Some Barelwīs are of the belief that Sayyid Aḥmad Shahīd Barelwī and his disciples had come into contact with Wahhābīs while they were in the Ḥijāz, and as a consequence picked up Wahhābī views. Echoing this sentiment, Gibril Haddad wrote: “Ismā‘īl Dihlawī wrote Taqwiyat al-Īmān in the wake of his Ḥijāz years (1236-1239), at which time he had come under the tutelage of Wahhābī missionaries.” This view has been shown to be false in an earlier piece, quoting nonpartisan neutral western scholars stating that there is no proof that Sayyid Aḥmad Shahīd or his disciples had any contact with the Arabian Wahhābīs.
Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī had also addressed this allegation in his Naqsh e Ḥayāt as follows:
It becomes very clear from the aforementioned events that Ḥaḍrat Sayyid [Aḥmad Shahīd] Ṣāḥib and his companions arrived at Makkah Mu‘aẓẓamah at the end of 1237 H, that is at the beginning of 1823. This is the time in which no remnant or sign remained of the Wahhābī government and its communities in either Ḥijāz or any town or village of Najd. In fact, five years before this, Egyptian forces under the command of Ibrāhīm Pāshā ibn Muḥammad ‘Alī Pāshā, the viceroy (Khedive) of Egypt, under instructions from Sulṭān ‘Abd al-Majīd Khān, had crushed them, in not only Madīnah Munawwarah and Makkah Mu‘aẓẓamah, but in the whole of Ḥijāz and the famous regions of Najd. Those that were left of them became absconders, fleeing to far off places in the mountains and jungles. Thus, Shāmī has mentioned them clearly in the Ḥāshiyah of al-Durr al-Mukhtār, in the third volume, [stating] that in 1233 H, Egyptian forces completely annihilated this group.
On page 87 [of The Indian Musalmans] W.W. Hunter, after mentioning that the Wahhābīs took control of Makkah Mu‘aẓẓamah, Madīnah Munawwarah and other regions, wrote: “It was Mehmet Ali, Pasha of Egypt, who at last succeeded in crushing the Reformation (Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb and his followers). In 1812, Thomas Keith, a Scotchman, under the Pasha’s son, took Medina by storm. Mecca fell in 1813; and five years later, this vast power, which had so miraculously sprung up, as miraculously vanished, like a shifting sand mountain of a desert.”
Since this community of Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb caused trouble to all the inhabitants of Madīnah, Makkah and Ḥijāz, during this duration of their stay in Ḥijāz, kept going on with killing people, beating and looting, humiliating, and other such actions, as is famous and well-known there, and the author of Radd al-Muḥtār has written that these people only considered themselves Muslims and regarded others as Mushriks and non-Muslims, and considered looting and putting to waste their properties and lives permissible, this is why the people of the two Ḥarams harboured extreme hostility and hatred towards the Wahhābīs. This is why the people of Ḥijāz would not at all tolerate that any Najdī who had any connection with this sect would remain here in the Ḥijāz. After stirring up such an immense rebellion against the Turkish government and its governors, and wasting such money and lives in [efforts to] extinguish them, how could they tolerate that any Wahhābī remains there?
In short, when Sayyid Ṣāḥib and his companions reached Makkah Mu‘aẓẓamah in Sha‘bān of 1237 H, no Wahhābī ruler, scholar or preacher was there, and nor were they at the borders or fringes. Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb’s death had occurred long before. This is why they had no chance of adopting the Wahhābī methodology from them, and nor is it established through any reliable means that they had met with any Wahhābī. Thus, to affiliate these respected ones to this sect is a completely slanderous and false propaganda.
These respected ones were disciples of Ḥaḍrat Shāh ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Ṣāḥib Dehlawī (Allāh’s mercy be upon him), and are his followers in external and esoteric knowledge. They had received such perfection from the benefit they acquired [from him] that no match or equal of them could be found in depth [of knowledge], juristic understanding, taṣawwuf, speech and writing, neither in Hindustan nor in Arabia, Egypt, Levant etc. Their writings, speeches and actions are witness to this. How can such people of perfection become followers and imitators of others? How can this come to a sound mind? Especially when these others are less than them in every perfection?
In Wahhābī belief and practice, it is impermissible to travel with the objective of visiting the revered Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace). Thus, their writings and works are available [stating exactly this]. If, Allāḥ forbid, this was the belief of these respected ones, why did the entire group having travelled to Makkah Mu‘aẓẓamah go to Madīnah Munawwarah? And why did they remain there for three months, from the end of Dhu l-Ḥijjah till Rabī‘ al-Awwal? (Naqsh e Ḥayāt, p. 431-2)
Mawlānā Madanī goes on to explain that the first to brand Sayyid Aḥmad Shahīd’s group as “Wahhābīs” were the English as they feared his popularity and thus wished to stigmatise him in this way so as to cause divisions between him and the Muslims of India.