Deobandis and Barelwis have differences in both beliefs and practices, though both profess to follow the Ash’ari/Maturidi creed, Hanafi fiqh and Sufi turuq. There is also a historical element to their sectarian divide. The following is a brief outline of these three aspects:
In beliefs, the differences can be summarised in five points:
1. First, Barelwis, or many of them, believe the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) is literally and physically a light. According to them, his physical make-up just like the angels is light. However, he came in the form of a human being just like the angel Jibril came to Maryam in the form of a man. This, in effect, is denial of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) having literally been a human being from the descendents of Adam.
Deobandis believe, as do the Ahl al-Sunnah, that he is a human being made from the same original substance as man, that is clay. However, his soul may be regarded as a light and his qualities as being akin to light.
For the correct view on the matter, one may download and read: http://www.4shared.com/get/K5BHp33N/nur__bashar.html
2. Second, Barelwis believe the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) has full knowledge of creation from the moment of creation till humanity enters heaven and hell, including the time of the Hour, and the details of the lives of previous and future peoples.
Deobandis believe, as do the Ahl al-Sunnah, that although he was given the most knowledge of all Allah’s creatures, he does not have full knowledge of creation from the moment of creation till entrance into heaven and hell, and he was not given knowledge of the time of the Hour as many verses of the Qur’an are explicit in this regard.
For an analysis of why the Barelwi view is problematic, one may read some of the blog posts here:http://bawariqalghaybtranslation.wor…03/28/preface/
3. Third, Barelwis believe that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) has complete authority (mukhtaar e kull) in the sense that whatever he desires will most certainly be accomplished. (They will generally accept that this is by the will of Allah, but even this is lost in many of their absolute and unqualified pronouncements).
Deobandis believe, as do the Ahl al-Sunnah, that although for accepted slaves of Allah, Allah fulfils their wishes many or even most of the time, it is incorrect to believe this is always the case. For example, the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) would certainly want everyone from his ummah to be Muslims (as is also indicated in some verses of the Qur’an) but not everyone is Muslim because Allah does not wish this. A good example of this is that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) wanted Abu Talib to be Muslim, yet he did not become Muslim as found in the Sahihs of Bukhari and Muslim; and in fact as a consequence, this verse was revealed: “You (O Prophet) do not guide who you like, but Allah guides whoever He wills.”
4. Fourthly, some Barelwis believe in the concept that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) is permanently present, seeing and hearing in all places of earth and creation at all times.
Deobandis believe that although the Prophet is alive in his grave and he may be informed of some things that occur in the world, he is not permanently present, seeing, aware and hearing at all places all of the time.
For a discussion on why the Barelwi view here is problematic, one may read: http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/show…l=1#post879164
5. Fifthly, Barelwis believe Allah does not have the ability to say something untrue. Deobandis believe Allah does have the ability but will not do so.
One may read this for a little more detail: https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2013/…asan-deobandi/
On the first four issues, Deobandis rightly brand the Barelwis as deviants and in some cases disbelievers. On the fifth issue, without any sound basis, Barelwis brand Deobandis as deviants and in some cases disbelievers.
In practice, Barelwis believe that any practice associated with religion that has been newly introduced, so long as it has some basis in the Shari’ah, may be practised with continuity, even if done in a very specific way giving the impression that it is Sunnah or Wajib. Deobandis, following major scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah, regard such practices as either bid’ah or resembling bid’ah, therefore reject it and disallow it. Examples include the way mawlid, urs and so on are practised today.
For more detail on the concept of bid’ah, one may read: http://bawariqalghaybtranslation.fil…ah-a-study.pdf
Also in terms of practice, there is a set of actions Barelwis promote that Deobandis regard as “practical shirk,” that is actions that will not necessarily take one out of Islam, but resemble the actions of the idolaters, and are thus forbidden. Examples include naming a person “‘abd al-Nabi” (slave of Prophet) or “‘abd al-Mustafa” or “‘abd al-Rasul” (which Hanafi fuqaha have forbidden); and calling out to a dead person for aid (istighathah).
For more detail on the question of “practical shirk,” one may read: http://www.deoband.org/2013/01/aqida…of-polytheism/ & http://bawariqalghaybtranslation.fil…stighathah.pdf & http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/show…l=1#post933314
Historically, the founder of Barelwism (Ahmad Rida Khan Barelwi) distorted some passages of major Deobandi scholars, translated them into Arabic, and procured fatwas of kufr against them from the scholars of Hijaz. He then declared not only these scholars as kafir but declared all who do not regard them as kafir kafir. Thus, this meant Barelwis true to the teachings of Ahmad Rida Khan could not regard Deobandis as Muslims, hence a clear sectarian divide was created.
For more detail on the deception and misrepresentations of Ahmad Rida Khan in his baseless takfirs, one may read: http://ukkhuddam.files.wordpress.com…ranslation.pdf
This history of course has deeper roots, probably most pronounced in the earlier opposition by Barelwi-minded scholars to Shah Isma’il Shahid, the grandson of Shah Wali Allah.
There are other differences too, particularly with respect to Deobandi scholarship and Barelwi “scholarship” (or the lack thereof), which have not been discussed here.