Barelwī Browbeating & Propaganda Against Deobandīs – UK Barelwīs Write to Muḥammad Ya‘qūbī

March 7, 2020

Recently, UK Barelwīs wrote a letter to Muḥammad Ya‘qūbī castigating him for calling to unity with different groups. The letter can be found here. While there are legitimate grounds to question “uniting” with groups like the Shī‘ah, the Barelwī letter-writers repeat age-old false propaganda against Deobandīs (p3-6), and ask Ya‘qūbī to support the takfīr of the Deobandī elders (p12) – and this is what concerns us here. They repeat the false propaganda of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān despite these having been exposed as clear lies and falsehoods for all audiences, whether Urdu-speaking, English-speaking or Arabic-speaking. The shameful and shameless slanders repeated in this letter were signed by some of their reputed UK-based “scholars” and preachers like Aslam Bandyalwi, Shams ul Huda Misbahi, Saqib Iqbal, Shahid Ali, Ibrar Shafi and Nabil Afzal.

For English-speakers, The Decisive Debate by Maulānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī (accessible here) and A Critique of Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn by Maulānā Sarfrāz Khān Ṣafdar (available here) are sufficient and detailed refutations of the false allegations of kufr found in Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn, and repeated in the letter. For Arabic speakers, apart from al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad (available here), the following are sufficient and detailed refutations:

اتهام البريلوي على الشيخ قاسم النانوتوي والجواب عنه
اتهامات البريلوي على العلامة خليل أحمد السهارنفوري والجواب عنها
مولانا أشرف علي التهانوي وبحثه عن علم الغيب في رسالة حفظ الإيمان

False Equivalence Between Takfīr of Qādiyānīs and Takfīr of Deobandīs

The letter begins its discussion on Deobandīs by creating a false equivalence:

If you make Takfir of Qadiyanis due to their denial of some necessary matters of religion — regardless of their belief of Allah being One, the Messenger of Allah صلى الله تعالى عليه وسلم as a Messenger, the Qur’an as a Heavenly Book, Salah, Zakat, Sawm and Hajj — then why do you hesitate in making Takfir of the four leading scholars of Deobandis?

The beliefs for which Qādiyānīs are considered disbelievers (kāfirs/zindīqs) are not contested by the Qādiyānīs themselves. Yet the beliefs that Barelwīs falsely allege the Deobandī elders are guilty of, and because of which they accuse them of kufr, are contested by Deobandīs and were contested by those accused themselves. Hence, there is a clear contrast between the rightful takfīr of Qādiyānīs and the meritless takfīr of the Deobandī elders.

False Allegation against Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī & Ḥifẓ al-Īmān

The letter begins with the allegation against Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī:

Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi, in his book Hifdh-ul-Iman, in order to show the knowledge of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم as less compared the Prophet’s knowledge to children, madmen, rather all animals and quadrupeds.

This is an outright falsehood. Details can be found in the third Arabic article linked above, and p68-80  from The Decisive Debate and p60-69 from A Critique of Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn. A summarised response can be read here and here and here.

In the passage of Ḥifẓ al-Īmān in question, Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī was not trying to “show the knowledge of the Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam to be less” as alleged here. Rather, he was arguing against the use of the title “‘Ālim al-Ghayb” for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).

Nor did he compare prophetic knowledge to the knowledge of children, madmen and animals. Rather, he contended that if it is based on mere possession of some knowledge of unseen that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is to be referred to as “‘Ālim al-Ghayb”, then mere possession of some knowledge of unseen is not unique to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam); in this case, all and sundry, even children, madmen and animals can be called “‘Ālim al-Ghayb” given that they all have some knowledge of unseen. As can be seen, there is no comparison made between the actual knowledge of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and these others.

Moreover, in Ḥifẓ al-Īmān itself, a few paragraphs after the above, Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī says: “The knowledges that are consequential to and necessary for prophethood were acquired by [the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam)] in their totality.” (Ḥifẓ al-Īmān, p17) It is clear he is not trying to “show prophetic knowledge as being less” when he affirms full and complete knowledge of those things that are needed for prophethood; and it is clear he does not believe such knowledge is attained by a non-prophet.

Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī himself answered the false allegation of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān that he compared or drew an equivalence between prophetic knowledge and the knowledge of children, madmen and animals in a subsequent treatise called Basṭ al-Banān, which is appended to most editions of Ḥifẓ al-Īmān.

False Allegation against Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī & Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah

The letter then moves on to the allegation against Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī, and by extension Maulānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī. It states:

Khalil Ahmad Ambethwi, in Barahin-i-Qati’ah, wrote that the knowledge of Shaytan is greater than the knowledge of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم . By writing an attestation upon this book, Rashid Ahmad Gangohi supported this disparagement.

Again, this is complete falsehood. For a detailed explanation, see this article, as well p39-67  from The Decisive Debate and p46-54 from A Critique of Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn and answer 18 & 19 from al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad (authored by Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī himself). Also see the second Arabic article linked above.

Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī was discussing specifically certain types of worldly knowledge, namely knowledge of human actions and what takes place in human gatherings etc. An earlier work called Anwār e Sāṭi‘ah apparently argued for complete knowledge for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) of such things based on an analogy with Shayṭān, whose knowledge of these things is proven. Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī responded that analogy cannot prove such things, and while it is proven textually that Shayṭān was given such knowledge it is not proven for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). As clear, this is regarding specific types of worldly knowledge, not about knowledge in general – similar to how the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) himself said: “You have more knowledge of the matters of your world.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)

Regarding knowledge in general, and in particular religious and otherworldly knowledge, Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī said explicitly in al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad (p70-71) that the Prophet’s knowledge is most extensive. He had also said in Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah: “Not even the least Muslim will claim likeness with the Pride of the World (upon him blessings) in proximity to Allāh and his lofty perfections.” (Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah, p7) Of course “lofty perfections” would include knowledge. That is, in knowledge of things on which perfection and virtue depend, none is more knowledgeable than the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).

But at the same time, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) asked protection from knowledge that is of no benefit. (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim) Hence, useless, senseless, and even filthy and dirty knowledge, are unbefitting for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). It is no virtue if Shayṭān has lots of them and the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) does not.

False Allegation against Maulānā Qāsim Nānotwī & Taḥdhīr un Nās

The letter then moves on to the allegation against Maulānā Qāsim Nānotwī. It states:

Qasim Nanotwi, in his book Tahdhir un Nas, explained that it is possible for a new prophet to emerge after our Noble Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and denied the meaning of Final Prophet as being Last in terms of time.

This, again, is complete falsehood. For details, see this article, the first Arabic article linked above and p18-31 from The Decisive Debate and p24-33 from A Critique of Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn.

In Taḥdhīr un Nās, Maulānā Qāsim Nānotwī says explicitly that the belief in the Prophet’s (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) finality in terms of time is an absolute necessity of belief and its denial is disbelief.

Maulānā Qāsim Nānotwī merely presents an additional meaning to the term Khātam al-Nabiyyīn that along with meaning the last prophet in terms of time, it also means the prophet that topped all other prophets in terms of perfection. Several centuries before him, ‘Allāmah al-Khafājī had written: “Khātam [in “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”] is with kasrah & fatḥah on the tā’ – [it means] the end of them and the one in whom is their [total] perfection” (Nasīm al-Riyāḍ, Dārul Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 3:31)

This is precisely what Maulānā Nānotwī stated in Taḥdhīr un Nās: that Khātam al-Nabiyyīn has both meanings of 1) being the prophet that tops all other prophets in perfections and 2) the last of them in time. To explain further, Maulānā Nānotwī said that given the first meaning (i.e. topping all other prophets in perfections), in the hypothetical scenario that a prophet came after the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) this would not violate his being the Khātam al-Nabiyyīn, i.e. in the first meaning, and he would top even that hypothetical prophet by virtue of this meaning of Khātam al-Nabiyyīn. Even in making this hypothetical judgement, he made it clear that it hinges on Khātam al-Nabiyyīn in the first meaning – while he explicitly endorses Khātam al-Nabiyyīn in the second meaning also, and in fact says very clearly that anyone who denies the chronological finality of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is a disbeliever. Given this, to claim he stated that it is factually possible for another prophet to appear is a complete distortion of what he had written.

Adamance on False Takfīr

After presenting these false allegations, the letter then declares:

All of these matters are unequivocal, certain and unanimously agreed upon as being Kufr and there is no room for any valid interpretation for these statements.

It is unbelievable how statements completely removed from what they are alleged to mean by Barelwī Takfīrīs are declared by them to “unequivocally” hold those meanings! The degree of delusion and deception in this comment is truly astounding.

The letter continues:

The controversial statements of the aforementioned books are proven unequivocally via mass transmission and all the leading Deobandi scholars are unanimously agreed upon the fact that these statements indeed belong to their scholars. One will be unable to find even two Deobandi scholars who disagree with this fact.

Yes, there is no debate that Maulānā Qāsim Nānotwī authored Taḥdhīr un Nās or that Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī authored Barḥīn e Qāṭi‘ah or that Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī authored Ḥifẓ al-Īmān. The debate is only over how passages from these books are (mis)represented and (mis)interpreted, namely by alleging that Maulānā Qāsim Nānotwī in Taḥdhīr un Nās said it is factually possible for another prophet to come after the Prophet Muḥammad, that Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī in Barḥīn e Qāṭi‘ah said Shayṭān has more knowledge than the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and that Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī in Ḥifẓ al-Īmān said prophetic knowledge is comparable/equivalent to the knowledge of children, madmen and animals. This (mis)characterisation is certainly not “proven via mass transmission”. Rather, it is clear distortion and fabrication, indeed calumny and slander.

Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn and its Attestations

The letter continues:

The Takfir of these four scholars is recorded in Husam-ul-Haramayn. The signatures of thirty three scholars of the Haramayn are present in this and hundreds of scholars of the Indian subcontinent also made Takfir.

The takfīrs of the four elders of Deoband recorded in Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn is based on distortion and fabrication as explained in detail in The Decisive Debate and A Critique of Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn.

On the value of the signatures of the scholars from the Ḥaramayn, see the discussion from Maulānā Ḥusain Aḥmad Madanī’s al-Shihāb al-Thāqib. The most prominent scholars of Makkah did not sign the document, and those that did made the endorsement conditional on the accuracy of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s claims and attributions – either explicitly or implicitly. So, given that the claims and attributions are false, the attestations and signatures hold no weight.

With characteristic Barelwī browbeating, the letter continues:

What is your stance in this regard? Is it disparagement or not to compare the knowledge of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم to children, madmen and animals? If it is then whoever is guilty of such disparagement, is he a Kafir or not? If he is a Kafir then why is Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi not a Kafir? Is it disparagement or not to assert that the knowledge of the accursed Shaytan is greater than the knowledge of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم? If it is then whoever is guilty of such disparagement, is he a Kafir or not? If he is a Kafir then why is Takfir not made of Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and Khalil Ahmad Ambethwi? If someone claims that it is possible for a new prophet to emerge after our Noble Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم then is such a person a Kafir or not? If he is then one who writes or says this, is he Kafir or not? If he is a Kafir then why is Takfir not made of Qasim Nanotwi?

It is not contested that drawing an equivalence between prophetic knowledge and knowledge of children, madmen and animals, or saying Shayṭān is more knowledgeable than the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) or believing it is factually possible for another prophet to emerge after the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is kufr. What is contested is that these things were said by these scholars. And as shown an umpteen number of times, the attributions are completely false.

The letter continues:

Our question is not regarding the Takfir of every Deobandi individual. Rather, specifically it is regarding the four leading Deobandi scholars, whose aforementioned statements from their books have been translated into Arabic and English and brought to your attention by Indo-Pak scholars numerous times alongside the explanation for their Takfir. Generally it is regarding every individual, upon whom the Kufr of these statements has been made clear from debates, speeches and writings. Notwithstanding this, such individuals consider these scholars as their religious guides. To this extent, after this much clarification, one who doubts the Kufr of these Deobandi leaders also becomes a Kafir.

This statement shows the efforts to which Barelwīs go to satisfy their urges of meritless takfīr against Deobandīs. They will try to throw it in the faces of outside scholars, alongside their usual deceptive “explanation” and commentary. The letter-writers should consider that maybe not all outside scholars can be intimidated and browbeaten. Some may actually choose to look into the matter and with a little inspection conclude that the allegations are false and slanderous. If the takfīr was so clear-cut and obvious (like the takfīr of Qādiyānīs), why are Barelwīs so hellbent on mutilating passages, and why do they have to distort evidence while “proving” the takfīr?

Imkān al-Kidhb

The letter then brings up the issue of imkān al-kidhb:

It is also the belief of Deobandis that lying is a possibility for Allah تعالى ,i.e. speaking a lie is within the Divine Power. This was written by Rashid Ahmad Gangohi in his Fatawa and Isma’il Dehlawi in his epistle Yak Rozi. However in many books of ‘Aqa’id of Ahl-us-Sunnah it is clearly stated that the Divine Power is only related to possibilities, not necessities nor impossibilities. This is because if a necessary matter is within the Divine Power then it becomes a possibility, whereas it is necessary. Likewise if an impossible matter is within the Divine Power then it becomes a possibility, whereas it is impossible.

It is strange that they provide references to an Urdu work, Fatāwā Rashīdiyyah, and a Farsi work, Yak Rozī, even though this issue is explained in al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad, an easily accessible Arabic work attested to by all major Deobandī scholars of the early era. They probably chose not to refer to al-Muhannad because it provides evidence from the statements of the scholars of Kalām that issuing false speech within the kalām lafẓī is within Allāh’s power though its occurrence is not possible, and scholars from the Arab world of that time endorsed their explanation.

Yes, necessities and impossibilities are not included within Allāh’s power. Issuing a false statement, however, does not fall under intrinsic impossibilities but under intrinsic possibilities. It is just like putting a pious believer in Hell or putting a wretched disbeliever in Heaven – such things are intrinsically possible given Allāh’s power over them, but their occurrence is impossible. For an explanation, see this (in English) and this (in Arabic).

The letter continues to provide evidence that issuing false speech is impossible:

Lying is a defect and it is impossible to ascribe defects to the Divine Essence of Allah تعالى. It is stated in Sharh-ul-‘Aqa’id Jalali, “Lying is a defect and defects are impossible for Allah. Thus lying is not from possibilities, nor is it included within the Divine Power, just as all causes of defect are impossible for Allah تعالى ,e.g. ignorance and incapacity.” [Al-Dawwani ‘Alal ‘Aqa’id Al-‘Adadiyyah, p73, Mujtaba’i, Delhi, reference from Fatawa Ridawiyyah 15:329] In Sharh-ul-Maqasid it is stated, 6 “Lying is impossible for Allah. Firstly due to the consensus of the scholars. Secondly due to mass transmission of reports of the Prophets والسالم الصالة عليهم .Thirdly due to lying being a defect by the unanimous agreement of intellectuals. It is impossible for Allah تعالى”. [Sharh-ul-Maqasid 2:104, Dar-ul-Ma’arif an-Nu’maniyyah, Lahore, reference from Fatawa Ridawiyyah 15:517]

It should first be noted that there are explicit statements from the scholars of Kalām stating that issuing a false statement within the kalām lafẓī (verbalised speech), as opposed to the kalām nafsī (self speech), is from the possibilities contained within Allāh’s power, although its occurrence is impossible. For example, al-Sharīf al-Jurjānī writes about falsehood in the verbalised speech that it is “from the possibilities included within Allah’s power” (min al-mumkināt allatī tashmaluhū qudratuh). (Sharḥ al-Mawāqif, 8:331) ‘Allāmah Isma‘il al-Kalnabawi (d 1205 H) says: “In sum, lying being ugly in the kalām lafẓī, in the sense that it is an attribute of imperfection, is not accepted according to the Ash‘arīs. That is why al-Sharīf al-Muḥaqqiq said it is from the category of possibilities, while acquiring decisive knowledge of its non-occurrence in His speech by consensus of scholars and prophets does not negate its intrinsic possibility.” (Ḥāshiyat al-Kalnabawī ‘ala ‘l-Jalāl, p.449-50)

More quotes can be found in al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad and in Juhd al-Muqill.

What about the quotes the Barelwī letter-writers reproduce from Aḥmad Riḍā Khān? Regarding the first quote from al-Dawwānī, Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī contends that it is regarding the kalām nafsī and not the kalām lafẓī. (Tazkirat al-Khalīl, p145) The statement from Sharḥ al-Maqāṣid is also very clearly regarding the kalām nafsī. The original quote can be found on page 158-9 of the fourth volume of Sharḥ al-Maqāṣid (available here). In this way, it is possible to reconcile the apparently conflicting statements.

Istighāthah

The letter further alleges:

Furthermore Deobandis generally consider the one who seeks help from the inhabitants of graves as a disbeliever and polytheist. They consider the one who calls upon inhabitants of graves from afar as a polytheist akin to the disbelievers of the Quraysh who call upon idols.

This is false. Deobandīs do not say istighāthah (asking for help from saints who have passed away) is always major shirk. They regard it to be impermissible and expressions of shirk (and thus sometimes refer to it as “shirk”), but only true shirk when accompanied by a belief that the being called for help is an independent agent. This same position on istighāthah was articulated by Ḥanafis before Deobandīs like Ṣun‘ullāh al-Ḥalabī (who is also pre-Wahhābī), Qāḍī Thanā’ullāh Pānipatī and Shaykh Maḥmūd Ālūsī.

Maulānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī has a short Arabic write-up on tawassul. One of the types of tawassul he describes is istighāthah. He defines it as “calling to [a creature] and seeking his help in the manner of the idolaters. This is ḥarām by consensus. As for whether it is manifest shirk or not, its criterion is that if he believes in his independence in bringing about an effect, it is shirk in creed, of a blasphemous nature…[and otherwise, it is not]” (Bawādir al-Nawādir, p. 706) Then, explaining the meaning of “independence”, he says:

معنى استقلاله أن الله قد فوض إليه الأمور بحيث لا يحتاج في إمضائها إلى مشيئته الجزئية وإن قدر على عزله عن هذا التفويض

“The meaning of his ‘independence’ is that Allāh had authorised him with powers in such a way that he does not need His particular will in [each instance of] executing those [powers], although He has the ability to depose him from this authorisation.” (Bawādir al-Nawādir, p. 708)

He has also explained a similar principle in a work called Nihāyat al-Idrāk fi Aqsām al-Ishrāk, which has been translated.

Maulānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī also differentiates between different beliefs, and does not state istighāthah is automatically shirk akbar. He references Shah Isḥāq Dehlawī, the grandson and successor of Shāh ‘Abdul Azīz Dehlawī.

Mawlid

They continue:

They consider those who commemorate the Mawlid as misguided innovators etc.

To celebrate the birthday of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) in the month of Rabī‘ al-Awwal as an institutionalised, habitual, ritual practice done each year is indeed an innovation. Deobandī elders were not the only ones to denounce this practice. Abū Isḥāq al-Shāṭibī, Tāj al-Dīn al-Fākihānī, Abū ‘Abdillāh al-Ḥaffār and other scholars had also denounced the birthday celebration, which was initially introduced by the Shī‘ī Rawāfiḍ some time around the fourth or fifth centuries of Hijrah.

Deobandīs do not have issue with holding a gathering, without ritualising or institutionalising a particular time, to praise and glorify the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). For more detail, see here and here.

Takfīr

The letter-writers finally make the absurd claim:

The Wahhabis and Deobandis consider Ahl-us-Sunnah as hell bound polytheists. Are such Wahhabis and Deobandis people of truth?

Takfīr is the pastime of Barelwīs and Wahhābīs, not Deobandīs. Deobandīs do not consider Ahl al-Sunnah to be hell-bound polytheists. On the other hand, Barelwīs do consider innocent imāms of Ahl al-Sunnah and those who do not consider them to be disbelievers hell-bound disbelievers. Maulānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī points out in al-Shihāb al-Thāqib (p221-4) that in truth it is Barelwīs that resemble Wahhābīs in their most characteristic trait i.e. takfīr, and thus are more deserving of that appellation than Deobandīs.

Concluding Note

Evidence-based critique of the takfīr and false allegations against Deobandīs as presented above generally elude dyed-in-the-wool Barelwīs like those that authored this letter. For them it makes no difference whether an explanation is given or not, whether their misinformation is exposed or not. The verdict given by Maulānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī based on a decade-long experience from a century ago still rings true today. He writes:

In my earlier phase, after ten years of experience, it became a ‘true certainty’ for me that the educated flag bearers and leaders of this [Barelwī] fitnah of takfīr never misunderstood or made an academic slip. They themselves know very well that our elders are completely free of those heretical beliefs they attribute to them. In short, I do not have even an atom’s weight of doubt in the ungodliness that purely for their worldly benefits and interest, they wilfully slandered and falsely accused our elders. Therefore, there is no hope that if they understand the matter through the means of writing or lecturing, this fitnah will end. Not only once or twice, again and again, through the means of writing and lecturing and discussion, attempts have been made to make them understand. Books have been written. Debates have been had. And by the grace and mercy of Allāh Almighty and His accordance and support, in those books and those debates, the matter was composed and written in such a way that if in reality there was some misunderstanding or academic error then this matter would have ended long ago. But the reality is that, since this fitnah-mongering is the means of their work and livelihood, even if they are made to understand a thousand times, they will never accept. This condition of theirs is exactly like the stubborn actions of those who oppose Allāh, regarding whom the Noble Qur’ān says: ‘And they denied them, though their souls acknowledged them, for spite and arrogance.’ (27:14)

This is why I am certain that talking with these instigators to make them understand is merely a waste of time and actually helps their cause. This is why it is my sure opinion that all of this should be avoided, and the policy mentioned in these words of the Qur’ān should be adopted clearly: ‘There is no argumentation between us and you. Allāh will bring us together, and to Him is the final return.’ (42:15) Thus, I will no longer correspond with the flag bearers and leaders of this fitnah of takfīr who have made this fitnah-mongering their occupation and work.

However, it is no doubt the right of those poor Muslim laymen who, being deceived by their scholarly form and scholarly dress, became afflicted by this fitnah of takfīr, that in a suitable manner they are made to understand and an attempt is made to save them from this fitnah. In this respect a grassroots and general method is that in the place where this fitnah is manifest, to explain to the educated Muslims amongst them the actual truth and the reality of these fitnah-stirrers, and then they will make attempts to make the masses understand. (The Decisive Debate, p. 13-4)


Who was Shāh Muḥammad Ismā‘īl al-Dehlawī Refuting in Taqwiyat al-Īmān?

December 17, 2019

Shāh Muḥammad Ismā‘īl al-Dehlawī (1779 – 1831), who grew up in the household of his uncle Shāh ‘Abdul Qādir al-Dehlawī and studied under his esteemed uncle, Shāh ‘Abdul ‘Azīz al-Dehlawī (d. 1824), wrote Taqwiyat al-Īmān 6 years prior to the latter’s death, in 1818. In those 6 years, no one voiced any opposition to the work.

Taqwiyat al-Īmān was essentially a wake-up call to the common Muslims of India who were stooped in Hindu and Shī‘ī ritual practices and beliefs. It is clear from several places of Taqwiyat al-Īmān itself that Shāh Muḥammad Ismā‘īl Dehlawī is countering the “folk-religion” that had become popular amongst Muslims as a result of Hindu and Shī‘ī influence.

References below are from this edition of Taqwiyat al- Īmān.

Shāh Ismā‘īl says in one place:

It is realised from this ḥadīth that at the end of time even the ancient Shirk will become popular. This has occurred in accordance with what the Messenger of God foretold. Meaning, just like Muslim people behave idolatrously with prophets, saints, imāms and martyrs, in the same way, they are spreading the ancient Shirk and regarding [as divine] the idols of the disbelievers and are perpetuating their customs, like consulting the Brahmans, taking omens, believing [in the ill-omen of inauspicious] times, asking Shitala and Masani…,all such customs of Hindus and Majūs have found popularity amongst the Muslims. It is realised from this that the path of Shirk will open up for Muslims in this manner, such that they abandon Qur’ān and Ḥadīth and fall behind the customs of their ancestors. (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p64)*

He also says:

In just the same manner that Christians say that all the workings of the universe and the universe [itself] are in the control of Ḥaḍrat ‘Īsā (upon him peace), and whoever accepts him and relies on him will not need to engage in any servitude, and no sin will harm him, and he will not have to distinguish ḥalāl and ḥarām, he will become as God’s shadow, whatever he wants he may do & will be protected in the afterlife with Ḥaḍrat ‘Īsa’s intercession for him, similarly, ignorant Muslims maintain a similar belief with respect to Ḥaḍrat Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), and in fact even below him, with imāms and saints, and in fact maintain this belief in respect to all mullās and mashāyikh. May Allāh give guidance. (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p91)

He further explains which Shirk he is refuting towards the beginning of the work:

In short, whatever Hindus do with their idols, these fake Muslims undertake with saints, prophets and imāms, angels and fairies, and make the claim of being Muslim. Subḥānallāh! This is the practice and this the claim. Allāh Ṣāḥib [2] has spoken the truth in Sūrah Yūsuf:

وما يؤمن أكثرهم بالله إلا وهم مشركون

“Most of them do not believe in Allāh but do Shirk.”

That is, most people who make the claim of īmān are caught up in Shirk. Further, if a sensible person were to ask these people: “You claim īmān but do acts of Shirk, why do you combine these two [contradictory] paths?” They answer:

“We don’t do Shirk, but we are expressing our devotion towards prophets and saints. We would only be Mushrik if we regarded these prophets, saints, pirs and martyrs as equals to Allah. This is not what we believe. Rather, we regard them to be slaves of Allāh and to be His creatures. The power of discretion (taṣarruf) Allāh Himself gave to them. By His approval they apply their control over the universe. Calling on them is the very same as calling onto Allāh, asking help from them is the very same as asking Him. They are beloved to Allāh, so whatever they want they will do. They will intercede to Him on our behalf and are agents. By reaching them we reach Him and by calling them we draw near to Allāh. The more we obey them the closer we get to Allāh.”

And they express [other] such superstitions. (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p8)

From this, it is clear that Shāh Ismā‘īl al-Dehlawī is targeting a specific belief that the ignorant masses would hold: that beings apart from Allāh have independent powers of discretion (bestowed upon them by Allāh), based on which devotion of the kinds he listed are expressed towards them. It is not the case that he believed all such actions or devotions were in and of themselves impermissible or Shirk, but rather that they represent a culture of Shirk emerging from the idolatrous belief he describes. He refers to such idolatrous beliefs of the common people in other sections of Taqwiyat al-Īmān also.

He says in another place:

Meaning, [idolaters amongst Jews and Christians] would regard Allāh to be the greater Owner but would determine other, smaller, owners apart from him – the learned and the dervishes. They were not commanded to do this, and based on this, Shirk was established on them. He is unique, no one can be His partner.

Thus, He states in Sūrah Maryam:

إن كل من فى السموات والأرض إلا آتى الرحمن عبدا، لقد أحصهم وعدهم عدا وكلهم آتيه يوم القيمة فردا

“All who are in the heavens and the earth will come to the All-Merciful as slaves. He has control of them and has counted them. Each of them will come to him alone on the Day of Resurrection.”

Meaning, no angel or man maintains a position higher than slavehood, and are helpless in His grip, maintaining no power, and He applies His discretion over each one, not putting any in the control of another, and in every affair each will be present before Him alone, without making any a protector or agent over another. There are many other such verses bearing such meaning. Whoever understands these two to four verses, will be vigilant of the matter of Shirk and Tawḥīd. (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p12-3)

In one place, he defines a person “free of Shirk” as “he does not regard any other apart from Allāh as owner, and does not recognise any place to flee from Him, and it is well established in his heart that a sinner has no refuge to flee to from Him, and that no-one’s strength has any force in opposition to Him, and no-one’s protection in opposition to Him has any force, and no-one can intercede for another by their own power”.  (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p28)

He describes two mistaken beliefs in intercession, one which entails there are those whose dominion Allāh fears, and another which entails there are those whose love (na‘ūdhū billāh) incapacitates Allāh from executing His will (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p43-5). Such beliefs probably originate from the Shī‘ah.

He speaks against the Muḥarram rituals of the Shī‘ah (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p61-2), as explained in Abu ‘l-Ḥasan ‘Alī Nadwī’s footnotes to his Arabic translation (Risālat al-Tawḥīd, p108-10). Beliefs that most likely derive from Shī‘ah are also described e.g. believing in all encompassing knowledge of creation for prophets and imāms. (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p13-4)

Hence, Shāh Muḥammad Ismā‘īl Dehlawī was refuting a culture of mistaken beliefs towards Allāh, that derive from regarding Allāh as a “superior” divine being, while there are other “inferior” divine beings with powers which were attained from Allāh Himself, and in which they are independent. He says in Radd al-Ishrāk, a work written approximately 20 years before Taqwiyat al-Īmān on which the latter work is based:

Realise that the shirk which the divine books came to nullify and the prophets were sent to eradicate is not limited to someone believing that the one he worships is equal to the Creator (Blessed and Exalted is He) in the necessity of existence or in encompassing knowledge of all creation or in creating the basic existents like the heaven and the earth, because it is not from the character of a human being to be mixed up with such belief unless he is disfigured like Fir‘awn and his likes, and no one can believe that the divine books were revealed and prophets were sent only to correct such disfigured ones only. How can this be when the Arab idolaters who the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) called “idolaters” and fought and spilt their blood, put their children into captivity, and took their wealth as spoils, would not believe this as evidenced by His (Exalted is He) statement: “Say: In Whose hand is the dominion of all things and He grants protection and is not granted protection against, if you know, and they will say: Allāh. Say: Then how are you deluded?’ (Qur’ān, 23:88-9) and there are many such verses?

Rather, the meaning is to make another besides Allāh a partner with Him (Exalted is He) in divinity (ulūhiyyah) or lordship (rubūbiyyah). The meaning of “divinity” is to believe in respect to him that he has reached such a degree in qualities of perfection like encompassing knowledge, control by mere power and will, that he is beyond comparison and similarity with the rest of creation; which is by believing that nothing occurs…but that it is impossible for it to be hidden from his knowledge and he is witness to it; or believing that he controls things by force, meaning his control is not part of the means [Allāh has put in creation] but he has control over the means. The meaning of “lordship” is that he has reached such a degree in referring needs [to him], asking for solutions to problems and asking for the removal of tribulations by his mere will and power over the means that he deserves utmost servility and humbleness. That is, there is no limit to the extent of servility and humbleness shown to him, and there is no servility or humbleness but it is good in respect to him, and he is deserving of it… (Radd al-Ishrāk, p15-6)

This is also the type of Shirk that Shāh Waliyyullāh al-Dehlawī defines in his celebrated Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah:

The Mushrikūn agreed with the Muslims on the management of the major affairs, and in those things that have been decided and resolved and no choice has been left for another, but did not agree with them in everything else. They took the view that the righteous before them worshipped Allāh and gained nearness to Him so Allāh granted them divinity and they deserved worship from all of Allāh’s creation – just like the highest king, his slave serves him well so he grants him the cloak of kingdom, and hands over to him the management of a land so he deserves to be heard and obeyed by the residents of that land. They say worship of Allāh is not accepted unless joined to their worship, and in fact Allāh is in the height of loftiness so worshipping Him will not achieve drawing near to Him but rather it is necessary to worship these [co-gods] so they bring one near to Allāh; and they say they hear and see and intercede for their slaves and manage their affairs and assist them, so they carved out stones in their names and made them a qiblah for when they would turn their attention towards these [co-gods]… (Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah, p116)

If one reads the entire section of Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah on Tawḥid and Shirk, one will find Taqwiyat al-Īmān is effectively a restatement and expansion of what is found there. It should be noted Shāh Ismā‘īl was very familiar with his grandfather’s Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah and even taught it in the Ḥaram when he travelled to make Ḥajj in 1821/1822 with Sayyid Aḥmad Shahīd and his group. Shāh Waliyyullāh also said this type of Shirk is prevalent amongst the ignorant masses.

Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd also says in Taqwiyat al-Imān that Shirk is of two kinds: those that make a person a Kāfir and those that do not (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p19). Some actions and beliefs he condemns (e.g. prostrating to another, slaughtering for another and taking oath by another) should therefore be understood to be referring to the latter kind; while some beliefs he mentions (e.g. belief in independent supernatural powers for individuals; belief in an incarnation; and belief in the incorrect types of intercession he describes) should be understood to be from the first kind.

If these two points are kept in mind:

  1. Shāh Ismā‘īl was refuting the folk-religion of common Muslims engrossed in actual Shirk of the type found amongst Hindus and extreme Shī‘ah
  2. He differentiated between Shirk that takes one out of Islām and one that doesn’t

One will not find anything that is problematic in Taqwiyat al-Īmān.

Note that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī held the absurd belief that Taqwiyat al-Īmān is a translation of Kitāb al-Tawḥīd. Are any of the above passages (or the passage translated below) found in Kitāb al-Tawḥīd? Does Kitāb al-Tawḥīd say one should take a person as their Ustādh and Pīr, as Taqwiyat al-Īmān does (see below)? Does Kitāb al-Tawḥīd say it is permitted to make Tawassul via a personality, as Taqwiyat al-Īmān (p82) does? Does Kitāb al-Tawḥīd refer to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) as master of all the world and the greatest of creation, as Taqwiyat al-Īmān does?

* One point of note here is that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī claimed based on this passage that Shāh Ismā‘īl Dehlawī admitted to being a disbeliever, and had thus committed disbelief! (al-Kawkabat al-Shihābiyyah; al-Fatāwā al-Riḍawiyyah, Riḍā Foundation, 15:177-8) He bases this on the fact that the ḥadīth Shāh Ismā‘īl is commenting on talks about a wind that will take the lives of all believers and people will then return to the idolatry of their forefathers, under the commentary of which Shāh Ismā‘īl said: “This has occurred in accordance with what the Messenger of God foretold.” (Which, in his usual deceptive manner, is the only sentence Aḥmad Riḍā Khān quotes from the paragraph.) But it is clear from the entire paragraph that Shāh Ismā‘īl is talking about the beginning phase or the setting stage of what the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) foretold. This is also clear in both the English translation of Mir Shahamat Ali (“so the prophecy of the Prophet has begun to be verified in the present age”) and the Arabic translation of Abu ‘l-Ḥasan ‘Alī Nadwī (وقد تحقق ما أخبر به الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم فقد بدأ الشرك القديم), and the subsequent explanation of Shāh Ismā‘īl himself, and the fact that he ends by saying “the path of Shirk will open up for Muslims in this manner…”. See a refutation of this absurd objection in al-Junnah li Ahl al-Sunnah, p 81.

This is on top of the fact that Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd says clearly in Taqwiyat al-Īmān that he is a believer, in the very first paragraph: “My God: Thousands upon thousands of thanks to Your Pure Being for having bestowed upon us thousands of favours, and having demonstrated to us Your true Dīn, and brought us onto the straight path, and taught us true Tawḥīd, and made us from the Ummah of Your Beloved.” (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p3). And he closed the book with the following: “Oh Owner of ours! Send thousands of blessings and peace upon this merciful and generous Messenger of Yours. The extraordinary efforts he has made to teach ignorant ones like us the Dīn, You repay this effort, for we are helpless slaves, completely powerless. And just as You have by Your grace taught us the meaning of Shirk and Tawḥīd well, and taught us the meaning of lā ilāha illAllāh well, and brought us out from the Mushrik people and made us Muwaḥḥids and pure Muslims, in the same manner, make us understand the meaning of Bid‘ah and Sunnah well, and teach us well the meaning of Muḥammadur Rasūlullāh, and bring us out from the deviant innovators and make us Sunnīs and pure adherents of Sunnah. Āmīn O Lord of the Worlds.” (Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p96)

———————————————-

We end here with a fresh translation of the first 10 or so pages of the book (which make up 1/10 of the book).

In Allāh’s Name, the Most Merciful, the Beneficent

My God:

Thousands upon thousands of thanks to Your Pure Being for having bestowed upon us thousands of favours, and having demonstrated to us Your true Dīn, and brought us onto the straight path, and taught us true Tawḥīd, and made us from the Ummah of Your Beloved, Muḥammad, the Messenger of Allāh, Allāh bless him and grant him peace, and put in us the passion to learn his way, and put in us love for his representatives who show his way and bring [people] to his path.

O Lord:

Send thousands upon thousands of salutations upon Your Beloved, his progeny, companions and his representatives, and show mercy on those who follow him, and make us of them, and keep us on this path in life and death, and count us amongst his followers. Āmīn, Lord of the Worlds.

To proceed:

It should be heard that all people are Allāh’s slaves and a slave’s job is servitude. The slave who does not serve is not a slave. The foundation of servitude is to correct one’s īmān, since when there is any infringement in īmān no service will be accepted, and when īmān is sound, then even a little servitude will be much. Thus, every person should make considerable effort to correct his faith, and should consider the obtainment of this as having priority over all else.

In this time, in regards to religion, people have trodden upon different paths. Some hold onto the traditions of those before them; many look to the tales of the saints; some hold as support what the Molvīs hastily extract with their minds; and some involve their own intellects. A superior path to all of these is to keep the statement of Allāh and His Messenger as foundation and hold it as support and have no intrusion of personal reason; and the tales of the saints and speech of the Molvīs that are in agreement with them are to be accepted and those that are not in agreement will not be held onto as support; and the custom that is not in agreement with them will be abandoned. [1]

The Words of Allāh and His Messenger are for Everybody

That which is popular amongst the common people [who say]:

“It is very difficult to understand the speech of Allāh and His Messenger. Immense knowledge is needed for this. We don’t have the ability to understand their speech, and to tread this path is the activity of great personalities, so what ability do we have to proceed in accordance with them? In fact, we have to suffice on such things.”

Such statements are very wrong because Allāh Saḥib [2] has said that the statements of the Qur’ān Majīd are very clear and straightforward. There is no difficulty in understanding them. Thus, He says in Sūrah Baqarah:

ولقد أنزلنا إليك آيات بينات وما يكفر بها إلا الفسقون

“Undoubtedly, we have sent to you clear verses, and only the lawless refuse them.”

Meaning, there is no difficulty in understanding these verses. However, applying them is difficult to the soul because the soul does not like obedience to anyone. Thus, those who are lawless refuse them. Immense knowledge is not needed to understand the speech of Allāh and His Messenger since the Messenger came to show the way to the unlearned, to make the ignorant understand and to teach the religion to the ignorant. Thus, Allāh (Exalted is He) says in Sūrah Jumu‘ah:

هو الذي بعث فى الأميين رسولا منهم يتلو عليهم آياته ويزكيهم ويعلمهم الكتب والحكمة وان كانوا من قبل لفي ضلال مبين

“He is the One who sent a Messenger to the unlettered from amongst them, reciting His verses onto them, purifying them and teaching them the Book and Wisdom. Undoubtedly they were in manifest error before.”

It is a great blessing of Allāh that He sent such a Messenger who made the uninformed informed, the impure pure, the unlearned learned, the foolish intelligent, the misguided guided. Whoever, having heard this verse, says that no one besides the learned can understand the speech of the Messenger, and no one besides the saints can follow his path, they have rejected this verse and have not valued this blessing. Rather it should be said that an ignorant person, having understood his speech, will become learned, and misguided folk, following his words, will become saints.

An example of this speech is like that of a great physician and a very ill person. So, someone says to this ill person: “Go to so-and-so physician, and get treatment from him.” The ill person responds: “Going to him and getting treatment from him is the job of very healthy people. How can I do so since I am very unwell?” This ill person is a great fool, and is rejecting the skill of this physician because a physician’s purpose is only to treat ill people. One who treats the healthy, and they are the ones who benefit from his medicine, and the sick gain no benefit, what kind of a physician is he?

In short, the greater the ignorance, the greater desire there should be to understand the word of Allāh and His Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace). And the one who is a greater sinner should try harder to follow the path of Allāh and His Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace). Everyone, the public and the elite, should study the speech of Allāh and His Messenger, understand them, follow them, and correct their īmān according to them.

Two Components to Īmān

Thus, it should be heard that īmān has two components:

  1. To recognise God as God
  2. To acknowledge the Messenger as Messenger

 

  • Recognising God as God is done in this way: that none is regarded as His partner (sharīk). And the Messenger is recognised as Messenger in this way: that besides his [path], no other path is adopted.

The first component is called Tawḥīd and its opposite Shirk. And the second component is called Ittibā‘ al-Sunnah and its opposite Bid‘ah.

Thus, everyone should strongly hold on to Tawḥīd and Ittibā‘ al-Sunnah and stay far-removed from Shirk and Bid‘ah since these two things cause an infraction to true īmān, while all [remaining] sins are beneath them because they cause an infraction to deeds. One who is very accomplished in Tawḥīd and Ittibā‘ al-Sunnah and is very far from Shirk and Bid‘ah and people acquire this quality by staying in his company, you should regard as your Pīr and Ustādh.

This is why several verses and ḥadīths which describe Tawḥīd and Itibbā al-Sunnah and [describe] the evils of Shrik and Bid‘ah will be compiled in this treatise. And the translation of the resultant meaning of these verses and ḥadīths will be made in simple Urdu so that that the public and elite can equally derive benefit from it. May whoever is granted Tawfīq by Allāh come onto the straight path, and become a means to the salvation of the one providing this explanation. Ᾱmīn, O God of all things.

The treatise’s name has been kept as Taqwiyat al-Īmān. Two chapters have been determined for it, the first chapter on the explanation of Tawḥīd and the evil of Shirk and the second chapter on Ittibā‘ al-Sunnah and the evil of Bi‘dah. [3]

Chapter One: On the Explanation of Tawḥīd and Shirk

It should be heard that Shirk is very widespread amongst people and true Tawḥīd rare. Most people don’t even know the meaning of Shirk and Tawḥīd and claim īmān while being engaged in Shirk. Thus, firstly the meaning of Shirk and Tawḥīd must be understood, so that the evil and good of them can then be realised from the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth.

Thus, it should be heard that most people call out to Pīrs, Messengers, Imāms, martyrs, angels and fairies at the time of difficulties and ask their desires of them and make vows to them. For fulfilling needs they make vows and offerings (nazr wa niyāz) to them. To remove afflictions, they attribute their children to them. Some keep their child’s name as ‘Abd al-Nabī (the Prophet’s slave), some as ‘Alī Bakhsh (a gift from ‘Alī), some as Pīr Bakhsh (a gift of Pīr), some as Madār Bakhsh (a gift of Madār) and some as Sālār Bakhsh (a gift of Sālār), some as Ghulām Muḥyiddīn (‘Abdul Qādir al-Jīlānī’s slave), some as Ghulām Mu‘īn al-Dīn (Mu‘īn al-Dīn Chishtī’s slave). For [their children] to live, some keep a lock of hair in someone’s name. Some tie a garland in someone’s name. Some put on a garment in someone’s name. Some put chains on in someone’s name. Some slaughter an animal in someone’s name. Some cry out [to someone] at the time of hardship. Some, in their speech, take oath on someone’s name.

In short, whatever Hindus do with their idols, these fake Muslims undertake with saints, prophets and imāms, angels and fairies, and make the claim of being Muslim. Subḥānallāh! This is the practice and this the claim. Allāh Ṣāḥib has spoken the truth in Sūrah Yūsuf:

وما يؤمن أكثرهم بالله إلا وهم مشركون

“Most of them do not believe in Allāh but do Shirk.”

That is, most people who make the claim of īmān are caught up in Shirk. Further, if a sensible person were to ask these people: “You claim īmān but do acts of Shirk, why do you combine these two [contradictory] paths?” They answer:

“We don’t do Shirk, but we are expressing our devotion towards prophets and saints. We would only be Mushrik if we regarded these prophets, saints, pirs and martyrs as equals to Allah. This is not what we believe. Rather, we regard them to be slaves of Allāh and to be His creatures. The power of discretion (taṣarruf) Allāh Himself gave to them. By His approval they apply their control over the universe. Calling on them is the very same as calling onto Allāh, asking help from them is the very same as asking Him. They are beloved to Allāh, so whatever they want they will do. They will intercede to Him on our behalf and are agents. By reaching them we reach Him and by calling them we draw near to Allāh. The more we obey them the closer we get to Allāh.” And they express [other] such superstitions.

The reason for such statements is that they have involved their intellects and abandoned the speech of God and the Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), and they have fallen after false tales, and held as support wrong customs. If they were to investigate the speech of Allāh and the Messenger, they would come to realise that disbelieving folk would make such statements before the Messenger of God (Allāh bless him and grant him peace). Allāh Ṣāḥib did not accept a single one of these [excuses] and became angry at them and called them liars. Thus, Allāh Ṣāḥib says in Sūrah Yūnus:

ويعبدون من دون الله ما لا يضرهم ولا ينفعهم ويقولون هؤلاء شفعاءنا عند الله، قل: أتنبئون الله بما لا يعلم فى السموات ولا فى الأرض؟! سبحانه وتعالى عما يشركون

“They worship besides Allāh things that do not harm them nor benefit them and say: ‘These are our intercessors with Allāh.’ Say: ‘Do you inform Allāh of something He does not know in the heavens nor on the earth?’ Glorified is He and Exalted beyond what they ascribe to Him.”

Meaning, those that people call upon, Allāh has not given them any power, neither to give benefit nor to cause harm, and that which they assert, that these are our intercessors with Allāh, this was not communicated by Allāh, so are you more aware than Allāh to tell Him what He does not know?!

It is realised from this verse that in the whole of the heavens and earth, there is no such intercessor for anyone who to recognise [as divine] and call out to will cause any benefit or harm. In fact, the intercession that the prophets and saints have is within the control of Allāh. Nothing will happen from calling out to them or not calling out to them. It is also realised that one who worships another regarding him to be an intercessor, he too is a Mushrik.

Allāh Ṣāḥib says in Sūrah Zumar:

والذين اتخذوا من دونه أولياء، ما نعبدهم إلا ليقربونا إلى الله زلفى، إن الله يحكم بينهم فيما هم فيه يختلفون، إن الله لا يهدي من هو كاذب كفار

“And those who take protectors from apart from Him, [they say:] We do not worship them but for them to bring us near to Allāh closely. Certainly, Allāh will judge between them in that in which they differ. Certainly, Allāh does not guide the one who is lying, ungrateful.”

Meaning, abandoning that which is truth: that Allāh is nearest to a slave, and taking others as protectors; and not fulfilling the right nor giving thanks to Allāh’s favour, that He, purely by virtue of His grace, directly fulfils the desires of everyone and stalls all tribulations, but rather seeking them from others; and then in this inverted path, they seek nearness to Allāh! Thus, Allāh will never give them guidance, and from this path they will never acquire nearness to Him, but rather those who proceed on this path will become distant from Him.

It is realised from this verse that whoever considers another as protector [4], even if recognising that on account of asking him nearness is achieved to God, he too is Mushrik and is a liar and ungrateful to Allāh.

Allāh Ṣāḥib says in Sūrah Mu’minūn:

قل من بيده ملكوت كل شيء وهو يجير ولا يجار عليه إن كنتم تعلمون سيقولون لله قل فأنى تسحرون

“Say: Who is it that has the control of all things in his hand, and he grants protection and none can be granted protection against him, if you know? They will say: ‘Allāh.’ Say: ‘Then wherefrom your befuddlement?’”

Meaning, when the disbelievers are asked whose control is the entire world under, and against whom no protection can be made, they will say this is Allāh’s character. Thus, to then regard others [as divine] is pure befuddlement.

From this verse it is realised that Allāh Ṣāḥib has not given the power of control within the world, and no one can protect another, and it is also realised that at the time of the Prophet of God, the disbelievers too did not regard their idols to be equal to Allāh, but considered them His creation and slave, and they would not affirm power for them comparable to Him [5], but calling out to them, and making vows to them, and making offerings, and considering them their agents and intercessors, this was their disbelief and Shirk. Whoever treats another in this way, even if they regard him Allāh’s slave and creation, he and Abū Jahl are equal in Shirk.

It should be understood that Shirk does not depend on regarding someone equal to Allāh and comparable to Him, but rather the meaning of Shirk is that those things Allāh has made specific to Himself, and has specified as signs of His slaves’ servitude, doing them to another; like prostrating, slaughtering an animal on their name, taking a vow by them, and calling them in time of difficulty, and regarding them to be present and seeing at every place, and affirming the power of discretion for them. From these matters, Shirk is established, even if thereafter he regards them to be less than Allāh and to be His creation and slave. In this matter, there is no distinction between saints and prophets, and jinn and shayṭān, and spirits and phantoms. Meaning, with whomever one behaves in this way, he becomes a Mushrik, whether with the prophets or saints, or the pīrs and martyrs, or spirits and fairies. Thus, just as Allāh was angry with those who worshipped idols, He was just as angry with Jews and Christians, even though they would behave in this way with prophets and saints. Thus, it comes in Sūrah al-Barā’ah:

اتخذوا أحبارهم ورهبانهم أربابا من دون الله والمسيح بن مريم وما أمروا إلا ليعبدوا إلها واحدا، لا إله إلا هو، سبحانه عما يشركون

“They determine their scholars and dervishes as their owners apart from Allāh, as well as the Messiah son of Maryam, while they were commanded to worship One God, there is no God but He; He is Unique from those they make His partners.”

Meaning, they would regard Allāh to be the greater Owner but would determine other, smaller, owners apart from him – scholars and dervishes. They were not commanded to do this, and based on this Shirk was established on them. And He is unique, no one can be His partner. Thus, He states in Sūrah Maryam:

إن كل من فى السموات والأرض إلا آتى الرحمن عبدا، لقد أحصهم وعدهم عدا وكلهم آتيه يوم القيمة فردا

“All that are in the heavens and the eeath will come to the All-Merciful as slaves. He has control of them and counted them. Each of them will come to him alone on the Day of Resurreciton.”

Meaning, no angel or man maintains a position higher than slavehood, and are helpless under His sovereignty, maintaining no power, and He applies His discretion over each one, not putting any in the control of another, and in every affair each will be present before Him alone, without making any a protector or agent over another. There are many other such verses bearing such meaning. Whoever understands these two to four verses, will be vigilant of the matter of Shirk and Tawḥīd.

Now, this matter ought to be scrutinised, which matters has Allāh Ṣāḥib made specific to Himself, which no one can be made partner with Him in? These are many. But it is necessary to mention several matters and prove them from Qur’ān and Ḥadīth, so that people can understand all other matters from them.

[1] Shāh Ismā‘īl Dehlawī is not denouncing all adherence to scholarly and saintly guidance, but only that which goes against clear teachings of Qur’ān and Ḥadīth. Otherwise, very shortly after this, he instructs readers to take a scholar and saint as one’s Ustādh and Pīr, when they adhere strictly to the fundamental teachings of Qur’ān and Ḥadīth (of Tawḥīd and Ittibā‘ al-Sunnah).

[2] “In old Urdu the expression ‘Allāh Ṣāḥib said…’ would be used, but in new Urdu its use has been discarded. It appears that at that time, it would be treated as a term of veneration, but in the later vernacular it did not hold such veneration that it be used for Allāh Most Exalted, noble prophets or ṣaḥābah/tābi‘īn.” (Mawlānā Yūsuf Ludhyānwī) Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī was asked if the expression ‘Allāh Ṣāḥib’ is permissible; he replied: “It is permissible.” (Malfūẓāt A‘lā Ḥaḍrat, Da‘wat Islāmī, p. 327)

[3] Shāh Ismā‘īl did not include the section on Bid‘ah in this work.

[4] An independent protector, apart from Allāh.

[5] From this it is clear that Shāh Ismā‘īl al-Dehlawī believed that the disbelievers would affirm independent powers (bestowed by Allāh Himself) for the gods, albeit powers that were not on par with Allāh’s powers.

 

 


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)


Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Dehlawi on Istighathah

October 16, 2019

Some Barelwis writing online have misquoted/misinterpreted a fatwa of Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Dehlawi on istighathah.

The clear position of Shah Waliyyullah Dehlawi, his father, was documented in an earlier post; see here. The clear position of Qadi Thana’ullah Panipati, a well-known scholar and student of Shah Waliyyullah al-Dehlawi, and someone admired by Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Dehlawi, was also documented earlier; see here.

The fatwa of Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Dehlawi in reference can be found in his Persian fatwa collection on pages 33-34. A PDF of the fatwa collection can be found here.

The relevant section of the Farsi fatwa together with an Urdu translation and brief commentary can be found on pages 40-41 of Maulana Sarfraz Khan Safdar’s Itmam al-Burhan:

An English translation is as follows:

Seeking help occurs in two ways. One is for creation to seek help from creation just as a worker or beggar seeks help for their needs from the emir or king, and common people get the Awliya to make du‘a [for them] in making a plea to Allah ta‘ala for a certain need. Seeking such help is permissible in Shar’iah whether from the living or dead. 

Second, in those things that Allah is specifically independent in (i.e. those things in which there isn’t even kasb from creation), like granting a child, bringing down rain, preventing (all) illnesses, lengthening life, and similar such things, while not having the intention of it being a du‘a or a plea that will be approved by Allah, creation is asked for help in them. This category is absolutely haram and in fact kufr. If any Muslim asks this type of help from any of the Awliya of religion, whether alive or dead, he will come out of the parameters of being a Muslim.*

As one can see, the distinction Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Dehlawi makes is between matters that are ordinarily within the control of creation and matters that are not. With the latter category, it is not permissible to ask for help, while with the former category, it is.

When Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Dehlawi mentions the permissibility of asking the dead for help, he is referring specifically to requesting them to make du‘a, which is not something Deobandis reject (see here). Barelwis who take this to mean it is permissible to seek help directly from the deceased, i.e. asking them to directly fulfil their needs and not merely asking them to make du’a, are distorting/misrepresenting what Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Dehlawi said.

* This is the default rule but takfir of an individual in such a case may be averted based on ta’wil or jahl.

See also: https://www.deoband.org/2013/12/quran/quran-commentary/on-seeking-help-from-other-than-allah/


Shāh Waliyyullāh Dehlawī: Asking Needs (Istighāthah) from the Dead is Impermissible and Kufr

February 19, 2019

Shāh Waliyullāh Dehlawī (1703 – 1762) states:

Realise that asking needs from the dead, [even] while recognising that this is a means to having it fulfilled, is kufr. It must be avoided. This kalimah (i.e. the shahādah) forbids it, and yet people today are engrossed in it.” (al-Khayr al-Kathīr, al-Majlis al-‘Ilmī, p. 105)

Note that while he considers it kufr, this does not necessarily mean he will make takfīr of individuals/people engaged in it, as kufr can be averted based on ignorance or ta’wīl. The reason this is kufr is it apparently ascribes powers of an immaterial nature to other than Allāh, while such powers are exclusive to Him.*

Shāh Waliyyullāh further says:

All who go to the city of Ajmer or the grave of Sālār Mas‘ūd or anything similar to them for the purpose of a need he requests [from them], he has committed a sin graver than murder and adultery. He has no likeness but the likeness of one who worships creatures or the likeness of those who would call Lāt and ‘Uzzā, although we do not make explicit takfīr [of an individual] due to the absence of a text from the lawgiver on this specific matter [and thus ta’wīl being possible]. Everyone who specifies life in the deceased and requests needs from him his heart is sinful.” (Al-Tafhīmāt al-Ilāhiyyah, al-Majlis al-‘Ilmī, 2:45)

He also says:

“Further, the definition of shirk with Allāh in worship is to glorify other than Allāh seeking thereby to get near to Allāh (Exalted is He) and salvation in the next life. Amongst the greatest illnesses of this time of ours is their worship of their shuyūkh, whether living, or of their graves when dead. The ignorant copy the disbelievers of India in worshipping their idols in their practices.  The definition of shirk with Allāh in seeking help is to seek one’s need from another while believing he has the power to accomplish it by applying a powerful will, like curing the sick, giving life and death, giving provision and creating a child, and other things that are included within the Names of Allāh (Exalted is He). The definition of shirk with Allāh in calling out is to mention other than Allāh (Glorified is He) while believing this action of his will benefit him in his afterlife or in coming closer to Allāh, just as they mention their shuyūkh when waking up in the morning.” (Al-Tafhīmāt al-Ilāhiyyah, al-Majlis al-‘Ilmī, 2:63-4)

Shāh Waliyyullāh explains in a statement of ‘aqīdah:

“[Allāh] has no partner in the necessity of existence nor in deserving worship nor in creation and administration. None deserves worship, i.e. the furthest extent of glorification, besides Him. None heals the sick, provides provision and alleviates harm besides Him, in the sense of saying to a thing Kun and it happens, not in the sense of outward ordinary causation as is said: ‘The doctor healed the sick person’, ‘the commander provided the army’…” (al-Tafhīmāt al-Ilāhiyyah, al-Majlis al-‘Ilmī, 1:144-5)

Shāh Waliyyullāh makes the same point in his well-known work Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah (Dārul Jīl, 1:117):

It is fine to take material assistance within the material world Allāh has created, or from what we learn via revelation is available for assistance. Outside of this, any event/help is from kharq al-‘ādāt (breaking of the norm) which is exclusively the activity of Allāh (even if apparently done on the hand of a creature), so none besides Him is to be asked for them. See Rāh e Hidāyat of Mawlānā Sarfrāz Khān Ṣafdar for more detail.

Shāh Waliyyullāh also says in Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah:

“This concept [i.e. shirk] has various embodiments and forms, and the divine law only discusses embodiments and forms of it which the people practice with the intention of shirk, so that they become anticipated sources (maẓinnah) of shirk and customarily inseparable from it. This is similar to the practice of the divine law in establishing the causes that entail good or evil actions as being tantamount to those acts themselves. We want to alert you to those things which Allāh, may He be Exalted, has made anticipated sources (maẓinnāt) of shirk in the divine law brought by Muḥammad, may there be peace and blessings upon the one who brought it, so that he forbade them…Among them is that they used to request assistance (yasta’īnuna) with their needs (fi ḥawā’ijihim) such as in curing the sick and meeting the needs of the poor, from other than Allāh. They would make vows to them expecting the accomplishment of their purposes through these vows, and they would recite their names, hoping for their blessing. Therefore, Allāh, may He be Exalted, made incumbent upon them that they say during their prayers: ‘You alone do we worship, You alone do we seek for help’ (Qur’ān, 1:4).” (Ḥujjatullāh al-Bālighah, Dārul Jīl, 1:120)

Recall also that one of Shāh Waliyyullāh’s prominent students Qāḍī Thanā’ullāh Pānipatī also condemned istighāthah, as documented here.

Barelwīs who assert that such teachings and such opposition to istighāthah originated in India with Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd are, as usual, lying.

* Mawlānā Idrīs Kāndhlewī explains this as follows: “The fourth scenario is when in asking for help from other [than Allah], it is suggestive of the independence of this [entity] other [than Allah], like asking help from spirits. Even though this person does not believe them to be independent, nonetheless, since the idolaters ask help from the spirits believing them to be independent, this is why asking help from spirits is absolutely haram. There is no doubt over it being haram. The doubt is whether this person will come out of the fold of Islam or not? Since this action is a complete manifestation of shirk, this is why there is strong fear of him coming out of the sphere of Islam.” (source)


The Clear Blasphemy & Kufr of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī – Ḥakīm al-Ummat Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī and ‘Allāmah Khālid Maḥmūd

January 14, 2019

Ḥakīm al-Ummat Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī raḥimahullāh addresses the “explicit kufr in which there can be no ta’wīl” of some heretics who claimed that Shaykh ‘Abdul Qādir al-Jīlānī is equal to, or has surpassed, Allāh Ta‘ālā in the quality of the creation being in need of him! Na‘ūdhu billāh. (Imdād al-Fatāwā, Maktabah Dārul ‘Ulūm Karāchī, 6:75)

Ḥakīm al-Ummat Thānawī raḥimahullāh explains that, “The being and characteristics of Allāh, the Absolutely Powerful (Qādir Muṭlaq), are themselves outside the Divine Power. Otherwise, it would necessitate believing that He is able to bring into existence His own likeness, which is absurd.” (ibid. 76)

He then explains this as divine punishment for the Mubtadi‘īn (innovators) who lay false allegations against the noble ‘ulamā’ of dīn:

The Mubtadi‘īn who have waged war against those who wrote that [creating] a likeness of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) is under the Power of the Creator (Exalted is He) but extrinsically impossible, and have popularised the [correct] belief of expressing the Power of the Absolutely Powerful under the [ambiguous] slogan of “imkān al-kidhb” and thereby have created ill-feeling amongst the ignorant for the ‘ulamā’ of dīn, those [very same Mubtadi‘īn] have fabricated the [false] belief about Ḥaḍrat Shaykh [‘Abdul Qādir al-Jīlānī] that, Allāh forbid, Allāh has made him His equal, and in fact made him superior to Himself, which is certainly explicit kufr. This punishment has befallen these people on account of the bad language they have used in relation to the respected ‘ulamā’ of dīn and as a result have acquired the mark of blackened faces in both worlds. (ibid. 6:76)

The “blackened faces” in this world refers to humiliation and being exposed. (Muṭāla‘ah Barelwiyyat, by Dr. ‘Allāmah Khālid Maḥmūd, Hafzi Book Depot, 5:69)

Ḥakīm al-Ummat Thānawī raḥimahullāh explains further that the one who entertains such a belief is “certainly a Mushrik and Kāfir”. He then quotes two poems which are “in the same vein” (Imdād al-Fatāwā, 6:76). The first poem states that, na‘ūdhu billāh, Allāh, the Sovereign, has made the one He has given His attention to equal to Him and thus he is “not less than Allāh”! He writes that this poetry is “explicit shirk”, and “the one who composed this verse is worthy of being considered a Mushrik and outside of Islām.” (ibid.)

Then he refers to a second verse of poetry that says:

I will call you Mālik (the Owner) for you are the Mālik’s beloved, for there is no otherness/separation between the beloved and the lover.

Ḥakīm al-Ummat Thānawī raḥimahullāh states that “Mālik” here has been used in the meaning of “God” (Khudā), and thus the clear meaning of the verse is that the person being addressed “is Allāh’s beloved and there is no difference between the beloved and the lover, and thus he is also, Allāh forbid, divine!” Thus, the writer of the verse “is deserving of the same ruling which has been given for the first verse. The ruling cannot change based on any ta’wīl because the words are completely clear.” (ibid. 6:76-7)

‘Allāmah Khālid Maḥmūd ḥafiẓahullāh comments:

The fatwā that Ḥakīm al-Ummat (Allāh have mercy on him) gave on the first verse is that the one who said this verse is a Mushrik and outside of Islām.

Now, he has given this same fatwā on the one who said this second verse. To whom does this second verse of poetry belong? It belongs to Mawlānā Aḥmad Riḍā Khān. (Muṭāla‘ah Barelwiyyat, 5:70)

The line can be found in Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s Ḥadā’iq Bakhshish. (Scans below).

Those who lie and slander the great imāms of dīn should take heed. Allāh has declared war against those who show enmity to his Awliyā’. It would not be farfetched that the one Allāh has declared war against, the greatest gift Allāh has given him – his īmān – will be snatched away from him in one way or another. Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī raḥimahullāh explains:

Based on a prophetic statement, the takfīr will fall back on Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Ṣāḥib Barelwī. It is found in a clear text and an authentic ḥadīth that one who does takfīr or curses anyone, it will certainly fall back on one of the two: if that individual is deserving [of takfīr or the curse], then on him, and if not, it will turn back on the speaker. Thus, since the respected Elders of Deoband and Sahāranpūr are innocent of this [takfīr], this is why all of these takfīrs and curses, turning back on Barelwī and his followers, will become a cause of punishment for them in their graves, and a cause of īmān coming out and certainty and conviction departing them at the time of death. Upon Judgement, these [takfīrs that turn back on them] will be a cause of the Angels saying to Ḥuḍūr regarding all his followers: “You do not know what they did after you!” and, saying, “[Go] far away, far away!”, Rasūl Maqbūl (upon him peace) will push them away from the Fount from which drink is taken and from the Praiseworthy Intercession, [treating] them worse than dogs; and they will be denied the reward, positions and bliss of this blessed Ummah. (al-Shihāb al-Thāqib, p. 290)


Ahmad Rida Khan’s Father Rejects the Belief in Hazir/Nazir, Hearing from a Distance, for Saints

November 29, 2018

Naqi Ali Khan (1830-1880), Ahmad Rida Khan’s (1856 – 1921) father and primary teacher, says:

For example, an ignoramus holds the belief in connection to an accomplished individual from the saints of this Ummah that he knows the conditions of the entire world altogether at all times and moments and whoever calls him at any time from any place he hears immediately, then although the belief is apparently not established, but if together with this he does not regard him to be independent in the knowledge and power, and regards them all to be from the notification and power of God, and nor does he regard him to be of necessary existence and deserving of worship, he will not become Mushrik based on this belief. Yes, the masses should be prevented from this belief and its falsity should be demonstrated… (Usul al-Rashad, Idarah e Ahl e Sunnat, p. 45-6)

Thus, he clearly rejects the belief that saints are “hazir nazir” or are able to hear from a distance.

In regards to Naqi Ali Khan’s point, however, the masses cannot be trusted to always hold such pure beliefs as expressed by him. Many of them hold Mu’tazili-like beliefs about “secondary causes”, that is, Allah created things with inherent powers, and after receiving those powers they operate independently rather than being dependent on Him in each and every instance. Several centuries ago, Imam al-Sanusi (1428 – 1490) stated that this is generally the belief held by the masses (Sharh al-Kubra, p. 37).

Thus, the Hanafi imams have ruled that such beliefs about saints, which would clearly be based on “independence” (even if it is believed that the powers were initially received from Allah), to be kufr, as it would be to ascribe independent knowledge of the unseen to someone. Allamah Abdul Hayy al-Lakhnawi wrote:

Such recitation consists of calling on the dead from a distance and it is not established in the Shari‘ah that saints have the power to listen to a call from a distance. However, it is established that the dead hear the salutation of the visitors to their graves. But to believe that anyone beside Allah (Glorified is He) is present and seeing and aware of the hidden and evident at all times is shirk. In Fatawa Bazaziyyah it is written that if one marries without witnesses and says that I make Allah, His Messenger and the angels witnesses, ‘he has disbelieved because he believed that the Messenger and the angel know the unseen, and our ‘ulama’ have said that whoever says that the souls of the saints are present and knowing has disbelieved.’ Although Hazrat Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir is one of the great saints of the Muhammadan nation and his merits and virtues are innumerable, but it is not established that he hears the distressed caller from a distance. And the beliefs that he is aware of his disciple’s affairs all the time, and hears their calls, are beliefs of shirk. And Allah knows best.” (Majmu’ah al-Fatawa, 4:331; quoted in Maqalat Usmani, 2:307)

Naqi Ali Khan refers to Shah Ishaq Dehlawi as “the second imam of the opposition (“Wahhabis”)” (i.e. after Shah Isma’il Dehlawi) (Usul al-Rashad, p 57 and other places), based on Shah Ishaq Dehlawi’s works Masa’il Arbain and Mi’ah Masa’il. Shah Ishaq Dehlawi (1782 – 1846) was like a son to his grandfather Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi, and Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi appointed him as his successor, and gifted him all his books. Thus, Shah Ishaq Dehlawi sat in Shah Abdul Aziz’s position after his death in 1824. In 1842, he traveled with a large group of his family and settled in Makkah, and was regarded very highly by the Ulama of Makkah. He had many students, including Shaykh Abdul Ghani Dehlawi (whose asanid are collected in al-Yani al-Jani), Shaykh Qutbuddin al-Dehlawi (author of Mazahir al-Haqq), Shaykh Ahmad Ali Saharanpuri (editor and publisher of the first print of Sahih al-Bukhari), Mufti Inayat Ahmad Kakorvi (author of Ilm al-Sighah), Shaykh Fadl al-Rahman Ganjmuradabadi (the famous spiritual master) and others. Sayyid Abdul Hayy Hasani says: “No sanad of hadith remains in India besides this sanad [via Shah Ishaq Dehlawi].” (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 911)* This is a clear demonstration that Barelwi claims to be a continuation of the earlier scholarly tradition is false. Barelwi “scholarship” is an effort to justify popular beliefs and practices, not to be a continuation of the earlier scholarly tradition.

Naqi Ali Khan’s work, Usul al-Rashad, is problematic from many angles. He, for instance, claims that the view of bid’ah being divided into good and bad in only its linguistic usage rather than its Shar’i usage is a fallacy. (Usul al-Rashad, p. 61-2) But this reality was expressed by several imams of the past like Ibn Kathir, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Birgivi. (see p 18-20 here: https://bawariqalghaybtranslation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/bidah-a-study.pdf) His discussion on bid’ah is very selective and skewed, and overlooks some very important issues.

* This is apparently in reference to a sanad of hadith that is based on a complete recitation of the famous books of hadith; such a sanad can only be traced via Shah Ishaq al-Dehlawi in India. Otherwise, there are other sanads to Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi, but these are not based on a complete recitation of the books of hadith.