By Nabil Mouline
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The second half of the thirteenth century was characterized by a major event: the struggle against the Mongol invasion. indb 34 8/8/14 10:28:18 AM The Birth of the Hanbali Tradition 35 the new capital of Hanbalism. In order to strengthen his position, legitimate his power, and win popular support, Sultan Baybars (1260–1277) promoted Sunni Islam as a matter of policy. In addition to restoring the Caliphate in 1261, he endeavored to give equal standing to the four legal schools. To this end, he appointed for the first time four grand judges in Egypt and Syria, facilitated the activities of the mystical brotherhoods, restored the two holy places of Islam, funded the construction of pious foundations, and waged war against the Franks, Mongols, and various Shia sects.
Similarly, without religion, the state is only an illegitimate and despotic form of domination. This is why Ibn Taymiyya composed al-Siyasa al-shar‘iyya. The main objective of this work is to show the importance of the interaction between political practice (al-siyasa) and the Law (al-shari’a). He therefore recommended genuine cooperation among the community’s two main social categories: the emirs and the ulama. Indeed, “when these two categories are healthy,” Ibn Taymiyya wrote, “everything is healthy in the community.
Nevertheless, like al-Dhahabi (d. 1348) and Ibn Kathir (d. 1373) before them, the Shafi‘ite-Hanbalis very rapidly established themselves as authorities on Sunni Islam in such important domains as commentary on the prophetic traditions, history, and Qur’anic exegesis. At the turn of the fifteenth century, the Hanbali tradition gradually went into hibernation. This phenomenon was mainly due to a lack of leadership and politico-financial support. Indeed, for purely political reasons, the Mamluk authorities preferred to support the Hanbalis’ adversaries, who were vastly more numerous and influential.