Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī Explains Absurd Barelwī Philosophy on Prophetic Attributes

June 20, 2020

Aḥmad Riḍā Khān states:

An English translation follows:

A valuable point came to me during a lecture of mine. Keep it in mind. The totality of virtues is the full standard for the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace). There are [only] four reasons why a benefactor would not grant a favour to another:

    1. Either the one giving is not able to bestow this favour
    2. He can give it but stinginess prevents him
    3. The one he is giving is not deserving of it
    4. Or he is deserving but there is one more beloved than him for whom he is reserving it.

Ulūhiyyah (divinity) is the only perfection that is not within divine power. All other perfections are within divine power. Allāh (exalted is He) is the most generous of the generous and the most giving of givers, and the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) is deserving of every virtue and excellence. And there is none more beloved than the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) to Allāh. This entails that as many perfections, favours and blessings there are below divinity, God has granted them all in a complete way to the Prophet. Had granting divinity been within divine power, He would definitely have granted this also! Just as He said:

لو أردنا أن نتخذ لهوا لاتخذناه من لدنا إن كنا فعلين

“If We desired a son, then indeed We [would take one] from Our own side, if we were to do so.”

It is as though He is saying, Oh Christians, Jews and Arab polytheists, you have taken the Messiah, Ezra and the Angels as My sons. If I were to take a son for Myself, would I not take the one that is closest of all? Meaning, Muḥammad (Allāh bless him and grant him peace). (Malfūẓāt A‘lā Ḥaḍrat, p226-7)

An Arabic translation follows:

إني قد ألقي علي نكتة نفيسة عندما كنت ألقي وعظا. احفظوها

إن الفضائل جملةً هي المعيار الكامل لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم؛ وذلك أن المنعم لعدم إعطائه نعمةً ما لغيره أربعة احتمالات: إما أن المعطي ليست له قدرة على هذه النعمة، أو يمكن له الإعطاء لكن منعه البخل، أو أن الذي لم يعطها إياه ليس أهلا لها، أو كان أهلا لكنه استأثر به من هو أحب إليه منه

الألوهية هي الكمال الوحيد الذي هو ليس تحت القدرة الإلهية، وأما سائر الكمالات سوى الألوهية فإنها تحت القدرة الإهية، والله تعالى أكرم الأكرمين وأجود من يجود، والرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم أهل لكل فضل وكمال، وليس أحد أحب إلى الله من الرسول، فاللازم أن الفضائل والنعم والبركات سوى الألوهية مهما قدرها فالله تعالى أعطاها على وجه الكمال للرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم، ولو كانت الألوهية تحت القدرة ليعطيها إياه أيضا لا محالة! كما قال: ((لو أردنا أن نتخذ لهوا – أي ولدا – لاتخذناه من لدنا إن كنا فعلين.)) كأنه قال: يا أيها النصارى ويا أيها اليهود ويا مشركي العرب! إنكم جعلتم المسيح وعزيرا والملائكة أولادا لي، ولو كنت متخذا ولدا ألست متخذا من هو الأقرب عندي؟ أي: محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم – من ملفوظات أعلحضرت، ص٢٢٦-٢٢٧

In other words, according to Barelwī logic all possible feats, powers and positive qualities must have been acquired by the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). They can thus affirm the Prophet’s complete power and knowledge – he can hear everything, see everything, do everything; fly, breathe under water or not even breathe all (!), teleport, travel through space, time travel, etc. etc. It doesn’t matter to Barelwīs that this will result in going against clear evidence of Qur’ān (e.g. of the Prophet being Ummi and not knowing the Final Hour) and going against the rule of not affirming anything for the Prophet unless it is proven.

‘Allamāh ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī writes:

Attributing a virtue or a rank to his purified essence, the existence of which is not established in the holy prophetic essence by verses or reliable hadīths, is also from the greatest of major sins. The preachers should, therefore, pay attention, and the story-tellers and the exhorting and reproving sermonisers should beware, since they attribute many things to the holy person, the existence of which has not been established therein, and they think that in this is great reward due to establishing a virtue for the holy essence and elevating its stature, yet they are unaware that the prophetic virtues established in the authentic hadīths dispose of the need for these flimsy falsehoods. By my life, his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) virtues are outside the limit of encompassment and enumeration, and his merits, by which he excels all creation, are very many without end, so what is the need to extol him using falsehoods? Rather, this is a cause for great sin and deviation from the Straight Path. (al-Āthār al-Marfū‘ah)

If one is wondering how Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s logic above is flawed, there are two things to keep in mind:

  1. Human virtue is mainly determined by voluntary acts and spiritual condition, like worship, slavehood, abstinence, scrupulousness, sincerity, devotion etc. It is not determined by involuntary powers or feats Allāh grants like knowledge of useless things or powers of a supernatural nature. If Allāh grants these to some and not others, this does not prove the excellence of one and not the other.
  1. Premises two and four from Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s four premises are flawed. It is not only “stinginess” or “another being more deserving” that would prevent Allāh from giving a favour to someone. There could be a vast array of wisdoms and reasons why Allāh would withhold a quality from someone, including the Prophet. Does Aḥmad Riḍā Khān claim to encompass God’s knowledge? Allāh says: “He knows all that is before them and behind them, and they do not encompass Him in knowledge.” (20:110) Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī said to the effect: “The Ahl al-Bida‘ treat the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) as though a god, but a deficient god, while the Ahl al-Sunnah treat the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) as a slave but a perfect slave.”

What genuine Muslims and true Sunnis are supposed to do is accept what Allāh and His Messenger have taught; not contrive some formula to justify believing in fairy tales that go against explicit texts.

Also see: Barelwī Belief about the Prophet

 


How Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī Distorted Ḥifẓ al-Īmān to Make Takfīr on Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī

March 13, 2020

First read this and this.

How Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Quotes the Passage

The statement from Ḥifẓ al-Īmān (written in: 1901) for which Aḥmad Riḍā Khān (1856 – 1921) declared Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī (1863 – 1943) a Kāfir is as follows:

If some unseen knowledges are intended what then is the distinction of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) in this? Such knowledge of ghayb is acquired by Zaid, Amr, indeed every child and madman, and indeed all animals and beasts.

A transliteration of the original Urdu is as follows:

Agar baz ulūm ghaibiah murād hein to is mein Ḥuzūr S kī kiyā takhṣīṣ he? Eysā ‘ilm ghaib to Zayd wa ‘Amr balkeh har ṣabi wa majnūn balkeh jamī ḥaiwānāt wa bahāim ke lie bihī ḥāṣil hein

Aḥmad Riḍā Khān isolates this statement even though the latter sentence does not end there. The sentence continues: “since each individual knows something or another that is hidden to someone else, so everyone should be called ‘Ālim al-Ghayb.” (kiyūnkeh har shakhṣ ko kisī nah kisī eysī bāt kā ‘ilm hotā hey jo dosre shakhṣ sey makhfī he to chāhie keh sub ko ‘ālim al-ghaib kahā jāwe).

See how Aḥmad Riḍā Khān quoted the passage in his Urdu book Tamhīd e Īmān (written in: 1908):

He quotes the isolated statement above, without completing the sentence, and then says: “Has he not clearly sworn at Muḥammad Rasūlullāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace)? Was the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) given only as much ‘ilm ghayb as acquired by every madman and every quadruped?” (Tamhīd e Īmān; Quoted in: Fatāwā Riḍawiyyah, Riḍā Foundation, 30:317)

He continues to say – as imitated by many insolent Barelwīs today – that one should ask these “swearers” if they can say to their teachers: “You have only so much knowledge as a pig, your teacher only had such knowledge as a dog does….”

Aḥmad Riḍā Khān makes the same allegation in the Arabic al-Mustanad al-Mu‘tamad (p229) (written in: 1902):

He asserts Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī said: “The knowledge of the unseen that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhuu ‘alayh wasallam) had, the very same has been acquired by every child and every madman in fact every animal and every beast.”

صرح فيها بأن العلم الذي لرسول الله صلى الله تعالى عليه وسلم بالمغيبات فإن مثله حاصل لكل صبي وكل مجنون بل لكل حيوان وكل بهيمة

This is then reproduced in Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn, p62-3 (written in: 1906). He concludes: “Look…how he equates the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhuu ‘alayh wasallam) with such-and-such and such-and-such.”

[Note: For a full, faithful Arabic translation, see here.]

The Correct Meaning of the Passage

Recall the original passage:

If some unseen knowledges are intended what then is the distinction of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) in this? Such knowledge of ghayb is acquired by Zaid, Amr, indeed every child and madman, and indeed all animals and beasts.

Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s allegation hinges on the word “such” (eysā). According to him, the phrase “such knowledge of ghayb” in this passage refers to the knowledge that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) actually possessed of the ghayb. In other words, Aḥmad Riḍā Khān interpreted the passage to mean (na‘ūdhu billāh): “The very same knowledge that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) actually possesses of the ghayb is found in every child and madman, indeed all animals and beasts.”

It is this interpretation (if it can be called this), about which Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī would later say in Basṭ al-Banān: “I did not write this revolting content in any book. Let alone writing it, the thought never crossed my heart. Nor is it the necessary conclusion of any passage of mine, as I will explain later. Since I understand this content to be revolting…how can it be my intent? The person who believes this, or without belief utters it explicitly or implicitly, I believe this person to be outside the fold of Islām because he has denied decisive texts and lessened the Revered King of the World and Pride of Humanity, Allāh bless him and grant him peace.”

In fact what the word “such knowledge of ghayb” means is: “partial knowledge of ghayb”, irrespective of quantity or quality, irrespective of the actual amount or the actual kind. In other words, Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī said: Partial knowledge of unseen is not specific to the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam); partial knowledge of unseen is also found in Zayd, ‘Amr, child and madman, animals and beasts.

If we give Aḥmad Riḍā Khān the benefit of the doubt and say the phrase “such knowledge of ghayb” can mean what he said, then there are two possible meanings of the phrase “such knowledge of ghayb”. It can mean either:

  1. The knowledge actually possessed by the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). This is the meaning Aḥmad Riḍā Khān took.
  2. Partial knowledge of ghayb – irrespective of the actual amount or actual kind.

According to the first meaning, it is of course an insult, and is kufr, as Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī himself said in Basṭ al-Banān.

According to the second meaning it is not kufr.

Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s Deception

Even with a cursory reading of the whole passage from Ḥifẓ al-Īmān, one will not understand the meaning of kufr (i.e. the first meaning) that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān imputed to the author of Ḥifẓ al-Īmān. Only if someone was desperately trying to find kufr and blasphemy in the work would he interpret it so.

But, more importantly, just by completing the sentence that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān himself quoted, one can see that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s interpretation is not possible and only the second meaning can be meant. The complete sentence, recall, is: “Such knowledge of 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, so everyone should be called ‘Ālim al-Ghayb.” This crucial concluding part of the sentence, Aḥmad Riḍā Khān omitted in presenting the so-called “blasphemous passage”.

Why did he omit it? Because it leaves no room for doubt that Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī’s intent by “such knowledge of ghayb” is: partial knowledge of ghayb irrespective of the actual quantity or quality. If his intent was the actual knowledge possessed by the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) then he should have said: “since each individual knows precisely what the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) knows”, but of course this is not what he said nor what he meant. Hence, this is clear deception on the part of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān.

In fact, regarding the knowledge actually possessed by the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī says shortly after in Ḥifẓ al-Īmān itself: “The knowledges that are consequential to and necessary for prophethood were acquired by [the Prophet (allallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam)] in their totality.” (nubuwwat ke lie jo ‘ulūm lāzim wa zarūrī hein woh āp ko bitamāmihā ḥāṣil ho gie the) Someone who believes this, how can he possibly believe that children, madmen and animals possess equal knowledge?

 


 

Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī’s Explanation in Basṭ al-Banān

Note: Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī’s response to the allegation in Basṭ al-Banān (written in: 1911) makes the very same point/s as above. See in particular the following passage:

 


Answering an Objection to Ḥifẓ al-Īmān – Did Maulānā Thānawī Restrict Virtue to Complete Knowledge of Ghayb?

January 7, 2020

Read this first.

A common objection raised (by Aḥmad Riḍā Khān himself and then his followers) against this passage of if al-Īmān* is that for endowing the title “‘Ālim al-Ghayb” for creation (based on knowledge of ghayb acquired via a means), Maulānā Thānawī only allows for two possibilities or options: ba‘ḍ ‘ulūm ghaybiyyah (partial knowledge of ghayb) or tamām ‘ulūm ghaybiyyah (complete knowledge of ghayb). It is as though he does not allow for anything in between for virtue or excellence in knowledge of ghayb.

This objection emanates from a misunderstanding of what Maulānā Thānawī was trying to achieve. His purpose was not to discuss at what point a person will be deserving of virtue or excellence. Rather, his purpose was to deter his readers from using the title “‘Ālim al-Ghayb” for any creature, as in Sharī‘ah it is a term exclusive to Allāh. He first explains that “‘Ālim 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, in relation to using the term ghayb for unseen knowledge acquired via a means, he presents the argument found in the passage in question.

The objection raised against this passage will be answered briefly below.

Ghayb is a maṣdar (verbal noun). A maṣdar in principle refers to a single entity (fard), as stated in Nūr al-Anwār (المصدر الذي هو فرد). A single entity can either be literally a single entity (fard ḥaqīqī) or in terms of consequence (fard ḥukmī). The latter refers to the entirety of the thing, because the entirety of a thing in relation to other things is like a “single entity” although in and of itself it is many things put together.**

Hence the term “ghayb” mentioned in “‘Ālim al-Ghayb” either refers to any part of ghayb (which in this context means unseen knowledge received via a means) or it means every single thing from ghayb. If it is the first meaning that is meant, this is not unique to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). Based on this, everyone will be entitled to be called “‘Ālim al-Ghayb”! In other words, based on this meaning, it would not be accurate to say the term can be limited to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), as based on this meaning, another person can just as well claim it can be used for himself. And if it is the second meaning that is meant (i.e. complete ghayb), this is discounted for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) by textual and rational evidences.

This in a nutshell is Maulānā Thānawī’s argument. As one can see, there is nothing problematic in this at all.

* The following passage:

“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 “‘Ālim 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 “‘Ālim al-Ghayb”!”

** So, for example, the scholars of Uṣūl state that the maṣdar “ṭalāq” (divorce) can refer to a single ṭalāq or to triple-ṭalāq, because the latter is the maximum number of ṭalāqs and thus is a single entity in terms of consequence. It cannot refer to two ṭalāqs, however.

 


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.


Blasphemous Barelwī Belief: The Prophet is Not a Human Being in Reality but Only Appeared in Human “Garb”

January 25, 2019

One of the most perverted and repugnant Barelwī beliefs is that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was not from the jins (species) of humanity, but was a separate creation made of light that came in human form. To illustrate their belief, Barelwīs will often draw an analogy with Jibrīl (‘alayhissalām) – who is an angel made of light that at times came in human form. Hence, according to this Barelwī belief, in his physical reality, the Prophet is not a human being. This is a blasphemous belief.

The Fatwā of Ḥakīm al-Ummat Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī

In a fatwā dated Shawwāl of 1346 H (1928 CE), Ḥakīm al-Ummat Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī (1863 – 1943) describes the statement of a preacher that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was a human being in outward form but not in reality (ānḥaḍrat ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam dar ẓāhir ṣūrat bashar būd walekin dar ḥaqīqat bashar nabūd) as kufr. (Imdād al-Fatāwā, Maktabah Dārul ‘Ulūm Karāchī, 5:234)

The Correct Sunnī Belief

Describing correct Sunnī belief, Mawlānā Sarfrāz Khān Ṣafdar (1914 – 2009) said: “Our īmān and conclusion is that Imām al-Rusul Khātam al-Nabiyyīn Ḥaḍrat Muḥammad Rasūlullāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was a human being as well as light. From the perspective of his species and essence, he was a human being, and from the perspective of his character and guidance he was a light. By virtue of him, the world of darkness acquired light. The darkness of kufr and shirk disappeared and from the rays of the light of īmān and tawḥīd, the surface of the earth became illuminated.” (Nūr wa Bashar, Maktabah ‘Ukāẓ, p. 8) Explaining correct belief, Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī said: “In terms of being a human being, in terms of physical composition and make-up, he is the same as the ummah.” (Quoted in Nūr wa Bashar, p. 82-3)

Disrespect of the Prophet

Indeed, denying that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is from the human species is degrading his lofty status since human beings are the greatest of species. ‘Allāmah Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī (1852 – 1927) said: “To take out his (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) person from being human – which is the noblest and most exalted of creation – and placing him in another species is pure disrespect and degradation of his lofty station…There is no doubt that brotherhood in the very property of being a human being, and equality in terms of being from the children of Ādam, has been established in the text of the Qur’ān; while, in the perfections of proximity, nobody has called him a brother or believes him to be equal [with others].” (al-Barāhīn al-Qāṭi‘ah, Dārul Ishā‘at, p. 7)

Muḥammad ‘Umar Icharvī: The Prophet is a Light that Came in Human Garb

According to this popular Barelwī belief, articulated by some of their leading scholars, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was not a human being in reality, but only appeared as one outwardly. Muḥammad ‘Umar Icharvī (1901 – 1971), a prominent Barelwī scholar, debater and writer, said: “It is established from this noble verse that the reality of the Chosen One (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) was not of human nature, but his reality was of light.” (Miqyās e Nūr, Makabah Sulṭāniyyah, p. 24)

Muḥammad ‘Umar Icharvī further says: “The Chosen One (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) was really light, and the divine power sent him into the world through the intermediary of parents by giving the light a human and luminous form. The Muḥammadan reality of light overpowered his blessed body. Thus, from amongst the creatures made of light, angels were also of light. However, when Ḥaḍrat Jibrīl Amīn (upon him peace) appeared, dressed in a human body, his human body overpowered his luminuous nature, such that in this specific bodily form he could not fly to the furthest lote tree, and in fact he could not go to the first heaven. But the true light of the Chosen One (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) overpowered his human body, which together with the bodily and luminous nature traversed all the heavens.” (ibid. 26-7)

While justifying his belief vis a vis the Prophet’s clearly human features, ‘Umar Icharvī says: “Jibrīl too came in the form of a human being, and he too came adorned with human features like hands, feet, nose, ears…If Jibrīl (upon him peace) coming in human garb and hands, feet and so on appearing on him do not cause any difference to him being a light, then the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace)’s pure hand and pure feet being apparent does not necessitate any difference to him being a [physical] light.” (Miqyās e Ḥanafiyyat, p. 242-3)

Icharvī even goes as far as to analogise the Prophet in this respect to Allāh! He says: “Just as it is necessary to adopt īmān in hands that are without equal, a shin without equal and a face without equal for the pure and free essence of Allāh (Exalted is He), you have been prohibited from drawing any likeness with the pure limbs of the embodied light of the Noble Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and have to adopt īmān [in this]. Allāh (Exalted is He) is without comparison in His essence and characteristics and He created His beloved (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) from pure light, so he manifested his essence together with his characteristics without any equal.” (ibid. p. 243)

Analogies of this kind between the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and Allāh when making such points are not uncommon in Barelwī literature.

Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī: The Prophet is not from Jinn, Man or Angels

Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī (1906 – 1971), another very well-known and accepted Barelwī scholar (and student of famous Barelwī scholar Na‘īmuddīn Murādābādī), says: “The Prophet appears from the species of man and is a human [but] is neither jinn, man nor angel. These are material laws. Otherwise, being a human being started at Ādam (upon him peace) since he is the father of man, while Ḥuḍūr (upon him peace) was a prophet at the very time that Ādam was between water and clay. He himself said: ‘I was a prophet while Ādam was between water and clay.’ At this time Ḥuḍūr was a prophet not a human being.” (Jā’ al-Ḥaqq, Na‘īmī Kutub Khānah, p.173)

Note: He is arguing from this ḥadīth that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) existed in his true form before Ādam (‘alayhissalām) was created. But the correct meaning of this ḥadīth (the correct wording of which is, “I was a Prophet while Ādam was between spirit and body”) is, as explained by al-Ṭaḥāwī, that Allāh had sent a written decree confirming his prophethood at this time. (Sharḥ Mushkil al-Athār, Mu’assasat al-Risālah, 15:234)

Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī: The Prophet Said he is a “Human Like You” just as a Hunter Imitates his Prey!

Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī says about the verse of Qur’ān: “Say: I am only a man like you” (18:110): “The address in this verse is towards the Kuffār. Since each thing repels a foreign species, therefore it was said: ‘O Kuffār, don’t fear me, I am from your species, I am a human being.’ A hunter produces the sound of animals to hunt. The aim of this is to draw the Kuffār towards him. If Deobandīs are also from the Kuffār, this address may also be towards them.” (Jā’ al-Ḥaqq, p.176)

Here, Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī compares the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) to a hunter pretending to be something he is not so as to catch prey! Is this not disrespect? Is this not accusing the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) – na‘ūdhu billāh – of deception?

His point is all the more flawed from the perspective that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “I am a man like you” (innamā ana basharun mithlukum) to the ṣaḥābah – the most elite of Muslims. According to the Muwaṭṭa’ of Imām Mālik in the transmission of Abū Muṣ‘ab al-Zuhrī (Mu’assasat al-Risālah, no. 2877), Umm Salamah (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhā) narrated from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) that he said: “I am only a human being like you. Indeed, you argue before me and one of you may be more expressive in his argumentation than the other, so I will decree in his favour according to what I hear from him…”

Ibn Mas‘ūd (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu) transmitted from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) that he said: “I am a man like you, I forget like you forget.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Maktabat al-Bushrā, no. 1282) Ṭalḥah ibn ‘Ubaydillāh (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu) transmitted from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) that he said: “I am a man like you, and [my] speculation may be incorrect or correct.” (Sunan Ibn Mājah, Dār al-Risālat al-‘Alamiyyah, no. 2470)

In all of these instances, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said “I am a man like you” to his believing companions.

Na‘īmī’s take on the verse is thus an example of tafsīr bi ‘l-ra’y (misinterpreting the Qur’ān based on personal judgement), an activity strongly condemned in ḥadīth, and something that betrays the falseness of Barelwī claims to orthodoxy and adhering to tradition.

Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī: “Say: I am a Man Like You” is from the Mutashābihāt!

Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī further says: “Just as ‘Allāh’s hand is above their hands’ or ‘the likeness of His light is like a niche…’ and other verses which are found to apparently be against divine nature and are from the mutashābihāt (unclear verses), in the same way innamā ana basharun mithlukum and other verses which are apparently against the status of the Chosen One are from the mutashābihāt. Thus, to adhere to their outward as evidence is wrong.” (Jā’ al-Ḥaqq, p. 178)

This is a further example of Barelwī literature drawing a false analogy between the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and Allāh.

Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Rashīd Rizvī: The Prophet was Light that Appeared in Human Garb

Barelwī, Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Rashīd Rizvī, says: “Ḥuḍūr Raḥmatun lil ‘Ālamīn was in reality and in origin light. For the guidance of human beings, to present an example worthy of imitation before people, his light was made to appear in the form of a human being. When the light was made to appear in human garb, he remains a light despite being affected by human attributes, and his reality and origin is not negated. Several accounts of such are found in Qur’ān and Ḥadīth. Thus in a pure ḥadīth it is narrated that the angel of death came to Mūsā (upon him peace) so Mūsā struck the eye of the angel and gouged it out. Jibrīl Amīn is light yet to grant Sayyidah Maryam (Allāh be pleased with her) a child he came in the garb of a human being. Despite this, he remained a light.” (Rushd al-Īmān, Maktabah Rushd al-Īmān, p. 45)

Conclusion

In correct Islāmic/Sunnī belief the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is from the species of man and did not just appear as a man. In the Barelwī belief described above, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is only a man in as much as Jibrīl (‘alayhissalām) was “a man” i.e. in mere appearance, not in reality. This belief amounts to denying the reality of the Prophet’s humanity, and is thus disbelief and diminishment of the lofty status of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). (Aḥsan al-Fatāwā, 1:57)

Will Barelwīs who pretend to be neutral, objective Sunnīs (like the liar Asrar Rashid) denounce this unIslāmic, repugnant and blasphemous belief?

What this example (and others like it) illustrate is that Deobandī ‘Ulamā’ were true defenders of the correct, orthodox Islāmic creed, while Barelwīs were innovators and distorters of Sunnī belief. Barelwīs are the ones who in truth are guilty of heresy while they casually and unjustifiably throw around accusations of heresy at those undeserving of it. It may even be that their deviance is a punishment for their unfounded attacks of righteous ‘Ulamā’ and Awliyā’.