonment came after Ibn Taymiyyah had been summoned before a council of religious scholars for questioning on a point of fiqh: was it permissible for someone visiting the Prophet’s – sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam – mosque in Madinah to shorten the prayers? Since the council knew in advance that In Taymiyyah strongly condemned the practice of visiting saint’s tombs for the purpose of receiving blessing, they could easily portray his chary answer as proof that he himself propagated a dangerous innovation by discouraging Muslims form visiting the burial-place of their beloved Prophet – sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. This pretext was used to remove from the public eye a man they regarded as a source of unrest. The council ruled that Ibn Taymiyyah and all those in Damascus who propagated his teachings – including Ibn al-Qayyim- should be rounded up and imprisoned in the citadel of the town. Although a few days later the authorities released Ibn Taymîyah’s followers, Ibn al-Qayyim alone chose to stay at the side of his teacher in prison.
Unlike his house arrest in Egypt, during which he was permitted to write and teach his followers, this time Ibn Taymiyyah was not only locked up, but also denied both books and writing materials, a much harder condition for him to bear than prison itself. It has been recorded that during that final imprisonment he would find scraps of discarded paper and write with pieces of charcoal. In 728H / 1327CE, however, having been separated for two years from all those things he had lived for, he passed away. Then and only then did Ibn al-Qayyim come out of prison to join the multitudes who followed the body of Ibn Taymiyyah to the burial.
It appears that only after his teacher’s death did Ibn al-Qayyim begin his own profile as a writer. This stage of his life was also marked by much travel, learning and teaching, as well as several pilgrimages to Makkah, where he lived for some time.
Our picture of Ibn al-Qayyim in the last twenty-five years or so of his life is derived mainly from recollections of his two most illustrious students, Ibn Rajab and Ibn Kathir. The latter wrote, “He recited [the Qur’an] beautifully and was loved by a great many people. He neither envied nor harmed anyone, nor tried to find fault with them, nor harboured malice towards them. In short, there were few people like him … He was dominated mostly by goodness and a virtuous nature.”
Ibn Rajab writes, “May Allah bless him, he was a person of worship and night prayers, someone who used to make prayer last as long as possible; he was devoted to remembrance, constant in his love of Allah, in turning back to Allah, in seeking forgiveness, in his dependence on Allah and in humility before Him. He reached a level of devotion which I have never witnessed in anyone else, nor have I seen anyone more vast in learning or more knowledgeable of the meanings of the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the inner realities of faith. And while I know he was not infallible, yet I have never seen anyone who was closer to the meaning of this word.”
In addition to these isolated glimpses of the man, there is evidence that he loved books so much that after his death his sons had to sell off much of his library, keeping only what they themselves could make use of.
Ibn al-Qayyim died in 751H / 1350CE, when he was scarcely 60 years old. It is recorded that the funeral prayer, attended by many people, was offered at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. He was buried a the cemetery of Bab as-Saghir, near the grave of his father – rahimahumallah.
Reference: Invocation of God (The English translation of Al-Wabil al-Sayyib min al-kalim al-Tayyib written by Imam Ibn Al-Qayim)