Defending Ml. Ashraf Ali and Ml. Khalil Ahmad

Below is a review by a brother on the article of Sh. Nuh Keller. The article below was found on a forum:

Recently I came across the first review of Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan Barelwi’s Deobandi takfir by someone we could all call neutral. This post is in reference to Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller’s article “Iman, Kufr, and Takfir.”

The Sheikh needs to be congratulated for taking an initial bold step for opening the door for further dialogue on an issue that deeply divides the Ahl Al-Sunnah of the Indian sub-continent. It should be remembered that our role here is not to criticize the respected Sheikh in the way people on this website are presently doing. Sadly many people there are jumping on the takfiri bandwagon – as is their methodology and minhaj – and brutishly making extremely outlandish and heartrending claims.

However, there are a few points that have most likely been unintentionally missed by Sheikh Nuh in his article. A natural occurrence since Sheikh Nuh, not knowing Urdu, is limited in his access to books and texts concerning the Barelwi’s takfir of the Akabir. Sheikh Nuh has had to resort to brief translated pieces of “relevant” texts to write his article – this point will, insha Allah, become clearer when one completes reading this post.

If the points missed by Sheikh Nuh had been mentioned then the article would have been impartial, understandable and acceptable. I expect that the esteemed Sheikh will agree with me on this and I hope his Urdu-speaking murids will bring these discrepancies to his notice. In total there are three main points, among many others, that need to be understood:

1. First and foremost, Sheikh Nuh has failed to mention the seventh disputed Aqida issue between the Deobandis and Barelwis. This is a core issue and is still very dear and near to present day Barelwis.

It forms the basis of Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan’s declaration – as mentioned in his book Husam al-Haramayn (Sword of the Meccan and Medinan Sanctuaries) – that Mawlana Qasim Nanotwi (the founder of Darul Uloom Deoband) was an infidel (kafir).

In order to prove his point, Molwi Ahmed Raza Khan quotes a statement, which he alleges is from Mawlana Nanotwi’s book Tahdhir Al-Naas. According to Molwi Ahmed Raza Khan’s quote, the respected Mawlana Nanotwi denied the finality of the Messenger of Allah’s prophet hood (khatm-e-nubuwwat).

In reality this statement does not appear anywhere in Mawlana Nanotwi’s book. On rigorous analysis of the book, it comes to light – as has been shown by many Ulamah in many of their books (all generally in Urdu) – that the statement that Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan quoted had been concocted from three different passages from three different pages of Tahdhi Al-Naas. These texts had been rearranged to give a meaning that Molvi Ahemd Raza Khan then used to level charges of infidelity (takfir) against the founder of Darul Uloom Deoband – Subhanallah.

The question remains whether this could be condoned as a “mistake,” a “mistranslation” or a “misinterpretation”? Could such a blatant mistake stem from the author of a book like Al-Dawla Al-Makkiyya Bi Al-Madda Al-Ghaybiyya?

Nay, the text used by Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan was a total forgery, distortion of the truth and fraud. Dear reader, is it permissible to commit such a crime of misrepresentation while claiming this was done out of love of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings upon Him)?

I leave this issue without comment. It is self-evident for anyone with a grain of faith to decide for him or her self what motivated Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan to commit the grossest of takfir.

2. The second issue is related to Hadhrat Mawlana Khalil Ahmed Saharanpuri.

Prior to discussing this issue in detail it should be made extremely clear that Hadhrat Saharanpuri has stated clearly in black and white:

“That no creature has received what the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be on him) has received in the knowledge of the first and the last, whether angel brought near or Prophet-Messenger. But, this does not entail knowledge of every specific detail of the lower world.” (Al-Muhannad p.38)

It should also be known that Hadhrat Khalil Ahmed Sahranpuri’s book “Baraahin-e-Qatiah” is not an independent book by itself but rather a refutation of a book entitled “Anwaar-e-Saatiah” by Molvi Abdus Sami Rampuri – a follower of Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan. Baraahin has been written in the traditional style of polemics (munazara), in that it contains both the text of Molvi Rampuri and then Hadhrat Sahranpuri’s refutation thereafter clarifying the position of Ahl Al-Sunnat Ahl-e-Deoband. This clarification is necessary to answer the specific issues raised by Sheikh Nuh and thus avoiding confusion and generalizations. Incidentally, Sheikh Nuh is under the impression that Hadhrat Saharanpuri is referring to Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan when in fact Hadhrat Sahranpuri is referring to Molvi Abdus Sami.

In his book “Anwaar-e-Saatiah,” Molvi Abdus Sami mentions an extremely outlandish and strange analogy as an argument to prove that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) is Alim Al-Ghayb (knower of the unseen). Molvi Abdu Sami mentions that since Satan and the Angel of Death know the unseen (ghayb) wherever they are, and since the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) is of greater merit than Satan and the Angel of Death then the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) must also possess knowledge of the unseen.

To support his claims, Molvi Abdus Sami fails to provide proof from Quraan, Hadith and also from the sayings of previous scholars (as there are none) but rather bases his argument on this strange analogy (qiyas).

Naturally, Hadhrat Mawlana Khalil Ahmed Sahranpuri’s response is going to include the analogy of Molvi Abdus Sami Rampuri and this would entail the mentioning of Satan and the Angel of Death. Remember Baraahin-e-Qatiah has been written in the traditional style of polemics (munazara).

Hadhrat Saharanpuri mentions that the knowledge of Satan and the Angel of Death is “ilm-e-muheet-e-zamin” (a knowledge that comprises of earthly things) – Hadhrat Saharanpuri mentions that we know that Satan and the Angel of Death have this ilm through proofs from the Quran and the narrations of the blessed Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Hadhrat Saharanpuri further mentions that similar proofs cannot be realized in relation to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

So Sheikh Nuh’s argument that “Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri’s disadvantageously comparing the Prophet’s knowledge (Allah bless him and give him peace) to Satan’s” does not hold true because Hadhrat Sahranpuri is not making a comparison rather he is answering an argument forwarded by Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan Baraelwi’s student who had made such a claim. And this also only is knowledge related to the lower world.

Sheikh Nuh says: “In sum, Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri’s disadvantageously comparing the Prophet’s knowledge (Allah bless him and give him peace) to Satan’s, the vilest creature in existence—regardless of the point he was making—is something few Muslims can accept.” Shaykh Nuh further says that “he badly stumbled in this passage. In any previous Islamic community, whether in Hyderabad, Kabul, Baghdad, Cairo, Fez, or Damascus—in short, practically anywhere besides the British India of his day—Muslims would have found his words repugnant and unacceptable.”

Shame that Sheikh Nuh was relying on translated sections to make his conclusions and therefore make the mistake of making inappropriate conclusions – Subhanallah. If he had been able to access the entire book in Urdu then he would have realized that Hadhrat Saharanpuri was not making the comparison – the comparison had been made by the student of Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan and that Hadhrat Saharanpuri was clarifying the matter.

3. Lastly and most importantly, Sheikh Nuh mentions a statement of Hadhrat Hakim al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi.

When Molvi Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi’s comments relating to Hadhrat Thanawi’s text in Hifdh Al-Iman was shown to Hakim Al-Ummat, he (Hadhrat Thanawi) strongly rejected Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan’s “interpretation” and commented that he could not even dream of thinking such a repugnant (khabees) thing about the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Hadhrat Thanawi himself said that if anyone was to believe and directly or indirectly agreed with what Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan had understood/misunderstood from his text then he (Hakim Al-Ummat) would, in accordance with the rulings of Shariah, consider such a person to be outside the pale of Islam for denigrating the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him). This is a documented comment of Hakim Al-Ummat.

In addition to this, with an aim of making his statement more clear and understandable, Hakim Al-Ummat twice made changes in the text so as there would be no ambiguity left in the text. Thereafter, the text read as follows:

“Aap ki zhat-e-muqqadasa par alim-e-ghayab ka hukaum keya jana agar baqol Zayd sahih ho to daryafet taleb yay amr hah keh iss ghayab seymurad ba’az ghayab hay ya kul ghayab. Agar ba’az uloom-e-ghayabiya muradhain to iss mey huzoor sallalaho alhey wasalam ki keya takhsees hay?///Mutlaq ba’az uloom-e-ghayabiya to ghair Ambiya ahlehimussalam ko bih hasil hain/// to chaheyay keh sub ko alim ul ghayab kaha jaway.” (Bast Al-Banan — forward slashes mark changes made to text by Hakim Al-Ummat)

Trans: “If it refers to but some of the unseen, then how is the Revered One [the Prophet] (Allah bless him and give him peace) uniquely special? Certain knowledge of unseen is possessed by the non-prophets also, so everyone should be called ‘knower of the unseen…’”

Hadhrat Hakim Al-Ummat Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi made it also extremely clear that no one was to publish the old text of Hifdh Al-Iman (the one that Sheikh Nuh has published) after the changes had been made. These changes were done in the lifetime of Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan. Subsequently two books were written by Hakim Al-Ummat – Bast Al-Banan Li Kaff Al-Lisan An Kitab Hifdh Al-Iman (1329AH) and Tagyir Al-Unwan Fi Ba’di Ibarat Hifdh Al-Iman (1342AH).

Hence, to insist on this issue after clarification and removal of the statement is extremely strange. Keeping all these details in mind it becomes clearer that the Baraelwi takfir was totally wrong.

With regards to these “repugnant” texts, Sheikh Nuh mentions in his paper that “looking back, one cannot help wondering why Khalil Ahmad’s and Ashraf Ali Thanawi’s own students and teachers and friends did not ask them, before their opponents asked them.” This is a bold statement for one who has had to rely on selected translated texts in order to substantiate and critique the issue at hand. Fundamentally, Sheikh Nuh and at that other non-Urdu speaking Ulamah who wish to review this issue would not be able to give full justice to the topic by relying solely on translations of selected texts. The above few words hopefully clarify the matters involved, insha Allah.

These are briefly just some of the issues that spring to mind with regards Sheikh Nuh’s piece. Deobandis should be rest assured that the Akabir were on the true path and were not mistaken in anyway. Urdu is a must to understand the Deobandi-Barelwi issue. In the least, Sheikh Nuh could have rechecked his paper and the conclusions he had reached with the leading Deobandi scholars he is in contact with. We live in a global village, the Ulamah are only a telephone call away.

Finally, finishing off it should be noted that the purpose of this paper is not to denigrate Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller or any other Ulamah in any way. A prolonged and exhaustive reading into the issue by referring to relevant texts and then posing questions to contemporary Deobandi Ulamah would have made Sheikh Nuh’s more decisive.

Selected reading:

– Ghayat Al-Ma’mul by the Mufti of the Shafi’is in Madinah – Sayyid Ahmed Al-Barzanji. This book was written in refutation of Molvi Ahmed Raza Khan’s views on Ilm Al-Ghayb.

– Al-Sahm Al-Ghayb Fi Kabd Ahl Al-Rayb by Hadhrat Mawlana Anwar Shah Kashmiri. This work has been mentioned by Sheikh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah in his editing of Allamah Kashmiri’s book Al-Tasreeh Bima Tawatur Fi Nuzul Al-Masih.

– Mut’ala-e-Barelwiyyat (Study on the Barelvi’s) by Allamah Dr Khalid Mahmud.

– Al-Shihab Al-Thaqib Ala Al-Mustariq Al-Kadhib in 3 volumes by Mawlana Sayyid Husayn Ahmad Madani.

– Izalat Al-Rayb An Aqeeda Ilm Al-Ghayb by Maulana Abu Zahid Muhammad Sarfraz Khan, Shaykhul-Hadith in Madrasa Nusratul-Ulum, Gujranwala, Pakistan.

– Deoband Awr Barelwi Ke Ikhtilaf-i-Niza Par Faisalakun Munazarah by Mawlana Manzur Nomani.

– Fath Bareilly Ka Dilkash Nazarah by Mawlana Manzur Nomani.

– Sa’eeqa Asmaani by Mawlana Manzur Nomani

2 Responses to Defending Ml. Ashraf Ali and Ml. Khalil Ahmad

  1. ismail says:


    Please answer the arguments in the blog instead of copy pasting what is already pointed out.

  2. muhammod says:

    A hanbali scholar has called S Ahmed Reda Khan Shakyh al Islam. He promotes mufti adam and riyadhal haq. He says some deobondis are influenced by wahabis

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