Contents > Chapter 12: The Deobandi’s Understanding of Taqleed > Lessons from the Deobandi-Barelawi dispute


Lessons from the Deobandi-Barelawi dispute

This dispute amongst the two major Hanafee Sufi groups has led to much trouble over the past century. This rivalry affects every area, street or community where the Muslims reside. Hostilities between these two groups have grown to the extent that they even disagree on the physical sighting of the moon, at times, causing bloodshed and loss of life. Over the years, the Barelawis have been satisfied with their tombs and Madrasas and have had little activity in terms of mobilizing their followers for Dawah. Their refutation of the Deobandis have been based mostly upon the Deobandi’s double standards like, denying the knowledge of the Unseen for Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) but approving it for their scholars and saints. The Barelawis also continue to criticize the Deobandis upon their views on, ‘Khatam an-Nabuwwah’ or ‘the Seal of Prophethood’, the issue that initiated the split between them.


But in recent years, the Barelawis too have formed Dawah organizations to counter the Jamaat Tableegh. Just like the Deobandis have Fazaail-e-Aamaal, the Barelawis have their Dawah book by the name of Faizaan-e-Sunnat.


The Deobandis criticism is based upon the Barelawi’s openly directing acts of worship to other than Allah. Also, to the fact that many Hindu rituals, superstitions and acts of immorality flourish at graves under the patronage of the so-called keepers of the graves.


The Jamaat Tableegh, which is the Dawah organ of the Deobandis refrains from taking part in this dispute and avoids all controversial issues and anything that would offend the common people who are engrossed in extreme forms of grave and saint worship. Their modus operandi simply includes calling to their Fazaail-e-Aamaal reading sessions and to spend specific periods of time with the Jamaat Tableegh. This Jamaat does not demand much from the common people in terms of correction of their Aqeedah or understanding of the religion. Rather, a major portion of their followers remain in a state of confusion with regards to the correct beliefs, until a person who has spent a lifetime with the Jamaat may have a very shallow understanding of Tawheed. He, however, will be properly indoctrinated with Sufism and the policies laid down by the founders of the Jamaat Tableegh, because the basic aim of this Jamaat is to convert people to mere blind-followers of Deobandism.


Whilst the Barelawis have been staunch in their rejection of the Deobandis and the Jamaat Tableegh. The Deobandis have made several attempts to bridge their gap with the Barelawis. This is because they realize that for most part that their differences are not significant and Sufism by its very nature can accommodate even major differences.


The books that the Deobandis have written to bridge their gaps with the Barelawis contain a lot of Qur’aanic verses and Ahaadeeth. This is the same Qur’aan and Hadeeth, which when the Deobandis are asked to refer to, they simply turn away saying, “the Qur’aan and Hadeeth are beyond the understanding of the people of today. Now, the only valid course of action is Taqleed of the Mujtahid Imams.” - It is extremely surprising to see that though both the Deobandis and Barelawis claim to follow the Hanafee Madhhab, they can hardly find anything in their Madhhab to reconcile their differences.


The Deobandis under ordinary circumstances reject outright the possibility that Imam Abu Haneefah could have given a certain ruling based upon his opinion in the absence of authentic Hadeeth reaching him. They strongly stress that every ruling of the Imam is based upon the Hadeeth and binding fully upon the Muqallid. Yet, they take a completely liberal approach with the Barelawis.


Mufti Muhammad Khalil Qadri in his book, “Inkashaf-e-Haqq,” comments upon the Barelawi’s blind-following their founder - Ahmad Raza Khan - in the Takfeer (declaring Kufr) of the Deobandis saying, “Even the personal opinions based upon Ijtihad of the Mujtahid Imams were not taken as Yaqeeni (perfect surety). Then how can the personal opinion of a non-Mujtahid Muqallid Alim and that too on the issue of Takfeer of a Muslim be considered as sure and final?”[1]


Furthermore, both of them believe that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) is alive and aware in his grave. They also agree that occasionally he visits them either in the Madrasa of Deoband or in the Milaad celebrations of the Barelawis. Likewise, they hold the same belief for their elders and Sufi saints - Yet, despite of all this, both the Deobandis and the Barelawis, when calling each other towards their group neither refer to the Hanafee Madhhab nor seek the advice of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) and neither do they seek the mediation of their Shaikhs and elders - Rather they are forced to call each other using the Qur’aan and the Hadeeth, though they believe that it is neither possible nor allowed to deduce injunctions directly from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Whether the blind-followers like it or not, only the Qur’aan and the Sunnah can unify the Ummah and point towards the One Straight Path of Allah. The Deobandis can misquote, misinterpret and twist the text of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah in order to confuse the common people into believing that the Messengers and the righteous are alive in Barzakh and aware of the living, having the ability to advice and assist - but it is at times like this that their fraud becomes apparent even to the common people without even referring to any books or proofs!

[1] Inkashaf-e-Haqq, by Mufti Muhammad Khaleel Ahmad Khan Barkati Qadri, publisher Anjuman Faroogh-e-Sunnat, Bombay, Chapter.1, p.92.