The Ijazahs of Ibn Bāz and al-Albāni
By Nuh Ha Mim Keller
The Salafis allege that both Ibn Bāz and al-Albāni have ijazahs (authorizations of mastery of a book, etc. in Islamic knowledge from the scholar it was studied with) from great sheikhs. They say that al-Albāni has an ijazah from some sheikhs in Syria; do you have any information on this?
Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
Our teacher in hadith, Sheikh Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut, tells my wife and me that Sheikh Nasir al-Albāni learned his hadith knowledge from books and manuscripts in the Dhahiriyya Library in Damascus, as well as his long years working on books of hadith. He did not get any significant share of his knowledge from living hadith scholars, according to Sheikh Shu‘ayb, for the very good reason that there wasn’t anyone in Damascus at the time who knew much about hadith, and he didn’t travel anywhere else to learn. I have heard Salafis say that he has an ijazah from one person in Syria, but it could only be (according to Sheikh Shu‘ayb) from someone with far less knowledge than himself
I believe Sheikh Shu‘ayb about this, because his family, like Sheikh Nasir’s, were of the Albanians who emmigrated to Damascus at the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and they all know each other rather intimately. The impression one gets is that Sheikh Nasir’s father, Sheikh Nuh al-Albāni , was so strict a Hanafi that he produced something of an over-reaction in Sheikh Nasir not only against Abu Hanifah and his madzhab, but against traditional Islamic sheikhs as well. According to Sheikh Shu‘ayb, Sheikh Nasir studied tajwid or ‘Qur’ānic recitation’ and perhaps the Hanafi fiqh primer Maraqi al-falah [The ascents to success] with his father Sheikh Nuh al-Albāni, and possibly other lessons in Hanafi fiqh from Sheikh Muhammad Sa‘id al-Burhani, who taught in Tawbah Mosque, in the quarter of the Turks on the side of Mount Qasiyun, near Sheikh Nasir’s father’s shop. Sheikh Nasir subsequently found that his time could be more profitably spent with books and manuscripts at the Dhahiriyya Library and in reading works to students, and he did not attend anyone else’s lessons
As for his ijazah or ‘warrant of learning,’ Sheikh Shu‘ayb tells us that it came when a hadith scholar from Aleppo, Sheikh Raghib al-Tabbakh, was visiting the Dhahiriyyah Library in Damascus, and Sheikh Nasir was pointed out to him as a promising student of hadith. They met and spoke, the sheikh authorized him "in all the chains of transmission that I have been authorized to relate"—that is to say, a general ijazah, though Sheikh Nasir did not attend the lessons of the sheikh or read books of hadith with him. Sheikh Raghib al-Tabbakh had chains of sheikhs reaching back to the main hadith works, such as Sahih al-Bukhari, the Sunan of Abu Dawud, and hence had a contiguous chain back to the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) for these books. But this was an authorization (ijazah) of tabarruk, or ‘for the blessing of it,’ not a ‘warrant of learning’—for Sheikh Nasir did not go to Aleppo to learn from him, and he did not come to Damascus to teach him
This type of authorization (ijazah), which of tabarruk, is a practice of some traditional scholars: to give an authorization in order to encourage a student whom they have met and like, whom they find knowledgeable, or hope will become a scholar. The reason I know of such ijazah is because I have one, from the Makkah hadith scholar Sheikh Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki, which authorizes me to relate "all the chains of transmission that I [Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki] have been authorized to relate by my sheikhs," including chains of transmission reaching back to the hadith Imams Mālik, al-Bukhāri, Muslim, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidzi, al-Nasā’ie, Ibn Mājah (Makkah: Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Māliki, 1412/1992). Though my name is on the authorization, and it is signed by the sheikh, it does not make me a hadith scholar like he is, because aside from some of his public lessons, my hadith knowledge is not from him but from Sheikh Shu‘ayb, whom I have actually studied with. Rather, Sheikh al-Māliki knows my sheikhs in Damascus, that I am the translator of ‘Umdat al-salik [Reliance of the traveller] in Shāfi‘i fiqh, that we have known each other for some time, and he approves of my way. The scholarly value of such ijazah is merely to establish that we have met.
As for Ibn Bāz, I do not know who he studied with, though from his broadcasts on the radio, I would be most surprised if he had ever studied with someone uncommitted to what he and his colleagues simply call the da‘wah or ‘propagation,’ that is, of the revisions of Islam advocated by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab.
As it is unlawful to say anything disliked about a Muslim except for an interest countenanced by Sacred Law, the following discussion will not exceed (a) whether these revisions constitute a sectarian emphasis differing from traditional Islām; and (b) if sectarian, how this influences issues that Sheikh Nasir and Ibn Baz might otherwise be believed about.
I mention this to you, because, as you may know, some people take offense at the word Wahhabi—and with good reason, if we mean to suggest that they do not love Islam, or are not trying to practice it to the best of their understanding and ability. I feel this is true of virtually all separatist groups, from the beginning of Islām. Provided they do not negate something necessarily known to be of the religion (necessarily known meaning that which any Muslim would know about if asked), all these groups may be said to have tried to understand and apply the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, even though their understanding has brought them to a mistaken conclusion. This is why Sharī‘ah manuals say things like:
They [those who rise in insurrection against the caliph] are subject to Islamic laws (because they have not committed an act that puts them outside of Islam that they should be considered non-Muslims. Nor are they considered morally corrupt (fasiq), for rebels is not a perjorative term, but rather they merely have a mistaken understanding), and the decisions of their Islamic judge are considered legally effective (provided he does not declare the lives of upright Muslims to be justly forfeitable) if they are such as would be effective if made by our own judge (Reliance of the Traveller, 594).
The fact that such people may consider other Muslims not of their sect to be non-Muslims—the hallmark of heterodox (batil) sects of all times and places—does not change the above rulings, and the caliph or his representative may use only enough force to end the strife. We find in the Hashiya radd al-muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-mukhtar sharh Tanwir al-absar [(Ibn ‘Abidin’s) Commentary: the guide of the perplexed, upon (Haskafi’s) The choice pearls, an exegesis of (Tumurtashi’s) Illumination of eyes], whose every word is considered a decisive evidence (nass) in the Hanafi school:
(Al-Haskafi :) Those who revolt against obedience to the imām [meaning the caliph or his representative] are of three types:
(1) highwaymen, and their ruling is known [n: i.e. the death penalty, if they do not give themselves up before they are caught];
(2) rebels (bughat) against the caliphate, whose ruling will be discussed below [n: i.e. they are fought with as much force as needed to make them desist, as in the Reliance above];
(3) and kharijites, meaning men with military force who revolt against the imam because of a mistaken scriptural interpretation (ta’wil), believing that he is upon a falsehood of unbelief (kufur) or disobedience to Allāh (ma‘siyah) that necessitates their fighting him, according to their mistaken scriptural interpretation, and who consider it lawful to take our lives, our property, and take our women as slaves, and who consider the Companions of our Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) to be disbelievers. Their ruling is the same as that of rebels (bughat) against the caliphate [n: (2) above] by unanimous consensus of fiqh scholars.
(Ibn ‘Abidin :) His words and who consider the Companions of our Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) to be disbelievers are not a condition for someone to be a kharijite, but rather are a mere clarification of what those who revolted against ‘Ali (Radiallāhu`anhu) in fact did. Otherwise, it is enough to be convinced of the unbelief of those they fight against, as happened in our own times with the followers of [Muhammad ibn] ‘Abd al-Wahhab, who came out of the Najd in revolt, and took over the sanctuaries of Makkah and Medinah. They followed the Hanbali madzhab, but believed that they were the Muslims, and that those who believed differently than they did were polytheists (mushrikin). On this basis, they held it lawful to kill Sunni Muslims (Ahl al-Sunnah) and their religious scholars, until Allāh Most High dispelled their forces, and the armies of the Muslims attacked their strongholds and subdued them in 1233 A.H. (Hashiya radd al-muhtar, 4.262).
The Shāfi‘ie mufti of Makkah, Ahmad ibn Zayni Dahlan (d. 1304/1886), a historian as well as a scholar, recorded the story of the Wahhabis’ takeover of the holy places in a number of books, one of which, his two-volume history al-Futuhat al-Islamiyyah [The Islamic conquests], gives the following description of what became perhaps their most famous, and certainly their most lethal ijtihad; namely, that the sunnah of tawassul or ‘supplicating Allāh through an intermediary’ was shirik:
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab claimed that his aim in this school of thought he innovated was to make sincere the belief in Allāh ’s unity (tawhid), and to abjure worshipping false gods (shirik), and that Muslims had been worshipping false gods for six hundred years, and that he had revived their religion for them. He interpreted Qur’ānic verses revealed about worshippers of false gods (mushrikin) as referring to those who worship Allāh alone, such as the word of Allāh Most High,
"And who is further astray than he who supplicates apart from Allāh someone who will not answer him until Resurrection Day, while they are oblivious to their supplication"( Al-Jathiyyah, 46:5),
And His word,
"Do not supplicate besides Allāh what will not benefit or harm you" (Yunus,10:106).
There are many such verses in the Qur’ān, so Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab said that whoever seeks the help of the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) or others, of the prophets, the friends of Allāh (awliya’), or the righteous; or calls on him or asks him to intercede—was like such worshippers of false gods, and was referred to by the generality of such verses. He believed the same thing about visiting the tomb of the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) and all others of the prophets, friends of Allāh, or the righteous. He said about the word of Allāh Most High, who quotes the idolators about worshipping their idols:
"We only worship them that they may bring us the nearer to Allāh " (Az-Zumar, 39:3)
that people who pray to Allāh by means of an intermediary (tawassul) are like these worshippers of false gods who said, "We only worship them that they may bring us the nearer to Allāh." He said that the worshippers of false gods didn’t believe their idols created anything, but rather that the Creator was Allāh Most High, as shown by Allāh’s word
"And if you ask them who created them, they will say, ‘Allāh ’" (Al-Zukhruf, 43:87),
"And if you ask them who created the heavens and earth, they will say, ‘Allāh ’" (Luqman, 31:25),
Such that Allāh did not judge them to have committed unbelief and worshipping false gods except for their saying, "that they may bring us all the nearer to Allāh," and in consequence, these people [Muslims who make tawassul] are like them.
And this is simply wrong, for Muslim believers do not take the prophets (upon whom be peace) or the friends of Allāh as gods or make them co-partners (shuraka’) with Allāh , but rather, they believe that they are created slaves of Allāh and do not deserve any worship.
As for the worshippers of false gods whom these Qur’ānic verses were revealed about, they believed that their idols were gods, and reverenced them with the reverence of godhood, even if they acknowledged that they did not create anything—while believers do not hold that the prophets or awliya’ deserve worship or godhood, and do not reverence them with the reverence due solely to the Divine. Instead, they believe that they are the servants of Allāh, and His beloved ones, whom He has elected and chosen, and through His blessings to them (barakah), He shows mercy towards His slaves. Their intention in seeking blessings through them is the mercy of Allāh Most High, and much attests to the validity of this in the Qur’ān and Sunnah.
The creed of the Muslims is that the Creator—He Who Afflicts, He Who Benefits, He who deserves worship—is Allāh alone. They do not believe that anyone else has any effect whatsoever; and they believe that the prophets and awliya’ do not create anything, do not possess any ability to benefit or harm, but merely that through Allāh ’s grace to them (barakah), He shows mercy towards created servants.
It was the belief of the worshippers of false gods that their idols deserved worship and godhood that made them guilty of associating co-partners with Allāh (shirik), not merely their saying, "We only worship them that they may bring us the nearer to Allāh ." For it was only when it was proved to them that their idols did not deserve to be worshipped—as they believed they did—that they said by way of excuse, "We only worship them that they may bring us nearer to Allāh ."
So how should Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and his followers consider believers who acknowledge the unity of tawhid to be comparable to those worshippers of false gods who believed in the godhood of their idols? For all the above-mentioned verses and those like them specifically refer to non-Muslims and worshippers of false gods, while not a single believer enters into them.
Bukhari relates from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (Radiallūhu`anhum) who related from the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) that in [foretelling the] description of the Kharijites, he said that they would "proceed to Qur’ānic verses revealed about non-Muslims, and interpret them as if they referred to believers."
And in another hadith, also from Ibn ‘Umar, the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) said, "The thing I fear most for my Ummah is a man who interprets the Qur’ān taking it out of its context"; both of these hadiths being applicable to this sect.
If believers’ praying to Allāh through an intermediary (tawassul) and the like were worshipping false gods, it wouldn’t have been done first by the Prophet himself (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) his Companions, and the Muslim Ummah, from first to last (Dahlan, al-Futuhat al-Islamiyyah [Cairo: al-Maktaba al-Tijariyya al-Kubra, 1354/1935], 2.258–59).
This passage shows us why the Wahhabis’ were considered like Kharijites, men who, as al-Haskafi notes above, revolted against the imām "because of a mistaken scriptural interpretation (ta’wil)," believing that he was "upon a falsehood of unbelief (kufur) or disobedience to Allāh (ma‘siya) that necessitates their fighting him."
The main difficulty with their theory that tawassul amounted to worshipping false gods was the fact that it was taught to the Ummah by the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam)—something you have asked about and will be discussed in question (9) below—which was perhaps why no one in the previous eleven centuries of Islamic scholarship before Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab had ever noticed that it was unbelief
In this respect, it is fortunate that Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab didn’t get his hands on his own Imām, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who enjoined his most outstanding student, Abu Bakar Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Marrudhi (d. 275/888) to make tawassul through the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam). Al-Marrudhi relates the tawassul of the hadith of the Companion (Sahābi) ‘Uthman ibn Hunayf containing the words, "O Allāh , verily, I turn to You through Your prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam); O Muhammad, verily I turn through you to my Lord, that He may fulfill my need [emphasis the translator’s]"—which al-Marrudhi relates from Ahmad ibn Hanbal in the "Chapter on Supplications" of his Kitab al-mansak [Book of Hajj and ‘Umrah]. This is mentioned by Ibn Taymiyah (Qa‘ida jalila fi al-tawassul wa al-wasila [N.d. Reprint. Beirut: al-Maktaba al-‘Ilmiyyah, n.d.], 98), whom I tend to believe on it, since it is something whose sunnah character he tries to disprove his Imām about, though without conceiving it to be idolatry (shirik) or unbelief (kufur), as the Wahhabis did more than four centuries later.
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab is gone today, together with the fatwas he gave that resulted in the attacks on Makkah, Ta’if, and Medinah beginning in 1205/1790 by "reformers" who believed that the lives, women, and money of ordinary Sunni Muslims who did not feel that tawassul was shirik could be lawfully taken by those who did. There are no more Wahhabis in this sense. As King Fahd (who, on the whole, has had a positive, moderating influence) said a few years ago in a speech, "We are not Wahhabis, we are Hanbalis."
Yet if the "revolt" (in al-Haskafi’s words) is gone, the "mistaken scriptural interpretation" remains; and its intellectual influence is still strong on all aspects of the religious establishment in Saudi Arabia. Many of the questions you have asked deal specifically with ideas aggressively packaged and exported to other Muslim countries under the aegis of Ibn Bāz, and given currency by the support of Sheikh Nasir and his followers.
These are revisions to traditional Islam, and if many ordinary Muslims have forgotten this, it is due to the extent to which they have succeeded, abetted by heavy subsidizing and the present lack of traditional scholars (‘ulama’) to teach Muslims the truth. Yet one cannot but feel they mark a transient phase, for Allāh has promised to protect the din, and if the rebuttals of classical scholars were heard, these innovations would melt away. In the meantime, "reforms" have been slated for all three pillars of the din, Islam (Shari‘ah), Iman (‘Aqidah), and Ihsan (Tariqat), and can perhaps be best summarized under these headings:
(1) Islām (Sharī‘ah): To their credit, the movement we are speaking of has revived interest in hadīth among Islamic scholars across the board. But the emphasis on hadīth and its ancillary disciplines to the exclusion of other Islamic sciences equally essential to understanding the revelation, such as fiqh methodology, or the conditioning of hadith by general principles expressed in the Qur’ān, has created the false dichotomy in many Muslims’ minds of either fiqh or hadith. And this is an intellectual bid‘ah of the most ominous sort for Islām, which has never accepted ijtihad from non-mujtahids, or anything short of the fiqh (literally "understanding subtle points") of hadīth.
One sad outcome of dichotomizing fiqh and hadīth is the revival of Dhahiri thought we have talked about above, with its "fallacy of misplaced literalism" in interpreting primary scriptural texts. Such literalism necessarily forces itself upon someone trained in hadīth alone (like Sheikh Nasir) if he tries to deduce Shari‘ah rulings without mastery of the interpretive tools needed to meet the challenges that face the mujtahid, for example, in joining between a number of hadīths on a particular question that seem to conflict, or the many other intellectual problems involved in doing ijtihad. This strident Dhahirism—especially among Sheikh Nasir’s followers—has made some contemporary Muslims seriously believe that it is a matter of either following "the Qur’ān and sunnah," or one of the schools of the mujtahid Imams
Now, the big lie has only gained credibility today because so few Muslims understand what ijtihad is or how it is done. I believe this can be cured by familiarizing Muslims with concrete examples of how mujtahid Imāms derive particular Sharī‘ah rulings from the Qur’ān and hadith, examples which first, demonstrate the breadth of their hadith knowledge (Muhammad ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn al-Munadi (d. 272/886) relates that Ahmad ibn Hanbal said that having memorized three hundred thousand hadiths was not enough to be a mujtahid), and second, demonstrate their mastery of the deductive principles that enable one to join between all the primary texts. Until this is done, the advocates of this movement will probably continue to follow the ijtihad of non-mujtahids (the sheikhs who inspire their confidence), under the catch phrase “Qur’ān and Sunnah" just as if the real mujtahids were unfamiliar with the obligation of following these. The followers perhaps cannot be blamed, since "for someone who has never travelled, his mother is the only cook." But I do blame the sheikhs who, whatever their motivations write and speak as if they were the only cooks.
(2) Iman (‘Aqidah): The uncritical acceptance and subsidizing of Ibn Taymiyah’s and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s opinions in ‘aqidah has had a number of results
One is that Ibn Taymiyah’s denial of all figurative expression (majaz) in the Qur’ān , what we have called above "misplaced literalism," has caused the anthropomorphism it brings to most minds to spread to the horizons, under the slogan of a "return to the ‘aqidah of early Muslims," which, as explained above, it most certainly is not
In this connection, I was recently speaking with Mawlana ‘Abdullah Kakakhail, a scholar of Islamic belief (usul al-din) from Islamabad, who told me that he graduated from the Islamic University in Medinah in 1966, and shortly afterwards, on the verge of returning home, had been summoned to the office of the vice-rector of the university, who expressed his disappointment that the student had not benefited more from his studies in Islamic faith (‘aqidah). The vice-rector said he knew ‘Abdullah was returning to Pakistan with the same tenets of faith he had had when he came. They got to talking about the mutashabihat or ‘unapparent in meaning’ Qur’ānic verses and hadiths, and the discussion turned to Allāh’s ‘hand’ (Al-Fath, 48:10). "You say," the young man told the vice-rector, "That ‘the hand is known, but the how of it is unknown.’ What does the unknownness of this how mean?" The vice-rector said, "It means we do not know whether the hand is black or white, or whether it is long or short." The vice-rector’s name was Ibn Bāz, and this was what was being offered at the time as the da‘wah or ‘invitation’—apparently to the faith (‘aqidah) that inspired the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Secondly, the yawning gulf between this kind of anthropomorphism and the entire previous Qur’ān tafsir literature has necessitated the explanation that someone (namely, the Ash‘ari school) has crept in upon the Ummah and altered the "‘aqidah of the early Muslims" that is alleged to have been there before (but now cannot be found). This has in turn divided the field of ‘aqidah into two camps, pro- and anti-Ash‘ari, whereas for the previous thousand years, Sunni Muslims agreed upon the orthodoxy of the Ash‘ari and Maturidi schools. Why was something fixed that was not broken?
Indeed, when a wealthy trader from Jeddah brought to life the long-dead ‘aqidah of Ibn Taymiyah at the beginning of this century by financing the printing in Egypt of Ibn Taymiyah’s Minhaj al-sunna al-nabawiyya and other works, the Mufti of Egypt Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti‘i, faced with new questions about the validity of anthropomorphism, wrote: "It was a fitnah (strife) that was sleeping; may Allāh curse him who awakened it."
But perhaps the most ill-starred ‘aqidah legacy of the historical Wahhabi movement is something now practiced from the Najd to the Indian Subcontinent, to the East and the West; namely, the ease with which Muslims call each other "unbelievers." Whether it is over a fiqh question like tawassul, or an ‘aqidah question like the above, this is precisely the sectarianism which Allāh forbids in the Qur’ān with the words,
"And do not be like those who separated into factions and differed between themselves" (Al-‘Imran, 3:105),
Sectarianism of this sort is something that did not exist in traditional Sunni Islam for the previous thousand years, but rather represents a break with that tradition. Whether we justify it in the name of an ‘Islāmic reform,’ or a ‘return to early Islam,’ sectarianism is and remains the kind of bid‘ah of misguidance of which the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) said in the hadith of Muslim,
"Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours that is not from it shall have it rejected" (Muslim 3.1343).
(3) Ihsan (Tariqah): The third of the re-forms, and among the most aggressively pursued today is an attempt to finish tasawwuf or ‘Sufism’ as one of the Islamic sciences, though there is no doubt that it has been considered as such by virtually all classical scholars since the religious sciences were first recorded. Our times have seen the printing and reprinting of works like ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi’s Talbis Iblis [The Devil’s deception] passages of which criticize "the Sufis" (meaning groups of them in his time) without mentioning that a great many of the biographies of his five-volume Sifa al-safwa [Description of the elect] are the very Sufis quoted in extenso in Qushayri’s classic work on Sufism al-Risalah al-Qushayriyyah.
Though Sufism exists for the good reason that the sunnah we have been commanded to follow is not just the words and outward actions of the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) but also his states, such as reliance on Allāh (tawakkal), sincerity (ikhlas), forbearance (hilm), patience (sabr), humility (tawadu‘), perpetual remembrance of Allāh , and so on. Many, many hadiths and Qur’ānic verses indicate the obligatory character of attaining these and hundreds of other states of the heart, such as the hadith related by Muslim that the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) said,
"No one will enter paradise who has a particle of arrogance in his heart" (Muslim, 1.93).
or the sahih hadith in the Sunan of Abu Dawud about the obligatoriness of having presence of heart in the prayer (salāt), that ‘Ammar ibn Yasir heard the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) say,
"Verily, a man leaves, and none of his prayer has been recorded for him except a tenth of it, a ninth of it, an eighth of it, a seventh of it, a sixth of it, a fifth of it, a fourth of it, a third of it, or a half of it" (Sunan Abi Dawud [N.d. Reprint. Istanbul: al-Maktaba al-Islamiyya, n.d.] 1.211).
Half a minute’s reflection should show each of us where we stand on these aspects of our din, and why in classical times, helping Muslims to attain these states was not left to amateurs, but rather delegated to ‘Ulama' of the heart, the scholars of Islamic Sufism
As in other Islamic sciences, mistakes historically did occur in Sufism, most of them stemming from not recognizing the Sharī‘ah and tenets of faith (‘aqidah) of Ahl al-Sunnah as being above every human being. But these mistakes were not different in principle from, for example, the Isra’iliyyat (baseless tales of Bani Isra’il) that crept into Qur’ānic exegesis (tafsir) literature, or the mawdu‘at (hadith forgeries) that crept into the body of prophetic hadith. These were not taken as proof that tafsir was bad, or hadith was deviance, but rather, in each discipline, the errors were identified and warned against by the Imāms of the field, because the Ummah needed the rest. And such corrections are precisely what we find in books like Qushayri’s Risalah, Ghazali’s Ihya’ and other works of Sufism.
In contrast, the re-formers of our times have hit upon the expedient of creating doubts of there being any genuine Islāmic science to attain spiritual sincerity in a systematic and knowledge-based way. But perhaps today they are beginning to realize that if one ends all spiritual aspiration, one will only produce numbers of aggressive Muslims with no other means of feeling more religious than by arguing to prove their fellow Muslims are less so—an unenviable condition described in the hadith of the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam),
"No people went astray after guidance, except that they were afflicted with arguing."
To summarize, the movement to re-form our din attacks the scholarly authority that has traditionally been the support of its three pillars: in Islām, by turning Muslim’s hearts against the madzhabs that are our Sharīah; in Iman, by presenting Ibn Taymiyah’s anthropomorphism as the ‘way of the early Muslims’; and in Ihsan, by trying to close the door of traditional Islamic spirituality once and for all.
Sheikh Nasir and Ibn Bāz are among the main luminaries of the movement, and the latter’s whole career shows an emphasis on these reforms, from the publications printed under his auspices and distributed across the globe, to the funding of Wahhabi University graduates to return from Medinah to their homelands to disseminate the teachings of sect, tirelessly retelling of how few Muslims scholars over the last fourteen hundred years have truly understood Islām as it was understood by the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) and themselves.
So perhaps the best answer to your question about the ijazahs of these two men is to ask in turn: What relevance to such re-formers should the traditional ijazah system have, when its function was to preserve intact the understanding of Islam by traditional scholars down through the centuries, an understanding they wish to change?
The Mas'ud Questions
Ibn Taymiyah and Ibn Kathir
Was Ibn Kathir's aqidah influenced by Ibn Taymiyah?
Was Ibn Kathir's aqidah influenced by Ibn Taymiyah?
Reforming Classical Texts
How widespread is tampering of texts by the Salafis.
How widespread is tampering of texts by the Salafis.
Do Ibn Baz and al-Albāni have Ijazahs?
[Via www.masud.co.uk: Nuh Ha Mim Keller on The Re-Formers of Islam Excerpts, The Mas'ud Questions series, 1995]