Mufti Taqi Usmani’s Critical Review of Mafahim Yajibu an Tusahhah

October 19, 2019

In a recently published collection of Muftī Taqī al-‘Uthmānī’s Arabic articles, under the title Maqālāt al-‘Uthmānī, an article reviewing Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Alawī al-Mālikī’s Mafāhīm Yajibu an Tuṣaḥḥaḥ has been included. The article was originally written in the 1980s and then published in the al-Balāgh journal with an explanatory note in the mid-1990s. (The review article is translated below.)

As an introduction to the review, Muftī Taqī al-‘Uthmānī writes:

The book Mafāhīm Yajibu an Tuṣaḥḥaḥ by Shaykh Muḥammad al-‘Alawī al-Mālikī has become a subject of debate and disagreement in some academic circles at the present time. The debate became more intense and argumentations increased upon the publication of its Urdu translation. My endorsement was something of an evidence and argument for some and a cause of doubts and misunderstandings for others. Thus, I felt it best to publish it prefaced with this explanatory introduction to clarify the matter and remove the veil from the reality of the issue.

It is known that the author of this book Shaykh Muḥammad al-‘Alawī al-Mālikī is the son of Shaykh Sayyid al-‘Alawī, who was from the notables amongst the great scholars of Makkah al-Mukarramah. He had connections and links with the scholars of India and Pakistan, amongst whom were my respected father Muftī Muḥammad Shafī‘ and Shaykh Muḥammad Yūsuf al-Bannūrī (Allāh have mercy on them). Because of these links, his son spent some time in Pakistan acquiring the religious sciences at the hands of these scholars. Thus, studying with both my respected father and Shaykh al-Bannūrī (Allāh have mercy on them) was decreed for him. In that period, some meetings and visits occurred between myself and him which had ended with his return to Saudi Arabia, after which there was no communication between us for an extended period.

Some years ago, I unexpectedly received a phone call from him in which he informed me that he is coming to Karachi, on the route to returning to Saudi Arabic from Indonesia, only to visit me for an important task of his. He came to the Dār al-‘Ulūm in the company of the respected Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ḥafīẓ al-Makkī (Allāh preserve him), and he informed me that he wrote a book called Mafāhīm Yajibu an Tuṣaḥḥaḥ to clarify and verify serious issues that had become areas of harshness and extremism amongst some scholars and that he requested from me and my respected brother Muftī Muḥammad Rafī‘ al-‘Uthmānī (Allāh preserve him) a written endorsement of it.

It happened that I was at that time very busy, and I had plans to travel the next day. I apologised to him explaining that these obligations do not allow me to read it such that I can fulfil its due in giving an endorsement. He presented to me the endorsements of some Arab and Pakistani scholars certifying the book and praising it greatly. He asked me to do one of two things, explaining that doing either of them will not take up much time: signing one of those write-ups, or writing down some words to certify the book and agreeing with it based on those endorsements. I responded by apologising a second time, saying that I respect and revere these scholars, but endorsement is a trust and it is not allowed for me to express a positive opinion of the book without reading it and having knowledge of its contents. He agreed to this and insisted that I spare some time to take a glance at the book and then endorse it. In response to his insistence, I studied his important discussions despite the opportunities to doing so being limited. I discovered in it correct matters that deserve praise and support, just as some criticisms of it surfaced to me. I called him by phone informing him that I cannot endorse the book and certify it completely since some criticisms and objections to it surfaced to me while studying it. He asked me to include those criticisms in my endorsement. I said this would only be possible if you include my endorsement in its entirety in your book without any cutting or editing. He agreed to this. So I wrote an article in which I tried to explain both dimensions of the book: its positives and the criticisms on it. My respected brother Shaykh Muftī Muḥammad Rafī al-‘Uthmānī studied those discussions himself and held the same opinion as myself on the book and signed the same [review] article. We sent over the article to the respected author. I remained waiting for it to be published in the next edition of his book, but he, as far as I know, did not publish it yet despite its continuous publication.

It is worth mentioning that I wrote this endorsement quickly and while having many obligations and sufficed in it with brief pointers, and it was not my intent at that point to comment on every part of the book. Thus, it would not be farfetched that there are other places of the book that can be critiqued or objected to besides what I have mentioned in this article. Allāh (Glorified is He) gives direction.

Muḥammad Taqī al-‘Uthmānī

(Maqālāt al-‘Uthmānī, p. 76-8)

A translation of the review is as follows:

All praise belongs to Allāh, Lord of the Worlds, and blessings and peace be upon our leader and our master Muḥammad, the trustworthy prophet, and on his progeny and all his companions, and on all who follow them in excellence to the Day of Recompense.

To proceed:

The noble brother, the respected scholar, the researcher, Shaykh Sayyid Muḥammad al-‘Alawī al-Mālikī (Allāh preserve him and maintain him) requested from us that I offer to him my opinion on his book Mafāhīm Yajibu an Tuṣaḥḥaḥ. This was only because of his humbleness before Allāh and his love for knowledge and its seekers and his search for truth and accuracy as he is from a learned and noble family, more esteemed than being in need of praise from the likes of us for their works. His father (Allāh have mercy on him) is recognised in the Islāmic world for his knowledge, virtue, scrupulousness and piety. And indeed he, by Allāh’s grace, is an excellent successor of an excellent predecessor. However, it is a privilege for us to write these lines in obedience to his command, and hoping for his supplications, and expressing the happiness and pleasure that overcame us from most of his discussions, and what occurred to us of criticisms in some other parts.

The topics that the author discussed in this book are dangerous topics, in which excess and negligence have appeared [amongst the Muslims] that has divided the word of the Muslims and has caused disunity and strife amongst them from which every believing heart would be hurt. Rarely would it be found that someone assesses these issues with balance and justice, and puts everything in its place, walking the path of fairness, and avoiding excess and negligence.

Many such issues are secondary, theoretical matters and not the basis of faith, and not a criterion between Islām and disbelief. On the contrary, some of them will not be questioned about in the grave nor at the resurrection nor the reckoning, and if a man were not to know of them for his entire life, that will not diminish his religion and faith the weight of a mustard seed – for example, the reality and nature of the intermediary life, and other such purely theoretical and philosophical matters. However, it is very unfortunate that when discussion and argumentation on these matters increased, these issues came to be like the primary objectives of religion or from the foundational creeds of Islām. Hence, some people displayed extremism in such matters, accusing those who oppose their view of disbelief, polytheism and deviance. This narrow mindset is often forgiving of the destructive currents attacking the foundations of Islām, but is avid over these secondary theoretical matters more than its avidness in tackling pure apostasy, absolute lawlessness, open profligacy and abominations imported from the disbelievers and outsiders.

Our brother, ‘Allāmah Sayyid Muḥammad al-‘Alawi al-Maliki (Allāh protect him), spoke regarding this narrow mentality with guided speech, and established that those who believe in what is necessarily known to be from religion may not be anathematised because of his preference of some views on which there are disagreements amongst the scholars of Islām, both past and present.

Then he spoke about some of these secondary issues on which disagreement occurred amongst the Muslims, and some of them attacked others because of them with declarations of disbelief and deviance, like the issue of tawassul in supplication, and travelling to visit the grave of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), and tabarruk (taking blessings) from the relics of the prophets and companions and pious, and the reality of prophethood, humanity and the intermediary life. The position that he preferred in these matters is a safe position supported by bright proofs from the Book and Sunnah and the actions of the companions and successors and pious predecessors. He proved with clear proofs that one who allows tawassul in supplication and tabarruk from the relics of the prophets and pious or he travels to visit the grave of the Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and believes it is from the greatest of rewards, or believes in the life of the prophets in the graves with an intermediary life which exceeds the intermediary life attained by others, he has not acquired any sin, let alone having committed polytheism or disbelief, since all of these are established by evidences of the Qur’ān and Sunnah and the inherited practice of the pious predecessors and the sayings of the majority of the firmly grounded scholars in every age.

Similarly, the author spoke about the Ash‘arīs and their method of interpreting the divine attributes. There is no doubt that the safest position in this is what the ḥadīth-masters have expressed in their statement: “Pass them over without how,” but figurative interpretation is an approach reached by the ijtihād of the Ash‘arīs to preserve Allāh’s transcendence and oppose assimilation, and nothing led them to this but their strong adherence to the belief of tawḥīd and their avoidance of any trace of corporealism, and many of the great scholars of the past chose this path, whose excellence none but an ignoramus or obstinate person will dispute. So how is it possible to accuse the Ash‘arīs of disbelief and deviance? And expel them from the fold of Ahl al-Sunnah and put them in the category of the Mu‘tazila and Jahmiyya?! Allāh protect us from this!

How wonderful is what our brother, the author, said in this respect: “Is it not enough for the opponent to say that they (Allāh have mercy on them) did ijtihād and erred in the interpretation of the attributes, and it would have been better if they did not tread this path, instead of accusing them of deviance and becoming annoyed at those who consider them from the Ahl al-Sunnah?” (p.39)

This methodology which the author adopted in these matters is a balanced methodology which if the Muslims chose in their secondary disagreements with complete openness of heart, many of the knots would be untied and many of the efforts which the enemies are undertaking to divide Muslims will fail.

Now, it is necessary to mention the criticisms which came to our minds when reading this book. This stems only from fulfilling the obligation of love and goodwill for the sake of Allāh, and obedience to the command of the author himself. They are as follows:

    1. The topics which the author (Allāh preserve him) discussed are dangerous topics, which have become very sensitive, and the excess and negligence that have occurred in them have occurred, and renovating one part may spoil another part, and focusing on one aspect may sacrifice the right of another aspect. So, it is necessary on one speaking about these issues to take extreme precaution, and keep in mind both sides, and be on guard that anybody misuse his words for falsehood.

Since this book is for the purpose of refuting the extremism of anathematising the Muslims and accusing them of polytheism due to venerating and loving the noble Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and the saints and pious, it is natural that there will not be a detailed refutation of those who are extreme in their veneration to such a degree of extremism that is prohibited in the Book and Sunnah and by the scholars of the Sharī‘ah in every age and place, but despite this, it is necessary, as far as I am concerned, in view of the seriousness of the topic, that this side is also touched on, even if briefly, so that those who transgress the bounds in this veneration to what, at the very least, leads to suspecting polytheism is refuted.

    1. We found in some parts of the book brevity in some important issues which may be misunderstood by some people, so they may argue from that something that was not originally meant, and exploit it to support some false beliefs. From them is the issue of ‘ilm al-ghayb as the author (Allāh preserve him) quickly passed over it and mentioned that ‘ilm al-ghayb is for Allāh (Glorified and Exalted is He) and then said after this: “It is established that Allāh Most High taught His Prophet from the ghayb what He taught him, and gave him what he gave him.” (p.91) This speech is true, and is meant the plentiful news of the ghayb which Allāh (Glorified and Exalted is He) revealed to His Noble Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace). However, some people don’t stop at attributing these news to him (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), but say clearly that he (upon him peace) is knower of the ghayb with an exhaustive knowledge of all that was and will be to the establishment of the Hour, so we fear that this general statement will leave the possibility of this false interpretation which the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah have been refuting for a long time.
    1. Similarly the author said about our Noble Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) that “he is alive in the two abodes, with constant attention towards his ummah, freely-disposing by Allāh’s will in their affairs, aware of their conditions, the blessings of blessers from his ummah being shown to him and their salutations being conveyed to him despite their abundance.” It is clear he does not mean by disposition complete absolute disposition, nor by him being aware of their conditions encompassing knowledge of all particulars, as this is baseless and not from the beliefs of Ahl al-Sunnah. He only intended some particular activities that are established specifically, as is clear from his giving the example of blessings and peace being shown to him and his response to them. But we fear that this expression suggests the opposite of this intent, and will be misused by some extremists from the other side.
    1. The author did brilliantly as we previously indicated in his precaution in the matter of anathematisation of a Muslim, so a Muslim is not be anathematised as long as there is a sound interpretation for his speech or an interpretation that does not necessitate anathematisation at the least. However, anathematisation is one thing and preventing a person from using baseless words or suggestive words is another thing. Precaution in anathematising is withholding from it as long as there is an escape from it, but precaution in the second matter is preventing the likes of these words absolutely.

From this is the statement of the author: “The speaker saying ‘O Prophet of Allāh cure me and repay my debt,’ if it were supposed that one said this, he only meant: ‘Intercede for my cure and pray for the repayment of my debt and turn to Allāh in my affair.’ Thus, they are not asking from him except what Allāh has made them capable of and given them control over of supplication and intercession…and thus such an attribution in the speech of people is from the [rhetorical style of] majāz ‘aqlī (metaphor).” (p.95) This is a good interpretation to prevent anathematisation which is from the aspect of holding a good opinion of believers. However, good opinion only arises in one who does not deny this interpretation of his speech. As for the one who does not himself approve of this interpretation as is a reality in some people as far as I am aware, how can his speech be interpreted in a way he himself does not approve?

Furthermore, although such interpretation is sufficient in preventing anathematisation of the speaker, should such words be encouraged? Never! Rather, this should be forbidden to prevent ambiguity and resemblance [with polytheism] at the very least, as the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) forbade the word “my slave” for a bondman due to it being suggestive [of polytheism]. Therefore, it is necessary according to me for those who seek interpretations for these speakers to state clearly that it is forbidden so that this interpretation does not encourage them to use such suggestive words, for indeed “the one who grazes around the borders, almost falls in it”. The same is said about tawassul in the form of a vocation, and of the unrestricted usage of “reliever of distresses” (mufarrij al-kurubāt) and “fulfiller of needs” (qāḍī al-ḥājāt) for other than Allāh (Glorified and Exalted is He).

    1. The author mentioned that bid‘ah divides into two categories: good and evil, disapproving of the latter and not the first. This division is correct with respect to the linguistic meaning of the word bid‘ah, and in this sense, it was used by al-Fārūq al-A‘ẓam when he said : “What a brilliant bid‘ah this is!” As for bid‘ah in its technical sense, it is only evil, and in this sense Allāh’s Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) said: “Every bid‘ah is misguidance” as narrated by Muslim.
    1. The author (Allāh preserve him) was successful in describing the prophetic distinctions when he said: “Although the prophets are human beings who eat and drink…and are subject to the temporary states which overcome human beings of weakness, old age and death, but they are distinguished by special characteristics and are characterised by lofty and magnificent attributes which are with respect to them from the most necessary of necessities…” (p.127)

Then he mentioned a number of these special characteristics, especially the special characteristics of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), so no one can claim that he (upon him blessing and peace) is equal to other than him in attributes and states – protection is from Allāh! The truth is that his (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) special characteristics are beyond what we are able to comprehend, but we believe that the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) is more esteemed than us needing [to use] weak narrations to establish his distinctions, for his distinctions that are established in the Qur’ān and sound Sunnah are more in number, higher in status and stronger in affecting the hearts than the distinctions that are mentioned in some weak narrations like what is narrated that he had no shadow in the sunlight or moonlight, as it is a weak narration according the majority of the scholars and ḥadīth-masters.

    1. The author (Allāh protect him) said: “Gathering for the purpose of the noble prophetic birth is nothing but a customary practice, and is not at all part of worship, and this is what we believe and take as our religion before Allāh Most High.” Then he said: “We announce that specifying one night besides another for this gathering is the greatest estrangement from the Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace).”

There is no doubt that commemorating the Noble Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and describing his biography is from the greatest of blessings and the most virtuous of fortunes when it is not restricted to a day or date, nor is the belief of worship associated with it in gathering on a particular day in a particular form. Thus, gathering to commemorate the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) with these conditions is in essence permissible, not deserving of condemnation or blame.

However, there is another approach adopted by many verifying and scrupulous scholars, which is that this gathering, although permissible in itself, many people believe it is from the objective acts of worship or from the religious obligations, and they specify for it specific days, along with what some of them mix with it of false beliefs and impermissible practices. Moreover, it is difficult for the general people to observe the subtle differences between custom and worship. Hence, if these scholars, by observing these matters, the importance of which cannot be denied, chose to prevent such gatherings, observing the principle of “blocking the means,” and recognising that repelling harms is favoured over attaining benefit, then they are holding firm to proofs of the Sharī‘ah, and thus do not deserve condemnation or blame. The course in these matters is like the course in matters which are open to differences in ijtihād, every man encouraging and giving fatwā according to what he believes to be true, and seeks Allāh’s reward according to it, and at the same time not shooting the arrows of criticism at another scholar who holds an opposing view.

In sum, the respected scholar, the researcher, Sayyid Muḥammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki (Allāh Almighty preserve him and benefit by him Islām and the Muslims) despite some of these criticisms, has assessed in this book many issues which were misunderstood by some people, and offered their correct understandings and their proofs from the Book and Sunnah. I wish that his book is studied with the eye of fairness and the spirit of mutual understanding, not with the objective of argumentation and quarrelling. I ask Allāh Most High to enable us and all Muslims to stand with justice as witnesses to Allāh even against ourselves. Verily, He Most High is Near, Ever-Responding to callers. May Allāh Most High bless our master and our leader, Muḥammad, and his progeny and all his companions.

Muḥammad Taqī al-‘Uthmāni, servant of the students of Dar al-‘Ulūm Karāchī

Muftī Muḥammad Rafī‘ al-‘Uthmāni, headmaster of Dar al-‘Ulūm Karāchī

(Maqālāt al-‘Uthmānī, p. 79-86)

Refuting Barelwi Takfir of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi: Explaining the Passage from Hifz al-Iman

October 11, 2019

Barelwis writing online have been repeating the charge of Kufr against Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi.

The charge Barelwis make is that Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi equated the knowledge of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) to the knowledge of madmen, animals and children. To prove this, they quote a passage from his Hifz al-Iman. The passage is as follows:

Further, if according to the statement of Zaid it is correct to apply the ruling of ‘ilm al-ghayb on the blessed person [of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), based on which he will be called “‘Alim al-Ghayb”], then he will be asked: Is the intent of this ghayb some ghayb or all ghayb? If some unseen knowledges are intended what then is the distinction of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) in this? Such knowledge of ghayb [i.e. some ghayb as opposed to all ghayb] is acquired by Zaid, Amr, indeed every child and madman, and indeed all animals and beasts, since each individual knows something or another that is hidden to someone else. Thus, everyone should be called ‘Alim al-Ghayb!

This passage does not equate the knowledge of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) to the knowledge of madmen etc. To equate the knowledge of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) to the knowledge of madmen etc. is Kufr even according to Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi as stated in his subsequent clarification, Bast al-Banan.

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi is here talking about using the term “‘Alim al-Ghayb” to describe Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), as evident from this passage itself, as it says: “Thus, everyone should be called ‘Alim al-Ghayb.” This is also evident from the question found in Hifz al-Iman to which this is a response:

In his response, first (before the above passage) Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi explains that ‘Alim al-Ghayb (or even ‘ilm al-ghayb) is a term applied exclusively to a being who has knowledge of ghayb independently. Hence, to use the term for those who have knowledge of ghayb via a means is a misuse and misapplication. Then, he says, as found in the above passage, that even with the false interpretation of ‘ilm al-ghayb as knowledge of ghayb acquired via a means, when applied to Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), is all ghayb intended or some? Of course no one means all ghayb, and having knowledge of some ghayb is not restricted to Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). In fact, all creatures have knowledge of some ghayb. (E.g. they all know about Allah, and Allah is from the ghayb). Thus, if based on some ghayb an individual is called this, then everyone should be called ‘Alim al-Ghayb, and that is of course nonsensical. This is Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi’s basic argument.

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi’s argument applies to all terms that are exclusive to Allah. Maulana Manzur Numani gives the example of the term “Rabb al-Alamin” (sustainer of creatures). A silly person could claim that a certain king who takes care of his subjects is “rabb al-alamin”! The answer to this is that Rabb al-‘Alamin is the one who sustains the creatures independently, not via means. In this meaning, it is exclusive to Allah, and to use it for those who sustain via a means is a misuse of the term. Further, it will be argued, does this king sustain all creatures or only some? Of course, he does not sustain all creatures, while sustaining some creatures is not exclusive to him; even a father does so, and in fact animals do so – so should all have the right to be called “rabb al-‘alamin”? This is identical to the form of argument Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi used in the above passage. (Futuhat Numaniah)

As one can see, there is no disrespect in this to the hypothetical king in reference. Similarly, there is no disrespect to Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) in the argument of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi. It is only presented to demonstrate the silliness of the person making this claim (that such terms as “‘Alim al-Ghayb”, which are exclusive to Allah, can be used for other than Allah). It is not presented to denigrate Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) or to equate his knowledge or status to that of others.

A final point to bear in mind is that the meaning of the passage from Hifz al-Iman was paraphrased, with no substantive difference between the original passage and the paraphrase, and was presented to scholars of the Arab world, in al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad. The scholars who saw this paraphrased passage saw no problem with it and did not consider it blasphemous. The paraphrased passage translates as follows:

This usage [of referring to another as ‘Alim al-Ghayb] is not permissible even if it was with a [particular] interpretation, because it is suggestive of shirk, just as the usage of their statement ra’ina was prohibited in the Qur’an (2:104) and their statement “my male slave” (‘abdi) and “my female slave” (amati) [was prohibited] in the hadith, as transmitted by Muslim in his Sahih (Kitab al-Alfaz min al-Adab wa Ghayriha); since the general [usage of the term] ghayb in the legal usages is that for which no proof was erected and there is no means or path to its perception. [Based] on this, Allah (Exalted is He) said, “Say: None in the heavens or on earth, except Allah, knows the ghayb” (27:65), “Had I knowledge of the ghayb, I should have abundance of wealth” (7:188) and other verses. If this were allowed by interpretation, it would entail that it would be correct to use khaliq (Creator), raziq (Sustainer), malik (Master), ma’bud (Deity) and other attributes of Allah (Exalted is He), exclusive to His (Exalted is He) Essence, for the creation by an interpretation. It would also imply that by another interpretation the use of the term ‘alim al ghayb would be negated from Allah (Exalted is He), since He (Exalted is He) is not the knower of ghayb by means of a medium or by accident, so would any sane religious person allow its negation [from Him]? Far be it, of course not.

Moreover, if this usage were correct for his holy essence (Allah bless him and grant him peace) according to the statement of a questioner, we will ask for clarification from him: what does he mean by this ghayb? Does he mean every particular from the particulars of ghayb or a part of it, whichever part it may be? If he intended a part of the ghayb, there is no speciality in this for the Chief of Messengers (Allah bless him and grant him peace), since the knowledge of some ghayb, even if it is little, is attainable by Zayd and ‘Amr, rather every child and madman, rather all animals and beasts, because every one of them knows something another does not know and [something that is] hidden from him. Hence, if the questioner permits the usage [of the term] ‘alim al ghayb for one because of his knowledge of a part of the ghayb, it would be necessary for him to allow its usage for all those mentioned, and if that was the case, it would not then be from the perfections of prophethood because they all share in it; and if it is not the case, he will be asked for a distinction, and will find no path to it. [Here] ends the statement of Shaykh al-Thanawi.

Barelwis who insist on the charge of Kufr against Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi must answer the following:

  1. Is the meaning of the passage of Hifz al-Iman as presented in al-Muhannad insulting? If you answer “yes”, then you are disagreeing with great Arab Ulama of that time, who did not regard it to be problematic.
  2. If you answer “no”, then what is the substantive difference between this and the original passage of Hifz al-Iman?

Note, Barelwis must present a substantive difference, a difference that shows the meaning in the two passages is different and thus rendering one Kufr and not the other.

Deobandī Position on the Mawlid – Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī

June 16, 2019

‘Azīz Aḥmad Kānpūrī, a Barelwī polemicist, wrote in a 1929 tract called ‘Aqā’id Wahhābiyyah Deobandiyyah: “According to Deobandī Wahhābīs*, Mīlād Sharīf is impermissible in all conditions even if it is in accordance with Sharī‘ah, and no Mīlād or ‘Urs is permissible. It is not permissible to participate in Mīlād Sharīf or ‘Urs. It states in Fatāwā Rashīdiyyah, vol. 3, p. 83: ‘It is impermissible in all conditions to hold a gathering of Mawlūd. It is forbidden on account of public invitation to something mandūb (recommended).’”

Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī responds in Sayf e Yamānī (See: here), a book written in 1930, endorsed by leading Deobandī scholars, including Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī and ‘Allāmah Shabbīr Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī:

Allāh, the All-Knowing, All-Aware, is witness to the fact that according to us, the pure commemoration of the blessed birth of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) is a cause of mercy and a means of blessing just like other beautiful commemorations, and indeed commemorating the excrement of the Prophet, and even the sweat and urine of his camel, is without doubt a cause of reward. This is stated explicitly in many places of Fatāwā Rashīdiyyah. For the satisfaction of readers, we will cite only three passages from the first volume of Fatāwā Rashīdiyyah.

It states in the first volume of Fatāwā Rashīdiyyah, on page 70:

“No one forbids the commemoration of the birth itself.”

Similarly, it states on page 109 of the same volume:

“The commemoration of the birth itself is recommended. Its detestability occurs on account of restrictions.”

Then on page 142 of this volume it states:

“The commemoration of the birth of the Pride of the World (upon him blessing) itself is recommended. But on account of being attached to these restrictions, this function has become impermissible.”

It is clearly evident from each one of these passages that Mawlānā [Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī] Marḥūm would consider the commemoration of the birth of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) itself to be recommended and desirable, but would regard holding a function of Mīlād to be incorrect. If you are unable to distinguish the commemoration of the birth itself and holding a [specific annual] function, then this is a shortcoming in your understanding.

[Poem not translated]

It is indeed strange that those who cannot understand the difference between iṭlāq (an unrestricted action) and taqyīd (a restricted action) have a passion to criticise the speech of the ‘Ulamā’ of the Ummah and the righteous of the religious community. Readers, an example of this is exactly like someone who says: “A stolen sheep is ḥarām”, and some younger brother of the author of the treatise ‘Aqā’id Wahhābiyyah Deobandiyya, ‘Azīẓ Aḥmad Ṣāḥib, says: “According to him, even a sheep is ḥarām, the permissibility of which is proven from explicit text!”

Thus, in this manner it should be understood that the commemoration of the birth itself which holds the position of an unrestricted action (ilāq) is according to us something desirable, while holding [a Mīlād function], in the notion of which public invitation (tadā‘ī) and other emphases and specifications are included, and which holds the position of a restricted action (taqyīd), is according to us forbidden and incorrect. How can anyone object to this? Is not public invitation and other [ritual] emphases on something permissible or desirable reprehensible according to the Ḥanafī Fuqahā? It states in Muslim Sharīf that Ḥaḍrat ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar (Allāh be pleased with him) saw some people gathering for Ḍuḥā Ṣalāh with emphasis, and he described this practice of theirs as bid‘ah, even though Ḍuḥā Ṣalāh in itself is something desirable, on which ṣaḥīḥ ḥadīths have been transmitted.

It states in Musnad Imām Amad that Ḥaḍrat ‘Uthmān ibn Abi l-‘Āṣ (Allāh be pleased with him) was invited to a circumcision and he refused to go. Someone asked why. He said: “We would not go to circumcisions in the time of the Prophet and nor was there a practice of inviting people.” (Musnad, 4:217)

It is realised from these two ḥadīths that in [ritual] matters on which the Pure Sharī‘ah has not taught public invitation and other emphases, public invitation and emphasis on it is bid‘ah and forbidden. If there is sound intellect and a sense of fairness, all obscurities on the topic of Mīlād would be resolved from these few lines.

Further, even if this obvious difference between the commemoration of the birth itself and holding a [specific annual] function is ignored, even then, it is safer to not give permission for holding this function, to block the door (saddan li ‘l-bāb) [to evil], just as Ḥaḍrat Maḥbūb Subḥānī Quṭb Rabbānī Sayyidunā Shaykh Aḥmad al-Fārūqī Mujaddid Alf Thānī (Allāh’s mercy be upon him) wrote on this gathering of Mīlād:

“If recited such that distortion does not occur in Qur’ānic words and without the aforementioned [blameworthy] conditions being realised in the Qaṣa’id, and even that is with correct intention, what is there to prevent its allowance? Master! It comes to the mind of the Faqīr: If this door is not completely shut, the people of passion will not cease [taking advantage of it]. If a little is permitted, it will lead to much. There is a famous saying, ‘A little of it leads to much of it.’” (al-Maktūbāt)

Finally, I also wish to state that forbidding holding such a function is not specific to us or our Akābir, but for centuries, ‘Ulamā’ of Ahl al-Sunnah have been writing thus. Thus, ‘Allāmah Ibn al-Ḥājj [d. 737 AH], who Mawlawī Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Ṣāḥib referred to as “Imām” in Inbā’ al-Muṣṭafā, wrote in his famous book Madkhal:

ومن جملة ما أحدثوه من البدع مع اعتقادهم أن ذلك من أكبر العبادات وإظهار الشعائر ما يفعلونه فى الشهر الربيع الأول من المولد وقد احتوى ذلك على بدع ومحرمات

إلى أن قال:

وهذه المفاسد مترتبة على فعل المولد إذا عمل بالسماع فإن خلا منه وعمل طعاما فقط ونوى به المولد ودعا إليه الإخوان، وسلم من كل ما تقدم ذكره فهو بدعة بنفس نيته فقط، لأن ذلك زيادة فى الدين، وليس من عمل السلف الماضين واتباع السلف أولى (مدخل ابن الحاج، مطبوعة مصر، جلد أول، ص ٨٥)

“Amongst the bid‘ahs they have innovated – while believing that it is from the greatest of rituals – and has been publicised as a symbol [of the religion] is: the Mawlid that they practise in the month of Rabī‘ al-Awwal, which comprises of innovations and prohibited things…These harms are consequential upon the practice of Mawlid when practised with Samā‘. If [the Mawlid] is free of [Sama’], and one only prepares food intending the Mawlid, and calls friends to it, and it is free of all [the evils] that were mentioned earlier, it is a bid’ah by virtue of this intention alone because that is an addition in the Dīn and is not from the practice of the early Salaf, while obeying the Salaf is superior.”

It is clearly evident from the underlined part of this passage of Madkhal that if the function of Mīlād is devoid of other evils, even then, only because of holding a function with a specific emphasis, it is bid‘ah and not correct in Sharī‘ah. This is exactly what is mentioned in Fatāwā Rashīdiyyah.

Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Maghrībī wrote in his Fatāwā;

إن عمل المولد بدعة لم يقل به ولم يفعله رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم والخلفاء والأئمة، كذا فى الشرعة الإلهية

“The practice of Mawlid is innovation, neither endorsed nor practised by the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), nor the Caliphs, nor the Imāms. This is stated in al-Shir‘at al-Ilāhiyyah.”

In Fatāwā Tufat al-Quāt of Qāḍī Shihāb al-Dīn [Aḥmad ibn ‘Umar] Dawlatābādī [d. 849 H], it states that Qāḍī Sāḥib was asked about the Mīlād function, and he said:

لا ينعقد لأنه محدث وكل محدث ضلالة وكل ضلالة فى النار

“It is not to be held because it is innovation, and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the Fire.”

Mawlānā Naṣīruddīn al-Shāfī‘ī wrote in response to a questioner:

لا يفعل لأنه لم ينقل عن السلف الصالح، وإنما أحدث بعد القرون الثلاثة فى الزمان الطالح، ونحن لا نتبع الخلف فيما أهمل السلف، لأنه يكفى بهم الإتباع، فأي حاجة إلى الإبتداع؟!

“It is not to be done because it is not transmitted from the Salaf Sālih but it was invented after the first three generations in an impious time, and we do not follow the Khalaf in what the Salaf did not do, as they are sufficient for following, so what need is there to innovate?”

Shaykh al-Ḥanābilah ‘Allāmah Sharaf al-Dīn (Allāh have mercy on him) states:

إن ما يعمل بعض الأمراء في كل سنة احتفالا لمولده صلى الله عليه وسلم فمع اشتماله على التكلفات الشنيعة بنفسه بدعة أحدثه من يتبع هواه

“What some rulers do every year in celebration of his (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) birth, along with comprising of horrible formalities, it is bid‘ah itself, those following desires having invented it.”

From all these citations, it becomes as clear as the light of day that from an earlier time, ‘Ulamā’ of the four madhhabs did not look at this practice favourably. I wish to further quote a comprehensive passage from the book al-Qawl al-Mu‘tamad of ‘Allāmah Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad Miṣrī. The aforementioned ‘Allāmah states:

ومع هذا قد اتفق علماء المذاهب الأربعة بذم هذا العمل، فممن يذمه: قال العلامة معز الدين حسن الخوارزمي في تاريخه: صاحب إربل الملك مظفر الدين أبو سعيد الكوكبري، كان ملكا مسرفا يأمر علماء زمانه أن يعملوا باستنباطهم واجتهادهم، ولا يتبعوا مذاهب غيرهم حتى مالت إليه جماعة من العلماء وطائفة من الفضلاء، وكان يحتفل لمولد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فى الربيع الأول، وهو أول من أحدث من الملوك هذا العمل.

“Along with this, ‘Ulamā’ of the four madhhabs have agreed on censuring this practice. From those that censured it: ‘Allāmah Mu‘izz al-Dīn Ḥasan al-Khawārizmī said in his Tārīkh: The king of Irbil, King Muẓaffar al-Dīn al-Kawkaburī [d. 630 AH]. He was an extravagant king; he would tell the ‘Ulamā’ of his time to operate on their own deductions and judgements, and not follow the madhhabs of others (i.e. just like Ghayr Muqallids); subsequently, a group of the ‘Ulamā’ and a section of the righteous tended towards him. He would celebrate the Mawlid of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him) in Rabī al-Awwal and was the first king to introduce this practice.”

Since at this juncture exhausting such passages is not the objective, I will suffice on these few. It should be kept in mind that the passages quoted up to now are only of those who, together with being known amongst the Ummah, are accepted authorities on both sides. From all these passages, sufficient light is shed on our approach.

The permissibility or impermissibility of ‘Urs remains. Regarding this, we also say clearly that, undoubtedly, what people today call ‘Urs is impermissible according to us, and not only according to us, but it has this ruling according to all the Akābir of the Ummah.

The grandson and special student of Ḥaḍrat Shāh ‘Abdul ‘Azīz Ṣāḥib (Allāh have mercy on him), Ḥaḍrat Shāh Muḥammad Isḥāq Ṣāḥib Dehlawī, wrote on this ‘Urs in his famous book Kitāb Arba‘īn:

“It is not permissible to specify the day of ‘Urs. It states in Tafsīr Maẓharī:

لا يجوز ما يفعله الجهلاء بقبور الأولياء والشهدا من السجود والطواف حولها واتخاذ السرج والمساجد إليها، ومن الإجتماع بعد الحول كالأعياد ويسمونه عرسا

‘What the ignorant do at the graves of the Awliyā’ and Shuhadā, i.e. prostrating, circling around them, making lights and making masjids towards them, and assembling around them annually like ‘Id and calling it ‘Urs, are not permissible.’”

Similarly, Qāḍī Thanāullāh Ṣāḥib Pānipatī (Allāh’s mercy be upon him), who maintains a distinguished status in the Naqshbandī family, and who was called the “Bayhaqī of the Time” by Shāh ‘Abdul ‘Azīz, said in his well-known and famous book Irshād al-ālibīn:

“Elevating the graves of the Awliyā’ of Allāh, constructing domes over them, doing ‘Urs and its likes, and lighting, all of these are bid‘ah. Some of these practices are ḥarām and some makrūh. The Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) had cursed such people who light up graves or prostrate to them.”

Do tell, is it now only the ideology of “Wahhābī Deobandīs” to call Mīlād and ‘Urs impermissible? One should now realise with which Akābir of the religion the ‘Ulamā of Deoband maintain connection.

Noble readers, consider the approach of our RazāKhānī friends. A practice that earlier and later scholars have deemed bad, if, following earlier scholars, the ‘Ulamā’ of Deoband today also censure it and forbid it, this forbiddance according to them is an unforgivable crime! [It is a case of] the thief pointing the finger at the officer!

The virtues of a people are faults to some.

Oh Owner of the Throne, You are witness that the crime of ours and our Akābir is nothing but that we are adamant on the Sunnats of Your Pure Beloved, the holder of the station of “Lawlāka”, Ḥaḍrat Muḥammad Rasūlullāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), and are repulsed by innovations. (Sayf e Yamānī, p. 22-29)

Then, he addresses another common charge of Barelwīs, articulated by the same ‘Azīz Aḥmad Kānpūrī, that Deobandīs are deceptive and state in their work al-Tadīqāt li Daf‘ al-Talbīsāt (al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad) that the Mawlid function is recommended. Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī responds:

Al-Tadīqāt is not some lost book, which is unavailable. It is not some handwritten fatwā which can be altered, changed or tampered with. Rather, it is a published, widely available book, thousands of copies of which can be found in Hindustan. I will copy its passages below, from which readers will notice whether the commemoration of the noble birth itself is said to be recommended or holding the function of Mīlād; then recite an elegy over the insight and integrity of the author of Aqāi’d Wahhābiyyah (i.e. ‘Azīz Aḥmad Kānpūrī). From line 15 of Tadīqāt, page 27, it states:

“Far be it that any of the Muslims say, let alone we, ourselves, say, that commemorating his noble birth (upon him blessing and peace), rather even commemorating the dust on his shoes and the urine of his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) camel, are deemed blameworthy in the Shari‘ah, from the evil and prohibited innovations; for, commemorating the states which have the least connection with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is from the most desirable of recommended acts (ahabb al-mandubat) and the greatest of preferable acts (a‘la l-mustahabbat) according to us, whether it is the commemoration of his noble birth or commemoration of his urine, feces, standing, sitting, sleeping and waking.”

Then from line 10, page 29, this content is concluded with these words:

“Far be it that we say that commemorating the noble birth is abominable and a bid‘ah.”

Readers, for God’s sake, be fair! Who is it that is being deceptive and stating a clear lie? (Sayf e Yamānī, p. 29-30)

‘Azīz Aḥmad Kānpūrī further asks: “Do you people [Deobandīs] conduct Mīlād Sharīf without specifying [a date] or Qiyām?”

Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī responds:

It is our preoccupation day and night to discuss and study the blessed Sīrah of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and all the conditions of his life, from his celestial existence [in the world of souls] to his physical existence, then from birth to death, from death to resurrection, from resurrection to the hereafter, from the hereafter to eternity – in brief, all statements, deeds and actions. This is not the lot of the RazāKhānīs. Their lot is only to mention the birth on the date of the twelfth and that too using unreliable reports. In our lot, all conditions of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), the Sīrah, battles, commands, prohibitions, deeds, engagements, statements, actions etc. etc. all occur. Reading them and teaching them, distributing them and publishing them, is our life’s effort. All praise to Allāh, the Master of all worlds. We raise our hands in supplication that Allāh makes our end in this most excellent of pursuits. May our last breath depart beneath your feet, this is the heart’s anguish, this the hope.** (Sayf e Yamānī, p. 112-3)

* “Wahhabi” is a common Barelwi slur for Deobandis, one that has been refuted extensively, in particular by Mawlana Husayn Ahmad Madani in al-Shihab al-Thaqib. Deobandis differ with true Wahhabis on a number of core issues. For more detail, see here.

** A poem expressing the desire to live one’s entire life in service of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)


Sayyid Barzanjī: Complete Knowledge of the Five is Exclusive to Allāh, the Minority Disagreement is Rejected

January 24, 2019

In Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl, Sayyid Barzanjī explains in regard to the “five things”* that total knowledge of them is exclusive to Allāh. Angels and human beings may only receive partial, non-detailed knowledge of them. He explains that “the angel of death being aware of who will die that year and the angel of rain of all rain that will occur in it and the angel of wombs of who was born in it, it is an awareness that is non-detailed, not with full detail; and likewise the awareness of a prophet or saint of any of that or of something that will occur from him the next day – it is in a non-detailed manner not with full detail…The awareness of those mentioned is of only some particulars (juz’iyyāt) of those things, not by way of total encompassment.” (Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl, p. 67-8)

He also explains that Isrāfīl’s (‘alayhissalām) knowledge of when the final hour will be just before it occurs does not contradict the fact only Allāh knows when it is. He states: “…like Isrāfīl’s (upon him peace) awareness of the timing of the occurrence of the final hour when Allāh (Exalted is He) commands him to blow into the trumpet, this too does not arise [as an objection to the knowledge of the five being exclusive to Allāh], because this is at the time of Allāh establishing [the final hour], so it falls under the ruling of us becoming aware of it after it occurs because something that is near to a thing is given the same ruling as it.” (ibid. p. 69)

In other words, no one knows the precise time of the final hour until it will take place. Isrāfīl’s knowledge of it just before it occurs does not contradict this, as that is exactly at the time of its occurrence. As the Qur’ān states: “Knowledge of [the final hour] is only with my Lord. None will reveal it at its time, besides Him.” (7:187) At the time the final hour is to occur, no one will reveal it besides Allāh.

Barzanjī further says: “The truth that is derived from the evidences of the Book and Sunna and the statements of the ṣaḥābah and others from the vast majority of the salaf and khalaf, as you have seen, is that [the Prophet] (upon him blessing and peace) is not aware of the timing of the occurrence of the final hour, nor of the five unseen things in the manner that we mentioned (i.e. with encompassment, and in full detail). This does not entail diminishing his status because that which is intrinsically sought after in the appointment of prophets and sending heavenly books is explaining religious rulings and the obligations of Sharī‘ah. So what is necessary for prophets is for their knowledge of these rulings to be in the most complete manner [possible]. A small minority of the later ones have adopted the view that [the Prophet] (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) was aware of the five unseen things also but they did not cite a clear evidence for that from the Book and Sunnah…The answer to this is what Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhāb al-Sha‘rānī said in the introduction to his book al-Yawāqīt: ‘Allāh forbid that I oppose the majority of the Mutakallimīn and believe the truth of the speech of those after them from the people of spiritual unveiling who are not infallible.’” (ibid. p. 81-2)

The belief that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was given knowledge of the precise timing of the final hour and of exhaustive, total knowledge of all creation (including of the five things) is amongst the most cherished beliefs of Barelwīs, which sets them apart from the Ahl al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jamā‘ah. Barelwīs who pretend to be objective, neutral Sunnīs, and claim to follow mainstream Ash‘arī creed, should weigh this claim of theirs against the absurdly unscriptural and irrational Barelwī belief that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was given total, encompassing knowledge of all creation. Do they give more priority to the aberrations and heresies of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī or to correct Sunnī ‘aqīdah? If the former, they are not “Sunnīs” as they fraudulently claim but pseudo-Sunnīs and Ahl al-Bida‘.

* Mentioned in Sūrah Luqmān, namely the exact timing of the final hour, knowledge of rain, what is in the wombs, where people will die and what will happen in the future.

Ghāyat al-Ma’mūl: The Scholars of Madīnah Refute Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s Views on ‘Ilm al-Ghayb

January 19, 2019

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:

* 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:




Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī: Barelwī Slanderers are Vile, Wicked

January 16, 2019

While writing an Arabic biography of his teacher ‘Allāmah Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī (1852 – 1927)*, Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī (1879 – 1957) states while listing his works:

فمنها: المهند على المفند، ذكر فيها معتقداته ومعتقدات مشايخه الكرام أتباع الأسلاف العظام، وأهل السنة الفخام، ردا على ما افترى عليهم الخبثاء اللئام، مما تقشعر منه الجلود وتفتت عنه العظام

“One of them is al-Muhannad ‘ala l-Mufannad, in which he described his beliefs and the beliefs of his noble teachers, followers of the great predecessors and the glorious adherents of Sunnah, in refutation of what the wicked, vile ones invented about them, from which the skins crawl and bones crumble.” (Badhl al-Majhūd, Dārul Bashā’ir al-Islāmiyyah, 1:79)

Recall ‘Allāmah Khālid Maḥmūd’s comment on ‘Allāmah Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī referring to Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī and his followers as a “Satanic Army”:

Those who at times are heard saying in the circles of the ‘Ulamā’ of Deoband that Mawlānā Aḥmad Riḍā Khān gave his fatwā against the ‘Ulamā’ of Deoband in the passion for prophetic love, and not out of ill-intention, how untrue this is! The Akābir of the ‘Ulamā’ of Deoband called them a Satanic Army and these ignoramuses consider him to be intoxicated in prophetic love! There is a great disparity between the two. (Muṭāla‘ah Barelwiyyat. 5:68-9)

Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī has much more to say about his opinion on Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī and his followers in his dedicated work on this topic, written in the early 1910s, al-Shihāb al-Thāqib. See:

* The biography was written in the lifetime of ‘Allāmah Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī.

Imkān al-Kidhb and the Arab Scholars

December 31, 2018

In al-Muhannad ‘ala l-Mufannad, a work completed in Shawwāl of 1325 AH (1907 CE), ‘Allāmah Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī described the beliefs of the ‘Ulamā’ of Deoband in matters that they were alleged to have parted from the Ahl al-Sunnah. The work comprises of 26 questions and answers.

He discusses the topic of “imkān al-kidhb” under questions 23, 24 and 25. Questions 24 and 25 are particularly relevant to the subject, a translation of which is produced below:

Question Twenty-Four

Do you believe in the possibility of the occurrence of falsehood in a statement from the Speech of the Master (Great and Glorious is His Transcendence). If not, what then is your opinion?


We and our elders (Allah Most High have mercy on them) declare and are convinced that all speech that issued from the Creator (Great and Glorious is He) or will issue from Him is absolutely truthful, and it is certain that it concurs with reality. Undoubtedly, there is no trace of falsehood in any part of His (Exalted is He) Speech, nor any doubt about [the absence of] contravening reality [in His Speech]. Whoever believes contrary to this or conceives of a lie in any part of His Speech is a disbeliever, apostate and heretic, and does not have even a trace of faith.

Question Twenty-Five

Have you ascribed the view of “imkān al-kadhib” (the possibility of lying) to some of the Ash‘arīs? If so, what is meant by this? And do you have a proof-text for this view from the reliable scholars? Explain the matter to us as it is.


This began as a dispute between us and the Indian logicians and innovators about the ability of the Creator (Transcendent is He) to act contrary to what He promised, informed, intended, etc. They said that acting contrary to these things is negated from Allah’s Ancient Power (qudrah qadīmah), hypothetically impossible (mustaḥīl ‘aqlan), impossible to exist within His ability, and it is necessary for Him [to act] in accordance with His promise, report, intent and knowledge.

We said: Such things are certainly within His ability but their occurrence (wuqū‘) is not possible according to the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah, namely the Ash‘ārīs and Māturīdīs, textually and logically according to the Māturīdīs, and only textually according to the Ash‘arīs.

They objected that if it were possible that these things are included within the Power, it would entail the possibility of falsehood and this is certainly not in His ability and is intrinsically impossible (mustaḥīl dhātan).

We responded using a variety of answers from the kalām-scholars, of which was:

Even if the concomitance of the possibility of falsehood in acting contrary to the promise, reports etc. in His ability is accepted, it too is not intrinsically impossible, rather, like oppression and impudence, it is intrinsically within the Power, but it is textually and logically impossible, or just textually, as several imāms have espoused.

When they saw these responses, they caused corruption in the land and attributed to us [the position of] allowing imperfections (naqṣ) in relation to His Holiness (Blessed and Exalted is He), and they spread this accusation amongst the foolish and the ignorant to create enmity in the common people and to seek enjoyment and popularity amongst men. They reached the roads of the heavens in fabrication when they fabricated an image from themselves on the actuality (fi’liyyah) of falsehood [and ascribed it to us] without fearing the Knowing King. When Indians became aware of their scheming, they sought help from the noble ‘ulamā’ of the two Sanctuaries because they know they are ignorant of their evil and the reality of the views of our ‘ulamā’.

Their likeness is but the likeness of the Mu‘tazilah as compared with the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah since they [i.e. the Mu’tazilah] excluded rewarding the sinner (ithābat al-‘āṣī) and punishing the obedient (‘iqāb al-muṭī’) from the Pre-Eternal Power and made justice (‘adl) necessary for Allāh’s essence. They called themselves “the advocates of justice and transcendence” and they attributed injustice, unconscientiousness and ugliness to the ‘ulamā’ of Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah. So just as the predecessors of Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah did not mind their ignorance and did not permit inability in relation to Him (Transcendent and Exalted is He!) in the aforementioned injustice, and broadened the Pre-Eternal Power while also removing imperfections from His Noble Absolute Self and perfecting the transcendence and sanctity of His Lofty Holiness, saying, “Your understanding of the possibility of the ability to punish the obedient and reward the sinner as an imperfection is but the consequence of [following] despicable philosophers”; in the same way, we say to them, “Your understanding of the ability to act contrary to the promise, report and truth and the likes of them as an imperfection, while their issuance (ṣudūr) from Him (Exalted is He) is impossible, only textually, or rationally and textually, is but the misfortune of philosophy and logic and your adverse ignorance.”

They do what they do because of the absolute transcendence [of Allāh], but they are unable to perfect the Power and broaden it. As for our predecessors, the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah, they combined between the two matters, of widening the Power and perfecting transcendence for the Necessary Existent (Transcendent and Exalted is He).

This is what we mentioned in al-Barāhīn in summary-form, and here are some of the proof-texts in support of it from the relied upon books of the madhhab:

(1) It says in Sharḥ al-Mawāqif:

“All the Mu‘tazila and Khawārij make punishing the one who incurs a major sin necessary when he dies without repentance and they do not allow Allāh to pardon him for two reasons. First, He (Exalted is He) made it a promise to punish major sins and informed [us] of this i.e. punishment because of it, so if He does not punish for a major sin and pardons, it would entail reneging on His threat and falsehood in His speech, which are impossible. The answer is, the conclusion of this [argument] is that punishment will [actually] occur, so where is the [intrinsic] necessity of punishment, on which is our discussion, since there is no doubt that non-necessity [of punishment] along with [its] occurrence does not entail reneging and falsehood? It cannot be said that it entails their possibility which is also impossible, because we say: its impossibility is not accepted. How so, when they [reneging on a threat and stating something false] are from the possibilities included in His (Exalted is He) Power?”

(2) In Sharḥ al-Maqāsid by ‘Allamah al-Taftāzāni (Allāh Most High have mercy on him) at the end of the discussion on Power:

“The deniers of the inclusiveness of His Power are many groups; of them are al-Naẓẓām and his [Mu‘tazilī] followers who say that He does not have power over foolishness, falsehood and oppression and all ugly acts (qabā’iḥ), for if their creation were in His capacity, their issuance (ṣudūr) from Him would be possible, and this concomitant (lāzim) is false because it results in impudence (safah) if He knows the ugliness of this and its dispensability, and in ignorance if He is not knowing.

“The response is: We do not concede the ugliness of a thing in relation to Him, how [can we accept this] when He is in complete control of His kingdom? And if it is conceded, Power over it does not negate the impossibility of its issuance from Him, by consideration of the presence of disposal and the absence of need, even if it is possible (mumkinan).”

(3) It says in al-Musāyarah and its commentary al-Musāmarah by ‘Allāmah al-Muḥaqqiq Kamāl ibn al-Humām al-Ḥanafi and his student Ibn Abi l-Sharīf al-Maqdisī al-Shāfi‘ī (Allāh Most High have mercy on them):

“Then he i.e. the author of Al-’Umdah said, ‘Allah (Exalted is He) is not characterised by Power over oppression, impudence and falsehood because the impossible is not included in [His] Power, i.e. it is improper for it to pertain to them, while according to the Mu’tazilah, He (Exalted is He) is capable of all that but does not do [them].’ End quote from Al-‘Umda.

“It appears as though he altered that which he transmitted from the Mu‘tazilah, since there is no doubt that the absence of power over what was mentioned is the madhhab of the Mu‘tazilah. As for its presence, i.e. power over what was mentioned, and then abstention from pertaining to them by choice, it is more fitting to the madhhab, i.e. it the madhhab of the Ash‘aris, than it is to the madhhab of the Mu‘tazilah. It is obvious that this more fitting position is also included in transcendence, since there is no doubt that abstention therefrom i.e. from those things mentioned of oppression, impudence and falsehood, is from the matter of transcendence, from that which does not befit the majesty of His Holiness (Exalted is He).

“Hence, it should be understood by the foregone premise, i.e. the intellect understands, which of the two views are more excessive in transcendence from indecencies: is it power over it, i.e. what was mentioned from the three matters, along with impossibility, i.e. His abstention from it by choosing that abstention; or its impossibility from Him because of the absence of power over it? It is incumbent to rely on the more inclusive of the two statements in transcendence, which is the statement more fitting to the madhhab of the Ash‘aris.”

(4) In Ḥawāshī al-Kalnabawī ‘alā Sharḥ al-‘Aqā’id al-Aḍuḍiyyah by al-Muḥaqqiq al-Dawwānī (Allāh Most High have mercy on them):

In sum, lying being ugly in the uttered-speech (al-kalām al-lafẓi), in the sense that it is an attribute of deficiency, is not accepted according to the Ash‘arīs. That is why al-Sharīf al-Muḥaqqiq (al-Jurjānī) said it is from the totality of the possibilities (mumkināt), and acquiring decisive knowledge of its non-occurrence in His speech by consensus of the scholars and the Prophets (upon them be peace) does not negate its intrinsic possibility like all decisive knowledge of normal occurrences (al-‘ulūm al-‘adiyah) and it does not negate what Imām al-Rāzī said…”.

(5) In Taḥrīr al-Uṣūl by the author of Fatḥ al-Qadīr, Imām ibn al-Humām, and its commentary by Ibn Amir al-Hajj (Allah Most High have mercy on them):

“Therefore – i.e. since whatever is conceived as a deficiency is impossible for Him – the decisiveness of the impossibility of characterising Him – i.e. Allāh (Exalted is He) – with lying and the like of it (Transcendent is He beyond that) becomes apparent. Also, if His act being characterised by ugliness was possible, confidence in the integrity of His promise, the integrity of His speech besides it – i.e. [besides] His (Exalted is He) promise – and the integrity of His Prophets would be removed – i.e. in principle, His integrity would be uncertain.

“According to the Ash‘arīs, He (Exalted is He) is certainly not characterised by ugly acts, but they are not rationally impossible, like all of creation. [This is] just like all the sciences in which one of two opposites being the reality is certain, but the other is not impossible, if it were assumed that it is the reality; just like the certainty of Mecca and Baghdad – i.e. their existence – since their non-existence is not rationally impossible. Therefore – i.e. when the matter is such – confidence [in the integrity of His word] being removed is not necessitated because the possibility of something rationally does not necessitate not having firm resolve of its non-existence.

“The running dispute regarding the rational impossibility and possibility of this applies to all faults – is Allah’s power over it absent or is it, i.e. the fault, contained in it, i.e. His Power? He will certainly not do it, i.e. the absolutely decisive condition is the fault will not be done…”

Similar statements to what we quoted from the madhhab of the Ash‘arīs are mentioned by al-Qāḍī al-‘Aḍuḍ in Sharḥ Mukhtaṣar al-Uṣūl and the commentators on it, as well as in Sharḥ al-Mawāqif and the marginalia to al-Mawāqif by al-Chalabī, and others. Similarly, ‘Allamah al-Qushjī in Sharḥ al-Tajrīd, al-Qunawi and others stated this. We avoided quoting their texts fearing prolixity and tedium. Allāh has charge of right guidance and right direction. (al-Muhannad ‘ala l-Mufannad, Dār al-Fatḥ, p. 87-96)

These answers were then sent to prominent Arab scholars of that era, who endorsed them. Some of these prominent Arab scholars include:

  1. Shaykh Muḥammad Sa‘īd Bābuṣayl al-Makkī (d. 1912), the Shāfi‘ī Muftī of Makkah and one of its leading scholars at the time. He wrote: “I have studied these answers by the perspicacious erudite scholar to the answers mentioned in this treatise and I found them to be at the peak of correctness, may Allāh (Exalted is He) repay the answerer, my brother and dear one, the unique Shaykh Khalīl Aḥmad, may He continue his fortune and reverence in both worlds, and may He break the heads of the misguided and the jealous by him to the Day of Judgement. [I ask this] through the status of the Messengers, āmīn.” (ibid. p. 115)
  2. Sayyid Aḥmad al-Barzanjī (d. 1919), the Shāfi‘ī Muftī of Madīnah, who wrote an entire treatise in response to Mawlānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī’s request to give his assessment on the answers. The treatise is called: Kamāl al-Tathqīf wa l-Taqwīm li ‘Iwaj al-Afhām ‘ammā Yajib li Kalāmillāh al-Qadīm. He wrote at the end of the treatise: “Once the discussion has reached this stage, we make a general comprehensive statement for all the answers of the treatise comprising of 26 answers, which the respected erudite scholar Shaykh Khalīl Aḥmad presented to us to inspect and consider the judgements therein: We indeed do not find in there any view that necessitates disbelief or innovation. Nor anything that is to be criticised for whatever reason, besides these three places which we mentioned, and there is nothing there too that necessitates disbelief or innovation as you are aware from our discussion about them. It is known that every scholar who compiles a book will not be safe from slips in some places of his speech.”

The bulk of Sayyid Barzanjī’s treatise is on the topic of imkān al-kidhb, as reflected by its title. He thus states: “The reason I gave it this title is that the answers which he gave to these questions, although diverse and related to various rules of both peripherals and principles, the most important of them is the one related to the necessity of truthfulness in Allāh’s self and spoken speech. Due to this importance, I give priority to this discussion over other answers…After having realised this adequate clarification and comprehending it with sound sufficient understanding, you know that what the respected Shaykh Khalīl Aḥmad mentioned in answers 23, 24 and 25, is a recognised position in the reliable widely-circulated books of the latter-day ‘Ulamā’ of Kalām like al-Mawāqif, al-Maqāṣid, Shurūḥ al-Tajrīd, al-Musayārah and so on. The outcome of these answers that Shaykh Khalīl Aḥmad mentioned is in agreement with the aforementioned ‘Ulamā’ of Kalām on it being within the ability of Allāh (Exalted is He) to go against the promise and threat and the truthful report in the spoken speech, which according to them necessitates intrinsic possibility, while there is certainty and conviction on it not occurring. This much does not entail disbelief, obstinacy, nor innovation in religion nor corruption. How so when you know the statement of the ‘Ulamā’ that we mentioned agreeing with it? As you saw in the statement of Mawāqif and its commentary which we cited earlier. Thus, Shaykh Khalīl Aḥmad has not come out of the parameters of their speech.” (ibid. p. 121 – 125)

The treatise is dated to Rabī‘ al-Awwal, 1329 H (1911), and was consigned by over 20 scholars of Madīnah.

  1. ‘Allāmah Sayyid Muḥammad Abu l-Khayr Ibn ‘Ābidīn (1853 – 1925), the grandson of the brother of the famous Ibn ‘Ābidīn, author of Radd al-Muḥtār. He was a notable scholar of Shām. He states that he has read the treatise and that its author has described the beliefs of Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah. (ibid. p. 130)
  2. Shaykh Muṣṭafā ibn Aḥmad al-Shaṭṭī al-Ḥanbalī (1856 – 1929), a prominent Ḥanbalī muftī and ṣūfī of Damascus, and author of a work refuting Wahhābīs. (ibid. p. 131)
  3. ‘Allāmah Maḥmūd al-‘Aṭṭār (1867 – 1943), a great scholar of Shām, and the most notable student of ‘Allāmah Sayyid Badr al-Dīn al-Ḥasanī (1851 – 1935). He writes: “I have come across this important work and found it to be a book comprising of all subtle and manifest [matters] in refutation of the innovated group of Wahhābīs, may Allāh (Exalted is He) increase the likes of its author.” (ibid. p. 132 – 133)