Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s Allegation & A Brief Explanation of his Deception
Aḥmad Riḍā Khān claimed the author of Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah (written in: 1887), Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī (1852 – 1927), considered Shayṭān more knowledgeable than the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), and had thus blasphemed him and diminished his status.
But in making this allegation, Aḥmad Riḍā Khān is guilty of deception because:
- Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī did not make a general statement about all types of knowledge
- He said explicitly in the very same context about the type of knowledge under discussion that it does not prove virtue and excellence, and hence to say Shayṭān has more of this worthless/valueless knowledge than the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) does not at all diminish the status of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). In fact, as we will see below, to say the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) does not have extensive knowledge of insignificant details of the world, even if Shayṭān does, elevates his status and does not diminish it.
The Allegation in Tamhīd e Īmān
In the Urdu work Tamhīd e Īmān (written in: 1908), Aḥmad Riḍā Khān presents the allegation as follows:
“Say with fairness and faith, has not the one who has said: ‘This extensiveness of Shayṭān is proven by text, & from which categorical text is the Pride of the World’s extensive knowledge proven?’ committed blasphemy in respect to Muḥammad Rasūlullāh? Has he not regarded the knowledge of the accursed Iblīs to be more than the holy knowledge of Rasūlullāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace)? Has he not disbelieved in the expansive knowledge of Rasūlullāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and adopted faith in the expansive knowledge of Shayṭān?” (Fatāwā Riḍawiyyah, 30:316)
Note: As explained in detail here, the example of Shayṭān was only used in response to the author of Anwār e Sāṭi‘ah, who was the first to bring up the example of Shayṭān to apparently argue by analogy for the Prophet’s extensive knowledge of insignificant worldly details. Moreover, in the passage of Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah in question, both Shayṭān and the Angel of Death are mentioned, while Aḥmad Riḍā Khān here only mentions Shayṭān, of course to play on the emotions of readers and achieve greatest impact.
al-Mustanad al-Mu‘tamad and Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn
Aḥmad Riḍā Khān presents the allegation in the Arabic work al-Mustanad al-Mu‘tamad (written in: 1902) as follows:
The part that is relevant to the takfīr is as follows:
صرح في كتابه البراهين القاطعة…بأن شيخهم إبليس أوسع علما من رسول الله صلى الله تعالى عليه وسلم…وقد قال في نسيم الرياض كما تقدم: من قال فلان أعلم منه صلى الله تعالى عليه وسلم فقد عابه ونقصه فهو ساب، والحكم فيه حكم الساب من غير فرق، لا تستثني من صورة
“He stated explicitly in his book al-Barāhīn al-Qāṭi‘ah that their teacher Iblīs has more expansive knowledge than Allāh’s Messenger (Allāh bless him and grant him peace)…It states in Nasīm al-Riyāḍ as has preceded: ‘Whoever says so-and-so is more knowledgeable than him (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) has faulted him, diminished him so is an insulter and the ruling about him is the ruling of an insulter without differentiating, we make no exception of any situation.’” (al-Mustanad al-Mu‘tamad, p226-7)
Aḥmad Riḍā Khān then reproduced this in Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn (written in: 1906).
The Quote from Nasīm al-Riyāḍ
The first thing to note is that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān played around with the quote from Nasīm al-Riyāḍ. In Nasīm al-Riyāḍ (6:146), the author was actually using the statement “so-and-so is more knowledgeable than the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace)” as something which is not technically an insult (sabb), but an example of faulting (‘ayb) and dimishment of status (tanqīṣ). He says: “He has faulted him and dimished him but not insulted him.” Aḥmad Riḍā Khān skips “but has not insulted him” (wa lam yasubbahū), and jumps to a later part that explains even though it is not an insult the ruling will be the same as the ruling of an insult.
Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī is not Guilty of Diminishment
This is significant because the passage of Nasīm al-Riyāḍ defines what is blasphemous about saying “so-and-so is more knowledgeable than the Prophet”. It is not that it is an insult, but that it faults the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and brings down his status. The question therefore will be: Has Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī done this? And the answer is a categorical no because he makes it clear in the very same discussion that the type of knowledge he is speaking of is not one on which virtue or excellence depends.
Just a few paragraphs before the alleged “blasphemous sentence” that Aḥmad Riḍā Khān quotes, Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī says:
“The expanse that was given to Shayṭān, as well as the Angel of Death, and the extent of the condition upon which the sun and moon were made, they have no power to add to that. More activity will not emerge from them. Nor is lesser or greater virtue dependent on this fewness or muchness.” (Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah, p54)
It should also be kept in mind that Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī is responding to the author of Anwār e Sāṭi‘ah (written in: 1886) who uses these examples of Shayṭān and the Angel of Death, and the sun and moon, to argue for greater worldly knowledge and worldly presence for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).
The Passage in Question
The passage based on which Aḥmad Riḍā Khān made takfīr is as follows:
“The outcome is: It ought to be contemplated: Seeing the state of Shayṭān and the Angel of Death, affirming encompassing knowledge of the world for the Pride of the World, against categorical texts, without evidence, based purely on corrupt analogy, if not shirk, which part of īmān is it? This expanse has been established for Shayṭān and the Angel of Death from texts. Which categorical text is there for the expanse of knowledge [of the world] for the Pride of the World, based on which all texts will be rejected, and one shirk established?” (Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah, p55)
As can be seen, the passage begins with “the outcome is”, and thus hinges on the full discussion that precedes it. It is therefore dishonest to quote an isolated statement from this passage without the context of what has come before. Maulānā Sahāranpūrī is referring to the texts of Qur’ān, Ḥadīth and Fiqh that disprove the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) has detailed worldly knowledge. The author of Anwār e Sāṭi‘ah presents Shayṭān apparently as an analogy to argue for detailed worldly knowledge for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). From such corrupt analogy (that goes against categorical evidence), only self-generated or intrinsic knowledge of unseen can be affirmed. And this is of course shirk. Thus, the meaning of the rhetorical question is that there are no categorical texts which affirm detailed worldly knowledge for the Prophet, so to affirm such knowledge without evidence is to affirm intrinsic, non-granted knowledge, for him – and this is shirk. This meaning is clear from the preceding discussion and succeeding discussion. For details, see here.
This is similar to what is found in the books of Fiqh – which Maulānā Sahāranpūrī quotes – which state that to affirm knowledge of a marriage session for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is disbelief but it is not disbelief if affirmed for the angels on the right and left shoulders. It states in al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāziyyah:
“A [man] weds [a woman] without witnesses, saying: ‘I make the Messenger of Allāh and Angels witness’, he has become a Kāfir, because he believes that the Messenger and Angel know the Ghayb, as distinguished from his saying: ‘I make the angel on the left shoulder and the angel on the right shoulder witness’, he would not become Kāfir, because they are aware [of that].” (al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāziyyah, 6:325)
In al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī (Idārat al-Qur’ān, 7:407), the same is found ending with: “because they are aware of that as they are not absent from him.”
Diminishing or Elevating Prophetic Status?
If someone said as an isolated statement: “So-and-so is more knowledgeable than the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasllam)”, this is no doubt diminishing the status of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and is disbelief. But if someone says: “In matters on which virtue does not depend, like knowledge on worldly gatherings and interactions, and details about insignificant worldly details, another has more knowledge than the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam),” this is not diminishing the status of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).
The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) himself said:
أَنْتُم أعلم بأمر دنياكم
“You are more knowledgeable of the affairs of your world.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)
In matters of virtue, Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī clearly states the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is most knowledgeable. He says in a later work al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad (written in: 1907):
“We say with the tongue and we believe in the heart that our master, the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), is the most knowledgeable of all creation, with sciences pertaining to the Essence and Attributes [of Allāh], legislations of Sharī‘ah (tashrī‘at), of the practical rules and the theoretical wisdoms, the true realities and the hidden secrets, and other sciences, the walls of whose grounds none of creation have reached, neither an angel brought near nor a messenger sent. He was certainly given knowledge of the earlier and later ones and Allāh’s grace on him was immense.” (al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad, p70)
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).
Clarifying what he meant by the passage in question from Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah, he further states in al-Muhannad:
“The concealment of some insignificant particular details from the Prophet (upon him be peace) due to his inattention to them does not cause any defect to his (upon him be peace) being the most knowledgeable once it is established that he is the most knowledgeable of the noble sciences that are fitting to his lofty station, just as cognizance of most of those insignificant things due to the intensity of Iblīs’s attention to them does not cause glory and perfection of knowledge in him, since virtue and excellence do not hinge on this. Thus, it is not correct to say that Iblīs is more knowledgeable than the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) just as it is not correct to say about a child who knows some particulars that he is more knowledgeable than an erudite scholar deeply immersed in the sciences, from whom those particulars are hidden” (al-Muhannad ‘ala ‘l-Mufannad, p71)
In fact, to negate the Prophet’s knowledge of insignificant (and perhaps even ugly) things of the world is to elevate him. In refuting an individual who tried to argue from the ḥadīth “You are more knowledgeable of the affairs of your world” that therefore others have a kind of excellence (faḍl) over the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), Mullā ‘Alī al-Qārī refutes him and says this is no excellence at all. He said:
“You heedless ignoramus, is all humanity then more excellent than the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) from one perspective because they are more aware of trade and more capable [with inventions and contraptions] of lifting stones and more skilled in dyeing and manufacturing and tailoring and cultivating and types of lowly professions?!…Despite him (upon him blessing and peace) having treated these as unbeneficial knowledges and sought protection from them…and praised the inhabitants of paradise for not knowing worldly knowledge and their knowledges being limited to the religious actions and conditions of the next world where he said: ‘Most of the inhabitants of paradise are the simple-minded’, extracted from the meaning of His, exalted is He, statement in censuring disbelievers: ‘They know the outward of the life of this world and are ignorant of the next life.’” (al-Radd ‘ala ‘l-Qā’ilīn bi Waḥdat al-Wujūd, p86)
As Mullā ‘Alī al-Qārī here points out, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) sought protection from knowledge that is of no benefit (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim). That the Prophet made this supplication is reported by several ṣaḥābah including ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Amr, Abū Hurayrah, Anas ibn Mālik and Zayd ibn Arqam with authentic chains – making it close to a categorically established ḥadīth. Knowledge of no benefit would of course include useless knowledge of the world, let alone knowledge of dirty and filthy things which is unbefitting the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).
Hence, to negate the Prophet’s knowledge of insignificant details of the world is in fact to elevate the Prophet. This is not to say the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) is completely ignorant of the world (Allāh forbid!). He of course knows the necessary knowledge of the world from which he could teach the ummah what is in its interests for dīn and ākhirah. Thus, after referring to the hadith “You are more aware of the affairs of your world”, Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ makes the general point:
“In such things and their likes from the matters of the world which have no involvement in religious knowledge, belief or education, what we mentioned is possible for him, as none of this is deficiency or diminishment. Rather, they are ordinary things known to those who have experience of them and make it their concern and occupy their minds with them. The Prophet’s (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) heart is filled with knowledge of the divine, his sides filled with knowledges of Sharī‘ah, his mind restrained by the religious and worldly interests of the Ummah. But this will only be in some affairs…not in many, which would signify stupidity or ignorance.” (al-Shifā’, Jā’izah Dubai, p. 724)
Thus, to regard the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) as not having extensive knowledge of the insignificant details of the world is not at all to diminish his status, but is in fact to elevate him.
When we keep in mind that knowledge of insignificant details of the world is not virtuous, and does not make its bearer exceed another in virtue, the entire premise on which Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī made takfīr on Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī is proven false. Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī clearly states the matters under discussion are those referred to by the author of Anwār e Sāṭi‘ah, i.e. insignificant details of the world, and clearly states in Barāhīn e Qāṭi‘ah itself that these are not what virtue depends on.
In fact, it is a virtue of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) to be unaware of these useless, insignificant details of the world as it shows his attention is towards Allāh, dīn and things of benefit, and shows the Prophet’s supplication to be protected from useless knowledge was answered. In short, Maulānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī was thus elevating the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and not at all diminishing his status.