The Barelwi/Deobandi affair
Posted by Abd Al Mustafa on Thursday 15th November, 2007
….for a while now i hadn’t heard any discussions about this affair. And just when i thought that the sunnies were finally moving away from this issue by not repeating or commenting on the issue over and over again……..out popped a deo who started his usual rants (imam ahmad raza this, imam that etc etc), and then i received several emails cussing me and defending deo elders blah blah!!, and praising them in a way we never hear these brothers praise even our master sayyidina mustafa (s.a.w). I don’t really fancy typing up on this issue any further, so i have simply pasted a discussion between brother Rafiq Ahmed and a deo sympathizer, which i believe answers more or less the main objections for and against this debate.
Before starting, I would just like to thank our beloved, Shaykh Dr. GF Haddad for producing material on this topic so quickly. May Allah give him, me and all Muslims khayrât from the feet of our master, Tâjedâr-e-Kâ’inât Muhammad (Sallallâhu `alayhi wa âlihî wa sallam) – AMIN! I wrote the material below before Hajj Dr. Haddad’s posted his emails so some of it might be a repete.
Please do not reply to this unless you have got something useful to say.
There are various positions held by the Muslim `Ulamâ’ about certain individuals who held esteemed positions in the Dârul-`Ulûm in the village of Deoband, found a little over a hundred years ago. These differences are similar to those held by the `Ulamâ’ about other famous personalities:
A) Imam Ibn Taymiyya. From the time of Ibn Taymiyya (over 600 years ago!), Muslim `Ulama’ have differed about his status. The following are these views – I am only listing them with some of their strengths trying not to give any biases:
(i) That to call him Shaykhul-Islam is kufr! As far as I know, this was the isolated position held by `Alâ-ud-Dîn Bukhârî.
(ii) Some went as far as to say that he was a kâfir! These `Ulama’ exist till today and they justify their views not only on the words of early Imams, but DIRECTLY from the works of Ibn Taymiyya which have been published. Some also base this view on what was seen and heard by travellers, such as Ibn Batûta in his “Rihla” and others who encountered him. I don’t want to go into this, but you can see the verdicts and the reasons for them in Zâhid al-Kawthari’s “Maqâlât” and many works by other scholars. A lot of this is also available on the net. Today, Shaykh `Abdullâh al-Hararî, head of “Jâmi`a al-Khayriyya al-Islâmiyya” in Lebanon, among others also holds this view.
(iii) That he was an innovator. Many of the `Ulama’ I’ve met, even one or two you would be surprised at (like Dr. Mustafa Badawi), hold this view. It is easy to find this material from the works of Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalânî (r) in his “ad-Durar al-kâmina fi a`yân al-mi’at ath-thâmina” and Imam Ibn Hajar al-Makkî (r) in his “Fatâwâ al-Hadîthiyya” although from what the latter had written, he could well have held opinion (ii). Allâhu `Âlim.
(iv) & (v) That he was Shaykhul-Islâm. Some believe that what was ascribed to him was either falsely ascribed to him, or that his books were tampered or that he changed his opinions later in his life. Hadrat Yûsuf an-Nabhânî wrote against many of the positions of Ibn Taymiyya but at the same time refers to him as Shaykhul-Islam out of adab. Subhânallâh! That he was amongst the greatest of the scholars of his time (at the top) but who slipped was held by Sayyidina Tahir `Alâ-ud-Din Gilânî (r). Prof. Tahir-ul-Qadri also held his shaykhs view and stated that out of grief from other scholars, he strayed to some of the corrupt opinions they accused him of but before the end of his life, Ibn Taymiyya returned to his earlier positions while in prison. Ibn Hajar `Asqalânî in the above mentioned book produces an opinion like this too, i.e. of Ibn Taymiyya’s repentance in the presence of others. I feel most comfortable with this but this doesn’t mean that I dismiss any of the others. When Dr. Mustafâ Badawî (translator of many of the Bâ `Alawî works) saw a picture of Sayyidina Tahir `Ala-ud-Din Gilani (r), I personally heard him say, “You can just tell from his face that he is a Wali-Allah!”
(vi) Some of today’s scholars use him to justify beliefs that promote anthropomorphism, anti-madhhabism and views encouraging people to generalise and say that most Muslims are committing kufr, shirk and bid`a. This is a popular position of some of the Salafi schools and some of those influenced by them in the Sub-Continent.
B) There was the case of Shaykh Sâdî Shirâzî (r). Hadrat Amîr Khushrû (r) used to consider him to be a zindîq! That was until he had a dream, which he told to his shaykh. From the interpretation of the dream by his shaykh, he changed his opinion and started
considering Shaykh Sâdî to be among the most greatest of the servants of Allah on the earth.
C) There is a similar case with Shaykhul-Akbar Muhyuddîn ibn al-`Arabî (r). Sultânul-`Ulamâ’ Izzuddin ibn `Abdus-Salâm (r) used to consider him a zindîq sometimes. However, in later statements from him, he stated that Ibn `Arabî was the qutb of the times. These various sayings of Ibn `Abdus-Salâm have been collated by Ibn `Âbidîn.
This same line of understanding can be found with the `Ulama’ of Deoband, viz. the following views:
(i) That some of them committed kufr.
Ala Hadrat Mawlana Shah Ahmad Ridâ [or: Radâ] Khan Bareylwi [d.1340H] (r) was not the originator of refutations of the Deobandis. Many had written against the `Ulama’ of Deoband prior to him, such as:
- Mawlânâ Fadl al-Haqq Khayrabâdî (r), in his work “Tahqîqul-Fatâwâ”
- Hadrat Fadl al-Rasûl Badayûnî (r) in his “Sayful-Jabbâr” and others.
In fact, Ala Hadrat (r) had not yet been born when these were written. This view exists up to today and those who hold it base this verdict not only on the words of the early Imam’s, but DIRECTLY from the works that have been published. I don’t really want to include the statements that were said to have disbelief in them.
What is often not mentioned is that letters were also exchanged between Mawlânâ Ahmad Ridâ and the parties involved, asking for clarifications, explanations and finally repentance.
Mawlânâ Ahmad Ridâ Khan’s original fatwa is present in his work, “al-Mu`tamad al-Mustanad” which is a commentary of Mawlana Shâh Fadl ar-Rasul Badayuni’s, “al-Mu`taqad al-Muntaqad (Matbû’a: Lahore, 1853/1270).” It is in this work that Ala Hadrat had the stamps of approval from 33 Hijâzî `Ulama’ for his fatwa of kufr on four of the `Ulama’ of Deoband. Mawlânâ Hashmat `Alî Khân (r), added the names of 268 [!!] more `Ulama’ verifying the fatwa from the Sub-Continent in a separate work entitled, “as-Sawârim al-Hindiyya (Matbû’a: Muradabad, 1926/1345).” This was collectively compiled together in the work, “Husâm al-Haramayn” holding the endorsements of 301 `Ulama’ and Masha’ikh from the Arab world and Sub-Continent! Surprisingly, it also includes the ratification of Ahmad Ridâ’s fatwa by the shaykh in tasawwuf of those takfîr was made upon, Hâjî Imdâdullâh Muhâjir Makkî [d. 1317H] (r). Mawlana Ahmad Ridâ himself actually wrote some 200 books against the Deobandis alone and also constantly invited them to debate according to his own words in his “ad-Dawlatul-Makkiyya (Matbû’a: Karachi, 1955/1374),” p. 169.
(ii) The opinion of silence on this issue.
Over a decade after the passing away of Mawlana Ahmad Ridâ Khan, Mawlana Khalîl Ahmad AmbetHwî wrote the work “al-Muhannad alal-Mufannad” as a clarification of the beliefs of the `Ulama’ of Deoband. Abu Anas and Karim Abdullah will be glad to know that I have seen translated portions of this in English. It can be seen that this work rejects what was ascribed to them in “Husâm al-Haramayn.” In my personal opinion, if someone says that they don’t believe in something, then out of holding a good opinion of a Muslim and for the sake of unity, no one has the right to accuse them of believing in it. So, if they (the Deobandis) say that they don’t believe [any longer?] in those vulgar texts that were used against them, then fair enough they don’t, lets finish it there.
However, the reply that is often given to this is:
“What do you make of the statements in the books of these scholars?”
“If you disagree with these statements, then what is your opinion of those scholars who wrote them?” and of course there is no way to reply to these questions. This was one of the arguments used by the great scholar, `Allâma Na`îmud-dîn Murâdabâdî [d. 1367H] (r) who wrote an immediate reply to Khalîl Ahmad AmbêtHwî’s “al- Muhannad `alal-Mufannad” entitled, “at-Tahqîqât lidaf`ut-Talbîsât (Lahore).” He also deals with disproving the accusations labelled by AmbetHwi Sahib against Ala Hadrat in there.
In addition to this, Anjumân Irshadul-Muslimîn and Anjumân Siyânatul-Muslimîn are two darul-`ulums which opened not so long ago in Lahore, Pakistan. They have started re-writing books such as “Hifzul-Îmân” of Mawlana Ashraf `Ali Thanwi and “Taqwiyatul-Îmân” of Isma’il Dehlwi and some other books and have re-phrased those statements which were said to be of kufr. Hence, they no longer sound like kufr statements and can be interpreted to mean something else. So the arguments may sway between: “see we don’t believe such a thing and you distorted our words” to “you changed the text in order to defend the credibility’s of the authors.”
After seeing these arguments, it can easily be realised that they can continue forever. Nowadays however, a lot of the debates seem to be politics rather than any real research.
An important note is that the great Walî Allah, Hadrat Pîr Sayyad Mehr `Alî Shâh Gôlrawî [d. 1356H] (r) was actually shown the letters that were exchanged between Mawlana Ahmad Ridâ and Rashîd Ahmad Gangôhî etc. but still held the opinion of silence. His work, “Mehr-e-Munîr” which has recently been translated into English, does deal with refuting certain opinions of the Deobandi School thought.
My two conclusions:
- the statements which Mawlana Ahmad Ridâ Khan saw in the books of the four Deobandi scholars certainly were (and are) in there and could not be interpreted in any other way. He also wrote letters asking for clarifications and repentance. Finally, as a last resort, he decreed his fatwa of kufr on them. I believe whatever the reality of the situation; Mawlana Ahmad Ridâ is exonerated of causing any fitna, since he based his view on clear proofs, like those who came before him. Many of those who endorsed his fatwa of kufr read his works and those of the accused `Ulama’ of Deoband before signing an approval. Hence, he should not be the target of ill words and tempers. He was the Imam of the Ahlus-Sunnah and [one of] the mujaddid[s] of the fourteenth century.
- the “Deobandis” have rejected the majority of the statements ascribed to them and have even changed the texts of some of the original books to show this. It may seem dishonest to tamper with texts but if they insist that they don’t believe in those things, we should trust them and understand it means they don’t and call it quits. If they have been unfaithful and have been lying all this time, it is between them and Allah. The fatwa that was pronounced was not on furû`î issues, which are usually discussed (often without adab) in books and now over the net, but on `usûlî issues which are the fundamental requirements of a Muslims faith.
These issues are not usually what is discussed over the net nowadays, but the hostilities are as though they are `usûlî issues. Why? The Deobandi brothers should stop cursing Imam Ahmad Ridâ Khan (r) since very few of them seem to have even read any of his works.