One of the most perverted and repugnant Barelwī beliefs is that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was not from the jins (species) of humanity, but was a separate creation made of light that came in human form. To illustrate their belief, Barelwīs will often draw an analogy with Jibrīl (‘alayhissalām) – who is an angel made of light that at times came in human form. Hence, according to this Barelwī belief, in his physical reality, the Prophet is not a human being. This is a blasphemous belief.
The Fatwā of Ḥakīm al-Ummat Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī
In a fatwā dated Shawwāl of 1346 H (1928 CE), Ḥakīm al-Ummat Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī (1863 – 1943) describes the statement of a preacher that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was a human being in outward form but not in reality (ānḥaḍrat ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam dar ẓāhir ṣūrat bashar būd walekin dar ḥaqīqat bashar nabūd) as kufr. (Imdād al-Fatāwā, Maktabah Dārul ‘Ulūm Karāchī, 5:234)
The Correct Sunnī Belief
Describing correct Sunnī belief, Mawlānā Sarfrāz Khān Ṣafdar (1914 – 2009) said: “Our īmān and conclusion is that Imām al-Rusul Khātam al-Nabiyyīn Ḥaḍrat Muḥammad Rasūlullāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was a human being as well as light. From the perspective of his species and essence, he was a human being, and from the perspective of his character and guidance he was a light. By virtue of him, the world of darkness acquired light. The darkness of kufr and shirk disappeared and from the rays of the light of īmān and tawḥīd, the surface of the earth became illuminated.” (Nūr wa Bashar, Maktabah ‘Ukāẓ, p. 8) Explaining correct belief, Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī said: “In terms of being a human being, in terms of physical composition and make-up, he is the same as the ummah.” (Quoted in Nūr wa Bashar, p. 82-3)
Disrespect of the Prophet
Indeed, denying that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is from the human species is degrading his lofty status since human beings are the greatest of species. ‘Allāmah Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī (1852 – 1927) said: “To take out his (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) person from being human – which is the noblest and most exalted of creation – and placing him in another species is pure disrespect and degradation of his lofty station…There is no doubt that brotherhood in the very property of being a human being, and equality in terms of being from the children of Ādam, has been established in the text of the Qur’ān; while, in the perfections of proximity, nobody has called him a brother or believes him to be equal [with others].” (al-Barāhīn al-Qāṭi‘ah, Dārul Ishā‘at, p. 7)
Muḥammad ‘Umar Icharvī: The Prophet is a Light that Came in Human Garb
According to this popular Barelwī belief, articulated by some of their leading scholars, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) was not a human being in reality, but only appeared as one outwardly. Muḥammad ‘Umar Icharvī (1901 – 1971), a prominent Barelwī scholar, debater and writer, said: “It is established from this noble verse that the reality of the Chosen One (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) was not of human nature, but his reality was of light.” (Miqyās e Nūr, Makabah Sulṭāniyyah, p. 24)
Muḥammad ‘Umar Icharvī further says: “The Chosen One (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) was really light, and the divine power sent him into the world through the intermediary of parents by giving the light a human and luminous form. The Muḥammadan reality of light overpowered his blessed body. Thus, from amongst the creatures made of light, angels were also of light. However, when Ḥaḍrat Jibrīl Amīn (upon him peace) appeared, dressed in a human body, his human body overpowered his luminuous nature, such that in this specific bodily form he could not fly to the furthest lote tree, and in fact he could not go to the first heaven. But the true light of the Chosen One (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) overpowered his human body, which together with the bodily and luminous nature traversed all the heavens.” (ibid. 26-7)
While justifying his belief vis a vis the Prophet’s clearly human features, ‘Umar Icharvī says: “Jibrīl too came in the form of a human being, and he too came adorned with human features like hands, feet, nose, ears…If Jibrīl (upon him peace) coming in human garb and hands, feet and so on appearing on him do not cause any difference to him being a light, then the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace)’s pure hand and pure feet being apparent does not necessitate any difference to him being a [physical] light.” (Miqyās e Ḥanafiyyat, p. 242-3)
Icharvī even goes as far as to analogise the Prophet in this respect to Allāh! He says: “Just as it is necessary to adopt īmān in hands that are without equal, a shin without equal and a face without equal for the pure and free essence of Allāh (Exalted is He), you have been prohibited from drawing any likeness with the pure limbs of the embodied light of the Noble Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and have to adopt īmān [in this]. Allāh (Exalted is He) is without comparison in His essence and characteristics and He created His beloved (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) from pure light, so he manifested his essence together with his characteristics without any equal.” (ibid. p. 243)
Analogies of this kind between the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and Allāh when making such points are not uncommon in Barelwī literature.
Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī: The Prophet is not from Jinn, Man or Angels
Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī (1906 – 1971), another very well-known and accepted Barelwī scholar (and student of famous Barelwī scholar Na‘īmuddīn Murādābādī), says: “The Prophet appears from the species of man and is a human [but] is neither jinn, man nor angel. These are material laws. Otherwise, being a human being started at Ādam (upon him peace) since he is the father of man, while Ḥuḍūr (upon him peace) was a prophet at the very time that Ādam was between water and clay. He himself said: ‘I was a prophet while Ādam was between water and clay.’ At this time Ḥuḍūr was a prophet not a human being.” (Jā’ al-Ḥaqq, Na‘īmī Kutub Khānah, p.173)
Note: He is arguing from this ḥadīth that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) existed in his true form before Ādam (‘alayhissalām) was created. But the correct meaning of this ḥadīth (the correct wording of which is, “I was a Prophet while Ādam was between spirit and body”) is, as explained by al-Ṭaḥāwī, that Allāh had sent a written decree confirming his prophethood at this time. (Sharḥ Mushkil al-Athār, Mu’assasat al-Risālah, 15:234)
Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī: The Prophet Said he is a “Human Like You” just as a Hunter Imitates his Prey!
Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī says about the verse of Qur’ān: “Say: I am only a man like you” (18:110): “The address in this verse is towards the Kuffār. Since each thing repels a foreign species, therefore it was said: ‘O Kuffār, don’t fear me, I am from your species, I am a human being.’ A hunter produces the sound of animals to hunt. The aim of this is to draw the Kuffār towards him. If Deobandīs are also from the Kuffār, this address may also be towards them.” (Jā’ al-Ḥaqq, p.176)
Here, Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī compares the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) to a hunter pretending to be something he is not so as to catch prey! Is this not disrespect? Is this not accusing the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) – na‘ūdhu billāh – of deception?
His point is all the more flawed from the perspective that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “I am a man like you” (innamā ana basharun mithlukum) to the ṣaḥābah – the most elite of Muslims. According to the Muwaṭṭa’ of Imām Mālik in the transmission of Abū Muṣ‘ab al-Zuhrī (Mu’assasat al-Risālah, no. 2877), Umm Salamah (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhā) narrated from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) that he said: “I am only a human being like you. Indeed, you argue before me and one of you may be more expressive in his argumentation than the other, so I will decree in his favour according to what I hear from him…”
Ibn Mas‘ūd (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu) transmitted from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) that he said: “I am a man like you, I forget like you forget.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Maktabat al-Bushrā, no. 1282) Ṭalḥah ibn ‘Ubaydillāh (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu) transmitted from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) that he said: “I am a man like you, and [my] speculation may be incorrect or correct.” (Sunan Ibn Mājah, Dār al-Risālat al-‘Alamiyyah, no. 2470)
In all of these instances, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said “I am a man like you” to his believing companions.
Na‘īmī’s take on the verse is thus an example of tafsīr bi ‘l-ra’y (misinterpreting the Qur’ān based on personal judgement), an activity strongly condemned in ḥadīth, and something that betrays the falseness of Barelwī claims to orthodoxy and adhering to tradition.
Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī: “Say: I am a Man Like You” is from the Mutashābihāt!
Aḥmad Yār Khān Na‘īmī further says: “Just as ‘Allāh’s hand is above their hands’ or ‘the likeness of His light is like a niche…’ and other verses which are found to apparently be against divine nature and are from the mutashābihāt (unclear verses), in the same way innamā ana basharun mithlukum and other verses which are apparently against the status of the Chosen One are from the mutashābihāt. Thus, to adhere to their outward as evidence is wrong.” (Jā’ al-Ḥaqq, p. 178)
This is a further example of Barelwī literature drawing a false analogy between the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and Allāh.
Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Rashīd Rizvī: The Prophet was Light that Appeared in Human Garb
Barelwī, Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Rashīd Rizvī, says: “Ḥuḍūr Raḥmatun lil ‘Ālamīn was in reality and in origin light. For the guidance of human beings, to present an example worthy of imitation before people, his light was made to appear in the form of a human being. When the light was made to appear in human garb, he remains a light despite being affected by human attributes, and his reality and origin is not negated. Several accounts of such are found in Qur’ān and Ḥadīth. Thus in a pure ḥadīth it is narrated that the angel of death came to Mūsā (upon him peace) so Mūsā struck the eye of the angel and gouged it out. Jibrīl Amīn is light yet to grant Sayyidah Maryam (Allāh be pleased with her) a child he came in the garb of a human being. Despite this, he remained a light.” (Rushd al-Īmān, Maktabah Rushd al-Īmān, p. 45)
In correct Islāmic/Sunnī belief the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is from the species of man and did not just appear as a man. In the Barelwī belief described above, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is only a man in as much as Jibrīl (‘alayhissalām) was “a man” i.e. in mere appearance, not in reality. This belief amounts to denying the reality of the Prophet’s humanity, and is thus disbelief and diminishment of the lofty status of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). (Aḥsan al-Fatāwā, 1:57)
Will Barelwīs who pretend to be neutral, objective Sunnīs (like the liar Asrar Rashid) denounce this unIslāmic, repugnant and blasphemous belief?
What this example (and others like it) illustrate is that Deobandī ‘Ulamā’ were true defenders of the correct, orthodox Islāmic creed, while Barelwīs were innovators and distorters of Sunnī belief. Barelwīs are the ones who in truth are guilty of heresy while they casually and unjustifiably throw around accusations of heresy at those undeserving of it. It may even be that their deviance is a punishment for their unfounded attacks of righteous ‘Ulamā’ and Awliyā’.