Courtesy from Muzzammil Husayn on sf:
Gibril Haddad wrote a review of Taqwiyat al-Iman based on its English translation some years ago (available here) which is full of hyperbole and misinformation as a result of his bias, dishonesty, ignorance and over-reliance on the translation. The following is a critical look at some parts of his review (Haddad’s comments are indented):
He offers no substantial evidence for this claim. Shah Isma‘il remained on the Naqshbandi path he pledged at the hands of Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi (1201-1246) – who was a spiritual disciple of and had received khilafah from Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Dihlawi – and he never left it. Shah Isma’il wrote on Islamic mysticism and Sufi metaphysics expanding on his grandfather’s writings in a work called al-‘Abaqat. ‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad al-‘Uthmani (d. 1949), considered the muhaqqiq al-‘asr (verifer of the age) by ‘Allamah al-Kawthari, wrote in his Fath al-Mulhim which the latter evaluated as the best commentary on Sahih Muslim, “We have not found an elaboration of the laws of tajalli (divine manifestation – in Sufi terminology) and a realisation of its essence in a manner the heart finds rest and by which the chest expands, in spite of an extreme search and intense investigation in the books of the Folk (i.e. Sufis), except what the magnificent ‘Allamah, the noble Gnostic, the incomparable [scholar] of his time and amongst his contemporaries, my master and my support, Muhammad Isma’il al-Shahid al-Dihlawi (Allah sanctify his soul) verified in his book al-‘Abaqat…” (Fath al-Mulhim 2:315) This is an illustration not only of his depth of knowledge in tasawwuf and its books, but his unique contributions to it. Shah Isma’il also co-authored with Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Burhanawi (d. 1243), another relation of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, al-Sirat al-Mustaqim which is primarily a work on tasawwuf.
If it is claimed he renounced tasawwuf in his later life – despite there being no evidence – this is easily disproved by a work Shah Isma’il wrote towards the end of his life called Mansab Imamat which is infused with Sufi teachings; for example, he dicusses the division of the Awliya into those who have general reformative tasks, amongst whom he includes Khidr, the Awtad, Abdal and Afrad, and those who have special tasks, like the Nujaba and Ruqaba (Urdu translation of Mansab Imamat p. 101 – available here). It is very farfetched to claim, therefore, on the basis of evidence, that he strayed from the Sufi path of his forefathers.
As for Sunnism, Shah Isma’il clearly defines Sunnism in his ‘Abaqat where he says there is legitimate group difference and illegitimate ones; in the latter he includes the differences between the Shi’ah and Sunnis and the differences between the Mu’tazila and Ash’aris; and in the former (legitimate group differences which he calls “the people of truth”) he includes the differences between the four Imams, Ash’aris and Maturidis, and the Imams of the different Sufi turuq (quoted here).
As for straying from the path of his forefathers, scholars have said, to the contrary, Shah Isma‘il trod firmly on the path of his grandfather. For example, Siddiq Hasan al-Qinnawaji (1248-1307) wrote: “His [Shah Wali Allah’s] grandson Mawlawi Muhammad Isma‘il the martyr, followed the footsteps of his grandfather in both word and deed, and he completed what his grandfather began.” (Nuzhat al-Khawatir) Some examples of his adherence to Shah Wali Allah, contrary to the opinions held by GF Haddad, are shown below. Even his liberal attitude to following madhhabs as highlighted in his books Tanwir al-‘Aynayn fi Ithbat Raf’ al-Yadayn and Tanqid al-Jawaz fi Jawaz Raf’ al-Yadayn fi al-Salah has echoes in Shah Wali Allah’s writings, though the Deobandis did not imitate them in this.
Haddad produces as evidence for the previous statement:
He falsely assumes here that according to al-Badayuni (not “Badaywani”) being the “chief Najdi” implies deviation from the way of his “illustrious forefathers” but Nuzhat al-Khawatir records in the biography of Fadl al-Rasul al-Badayuni that he attacked Shah Wali Allah too:
“[Fadl al-Rasul al-Badayuni] was a quarrelsome and argumentative jurist, extremely partial to his madhhab, always disputing with ‘ulama. [He was] the farthest of Allah’s creation from Sunnah, and a supporter of bid‘ah. [He was] a refuter of the people of truth with his falsehoods, a lover of the material world. He would anathematise Shaykh Isma‘il ibn ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Dihlawi, and he accused Shaykh Wali Allah al-Muhaddith of Nasibism and Kharijism. He attacked Shaykh Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Ahad al-Sirhindi the Imam of the Mujaddidi Order and said that they were misguided [themselves] and misguided [others].” (Nuzhat al-Khawatir 7:1065)
Faḍl-e-Rasūl Badāyūnī wrote in his Persian book Al-Bawāriq al-Muḥammadiyya bi Rajmi al-Shayātīn al-Najdiyya (The Muḥammadan Lightning in Striking The Najdī Satans): “The conclusion of everything that Shāh Walī Allāh has written shows that he is against the Ahl al-Sunnat wa al-Jamāʿat.” (source)
Perhaps Badayuni’s problem with Shah Isma‘il was not departing from the way of Shah Wali Allah, but following him too closely.
He offers no proof why he believes the latter two works “form the basis of Wahhabism” in India and he most probably has not read either of them. A scholar Gibril Haddad has high regard for because Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari considered him the imam al-‘asr, Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri, praised the work Idah al-Haqq al-Sarih for its academic worth in refuting innovations in his well-known Fayd al-Bari. Al-Kashmiri wrote: “Bid‘ah is what its founder invents with a good intention and it becomes mixed up with the Shari‘ah. Refer for this Idah al-Haq al-Sarih by Shah Isma‘il and Kitab al-I‘tisam by al-Shatibi.” (Fayd al-Bari 5:540)
Was ‘Allamah Kashmiri a propagator of Wahhabism? Al-Sirat al-Mustaqim is a work Shah Isma‘il co-authored with his fellow disciple, ‘Abd al-Hayy ibn Hibat Allah al-Siddiqi al-Burhanawi, about the spiritual teachings of Sayyid Ahmad ibn ‘Irfan al-Berelwi. Muhammad Hedayatullah wrote in his masters thesis from McGill University on the subject of al-Sirat al-Mustaqim, “throughout Sirat-i-Mustaqim Sayyid Ahmad deals with the matters relating to Sufism.” (Sayyid Ahmad: A study of the religious reform movement of Sayyid Ahmad of Rae Bareli, 1969, p. 11) It is ironic Haddad considers a work on tasawwuf to be a foundation of Wahhabism in India. The book was authored before the Hajj journey, and was translated by ‘Abd al-Hayy to Arabic while in the Hijaz.
The Tariqah Muhammadiyya of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid and Shah Isma‘il was amongst the first group of Muslims in India to employ printing to propagate their literature to the uneducated masses (a good book on this is Harlon O Pearson’s Islamic Reform and Revival in Nineteenth-Century India). While Taqwiyat al-Iman and al-Sirat al-Mustaqim are amongst the works that were published by this new printing press, they also printed some of the works of Shah Rafi‘ al-Din and Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir, who were from amongst the “illustrious” sons of Shah Wali Allah. These latter works can hardly be termed Wahhabi, yet they were propagated by Shah Isma‘il and the Muhammadiyyah.
Haddad then goes on to say:
His source for this and further statements is an internet article written against Deobandis. This is an example of his reliance on opponents to understand the beliefs of Shah Isma‘il, which is far from fair and balanced.
Mawlana Gangohi’s name is “Rashid Ahmad” not “Ahmad Rashid.” Their “satisfactory explanation” (as stated by Sayyid al-Barzanji in his endorsement of the Muhannad) of this position can be found in Shaykh Khalil Ahmad al-Saharanpuri’s answers on this issue in al-Muhannad, as translated here. Ibn al-Humam clearly attributed the view that it is a rational possibility for Allah but impossible contingently to the Ash‘aris and said this is an acceptable view which should not be condemned – for a full translation of this passage see here. Hence, there are clear precedents in the Kalam-writings for this view, that Allah has power over falsehood in the verbalised speech (kalam lafzi), though its occurrence is impossible. This is enough to pass off the claim that this is heretical or even disbelief.
Mulla Baghdadi retracted his original statements against Shah Isma‘il after he learnt the truth of the matter. See here. And Fadl Haqq Khayrabadi’s disagreements with Shah Ismail were of an academic nature, not a sectarian one, which is why upon his death, al-Khayrabadi praised him and lamented his death.
The quotes that Gibril Haddad produced from Kalam works to prove the Deobandi view is heresy can easily be understood to be referring to the impossibility of falsehood in the eternal personal speech (kalam nafsi). Furthermore, his following quote reveals the complexity of the matter and his deception:
Haddad did not quote the passage in full for the good reason that al-Iji rejects this argument as a Mu‘tazili one, not an Ash‘ari one. There is no need to elaborate, but this should be sufficient to realise the matter is more complicated than picking out a few selective (and in the latter case, decontextualised and deceptive) quotes from some books, which Haddad often does. It should be enough that Ibn al-Humam considered this disagreement a “semantic dispute” and said it is not permitted to condemn the view he attributes to the Ash‘aris.
The above shows Gibril Haddad has not come across or read al-Sirat al-Mustaqim, nor has he read Shah Ismai‘il’s biography from the standard reference source for biographies of Indian ‘ulama Nuzhat al-Khawatir, where it clearly states: “From his writings is the book al-Sirat al-Mustaqim in Persian in which he gathered what is authentic from his spiritual master, the sayyid and the Imam [i.e. Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi], of word and deed, and in it are two chapters from the writing of his fellow [disciple] Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hayy ibn Hibat Allah al-Siddiqi al-Burhanawi.” The book was supervised by Sayyid Ahmad and he was its subject matter but it was not co-authored by him.
Deobandi fatwa website Askimam explains this statement Haddad refers to as follows: That which was written is ‘Sarfe Himmat’. This is terminology used by the Sufis in Tasawwuf. ‘Sarfe Himmat’ in Tasawwuf means that a person’s meditation over a thing becomes so overpowering and predominant that no other thoughts penetrate into the mind and soul. Like a mirror, if a person does not want any person’s reflection to come into it, he covers it with a black cloth and thus no reflection will appear. To contemplate over a figure so that no other thing is contemplated is called ‘Sarfe Himmat’. This has been forbidden in Salaat, that besides Allah, ‘Sarfe Himmat’ should not be done towards anyone. Salaat should purely and solely be for Allah alone. If ‘Sarfe Himmat’ is done towards Rasulullah (Sallallaahu ‘alayhi Wasallam), then the entire Salaat and Ibaadat will be for him. On the other hand, if any thoughts of cows, donkeys, business, etc. come to mind, or a person gets drowned in these thoughts whilst in Salaat, although it is regrettable, there is no fear of them being worshipped.
This is merely an assertion without proof. Harlan O. Pearson an academic researcher on Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi’s movement (called Tariqah Muhammadiyyah) wrote while discussing Shah Isma‘il and the Tariqah Muhammadiyyah’s pilgrimage: “The Indian Muhammadi [i.e. the movement of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid and Shah Isma’il] had no apparent connection with the Arabian Wahhabi movement. By performing the pilgrimage, they were performing a basic religious duty in preparation for their later activities.” (Islamic Reform and Revival in Nineteenth Century India, Yoda Press,2008, p. 39) Muhammad Hedayatullah wrote in his thesis on Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi: “his [Sayyid Ahmad’s] relation with the Arabian Wahbabs is not historically proved.” (p. 26)
Shah Isma‘il’s education was nothing more than what he received from his uncles (Shah Rafi‘ al-Din, Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir and Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz) and the spiritual knowledge of Sayyid Ahmad. There are also clear differences between Shah Isma‘il’s views and the views of the Wahhabis: He, for instance, refers to the Ash‘aris and Maturidis as “people of truth” whereas Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab clearly attacks the Ash’aris in his Kitab al-Tawhid; he allows tawassul through the awliya and prophets in Taqwiyat al-Iman itself; and he has discussions on the typology of awliya – see here.
Furthermore, Shah Isma‘il began preaching the importance of tawhid and against the polytheistic practices of his time before his journey to Makkah in 1821. Mir Shahamat Ali wrote in his 1852 biography of Shah Isma‘il that he began preaching before 1819 in “the grand mosque at Delhi, sermons in favour of the unity of God and against idolatry.” (quoted in Pearson, p. 102) In terms of simple chronology, therefore, Haddad’s attempt to link Shah Isma‘il to the Arabian Wahhabis, fails. Also, al-Sirat al-Mustaqim which is supposedly one of the foundational books of the Wahhabi movement in India was published in 1818 several years before the Hajj journey – i.e. before even the remotest contact with the real Wahhabis – and was later translated to Arabic. And it is not certain when the Taqwiyat al-Iman was written, whether before the Hajj journey or after, but it is clear Shah Isma‘il was preaching the message that is contained in that book before the pilgrimage in the very mosque Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz preached and while the latter was alive. It is more probable, therefore, that Shah Isma’il received his understanding of what ills in the Indian Muslim community at that time needed addressing from his uncles and grandfather, not a foreign school of thought.
Haddad then wrote
He provides no evidence for Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz’s opposition, and it is unlikely that this ever happened as he allowed Shah Isma’il to preach his message in the same grand mosque of Delhi in which he preached, and if Taqwiyat al-Iman was authored after the Hajj journey, Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz would probably not have come across it as he died in this period. This is even more obvious with Shah Rafi‘ al-Din as he passed away in 1233 H/1818 AD before Taqwiyat al-Iman was even written! Moreover, the latter’s works were some of the first books printed by the Muhammadi Tariqah under Shah Isma‘il’s guidance, like his Qiyamat Namah (describing the end-times and afterlife) and his Tanbih al-Ghafilin – which were printed in the 1820s (Pearson, 60-1).
Haddad then begins to list what he believes are “aberrations” in the book:
Shah Isma‘il says shirk is “widespread” (in the English translation, and in the Arabic translation of Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi it uses the word sha‘a – Mu’assasat al-Sahafah wa al-Nashr, Lucknow, pp. 25, 113). The earlier (and arguably better) English translation of Taqwiyat al-Iman by Mir Shahamat Ali (in 1852 – available here) uses the word “prevalent” (p. 319).
Contrary to Haddad’s claim, this isn’t a notion Shah Isma’il conjured up out of thin air. Under the commentary of the hadith, “Allah curse the Jews and the Christians, they took the graves of their Prophets as places of prostration,” Sharf al-Din al-Husayn ibn Muhammad al-Tibi (d. 743 H), the earliest commentator of Mishkat al-Masabih, wrote: “The reason for cursing them is either because they would prostrate to the graves of their Prophets out of reverence (ta‘ziman) for them and this is manifest shirk (shirk jali), or because they adopted prayers to Allah Almighty in the burial grounds of the Prophets and prostrated on their graves and turned to their graves while praying, considering this to be worship of Allah while trying to respect the Prophets, and this is hidden shirk (shirk khafi), because it incorporates that which returns to reverence of creation with that which is not permissible.” (quoted in Mirqat al-Mafatih, 2:389).
Many Muslims today prostrate towards graves and according to the scholars, therefore, this is manifest shirk. See also here, where Mawlana Zafar ‘Uthmani establishes that prostration to other than Allah is shirk as the act of prostration has been specified for Allah.
Moreoever, Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi quotes Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Dihlawi, the son of Shah Wali Allah and uncle of Shah Isma‘il, in his footnotes to the translation of Taqwiyat al-Iman: “People from this ummah have gone overboard in the matter of seeking help (isitghathah) from the pure souls. Thus, that which the ignorant and the commoners do and what they believe with respect to them of independence in every action, it is without doubt manifest shirk (shirk jali).” (Majmu‘ Fatawa al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, p. 121) (Risalat al-Tawhid, Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi, Mu’assassat al-Sahafati wa al-Nashr, Lucknow, 1974, pp. 67)
The statement that shirk is widespread amongst common Muslims is therefore not in opposition to traditional scholarship (see also Mujaddid Alf Thani’s comment below where he makes the same assessment).
Shah Wali Allah made similar judgements to that of Shah Isma‘il, and this is an example of the latter following the former. Shah Wali Allah said: “One of the greatest diseases in our age is their worship of their shuyukh when [they are] alive or [worship] of their graves when [they are] dead. The ignorant [Muslims] imitate the disbelievers of India [i.e. Hindus] in worshipping their idols” (al-Tafhimat al-Ilahiyyah 2:64) He said: “Look at the superstitious distorters of this age, especially those of them who reside in the borders of the Abode of Islam [i.e. India], what their conceptions of “sainthood” (wilayah) are; for, despite recognising the sainthood of the early saints, they believe the existence of saints in this age is impossible, and they attend the graves and holy places [of the early saints] and are afflicted by all kinds of shirk, bid’ahs and superstitions…until no tribulation amongst the tribulations and no trial amongst the trials contained in the judgement that has come in the authentic hadith, ‘You will surely follow the ways of those who went before you…’ remained but a group from amongst the groups that are Muslims by name plunged into it…” (Al-Fawz al-Kabir, p.26) And: “Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘You will surely follow the ways of those who went before you, hand span for hand span, arm’s length for arm’s length, until if they were to enter the hole of a lizard, you would follow them.’ We said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! The Jews and Christians?’ He said, ‘Then who?’ Al-Bukhari and Muslim transmitted it. Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) spoke the truth for indeed we have seen men amongst the feeble of the Muslims taking the pious as lords besides Allah and adopting their graves as mosques just as the Jews and Christians would do.” (Al-Tafhimat al-Ilahiyyah, 2:134-5)
Shah Wali Allah, therefore, adduces the hadith “the Jews and Christians took the graves of their Prophets as places of prostration” together with “You will surely follow the ways of those who came before you, meaning the Jews and Christians,” as proof that some forms of shirk will become common amongst Muslims.
Haddad, in his attempt to disprove the assertion that shirk will be widespread amongst Muslims, mentions that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) foretold that he does not fear shirk for this ummah. However, al-‘Asqalani said in his commentary of the hadith Haddad refers to: “Meaning, [I do not fear shirk] for you as a whole, because that will [only] occur from a part, Allah Almighty protect us.”
The hadith therefore does not deny that shirk will appear in the ummah. Similar is Haddad’s quote “the ummah is protected from error” as this is about the entire ummah, not individual peoples and communities.
Shaykh Ahmad al-Sirhindi, the founder of the Mujaddidi order, applies verse 12:106 (“And most of them do not believe in Allah unless they are associating (partners with Him)”) to the Muslims in vol. 3 letter 41 of his Maktubat. Here is a partial translation of this section:
“Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) said: “And most of them do not believe in Allah unless they are associating (partners with Him)” (12:106). That which they do of slaughtering animals sworn for the mashayikh at the graves of the mashayikh to whom the vows were taken, the fuqaha, in the jurisprudential narrations, have also included this in shirk. They were very strict in this subject and included it in the same category as the animals slaughtered for jinn which are prohibited in the Shari‘ah and are included in the parameters of shirk. Such practice must also be avoided due to the traces of shirk being present in it. There are indeed many forms of vows besides this, so for what reason is an animal slaughtered and [consequently] included in the animals slaughtered for jinn, and thereby one becomes like the worshippers of jinn?
“Similar to this is the fasting of women with the intention of the mashayikh and without explanation they invent most of their names from themselves and they fast intending them. They specify particular formalities for every day’s iftar. They also specify days for fasting, and they attach their aims and objectives to that fast, and they seek their needs from them [i.e. the mashayikh] through the medium of this fast, and they believe their needs are fulfilled by them. Such a practice is associating another in the worship of Allah Almighty (ishrak li al-ghayr fi ‘ibadat Allah ta‘ala) and seeking the fulfilment of needs from other [than Allah] through the medium of worshipping him.
“The reprehensibility of this practice should be known. It says in a divine hadith: Allah Almighty said: “Fasting is for Me, and I will give its reward,” meaning, fasting is exclusively for Me and no one else has a share with Me in the fast. Although, associating another with Him (Exalted is He) is not permitted in all ritual worship, specifying fasting is for its importance and to emphasise the negation of associating [others] in it. The statement of some women when the reprehensibility of this practice is exposed, “We fast this fast for Allah Almighty, and we only offer its reward to the souls of the mashayikh,” is a plot from them; for if they were truthful in this, why do they need to specify days for the fast, and specify food and specify various reprehensible formalities at the iftar? And frequently they commit forbidden acts at the time of iftar and break the fast with something unlawful, and they beg for something without need and break their fast with it, and they believe their needs are fulfilled specifically by committing this forbidden practice. This is the very essence of misguidance and the insinuation of the accursed devil. Allah gives protection.” (Al-Maktubat, Arabic translation, 3:87-8)
But it is undoubtedly true that people prostrate to them, and this, as stated by al-Tibi and verified by al-‘Uthmani, is manifest shirk, and Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz believed many people have gone overboard in istighathah to a form he refers to as manifest shirk, and Shaykh Ahmad al-Sirhindi lists several ills of Muslim women in Indian society which he believed fell under the parameters of shirk.
This translation in the English is not correct. Shah Isma’il’s original statement is about the person’s belief, not what the case is in reality. The Arabic says “whether he believes that he knows this intrinsically or he knows it as a gift from Allah” (sawa’un i’taqada annahu ya’lamu bidhatihi aw ya’taqidu annahu minhatun min Allah) (p. 35) Munawwar Ateeq translated the Urdu of this sentence as: “Whether such person believes he knows this intrinsically or through knowledge granted by Allah.” This sentence is referring to complete and encompassing knowledge of all things, which is an exclusive attribute of Allah, and according to Shah Isma‘il, to attribute it to other than Allah whether it is believed the knowledge is intrinsic or granted, is shirk. Haddad’s criticism here is, therefore, based on a mistaken translation.
In the Arabic translation, it says that which makes a person a mushrik is to attribute to a prophet, soothsayer, or any other being “knowledge by which he knows the ghayb whenever he wishes and that cognizance of future events is facilitated for him and is under his power” (‘ilman ya‘rifu bihi al-ghayb mata sha’a and anna al-ittila‘ ‘ala al-umur al-mustaqbalah maysurun lahu wa tahta tasarrufih). The English translation that GF Haddad bases his review on says something similar: “possess a certain art or knowledge enabling him to have a peep into the Ghaib, to reveal the past incidents and to adumbrate about the futuristic events. ” This is what was described as shirk, as it attributes the “keys of the ghayb,” i.e. knowledge which allows access to all the ghayb, to other than Allah which is in conflict with the Qur’an and which gives an attribute exclusive to Him to others. It is clear that this is what Shah Isma‘il is speaking about as it was written in the context of discussing verse 6:59 which says “the keys to the unseen” belong exclusively to Allah, and the keys to the unseen is the knowledge by which all knowledge of ghayb is unlocked as he explained (see also here). GF Haddad therefore either misread or deliberately misconstrued this passage to impute something to him that he did not say.
Furthermore, the traditional scholars have clearly stated knowledge of ghayb is an exclusive attribute of Allah – and when he bestows it on others, it cannot be termed ghayb in an unqualified sense. For example, Mulla ‘Ali Qari said in his Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar: “In sum, knowledge of the ghayb is a quality exclusive to Him (Glorified is He) and there is no path for the servants to it except by revelation from Him and inspiration by means of miracles and charismata or guidance to adducing evidence using signs in that which this is possible. For this [reason], it is mentioned in the verdicts [of the Hanafi jurists] that the statement of a speaker when seeing the halo of the moon i.e. its circle, that there will be rain [in terms of] claiming knowledge of the ghayb and not by a sign, it is disbelief. From the subtle anecdotes is what one of the historians related that an astrologer was crucified and it was said to him: “Did you see this in your astrological readings?” He said: “I saw an elevation, but I did not know that it was over a plank.” Furthermore, know that the Prophets (upon them blessing and peace) do not know the unseen matters (mughayyabat) of things except what Allah has taught them from time to time. The Hanafis have mentioned with clear statements that by believing the Prophet (upon him blessing and peace) knew the unseen one is declared a disbeliever due to conflict with His (Exalted is He) statement: “Say: None in the heavens and earth knows the unseen but Allah.” Such was [mentioned] in al-Musayarah.” (Sharh Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari ‘ala al-Fiqh al-Akbar, Qadimi Kutub Khanah. P. 151)
ثم اعلم أن الأنبياء عليهم الصلاة والسلام لم يعلموا المغيبات من الأشياء إلا ما أعلمهم الله أحيانا ، وذكر الحنفية تصريحا بالتكفير باعتقاد أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يعلم الغيب لمعارضة قوله تعالى قل لا يعلم من في السماوات والأرض الغيب إلا الله كذا في المسايرة
Then Haddad goes on to list evidences where the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) did know some of these things. However, in this passage, Shah Isma’il explained the Prophets are not able to know these things independently or of their own volition – and he gave the example of the incident of slander (ifk) where the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) of his own volition could not know the ghayb. The Arabic makes this clear: la yamtazuna ‘an al-nas bi’anna Allaha subhanahu wa ta‘la makkanahum min ‘ilm al-ghayb wa basata lahum fihi fayattali‘un ‘ala khawatir al-nasi mata sha’u (p. 70); likewise, Shahamat ‘Ali’s translation makes this clear: “It is not in their power to divine any mystery they like…” (335) However, this very passage goes on to say, the Prophets may make judgements on these matters which may sometimes concur with reality, and sometimes they may give information about these matters through revelation in which case there is no chance of error. So what is being denied is volitional knowledge of the ghayb, i.e. the keys to the ghayb, not inspired knowledge of it, but this is misrepresented in Haddad’s skewed characterisation of this passage.
This garbled prose only serves to further illustrate Ismā.īl Dihlawī.s ignorance of the Sīra, of which panegyric and laudatory poetry in praise of the Prophet ” is an integral part.
Shah Isma‘il does not denounce all laudatory poems, but those that are exaggerated like the poetry of the young girls of the Ansar which he refers to. He himself wrote a Persian poem on the praise of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) called Mathnawi Silk i Nur. Haddad’s reply therefore is gratuitous.
Gibril Haddad did not quote the complete passage from Shah Isma‘il’s Taqwiyat al-Iman where he goes on to say the Prophets and saints were given “brief” (mujmal) knowledge of this (i.e. what will be done to them in the Afterlife) by revelation and inspiration but not “detailed” (mufassal) knowledge, and this is precisely what Hafiz al-‘Asqalani mentioned in the commentary of this hadith (“I do not know what will be done to me”): “It is possible to understand the affirmation in this [statement that he will enter Paradise] as brief knowledge, while the negation [in the other statement that he does not know how he will be treated] with respect to detailed knowledge.”
So it is possible to maintain that the statement “I do not know how I will be treated” is not abrogated, but is about detailed knowledge. Jam‘ (reconciling apparently conflicting narrations) is superior to tarjih or naskh (negating one for the other). Although, no doubt, the opinion of abrogation was an opinion held by the scholars, it is unfair to blame someone of ignorance when the above explanation of reconciliation is a valid understanding.
This kind of coarse disparagement of the Prophets and angels is kufr passible [sic] of death according to most of the Salaf
The English translation appears to be embellished. The translation of Shahamat Ali says: “It is certain that every creature, small or great, is lower than a Chamar, in comparison to the Glory of God.” (p. 327) The Arabic says the same: “It should be known with certainty that every creature, whether great or small, it is lower than a cobbler before the greatness and majesty of Allah.” (liyu‘lam yaqinan anna kulla makhluqin kabiran kana aw saghiran huwa adhallu min iskafin amama ‘azmat Allah wa jalalatih). There is no mention of “angels” or “prophets” but of course they are included in this assessment. Haddad’s claim that this statement “lies in blatant contradiction of countless verses of the Glorious Qur.ān extolling the high rank of the Prophets and angels in the Divine Presence” misunderstands the statement. The statement is not about their rank “in the presence of Allah” (‘inda Allah) but in comparison to Allah – and in such a case Shah Ismail’s assessment is certainly correct, as Allah’s glory and greatness is infinite while no matter the greatness of any creature, since it is finite, it equates to nothingness in comparison (any finite number no matter how large or small when divided by infinite equals zero).
In fact with regards to the Prophet’s (sallallahu ‘alayhiwasallam) rank “in the presence of Allah,” Shah Ismail said – “On this basis, our Prophet is the sayyid of the whole world, because, near God, he is higher in dignity [or rank], and firmer in obeying His orders than others.” (Shahamat Ali, 365); and the more recent English tr. Says “He has the greatest and most exalted status with Allah.” (145), and the Arabic: inna nabiyyana sayyidu al-‘alamin, wa manzilatahu ‘inda Allahi fawqa kulli manzilah… This is clear that the earlier quote was regarding comparison with Allah, which is in a context of discussing the stupidity of giving the crown of divinity to other than Allah, and the second quote is regarding status in the divine Presence. GF Haddad did not make this distinction, though he must have read the latter quote which is an illustration of his blind bias.
Shah Isma‘il also authored in Persian Mathnawi Silk i Nur a eulogy on the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam). Mansab Imamat also discusses the exalted station and the perfections of the Prophets which he says are “incomprehensible” to non-Prophets.
He said this in the context of discussing the intercession of great men before a king, saying that Allah is not compelled by his fear of losing high-ranking servants to accept their intercession of others, rather it would make no difference to Him if they did not exist and if everybody was of their rank (this view of intercession was common amongst the mushrikun of old, which is why Shah Wali Allah also listed it amongst their heresies in his work al-Fawz al-Kabir). This is in conformity with the hadith of Abu Dharr from al-Nawawi’s Forty: “If the first of you and the last of you and the men of you and the jinn of you were upon the most pious heart of any man from you, that would not increase in My kingdom in the least. If the first of you and the last of you and the men of you and the jinn of you were upon the most wicked heart of any man from you, that would not decrease from My kingdom in the least.” (Muslim) The philosophical challenge to this statement by Fadl Haq Khayrabadi and others, can easily be answered by understanding that a comparison does not necessitate similarity from every perspective (min jami’ al-wujuh), so there is no contradiction of two “lasts” etc.
Haddad’s claim here is inaccurate as the view that tathwib al-‘asi (rewarding the disobedient) and ta‘dhib al-muti‘ (punishing the obedient) is rationally impossible is not only the view of the Mu‘tazilis but is shared by the Maturidis. The Maturidis consider it a flaw that Allah treats the obedient in the manner of sinners. His characterisation of “Sunni belief,” therefore, ignores Maturidis.
Only the second reference (p. 54) alludes to this naming being shirk, but not the other two references, and it is the third reference where Shah Isma‘il devotes a section to this subject. In the Arabic translation of the third reference he says, “it is of the utmost disrespect to Allah” (huwa ghayatun fi isa’at al-adab ma‘a Allah)” (p. 152) to call somebody by this name, not that it is “shirk.” Similarly the English of Shahamat Ali says “the use of these terms for others is highly improper and very disrespectful to God.” (363)
Hafiz al-Laknawi said:
Question: Is it permissible to use the names “‘Abd al-Nabi” (bondsman of the prophet) and “‘Abd al-Rasul” (bondsman of the messenger) and “Amat al-Nabi” (bondswoman of the prophet) and “Amat al-Siddiq” (bondswoman of the truthful saint) etc?
Answer: Every name in which the words “‘abd” (bondsman) and “amah” (bondswoman) or their equivalent in any other language is attributed to other than Allah (Exalted is He) is impermissible. ‘Ali al-Qari stated this in Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar, and a hadith prohibiting this appears in Sunan Abi Dawud and others.
(Naf’ al-Mufti wa al-Sa’il, p. 170)
See I’la al Sunan where it shows why it is shirk, and is kufr according to the Hanafi Imams, and why the earlier people’s prostration doesn’t count – as at that time prostration was not specified for Allah.
The Arabic translation of Taqwiyat al-Iman says: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) informed Qays ibn Sa ’d (Allah be pleased with him) that the one whose destination is death and to the grave, will die and be buried, he does not deserve prostration; indeed prostration is for the Ever-Living, Ever-Lasting One, Who does not die.” (wa qad nabbaha Rasul Allah sallallhu ‘alayhi wasallam Qays ibn Sa‘d radiya Allahu ‘anhu ‘ala anna man kana ma’aluhu al-mawta wa masiruhu ila al-qabri, yamutu fayudfanu, la yastahiqq al-sajdah. Inna al-sujud li al-Hayy al-Da’im alladhi la yamut) (p. 151) There is no mention of “an eternal sleep.” This does not contradict Sunni belief, as Sunni belief is that he did die but has a special life in the Barzakh. The earlier English translation of Mir Shahamat Ali (in 1852) from the Urdu says “The Prophet meant, that one day he would die, and return to the dust [note: not that he will become dust]; and could not therefore be worthy of worship.” (p. 363)
Furthermore, the commentators of the hadith said something similar to Shah Isma‘il. Al-Tibi said in his commentary of Mishkat under this hadith: “Meaning, prostrate to the Ever-Living One Who does not die, and Whose Dominion does not end, for you only prostrate to me now out of awe and reverence, for indeed when I am confined to the grave, this will end.” (quoted in Badhl al-Majhud 10:182)
This is an example of Haddad taking fiqh from a book on biographies. Fiqh should be taken from the books of fiqh, and the Hanafi fuqaha have clearly stated that the prostration of respect is kufr, and as shown above al-Tibi said it is “manifest shirk.”
This refers to the following narration: Ahmad transmitted from ‘A’ishah (Allah be pleased with her) that Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was amongst a group of the emigrants and helpers when a camel came and prostrated to him, so his companions said: “O Messenger of Allah! Beasts and trees prostrate to you, and we are more deserving of prostrating to you.” So he said: “Worship your Lord and respect your brother.” The chain of narration is weak, but this did not prevent the commentators of Mishkat from commenting on it:
Mulla ‘Ali Qari said in his commentary of Mishkat under this hadith:“‘Respect your brother,’ i.e. venerate him [i.e. the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)] with a veneration fitting to him with hearty love and a respect comprising of outward and inward obedience. In this [hadith] is an indication to His statement: ‘It is not [befitting] a man that Allah gives him the Book and wisdom and prophecy, and then he says to the people: Be worshippers of me besides Allah, rather [he will say]: Be faithful servants of the Lord.’ (3:79) and an indication to His statement: ‘I said to them nothing besides what You instructed me with to worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ (5:117) As for the prostration of the camel, it was a rupturing of the norm, occurring by the control of Allah Almighty and His command, so there is no interference from him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in its action, and the camel is excused since it was commanded by its Lord like the command of Allah to His Angels to prostrate to Adam, and Allah (Glorified and Exalted) is He knows best.”
Al-Tibi said in his commentary of Mishkat: “He said it out of humbleness and lowering himself; meaning, respect the one who is a human being like yourselves and is descended from the loin of your father Adam, and respect him for Allah has honoured him and selected him and sent revelation to him. [The hadith is] similar to His (Exalted is He) statement: ‘Say: Indeed I am only a man like you, revelation has come to me.’ (18:110)”
‘Abd al-Haqq al-Dihlawi said in his commentary of Mishkat: “He meant [by “brother”] his noble self, out of humility, and notification that he is a man like them in the impermissibility of prostration and worship of him.”
[All quoted in Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi’s footnotes to his translation of Taqwiyat al-Iman, pp. 148-9]
These commentaries therefore confirm the meaning of this narration is correct, that in terms of his common origin and humanity, he is a brother of people, but deserves greater respect because of what Allah has honoured him with, and Shah Isma‘il conveys this greater respect by comparison with an elder brother who deserves greater respect because of seniority, and similarly the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) deserves greater respect because of being favoured by Allah. The English translation of Shahamat ‘Ali says precisely this: “[the prophets and saints are] all His humble servants and our brothers, the difference is they were made great men by God.” – and this is exactly what al-Tibi said above: “[the Prophet is] one who is a human being like yourselves and is descended from the loin of your father Adam, and respect him for Allah has honoured him and selected him and sent revelation to him.”
These commentaries show that Haddad’s statement: “the sentence ‘“Worship your Lord and respect your brother’” would actually be a Prophetic nas.s. distinguishing between the two types of prostration: the prostration of worship and the prostration of respect” is completely unfounded and baseless.
Finally, Haddad says:
This statement is full of error, and shows the depth of Haddad’s ignorance and bias.
The last Mughal “sultan” of India was Bahadur Shah who came to power in 1837 several years after the death of Shah Isma‘il. Let alone “revisionist,” Haddad’s “history” is blatantly wrong and ignorant. Shah Isma‘il had a low opinion of the Mughal rulers, but so did Shah Waliullah and others of the family. To characterise him as a baghi illustrates Haddad’s immense ignorance, not only of history but of fiqh. Shah Isma‘il did not oppose any jihad – this is nothing less than fiction and a pure slander. India was at that time Dar al-Harb as clarified by Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz in a well-known fatwa written in 1803 when Shah Isma‘il was in his twenties. Therefore, even assuming that Shah Isma‘il opposed an imaginary Mughal “jihad,” to suggest that this is baghy is inaccurate, as baghy is defined in the Shariah as “rebelling against the true Imam [of the Muslims] without right” (Radd al-Muhtar 6:411) – and the “Imam” is defined as the one whose rulings are executed in the land and he was given allegiance by the nobles of that land (ibid.); if the people give him allegiance but his rule is not executed, he is not the Imam (ibid.). In fact, in early 19th century India, as the Muslims were subjects of the British, to have attacked them while residing in India may have itself been construed as baghy. One of the reasons the historians gave for Sayyid Ahmad avoiding a jihad against the British was that this would only be possible by first creating an Islamic state outside of India, and it would be impermissible while granted their protection (aman).
Kenneth W. Jones wrote: “The ideology of Sayyid Ahmad Barelwi contained one basic difference from the teachings of Shah Wali Ullah and his disciples: Sayyid Ahmad intended to put his beliefs into action through a jihad. He accepted Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz’s fatwa as declaring that British territory was dar-ul-harb and, in accordance with Islamic law, jihad could only be conducted from an area of Islamic control. Consequently Sayyid Ahmad decided to begin his struggle on the north-west frontier of the Sikh Kingdom.” (Socio-religious Reform Movements in India, p. 54)
Regarding Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi’s attitude towards the British, in his early military life he participated in military action against the British and left only because the Nawab of Tonk decided to make peace with the British. Harlan Pearson writes: “Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi (1786 – 1831), the founder of the Tariqah-i-Muhammadiyyah, came to Delhi from his birthplace near Lucknow, the town of Rai Bareli. His father and elder brother [Ishaq] had studied under Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. In 1806, Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi formally became Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz’s disciple and was initiated simultaneously into three Sufi orders…After a two year sojourn at his home in Rai Bareli, in 1809 Sayyid Ahmad returned to Delhi and from there travelled to Tonk where he joined the army of Nawab Amir Khan, ruler of the state of Tonk. Amir Khan had established his principality in the latter part of the 18th century in Rajputana alongside several Hindu princely states. Prior to 1817, Amir Khan had supported and provided a base for the Pindaris, predatory raiding groups who were formally camp followers of the British. He continued to support the raids of the Pindaris into British territory until, under the terms of a subsidiary alliance with the British in 1817, he was required to disband his troops. Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi then returned to Delhi.” (p. 36)
Nuzhat al-Khawatir says under his biography: “The love of Jihad in the Path of Allah overcame him so he joined the army of the emir, the warrior (mujahid), Nawab Amir Khan and stayed with him for several years. [Sayyid Ahmad] would encourage him towards jihad, and when he saw that he was wasting his time in raids and was content with war-booty (and he knew that he resolved to make peace with the British and Hindus) [an insertion to the original by Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi], he left him and returned to Dihli.” (p. 900) Similarly Kenneth Jones wrote: “The Nawab of Tonk had made an alliance with the British and this act was unacceptable to Sayyid Ahmad.” (p. 53) For seven years, therefore, Sayyid Ahmad was involved in military activities against the British before he began his reform of the masses.
Although there is no certain knowledge that Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz encouraged the jihad against the Sikhs, his grandson and spiritual successor, Shah Muhammad Ishaq is known to have supported this jihad. Moreover, Shah Ishaq’s son-in-law Nasiruddin was a disciple of Sayyid Ahmad and continued the jihad after his death. Pearson wrote: “By the time Sayyid Ahmad returned to Delhi in 1823, Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz had died, and the Muhammadi [movement] began preparing to wage jihad against the Sikhs of the Punjab. There is no direct evidence that Sayyid Ahmad Brelwi was preaching jihad before his pilgrimage or that any experience in the holy cities of Islam inspired him. However, when he arrived at Bombay, a newspaper reported that he began preaching with a zeal that extended “to nothing less than driving the whole of the Christian unbelievers from this land of the sun.” (Calcutta Journal, 29 September 1823) Although British territories were probably considered Dar al-Harb, the Birtish allowed Muslims to practice their religion freely and provided security. Under such circumstances, armed resistance to the British government could be interpreted as the sin of rebellion rather than the duty of holy war. On the other hand, the Sikhs had prohibited the call to prayer (adhan) for the Punjabi Muslims and had occupied and desecrated mosques in their territories. The practical considerations of a greater chance of success, also a stipulation of Islamic law, undoubtedly was involved in the decision not to fight the British. (pp. 39-40)
Regarding Haddad’s quote from Tawarikh Ajibah (also known as Sawanih Ahmadi) which was written in the 1860s/70s by Muhammad Ja‘far Thanesari (d. 1905), historians generally have not accepted his assessment. The historian Mohammad Yasin wrote: “It is difficult to agree with Muhammad Ja‘far Thanesari, Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan and Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan that Sayyid Ahmad Shahid did not propose to fight the British …There is no truth in the assertion that Sayyid Ahmad acted as a stooge of the British Government. But it appears certain that the Sayyid considered the British either a lesser evil or unbreakable; either, at least, not worthy of immediate attention or found himself helpless against the might of England…Ghulam Rasul Mehr argues that Sayyid Ahmad considered the British more dangerous than the Sikhs and the statement of the Sayyid is there to support the supposition. It is also trut that Sayyid Ahmad regarded India a Dar al Harb and jihad was not possible while remaining inside the Indhian territires. He, therefore, migrated to the North-West Frontier, which was expected to be more responsive to his mission, to establish a secure centre. (Reading in Indian History, Mohammad Yasin, Atlantic Publishers and Distributers: New Delhi, 1988 – Chapter Five: Sayyid Ahmad Shahid of Rae Bareli, pp. 111-2 – with reference to the extended biographies of Ghulam Rasul Mehr al-Lahori and Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi). The historian of Sayyid Ahmad, Ghulam Rasul Mehr, criticised Thanesari’s pro-British reading of Sayyid Ahmad’s career, saying it was a product of the political pressures of Thanesari’s time (and likewise Nawab Siddiq Hasan and Sir Ahmad). [note: Hedayatullah in his thesis said Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi and Ghulam Rasul Mehr the two main Urdu historians of Sayyid Ahmad in the last century were the most objective from the historians of his movement]
Ayesha Jalal, history professor at Tufts University, wrote: “[Shah] Waliullah had nothing to say about the English, who were making inroads in Bengal; rather, he was primarily concerned with the threat posed by the Marathas and the Jats. Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz for his part was distressed by the assertion of Sikh power. [He prayed:] ‘May God sweep them away from this country, they are our greatest enemies, they are like bands of demons.’” (Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia, p. 66) Sayyid Ahmad Shahid and Shah Isma‘il, were, therefore, completely in tune with the historical and scholarly realities of that time which is why they lauched their jihad on the Sikhs. “Shah Waliullah Dehlavi considered the Marathas (Sikhs) the first enemy of Islam in India.” (Reading in Indian History, p. 113) It is even reported that Shah Wali Allah advised the Afghan king Ahmad Shah to fight the Marathas/Sikhs. McGill University thesis “Indian Muslim Attitude to the British in the Early Nineteenth Century” by Mushiru-l-Haq is a case study on Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz’s attitude to the British and he finds his attitude towards the Sikhs was very negative while his attitude to the British was mildly positive. The reason for the different attitudes is mentioned thus: “It was because of the difference between the British policy of penetration [as compared to the] policy of attack and destruction of Marhattas and Sikhs [which is why] Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz has not mentioned the British in the same way in which he has referred to Marhattas and Sikhs.” (p. 5)
The above should be sufficient to overturn most of GF Haddad’s wild claims in his review of Taqwiyat al-Iman and should demonstrate the level of deceit, dishonesty and misinformation in his review. It is unfortunate that his bias/ta’assub led him to believe clear falsehoods from his informants and even invent obvious lies in the hopes of defeating the “Wahhabi” heresy in India. The Islamic way is to remain quiet when ignorant or to hear both sides before making a judgement, and as shown by Haddad’s sources and his conclusions, it is clear he was only interested in one side and not the other which is what led him to make such severe blunders and misjudgements in every page of his review.