Meaning of Bid‘ah – Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī

June 21, 2019

In a polemic against a Barelwī writer, Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī (1905 – 1997) wrote on the meaning of bid‘ah in Sayf e Yamānī (a work written in 1930, endorsed by leading Deobandī scholars, including Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī and ‘Allāmah Shabbīr Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī):

Linguistically, bid‘ah refers to something new, and in the terminology of the ‘Ulamā’ of Sharī‘ah, the term is used for two meanings: one, every action which came into existence after the time of Janāb Rasūlullāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and was not present in his time – in which case this action in view of Sharī‘ah can at times be good and at times bad; second, anything that is not from matters of dīn and people begin to regard it as a matter of dīn – this is also called “real bid‘ah” or “legal bid‘ah”, and such bid‘ah is always blameworthy. Our Prophet, the commander and forbidder, upon him and his progeny blessing and peace, said:

من أحدث في أمرنا هذا ما ليس منه فهو رد

“Whoever introduces into this matter of ours what is not from it, it is rejected.”

It should also be understood that the ‘Ulamā’ who divided bid‘ah into two categories of “good” and “bad”, their intent is the first meaning of bid‘ah, about which we have mentioned that in view of Sharī‘ah it can at times be good and at times bad. Those noble ‘Ulamā’ who have unrestricetedly censured bid‘ah and determine all bid‘ahs to be bad, their intent is this latter meaning, and based on this, the Messenger of God (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) said:

كل بدعة ضلالة وكل ضلالة فى النار

“Every bid‘ah is deviance and every deviance is in the Hellfire.”

Thus there is no contradiction between the two statements, and in fact those who regard them to be contradictory and opposing are pure ignoramuses.

Yes, keeping in mind the attitude of the commoners in our time, it is an obligation of the ‘Ulamā’ of the Ummah to adopt this latter methodology and not open the door of deviance by dividing bid‘ah. Thus, possessors of foresight from the earlier scholars adopted this [methodology]. Imām Rabbānī Maḥbūb Subḥānī Ḥaḍrat Sayyid Aḥmad Ṣāḥib Mujaddid Alf Thanī (Allāh have mercy on him) wrote in his Maktūbāt:

“People say that bid‘has are two categories: good and bad. Good refers to the good action that was invented after the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and the rightly-guided caliphs (Allāh be pleased with them), and does not remove a Sunnah, while bad is what removes a Sunnah. This Faqīr does not see goodness and illumination in these bid‘ahs, and does not sense anything besides darkness and murkiness in them.”

Then he said, and how brilliant is what he said:

“The leader of man (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) has said that one who introduces into dīn what is not from it, it is rejected. How can something rejected be good?”

Further, he said:

“Since every new thing is bid‘ah and every bid‘ah is deviance, what is the meaning to bid‘ah being good? Further, it is realised from ḥadīths that each and every bid‘ah is a cause of removal of a Sunnah. No bid‘ah is exempted from this. Thus, every bid‘ah is deviance.” (Maktūbāt, volume 1, part 3, p 73)

In these holy Maktūbāt (letters), second volume, part 6, page 56, there is a long letter, the subject-matter of which is this [topic]. For the purpose of brevity, I will quote a few sentences of it below:

“However, this Faqīr does not agree with him on this matter and does not recognise any individual bid‘ah as ‘good’, and does not sense anything besides darkness and murkiness within bid‘ah. The Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘Every bid‘ah is deviance.’ In this time, of Islām being strange and weak, safety is only in following Sunnah, and corruption comes from perpetrating bid‘ah, whatever bid‘ah it may be. This Faqīr recognises bid‘ah to be like a shovel, which renders the foundation of Islām fallen, and recognises Sunnah to be like bright stars which give guidance in the dark night of deviance. Allāh give direction to the ‘Ulamā of the time to not express with their tongue the word ‘good’ for any bid‘ah, and not give fatwā for the permissibility of any bid‘ah, even if that bid‘ah in their view appears to be like the light of a bright morning because Satanic deception gains great power in anything besides Sunnah.”

It is clearly evident from these statements of Ḥaḍrat Imām Rabbānī that according to him, this division of bid‘ah opens a very wide door to deviance, and at a time of trials, he regarded it as a major calamity for the Muslims particularly, and did not approve of it at all.

Moreover, this is also the methodology of ‘Allāmah Muḥaqqiq Sayyid Sharīf [al-Jurjānī], Khātam al-Ḥuffāẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, ‘Allāmah Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī (Allāh, Exalted is He, have mercy on them). Thus, Khātam al-Muḥaqqiqīn Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muḥammad ‘Abdul Ḥayy Ṣāḥib Firangī Maḥallī (Allāh illuminate his resting place) wrote in his book Tuḥfat al-Akhyār:

والقول الثاني وهو الأصح بالنظر الدقيق: أن حديث كل بدعة ضلالة باق على عمومه، وأن المراد به البدعة الشرعية، وهي ما لم يوجد فى القرون المشهود لها بالخير، ولم يوجد له أصل من الأصول الشرعية، ومن المعلوم أن كل ما كان على هذه الصفة فهو ضلالة قطعا، وإلى هذا القول مال السيد في شرح المشكوة، والحافظ ابن حجر فى الهدى الساري مقدمة فتح الباري، وفي فتح الباري، وابن حجر المكي فى الفتح المبين شرح الأربعين وغيرهم (تحفة الأخيار

“The second view, which is the more authentic upon closer scrutiny, is that the ḥadīth, ‘Every bidah is deviance’, remains on its generality, and the intent of it is legal bid‘ah, which is all that was not present in the eras whose virtue has been attested to, and does not have a basis from the bases of Sharī‘ah. It is obvious that everything with such characteristic is definitely deviance. Sayyid in Sharḥ al-Mishkāt, Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar in al-Huda al-Sārī introduction to Fatḥ al-Bārī and in Fatḥ al-Bārī and Ibn Ḥajar al-Makkī in al-Fatḥ al-Mubīn Sharḥ al-Arba‘īn and others have inclined to this view.”

(Sayf e Yamānī, p. 96-9)


Deobandī Position on the Mawlid – Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī

June 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then on page 142 of this volume it states:

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

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

[Poem not translated]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

إلى أن قال:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

لا ينعقد لأنه محدث وكل محدث ضلالة وكل ضلالة فى النار

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The virtues of a people are faults to some.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī responds:

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

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

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

 


Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī’s Sayf e Yamānī Bar Makā’id Firqah e RazāKhānī

December 29, 2018

Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī (1905 – 1997) engaged the Barelwī menace early on in his career. One of the classical works that was a product of these early endeavours was one published in 1930 CE (1349 H), called Sayf e Yamānī bar Makā’id Firqah e RazāKhānī (The Yemeni Sword on the Deceptions of the RazaKhānī Sect). The work is available here:

https://ia800809.us.archive.org/20/items/SAIFEYAMANI_201710/SAIF_E_YAMANI.pdf

This is a thorough and detailed refutation of Barelwī allegations against the Deobandī school and its elders. It was written in response to a booklet called ‘Aqā’id Wahhābiyya Deobandiyya published towards the end of 1347 H (1929 CE), the author being a certain ‘Azīz Aḥmad Kānpūrī. The booklet was written in response to a write-up of Mawlānā Nu‘mānī himself called Kashf al-Ḥijāb. Thus, someone from Kanpur sent a copy to Mawlānā Nu‘mānī. Mawānā Nu‘mānī felt no need to respond since it was essentially a regurgitation of typical Barelwī allegations which had been answered time and again, but then the Barelwī author, ‘Azīz Aḥmad Kānpūrī, began to claim that Mawlānā Nu‘mānī was unable to answer. Thus, to allay this false impression and provide readers with an objective assessment of the evidences and the claims being made, Sayf e Yamānī was written.

Mawlānā Nu‘mānī’s detailed response to Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn called Fayṣlah Kun Munāẓarah (1933) has been translated and published online. See here:

https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/the-decisive-debate-mawlana-manzur-numani/

Parts of his response to allegations against Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd in a work called Ḥaḍrat Shāh Ismā’īl Shahīd aur Mu‘ānidīn Ahl e Bid‘at kā Ilzāmāt (1957) have also been summarised. See here:

https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/refuting-the-allegation-that-shah-ismail-said-allah-forbid-that-to-think-of-the-prophet-saw-in-salah-is-worse-than-thinking-of-animals/

https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/shah-ismail-calling-the-prophet-a-brother/

https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/shah-ismail-considering-the-prophet-lower-than-a-shoemaker/

https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2018/12/29/refuting-the-allegation-that-shah-ismail-shahid-denied-the-preservation-of-the-prophets-body/

https://barelwism.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/shah-ismail-the-belief-in-shafaah/

Sayf e Yamānī was written before both of these works, and was endorsed by several leading scholars.

While recounting his encounters with Ḥakīm al-Ummah Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī (1863 – 1943) in his autobiography Taḥdith e Ni‘mat, Mawlānā Nu‘mānī describes how he had apprised Ḥaḍrat Thānawī of the work before it was published in order to receive his feedback. Since this discussion is beneficial, we will produce a translation of the entire section below:

The writer of these lines [Mawlānā Manẓūr Nu‘mānī] wrote a comprehensive book in response to all the famous allegations and objections of the Barelwīs under the name Sayf e Yamānī. It included responses to several allegations and objections returning to Ḥaḍrat Thānawī, but the discussion on the dream of a devotee of Ḥaḍrat from Punjab was very detailed. Based on this [dream] a very serious propaganda was being made on the part of the Barelwīs against Ḥaḍrat on a wide scale, and hearing it many unthinking devotees were also becoming concerned on account of their ignorance. From special assistance and Tawfīq from Allāh Ta‘ālā the discussion in Sayf e Yamānī was such that in my view it was very satisfactory and the matter became completely clear from it. I had great satisfaction in this discussion, and was very happy that Allāh Ta‘ālā had given me the Tawfīq to [prepare] it.

Upon preparing this book Sayf e Yamānī, my heart wished that despite having no acquaintance with Ḥaḍrat Thānawī, I would request that he inspect this discussion and let me know his opinion. I had heard that Ḥaḍrat Ḥakīm al-Ummat very much disliked unnecessary length and forced formality even when writing [to someone]. Anything that is to be said or written should be done in a clear and direct manner using brief words according to the need. I sent a copy of Sayf e Yamānī to Ḥaḍrat via post and also wrote a letter, the content of which after honourable address and the sunnah greeting was:

“I have not acquired the privilege of being acquainted with Ḥaḍrat. Thus, Ḥaḍrat is probably completely unaware of me. I was a student of Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband from a few years ago. Currently I am teaching some lessons at Madrasah Islamia at Amroha. Understanding it to be important Dīnī work, I have undertaken some work with the assistance and Tawfīq of Allāh Ta‘ālā to respond and refute the torrent of fitnah that the Barelwī group have raised against our Akābir. In connection to this I am currently writing a book. One copy I have sent in [your] service by post. If there is room within Ḥaḍrat’s schedule and engagement, and no disruption, I would hope that Ḥaḍrat Wālā would inspect the book or at least only the discussion which is regarding the famous dream of an individual in connection to Ḥaḍrat, which is from page so-and-so to page so-and-so of the book. Please inspect it and if not against your principles, and there is no kind of burden or disruption, then [I request] Ḥaḍrat to inform me of his respected view. If there is no room in his schedule, or inspection will cause disruption for whatever reason, I am not at all insisting. In this case, there is also no need to take the trouble to return the book. I have sent it in the service of Ḥaḍrat with only the intention of a gift. If accepted it will be a cause of favour and happiness for me. If not, please offer me any attention.”

This was my first ever letter in Ḥaḍrat Ḥakīm al-Ummat’s service. I had also put an envelope for a response. After four or five days Ḥaḍrat’s response came. According to his general principles he wrote the answer on the very same letter. The part of this letter that I remember that deserves mention is:

“Having read your letter, I was delighted by the fact that you wrote your need clearly and directly without any forced formality, and you kept in mind my schedule, principles and temperament. Because of this, du‘ā [for you] emerged from the heart. I am not unfamiliar with you. I keep hearing of you and your activities. Thus, I have a distant connection and love for you, and keep making du‘ā for you. To give you peace of mind, I write that I wholeheartedly accept your gift.

“I opened the book with the intention of glancing at it here and there, and to read in full the discussion related to the dream for which you wrote specifically. But when I started reading the book, I did not wish to leave out any part of it, and for as long as I did not complete the entire book, I did not engage in any other activities in between besides my established necessary activities. I was very happy with the entire book. Jazākumullāh khayrā! I read the discussion on the dream specifically with greater deliberation. Without pretence, I say that if I had myself tried I would not have been able to give such satisfying a clarification. May Allāh grant blessing in your life, knowledge and practice.”

Ḥaḍrat, according to his normal practice, wrote this on my very letter. It is unfortunate that this letter has not been preserved. But I remember the content of my letter and these parts of Ḥaḍrat’s response well, and I write this with the assistance of my memory. Apart from this, Ḥaḍrat wrote a short endorsement separately, which was published together with the book at that time. (Taḥdīth e Ni‘mat, p. 143-6)

Mawlānā Nu‘mānī continues to recount several occasions thereafter where he met with Ḥaḍrat Thānawī in person, beginning from a first meeting in 1931.

Endorsements

Some of the notable endorsers of the work are as follows:

  1. Ḥakīm al-Ummah Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī (1863 – 1943). He writes: “I have seen the treatise Sayf e Yamānī in full which was written in response to objections of some of the Ahl al-Ahwā’…May Allāh give the author excellent recompense and make the treatise a means of guidance.” (Sayf e Yamānī, p. 3)
  2. Shaykh al-Islām Mawlānā Shabbīr Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī (1887 – 1949), author of a well-known commentary on Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, referred to as “Muḥaqqiq al-‘Aṣr” by ‘Allāmah Kawtharī and a champion for the cause of Pakistan. He says: “For a long time I had hoped that if a comprehensive treatise on the subject were written it would be very beneficial. Many times I had thought to write something myself but this reward is your share. Mā shā Allāh, the teachings and statements of the Akābir have been explained in simple, generally understood and easy expressions. If any harshness is sensed in any passage it is to be considered as part of: ‘take revenge after being wronged’. In my opinion it is our duty to make all effort to publicise it…” (ibid.)
  3. ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Shakūr al-Fārūqī al-Lakhnawī (1876 – 1962), a famous author and debater. He wrote several books against the Shī‘ah and in favour of Ahl al-Sunnah. He wrote a popular work on Ḥanafi Fiqh called Ilm al-Fiqh. He is a scion of the famous Firangī Maḥall school of Lucknow, having studied for about 7 years under Mawlānā ‘Ayn al-Quḍāt al-Ḥaydarābādī a famous successor of ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī, perhaps the most well-known of the Firangī Maḥall scholars. Hence, he is a non-Deobandī scholar contemporaneous with the founding of the Barelwī school, who opposed them. He says: “May Allāh give excellent reward to the author for having properly shed light on all the issues which are disputed between Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah and the new innovated sect RazāKhāniyyah.” He dated the endorsement to 29 Dhu l-Qadah, 1348 (1930). (ibid. p. 4)
  4. ‘Allāmah Sayyid Murtaḍā Ḥasan Chāndpūrī (1868 – 1951), who ‘Allāmah Kawtharī referred to as “the prominent teacher” in reference to his work against Qādiyānīs. He has several works in refutation of Barelwīs and Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī. He even sent some of his refutations directly to the latter.
  5. ‘Allāmah Ẓafar Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī (1892 – 1974), the celebrated author of I‘lā al-Sunan. He wrote an endorsement in Arabic, part of which is: “I was honoured to read the treatise al-Sayf al-Yamānī, and by my life, it is like its name a sword cutting the necks of the people of desires and vain hopes. Indeed, its author did well and benefited and showed the people the ways of guidance…” (ibid. p. 5)
  6. ‘Allāmah Muḥaddith Ḥabīb al-Raḥmān al-A‘ẓamī (1901 – 1992), the famous scholar of ḥadīth.

Contents

‘Azīz Aḥmad Kānpūrī’s booklet consists of 30 so-called beliefs of the ‘Ulamā’ of Deoband and 22 questions. Mawlānā Nu’mānī thus addresses all the allegations and then answers each question.

Some of the important issues that are addressed are as follows:

  1. The passage from Barāhīn e Qāti‘ah about the knowledge of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)
  2. The passage from Barāhīn Qāti‘ah describing a dream in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke Urdu
  3. The Deobandī position on Mawlid and ‘Urs, and the alleged “dissimulation” (taqiyya) of Deobandīs on this matter
  4. The title Raḥmatun lil ‘Ālamīn and whether it can be used for other than the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)
  5. The meaning of “Khātamiyyah” and the finality of prophethood according to Deobandīs and Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotawī
  6. The dream of a devotee of Haḍrat Thānawī in which he mistakenly referred to the latter as “Rasūlullāh”
  7. A passage from Marthiya Gangohī describing Mawlānā Gangohī as “a second to Islām’s founder”
  8. The passage from Hifẓ al-Īmān on describing the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as ‘ālim al-ghayb
  9. The passage from Taḥdhīr al-Nās stating that deeds of an Ummatī can apparently be more numerous than those of their Prophets
  10. Imkān Kidhb
  11. Bid‘ah, its types and whether certain forms of īṣāl thawāb amount to bid‘ah

Some sections of the work may be translated/summarised in future posts, insha Allah.