Shāh Waliyyullāh Dehlawī (1703 – 1762) was the great fountainhead of Indian ḥadīth scholarship. His acceptance and pivotal role in representing the Ahl al-Sunnah of India is in need of no introduction. There is a clear tension between Shāh Waliyyullāh’s opposition to excessive personality-veneration/innovated practices and Barelwī support of them. Thus we find some clear opposition to Shāh Waliyyullāh amongst Barelwī scholars.
Faḍl al-Rasūl Badāyūnī
Faḍl al-Rasūl Badāyūnī (1798 – 1872), regarded as one of the prominent predecessors of the Barelwī/RazāKhānī school, clearly wrote in opposition to Shāh Waliyyullāh. Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī (1856 – 1921) had written a brief commentary on one of Faḍl al-Rasūl Badāyūnī’s books (al-Mu‘taqat al-Muntaqad) referring to him in it as “the seal of verifiers, support of inspectors, sword of Islām, lion of the Sunnah” etc. (al-Mustanad al-Mu‘tamad, p. 8)
[On the other hand, when Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī was studying at Delhi (between 1845 – 1850), he once encountered Faḍl al-Rasūl Badāyūnī who was visiting for a lecture. Mawlānā Gangohī sat at the lecture and found his statements and evidences extremely problematic, and never returned to him again. (Tazkirat al-Rashīd, p. 36)]
In a work called al-Bawāriq al-Muḥammadiyyah, Faḍl al-Rasūl Badāyūnī attacks Shāh Waliyyullāh al-Dehlawī. On pages 28-31 of the book, he attacks Shāh Waliyyullāh’s celebrated work, Izālat al-Khafā, claiming it is like a Khārijī book! He claims it appears the topic of the work is “removing khilāfah from the seal of khilāfah and the opener of wilāyah (i.e. ‘Alī raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu)” (p. 31). He then concludes: “In sum, the writings of Shāh Waliyyullāh are opposed to the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah.” Referring to Tafhīmāt Ilāhiyyah and “other writings” of Shāh Waliyyullāh he claims these demonstrate his claim, but the sons of Shāh Waliyyullāh, according to him, suppressed these works! (ibid. p. 32)
Images from the book:
Aḥmad Riḍā Khān himself stopped short of directly attacking Shāh Waliyyullāh Dehlawī and his sons, but he regarded Shāh Muḥammad Ismā‘īl Dehlawī (1779 – 1831) and Shāh Muḥammad Isḥaq Dehlawī (1783 – 1846), prominent members of the family and direct students/successors of Shāh ‘Abdul ‘Azīz Dehlawī (1746 – 1824), to be the progenitors of the “Wahhābīs”, referring to their followers/admirers as “Ismā‘īlī Wahhābīs” and “Isḥāqī Wahhābīs” respectively. (e.g. Fatawa Riḍawiyya, Riḍā Foundation, 15:236; 20:246) This was probably more for practical, rather than principled reasons, however, because the views of Shāh Ismā‘īl Dehlawī he took issue with are traceable to his predecessors like Shāh Waliyyullāh, Shāh ‘Abdul ‘Azīz and Qāḍī Thanā’ullāh Pānipatī. See al-Junnah li Ahl al-Sunnah by Muftī ‘Abdul Ghanī Patialvī and the writings of Mawlānā Sarfrāz Khān Ṣafdar for documentation.
Muḥammad ‘Umar Icharwī
Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s opposition to the Waliyyullāh family, of course, opened the door to attacks on Shāh Waliyyullāh himself. Muḥammad Umar Icharvī (1902 – 1971) is a well-known Barelwī “scholar”. He is a student of one of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s students, regarded as “Munāẓir e Islām” in Barelwī circles and greatly admired by them as a defender of their “maslak” (see: Tazkirah Akābir Ahl e Sunnat by ‘Abd al-Ḥakīm Sharaf, p. 498 – 500).
In his work Miqyās e Ḥanafiyyat, he wrote against Shāh Waliyyullāh claiming he was directly influenced by Muḥammad ibn al-Wahhāb (1703 – 1792) while he was in the Ḥijāz. As a result, he claims Shāh Waliyyullāh became a Wahhābī and promoted Wahhābī ideas in his books. He claims his sons reverted to the way of their grandfather (Shāh Waliyyullāh’s father), but were influenced by some of the Wahhābī ideas of their father. (Miqyās e Ḥanafiyyat, p. 575-7)
Of course the claim that Shāh Waliyyullāh was directly influenced by Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb is completely without foundation. What this does demonstrate however is that Barelwīs oppose the ideas of Shāh Waliyyullāh himself and regard them to be “Wahhābī”. Some, like ‘Umar Icharwī, are honest in this respect, while others like Aḥmad Riḍā Khān try to skirt the issue.
Images from the book:
Because Barelwī mythology is rooted in the idea that their version of Islām, comprising of exaggerated personality-veneration and innovations, is true Sunnism, they characterise all genuine Sunnī opposition to them as being “Wahhābī” in origin, and thus have to somehow force a link between Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb and the Indian “Wahhābīs”. Icharwī does so by falsely claiming a direct link between Shāh Waliyyullāh and Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb. Aḥmad Riḍā Khān does so by falsely claiming a direct link between Shāh Ismā‘īl and the ideas of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb, even making the preposterous and resoundingly false claim that Taqwiyat al-Īmān is a translation of Kitāb al-Tawḥīd! Such myths and fables are used to fortify the psuedo-Sunnī Barelwī religion against valid criticism – by simply throwing them off as being “Wahhābī” in origin. The reality of course is that genuine Sunnī scholars have always written against exaggerated personality-veneration and innovations, and this is not peculiar to Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb or Wahhābīs.