Turning the tables on the Barelwīs, Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī in the following section of his al-Shihāb al-Thāqib (where he begins his lengthy discussion on the differences between the Wahhābīs and the Akābir of Deoband) shows that it is in fact Barelwīs who share with the Wahhābīs in their most characteristic feature: reckless takfīr. Mawlānā Madanī writes:
This is an enormous deception and trickery of “Dajjāl al-Mujaddidīn” and his followers, because of which [the usage of the name of] this group [i.e. “Wahhābīs”] has gained in popularity amongst the Arabs in particular and the Indians in general. By exploiting this name and deceiving the world, they acquire their [daily] bread. This is the foundation of all trickeries and the basis of all deceptions.
Friends! Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb al-Najdī emerged from Najd, Arabia, at the start of the thirteenth century. Since he held false ideas and corrupt beliefs, this is why he slaughtered and fought the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah. He kept on imposing his ideas on them by force. He deemed their properties to be spoils [of war] and permissible [for the taking]. He considered their slaughter a cause of reward and mercy. He caused great distress to the people of the two Ḥarams in particular, and the people of Ḥijāz in general. He used words of great disrespect and impudence with respect to the pious Salaf and their followers. Many people had to leave Madīnah Munawwarah and Makkah Mu‘aẓẓamah because of the severe hardships he [caused]. Thousands of people were martyred at his and his forces hands.
In short, he was an oppressor and rebel, a wicked blood lusting person. This is why the people of Arabia had and still have a particular hatred – from the heart – for him and his followers: such [hate] that they harbour for neither the Jews nor the Christians nor the Zoroastrians nor the Hindus. In brief, because of the aforementioned reasons, they have the highest degree of hostility towards this group, and undoubtedly, since he caused such hardships, so should it most certainly be. These people do not have as much anguish and hostility towards the Jews and Christians as they do towards the Wahhābīs.
Since the objective of “Mujaddid al-Muḍillīn” and his followers was to show before the eyes of the people of Arabia in particular and the people of India in general that they are their well-wishers while others their enemies and opponents of Religion, this is why they did not find any title better than this title.
Wherever any follower of Sharī‘ah and imitator of Sunnah was found, immediately he was branded “Wahhābī” so as to draw [people] away from him, and so that there is no effect to their interests and payoffs which are acquired through various forms of trickeries. [The attitude of such people is as follows:] “Friends, drink wine, shave your beards, devote yourselves to graves, take vows by other than Allāh, commit fornication, sodomy, leaving congregation, fasting and prayer, whatever you do, all of these are signs of being from the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah; and whoever acquires obedience of Sharī‘ah in form and practice, he becomes a Wahhābī.” It is famous that some Nawāb Ṣāḥib said to his companion, “I heard you have become Wahhābī.” He answered: “Ḥuḍūr, I shave my beard, how can I possibly be Wahhābī?! I am pure Sunnī.” See how the sign of being Sunnī has come to be to shave the beard.
For his particular agenda, “Dajjāl al-Mujaddidīn” has in this treatise called these Elders “Wahhābīs”, so that the people of Arabia upon seeing it will become agitated by anger and fury, and without asking anything, without contemplating, will give fatwās of takfīr. Further, he mentioned the term Wahhābī in various places using different expressions with filthy words.
[This is] all the while there is the difference between the sky and earth between the beliefs of the Wahhābīs and the beliefs and practices of those Elders, and in fact a greater difference than this! These revered ones are fully upon the beliefs of the pious Salaf. They strictly follow Imām A‘ẓam (Allāh’s mercy be upon him) and the way of the Ḥanafī jurists in every way, in knowledge and practice. They do not wish for even small variation. The sulūk of the seniors of the four Orders, in particular Chishtī Ṣābirī, is practised by them.
Now, I will briefly present several beliefs of the Wahhābīs and in contrast, the statements of these Elders, so that from this small sample it becomes clear to you the degree of the slander that is being made against these Elders, and what great injustice and slander “Barelwī Mujaddid” and his followers are perpetrating against the People of Truth.
It was Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb’s belief that all the people of the world and of all Muslim lands are idolatrous and disbelieving, and it is permissible, in fact obligatory, to slaughter and fight them and take their properties. Thus, Nawāb Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān has himself explicitly mentioned these two things [i.e. the permissibility of slaughtering and taking the property of Muslims] in his [Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb’s] biography. Ḥaḍrat, these two are undoubtedly matters of great severity. Now check whether this is found in the followers of these Elders or not? And if not, then who is truly the follower of Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb?
A discussion of the first matter is forthcoming. But, regarding the second matter, you yourself ponder over it. “Dajjāl al-Mujaddidīn” has done tafsīq and taḍlīl of all the people of Nadwah, at which time many ‘Ulamā’ were part [of it]. He has done taḍlīl, takfīr and tafsīq of all the ‘Ulāmā’ of Deoband, while the group of these revered ones has spread throughout the world. Generally, the ‘Ulamā’ and teachers and the religious men of virtue in the lands of India, Afghanistan etc. are these people and their students and followers. Thousands, in fact hundreds of thousands, of ‘Ulamā’ are from them, and are coming to be from them, and if Allāh, the Almighty, wishes, will continue to be from them till the Day of Judgement, despite the humiliation of the enviers. This “Mardūd” (rejected individual), like his Najdī shaykh, regards it to be prohibited to marry and sit with all these Elders. He regards it to be obligatory to hurt them, blemish their honour, and cause them personal and monetary damages. Thus, the start and end of his treatise is a good demonstration [of this]. Thus, in reality he is a complete follower of his Najdī shaykh, and he himself and his followers are “Wahhābīs”.
Now I will present some words briefly from the Elders of Religion, how carefully they operated in the matter of doing takfīr of Muslims and tafsīq of believers. Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Gangohī, Allāh sanctify his precious soul, says in Laṭā’if Rashīdiyyah (p. 31) under the commentary of the ḥadīth, “The last man to enter Paradise”: “…Thus, īmān has such position that no angel or messenger can fathom. With Allāh, it necessitates salvation and is highly regarded. Thus, no believer may be said to be definitely a person of Hellfire, and nor should īmān be looked at with scorn no matter how hidden [it is]. Because of this, the jurists of the Ummah have stated that if from a hundred possibilities, one possibility can be of īmān, takfīr may not be made of a believer. The number ‘hundred’ is not for specification (taḥdīd) but to express a large number (takthīr). If there is only one possibility from a thousand, even then takfīr cannot be done. Īmān has a very great stature, as it is affirming the oneness of Allāh (Exalted is He), the unique quality of Allāh (Exalted is He). Say: He is Allāh, the One. Then, one in whose nature the light of this special quality has entered, even if hidden to some degree, will he not be accepted and a person of Paradise? Entering the Fire is for his purification and rectification not for degradation and punishment. However it is apparently punishment, just like hitting an enemy and hitting a beloved child to discipline [him] are similar [in appearance], although there is a difference in the two…”
Ḥaḍrāt! Now ponder, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Gangohī, Allāh sanctify his precious soul, how careful he and his followers were in takfīr and declaring others “mushriks” etc., and how diligent they were in following the pious Salaf, as distinguished from the Wahhābīs, who make everyone kāfir and mushrik at the slightest imagined doubts, and regard their properties and blood to be permissible. [Persian couplet]: Look at the difference in path, from where to where?!
However, “Mujaddid al-Dajjālīn” and his followers are undoubtedly step by step [followers] of Wahhābīs. Taking mental leaps from afar and contrived imagined interpretations, they strive and struggle to make [others] kāfir. They spend their day and night thinking how to make the Muḥammadan Ummah more restricted and smaller. Can these people be lovers of the Messenger (upon him peace) or supporters of the Ummah? Never! Is it the work of the ‘Ulamā’ of the Ummah to make Muslims into kāfirs by zealously misrepresenting the meanings [of texts] and mutilating passages? – or is it [rather] the demand of prophetic inheritance and knowledge of Sharī‘ah to passionately bring disbelievers into Islām, mushriks into Īmān and munāfiqūn into certainty? Would the Messenger of Allāh (upon him peace) support their method? Is this what the noble imāms would teach? Was this the salient feature of the pious Salaf? It is very unfortunate that the fear of God has been lifted from their hearts. A divine seal and shadow has been cast over their hearts. (al-Shihāb al-Thāqib, p. 221-4)