Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl is a work that was written by Shaykh Sayyid Aḥmad al-Barzanjī (d. 1919), one of the greatest scholars of Madīnah of that era, and its Shāfi‘ī Muftī. It was written in refutation of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s view that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was given complete and exhaustive knowledge of creation from the beginning of creation till the end of the world and beyond.
One can find the most recent edition of the work, published by Shirkah Dār al-Mashārī‘, at the following link:
Barelwīs will point out that Sayyid Aḥmad al-Barzanjī was a signatory of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn – which is true.* But the reality of his signature was described by Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Sayyid Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī (1879 – 1957) (who was at that time residing in Madīnah) in his al-Shihāb al-Thāqib. He explains that Sayyid Aḥmad Barzanjī initially felt that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān was reliable and a person of learning. Based on this good opinion, he signed his treatise, and even encouraged others to do so. However, when he had his final meeting with him in the house of Sayyid ‘Abdullāh Madanī, and they discussed the issue of ‘ilm al-ghayb, he realised the academic and ideological reality of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān and began to regret his previous actions. At this time, he took back his commendation and demanded his seal be removed, and told them that he has come to realise that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān is a person of misguidance and thus spoke very harshly about him.
Muftī Aḥmad Barzanjī himself told Mawlānā Madanī afterwards that on the following day, Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s son came to him, kissed his feet and hands, and begged him to keep the seal on the commendation, saying: “Do not take back the endorsement because we have no disagreement on these issues, and while we disagree on the issue of ‘ilm al-ghayb, let that remain as it is.” He also showed extreme flattery in speech and conduct. Muftī Aḥmad Barzanjī used some harsh words, but feeling embarrassed at his pleading, said it will be fine to keep the seal. However, he also pointed out that the seal is of no benefit to them given that his endorsement was conditional. A number of other ‘Ulamā’ from the Ḥaramayn also made their endorsements conditional. (Mawlānā Madanī quotes some of these on page 215-6 of al-Shihāb al-Thāqib.) Mawlānā Madanī notes that even those ‘Ulamā’ who did not put conditions, it is obvious that their endorsements were premised on the information in the treatise being correct.
Sayyid Aḥmad Barzanjī, soon after the last meeting with Aḥmad Riḍā Khān, began to pen a detailed refutation of the latter’s views on the knowledge of ghayb given to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). In al-Shihāb al-Thāqib, Mawlānā Madanī said the treatise is in the process of being published. (It was eventually published as Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl.) In this treatise, Sayyid Barzanjī, and by extension those who approved of it, used harsh words against Aḥmad Riḍā Khān. The positive words that were said of him by some of the scholars, either out of good character or because of not being fully aware of his true character, must be weighed against the negative words used by Sayyid Barzanjī. (see for this account: al-Shihāb al-Thāqib, p. 210-1)
In Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl, Sayyid Barzanjī refers to Aḥmad Riḍā Khān as follows:
ثم بعد ذلك ورد إلى المدينة المنورة رجل من علماء الهند يدعى أحمد رضا خان
“Then after that a man from the ‘Ulamā’ of India arrived at Madīna Munawwara called Aḥmad Riḍā Khān…” (Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl, p. 9)
Note, he does not use any honorifics or words of praise to describe Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī. Similarly, he says afterwards:
ثم بعد ذلك أطلعني أحمد رضا خان المذكور على رسالة له
“Then after that the aforementioned Aḥmad Riḍā Khān made me aware of a treatise of his…” (ibid. p. 10)
He mentions that he explained to Aḥmad Riḍā Khān why his views are unacceptable but he “persisted and was obstinate” (aṣarra wa ‘ānada) (ibid. p. 11)
He further says:
زعم هذا غلطا وجرأة على تفسير كتاب الله بغير دليل
“[Aḥmad Riḍā Khān] made this claim erroneously and being daring in interpreting the Book of Allāh without evidence.” (ibid)
Here he finds Aḥmad Riḍā Khān guilty of tafsīr bi ‘l-ra’y which is severely condemned in ḥadīth.
Then he goes into detail in refuting Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s view. He refers to his view as “a grave error” (khaṭa’ ‘aẓīm) (ibid. p. 14) and as being “rejected” (mardūd) (ibid. p. 57)
Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl was endorsed by several leading scholars of Madīnah including Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir ibn Tawfīq al-Shalabī (1878 – 1950), the imām of the Ḥanafīs in Madīnah, and Shaykh Tāj al-Dīn ibn Ilyās al-Ḥanafī, the Ḥanafī Muftī of Madīnah. This is clear evidence that it is not only the Ahl al-Sunnah of the Deobandī school/orientation that refuted Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s heretical views, but the Ahl al-Sunnah of Madīnah had also done so.
One of the great imāms of the subcontinent from the Firangī Maḥall school (non-Deobandī), ‘Allāmah ‘Ayn al-Quḍāt al-Ḥaydarābādī al-Lakhnawī al-Ḥanafī (1858 – 1924) – a foremost student of ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī – also wrote a refutation of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s view in a work called Ibrāz al-Maknūn fī Mabḥath al-‘Ilm bi Ma Kāna wa Mā Yakūn.
Sayyid Aḥmad Barzanji also endorsed al-Muhannad in a treatise called Kamāl al-Tathqīf, which was written in response to ‘Allāmah Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī’s request to review al-Muhannad. In Kamāl al-Tathqīf, he refers to ‘Allamah Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri as “al-‘Allāmah al-Fāḍil” (the virtuous erudite scholar) and “al-Muḥaqqiq al-Kāmil” (the accomplished research-scholar) and “one of the well-known ‘Ulamā’ of India”. (al-Muhannad, Dār al-Fatḥ, p. 122) Clearly, he did not believe ‘Allamah Khalil Ahmad Sahāranpūrī, one of the four elders of Deoband that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān targeted with his takfīr campaign, to be a disbeliever.
His general endorsement of al-Muhannad in Kamāl al-Tathqīf (ibid. p. 124) shows he agreed that the allegations against Mawlānā Gangohī, Mawlānā Nānotwī, Mawlānā Sahāranpūrī and Mawlānā Thānawī are false and he did not agree with the takfīr. Al-Muhannad clarifies that the fatwā attributed to Mawlānā Gangohī which was the basis of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s takfīr is spurious and fabricated, and opposes what he has clearly articulated in his published fatwās; that Mawlānā Nānotwī in Taḥdhīr al-Nās did not deny the finality of prophethood but merely elaborated upon and expanded the meaning of the title “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”; that Mawlānā Sahāranpūrī in al-Barāhīn al-Qāṭi‘ah did not make a blanket judgement of Satan’s knowledge being more expansive than the Prophet’s but was referring to lowly, insignificant knowledge of worldly matters; and that Mawlānā Thānawī in Ḥifẓ al-Īmān did not compare prophetic knowledge to that of laymen, madmen and animals, but only affirmed partial knowledge of ghayb for laymen, madmen and animals and thus concluded that if someone insists on calling another “‘Ālim al-Ghayb” based on partial knowledge of ghayb this would not be exclusive to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). (see: al-Muhannad, p. 67-8; 71-3; 74-7; 84-6)
In Kamāl al-Tathqīf, Sayyid Barzanjī also supports the Deobandī/Sunnī position (as opposed to the Barelwī position) on the expanse of Allah’s power as it relates to issuing a statement that is not true. See: https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2018/12/31/imkan-al-kidhb-and-the-arab-scholars/
* However, most of the content of his attestation is known only on Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s authority, who is not reliable. There is proof he meddled with at least one of the attestations. See: https://zakariyya.wordpress.com/2007/04/02/molwi-ahmed-radha-khan-among-the-arab-ulama/
NOTE: As Sayyid al-Barzanji notes in Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl (p8), he had written an earlier treatise on the same topic. On this earlier treatise, see: