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Islam and Sectarianism ( 8 Aug 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Truth behind Deobandi-Barailavi Differences: The Sahaba-e-Karam too differed but never engaged in Takfir

The Truth behind Deobandi-Barailavi Differences

by Maulana Nadeemul Wajidee

Translated from Urdu by Raihan  Nezami,


Sectarian violence is a regular occurrence in Pakistan, but unfortunately, in recent times, it is being promoted in our country too. In a recent incident, the way the Deobandi and the Barailavi scholars and clerics have unearthed their disputes and demonstrated their verbal and muscular power is not only shameful; it is strongly condemnable. Every Muslim knows the mosques are for prayers only – its use for the settlement of disputes and differences is not only unfair and depressing, but it's a great sin towards Allah-e-Kareem. Indian Muslims are already facing numerous insurmountable problems and difficulties in their country which are boundlessly rising to the alarming level, such conflicts will further deteriorate the situation. 


Does it suit our Islamic scholars and the general people to quarrel over sectarian conflicts, which have been there for over 150 years? Pakistan is a different case as it is heading towards eventual destruction. In regard to the dispute over the mosque, I see no harm if the same is accepted and used by both the fighting factions. They should have gone one step further to find an amiable solution and handed over the management to the other sect and kept offering prayers one after another. Even they can reach a solution if they are wise enough to sit at a conference table with a positive frame of mind and compromising attitude. Resorting to violence has never yielded a satisfactory result at any level, nor will it do so in future. Yet both groups are quarrelling powerfully with each other to give vent to their anger.  It's quite possible that there is a foreign hand behind the ruckus created by the ugly designs of the community with vested interest to ignite the conspiracy, which has been as old as the history of modern conflict.


The differences, in general, are not unavoidable. There may be differences over political, social or intellectual points of view.  These should be discussed and resolved amicably within certain limits. A difference over the points of view being transformed into a controversy has been prohibited by the Quran-e-Kareem in the following words.


"And fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart" (Surah Al-Anfal: 46)


On the other hand, such a difference in opinion is acceptable and reasonable, which may be honest and based on scholarly clarification with an aim to enrich knowledge and learning.  Difference of opinion has been cropping up in Islam since the beginning.  It had taken place among the Sahaba-e-Karam (May Allah be pleased with them) and the people thereafter, but it was never transformed into a controversy. It is a very dirty game which maligns the religious character of the Muslims by abusing or falsely blaming the other party with ugly intentions.

The Sahaba-e-Karam (May Allah be pleased with them) too, had different points of view, but they never resorted to violence or tried to tarnish other's image by passing out derogatory remarks, or by issuing "Fatawahs" of "Kufr", "Fasque", or "Fajra". Even the intellectual Islamic reasoning became the basis of the differences in Fiqah which later on, became instrumental in forming the four different schools of Islamic thought and learning, numerous Fuqaha-e-Karam related to these schools of Fiqah differ over certain points, but they never used derogatory remarks, insulted others or delivered "Fatawahs" excluding others from Islam. The differences may occur even among the scholars of the same school of thought. Imam Muhammad (ra) and Imam Abu Yusuf (ra), the favorite followers of Hazrat Imam-e-Azam Abu Haneefa (ra), occasionally differed with him, or on certain points, confronted each other but, not in a scornful manner but rather with full respect and regard. Neither the teacher showed any disrespect nor they had any loathing for one another.


The rivalry between Allamah Sakhavi (ra) and Allamah Jalaluddin Seyuti (ra) is famous in the intellectual history. They had often commented on each other a lot in their respective writings, the differences are even found between a religious scholar and a learned person like Sufi Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (ra) and Allamah Ibn Aljouzee who was a renowned writer, muhaddith and reformer. In the same way, Nawab Siddique Hassan Khan Qannouji (ra) and Maulana Abdul Hai Firangi Mahli (ra) too, were involved in scholarly debate without any scornful remarks and insulting expression. All the above mentioned negative elements are prevalent in the differences between Deobandi and the Barailvi scholars only who have diminished their scholarly figure and taken this conflict to the limits of "Takfeer" (Disbelief).


Let's see! Who is responsible for this degradation to "Takfeer" (Disbelief) and "Tafseeque" (rebellion) - Deobandees or Barailvees which has taken the shape of differences among the Muslim community?


  Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan, the founder of the Barailvi school of thought was politically inclined towards the British rulers.  He had inherited this predilection. He heaped a lot of praise over them, and delivered "Fatawahs" for the prohibition of Jihad and opposed the Khilafat movement. He was the disciple of Maulana Fazal Rasool Badayuni and associated with Maulana Fazal Haque Khairabadi. Both the teacher and the pupil were strongly opposed to Shah Ismail Shaheed and the other Soofian-e-Karam of Delhi. Maulana Fazal Haque Khairabadi had gone to the extent of getting Shah Ismail Shaheed's speech banned from being delivered in the Jama Masjid of Delhi. Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan was the intellectual heir of the above-mentioned two Islamic scholars.


As far as the religious background is concerned, he belonged to a Shia family. His forefather Kazim Ali Khan had played a pivotal role in connivance with Shujauddaulah, the Shia Nawab of Awadh and the British to convince and assimilate the Ruhailkhand, the Sunni state of the time. Highly impressed with the Shia culture – an influence that was quite dominant in his writings too - he had many Shia scholars among his disciple too.


I have explained all the three aspects of the background to help readers understand the root cause of conflict between Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan and the clerics of Deoband.


It has been a historical truth concerning the scholars of Deoband who worked robustly to materialize the "Fatwa-e-Jihad" of Hazrat Shah Abdul Aziz. Their miraculous acts of bravery are spread over the volumes of history of Jihad in 1857, though in the end it proved to be futile. Later on, after the Darul Uloom was established, the scholars of Deoband again took the initiative for the sake of their country and underwent physical and mental tortures and atrocities in British prisons. Ultimately, the freedom struggle met its destination and succeeded in the mission. Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan who was the well-wisher of the British, didn't like the revolutionary deeds of the Deobandis.  The Deobandis had great affinity and regard for the families of Shah Abdul Aziz and other scholars whereas Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan opposed them vehemently due to being the disciple of Maulana Fazal Rasool Badayuni. The same has been the point of discord since then and has acted as a factor in creating further rift between the two sects.


Another reason for this discord is that Hazrat Shah Abdul Aziz had vehemently criticized the Shia community in his religious speeches as well as  through his erudition in books like "Tohfata Asna Ashrafiah" and "Asrarul Jaleel fi Mastaul Tafzeel" igniting the Shias to great fury. Later on, in continuation of the same, Hujjatul Islam Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi, the founder of Darul Uloom Deoband, penned " Bidayatul Shooja", Fayooz Qasmiya", "Intibahul Mumeneen" and "Ajooba Arbaeen", his fellow  Hazrat Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi authored the scholarly but controversial "Hidayatul Shia" which highly infuriated Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan. He delivered a "Fatwah" against Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi, "Qasmiya lanatahumullah is Maloon and Murtid  (rebellion)"(Fatwah Rizwiya – 59/5).

Later on, he gave another "Fatwah" on reading the books of Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi, "He should be thrown into Hell and the Hell Fire will burn him".

(Khalisul Aetaqad, Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Barailavi, Page-62)


These two factors added fuel to the fire which enraged Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan, the founder of the Barailavi school of thought to take the path of enmity, condemnation and denouncement. This kept increasing every passing day, till it took the form of promoting divisions within the Muslim community and getting Muslims declared Kafir (Tafreeq Bainul Muslemeen and Takfeerul Muslemeen) to the extent that he didn't even slightly waver from distorting or deforming anyone's writing. For instance, Tahzeerul Naas is a small magazine by Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi. It contains intellectual arguments on the issue of the final prophethood (Khatm-e-Nabooat) of the prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan deleted some portions of the content from the pages 14, 28 and 30 to recompile a distorted passage.  After this condemnable activity, he went to Makkah and Madina to get a "Fatwah" issued by the scholars of Hijaz. The new passage recompiled by him is given below.


"Even if it is assumed, there might be any other prophet in the reign of the prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), His status as the last prophet of Islam is intact, but even if it is assumed – that in the later age of His prophethood, any other prophet appears, there will be no effect on the status of the prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon Him).  In the view of common Muslims, the final prophethood of the prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) means that he is the last prophet among all those who have been sent to this world, but in the eyes of scholars it is clear that no particular significance attaches to a prophet coming before or after.

(Husamul Harmain, Page 101).


The last sentence of this passage, "In the view of common Muslims" is at page 30 in the original book, the first sentence is at page 14 and the middle sentence at the page 28. The way Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan has joined the three sentences into a single passage gives the impression that Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi is rejects the finality of prophethood. In the Arabic translation, he deleted the word "Bilzat" and included "Aslan" at its place which totally changed the meaning of the content. By deletion and addition in the writings of Deoband, he got "Fatwa-e-Kufr" from the scholars of Najad-o-Majaz against the Deobandi ulema and returned to India in high spirits. God knows if someone asked him or not – what benefits did he obtain from such "Fatawahs"? What service did he do to Islam by dividing the Muslims in two groups?


          On the other hand, the scholars of Deoband continued to seek to express their feelings. Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi asserted, "The culmination of the prophethood with Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is part of our belief and faith. But nothing can be done to stave off false criticism.     

(Jawabat Mahzoorat, page 29)


'There is no possibility of any other prophet after Rasoolullah (Peace be upon Him) is my faith and "Iman", I consider him a disbeliever who has a slight suspicion over it (Maktoobat Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi, Page 103). In a similar vein, Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan Sb Barailavi blamed Qolubul Arshad Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi – that according to him, "Allah-e-Kareem is a liar (Nauz Billah) This assertion is famous like "Imkan-e-Kizb" based on a fake and baseless "Fatawah" delivered by Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi, yet it is not proved till today, when and where was the concerned "Fatwah" delivered? Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan has referred to this baseless "Fatwah" in Husamul Harmain on page 102 and asserted that he himself had seen the "Fatawah", later on he mentioned on page 29 that a Photostat of the "Fatwah" is preserved in Madina. Unfortunately, no Barailavi cleric or scholar has so far presented even the photocopy of the "Fatawah", not to talk of the original document.


Hazrat Maulana Khaleel Ahmed Sahab and Hakeemul Ummat Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ashraf Ali Thanavi too, could not be spared from this hateful campaign of "Takfeer". The former was blamed that he considered Satan more learned  than the prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) and the latter, as it is alleged, faced the accusation that animals as learned as prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon Him).  Maulana Khaleel Ahmed responded to the accusation, "I and even my teachers consider the person "Kafir", "Murtid" and "Mal'oon" who assumes that any person or any creature is greater in knowledge than the prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), not to talk of the Satan. It means that Khan Sahab Barailavi's allegation is a pure lie and false assumption.  I never assumed as if any angel or "Wali", not to talk of a Satan, may be greater in learning than Him (Peace be upon Him), although he may be greater in education.  Of all the wrong charges that Khan Sahab has leveled on me I will seek justification from him on the Day of Judgment. I am absolutely not responsible for it".

(Fatawah Darul Uloom, Deoband – 38/2)


Hakeemul Ummat Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi got a magazine published in response to the "Fatwah-e-Takfeer" and made it the foreword of his book "Hifzul Eman", He wrote, "I have never penned such an ugly article in my book, and cannot think of writing such rubbish. I have never imagined such an ugly topic and seriously consider that the person should be excluded from Islam who possesses such Faith, or even without having Faith, says even by any means. My Faith as well as my forefathers' or the teachers' faith has been on his being the most exalted and excellent person among all kinds of creatures concerning all the branches of knowledge theoretically or practically. In short, after Allah-e-Kareem, the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) is the only eminent and erudite person on earth.

(Fatawah Darul Uloom, Deoband – 48-49/2)


Even after all the clarification given by the Deobandi clerics and scholars, the Barailavi community still insists that the Deobandi clerics have asserted the "Kufriya versions" so they are "Kafirs", although they are fully aware of the fact, the people who refute the blames of disbelieving should not be called "Kafir" or "Murtid". Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan and his followers have not targeted the above-mentioned few scholars, rather they have asserted the following "Fatawahs" too. "Wahabi", "Deobandi", "Qadiyani", "Chakralavi" and "Nichri" are unsanctioned and dead, though they may recite the name of Allah-e-Kareem a thousand times or they may be very pious or religious people, but they will remain Murtadeen". (Ahkam-e-Shareef, 122). It's binding on "Wahabiyah" to consider their each and every person "Kafir"; it means that "Dehlavi", "Gangohi", "Nanautavi" and "Thanavi" are certainly "Kafir" or "Murtid". (Al-Istamdad Ala Ajyalul Irtedad, Page-51)


Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Sb was obsessed with denunciation and delivering "Fatwah-e-Kufr", so that no famous scholarly, religious or political personality had been spared from being declared "Kafir" by him. Sir Syed, Hali, Allama Iqbal and Md Ali Jinnah etc. too, were declared "Kafir" because they were directly or indirectly associated with the clerics of Deoband with reference to "Tajanib ahlul Sunnah" and "Mehar Munir" etc.


In contrast, the Deobandi clerics take consider matters in a serious manner and never deliver a verdict of "Kufr" based on any minor passage ignoring the meaning and the sense of the speaker in which context it was spoken and the entire content as a whole; rather they consider them guilty who deal with any such sensitive matter as abruptly like this. For instance, a particular "Fatwah" of Darul Uloom concerning Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan and his followers is being given below. "To consider Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan and his pupils "Kafir" is not reasonable as there may be any defect in their statements. Earlier too, the Fuqaha-e-Islam have observed extreme caution in "Takfeer-e-Muslemeen" and are of the same opinion, if there are 99 elements of "Kufr" present in a person's writing and even one element of weak Islam, the Muftees should deliver the "Fatawahs " on the ground of the weak element – means he should be considered a Muslim.

(Fatawah Darul Uloom, Deoband – 54-55/2)


Now, good sense has started prevailing among the Barailavi clerics and scholars too. They have realized that the Mission-Kufriat was unimportant and rather, it has harmed them as well. The statement of Barailavi scholar further clarifies the point in a better way.

"The sensible intellectuals of the present time hesitate to tread over this sphere. It is generally believed now that Imam Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan used to declare the Muslims "Kafir" and he had established a Kufriat-producing factory in Bareilly.

(Al-Meezan monthly, Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan No.29)


The Barilavi scholars too, have admitted the truth that the Barailawiat remained confined to the circle of the illiterate people only due to such "Fatawahs" and explanations. 

(Al-Meezan monthly, Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan No.28-29, Fazil Barailvi and Tark-e-Mawalat, Page-5)

Tragically till today, the good Barailavi scholars are still busy in realizing their "Mission-Takfeer". The situation will certainly worsen if they openly declare the Deobandis "Kafir" and "Murtid" through their speech and writings. The need is to mind their own business forgetting the old 'Fatawahs" and assertions, only then an atmosphere of peace and harmony can be created but throughout the country. Presently the protection and the defence of Deen-e-Islam is of utmost significance which is being hampered by the differences and the rift created in the Ummat-e-Islamia and the Muslim community.

Have the Barailavi clerics ever pondered over the issue seriously from this viewpoint too? 

Translated from Urdu by Raihan  Nezami,


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