The Deobandi ‘Ulama and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al Wahhab

This weak, lowly, undeserving slave asks you to be sincere, and read this without bias, prejudice, nor fanaticism. I ask you, purely for the sake of your Creator (Mighty and Sublime is He), to put aside any hatred, spite, or bitterness which may exist within you, and ponder, sincerely, with the intention of seeking the truth.

Before this undeserving one begins, I would like you to ask yourself a question – does praising someone without having knowledge of their reality now mean that the praiser automatically accepts everything the praised stood for?? If that is indeed the case, then there are many, many Imams of the past who have praised ibn Taymiyyah greatly without disparaging him in any way whatsoever. On the contrary, many wrote books in defense of him, rejecting the rulings of tabdi’ (ie. judging someone to be an innovator) and takfir (ie. judging someone to be a disbeliever) levelled against him.

Any logical thinking, learned individual who has researched ibn Taymiyyah would know that something is a little off in this regard. Why do some major Imams from ahl al-sunnah praise him unreservedly while others harshly criticise him?? The conclusion is pretty simple: they were not aware of his controversial nature in relation to many issues – especially his creed. This is evident from the statements of these Imams in regards to theology. Whenever they defended, or praised him, they would not mention his deviated beliefs and defend them, rather, they would mention his memory, personality, and knowledge. However, that’s not all – within their own books, they thoroughly refuted the beliefs which ibn Taymiyyah held, and in great detail, whilst equating them to deviation and disbelief. However, not once did they mention him when speaking of these said beliefs.

They severely refuted and denounced what he stood for, yet praised and defended him with reverence?? How does that make sense??

There are two possible logical conclusions which come to the sound mind when confronted with this scenario:

1) Either ibn Taymiyyah was free from holding such beliefs, or

2) they were unaware of ibn Taymiyyah holding such beliefs.

Now, the first mentioned conclusion is clearly not plausible due to many factors (which can be mentioned in some detail at another time).

This only leaves us with one plausible conclusion – the Imams who revered ibn Taymiyyah without ever criticising him did not infact know of his reality. Simple, yes? This is also evident from the above-mentioned examples. This could be due to many reasons, for example: they may not have had access to his controversial written works and manuscripts, in regards to which, it is known that he didn’t openly promote these books due to fear of criticism, imprisonment, physical punishment, death, as well as the possibility of facing exile and being abandoned by ahl al-sunnah.

Let us now move on to the issue of the scholars of Deoband praising Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi. Once again, please remember to leave aside any negative bias and proceed with sincerity in seeking the truth.

The Deobandi scholars seem to be divided on the issue of ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, and many have praised him with many others continuing to do so. However, in the same way, just as many others have severely criticised him, with many others continuing to do so. Why is this the case?? Why are the scholars affiliated with Deoband so divided over such a clearly misguided individual?? And why stop there?? Many Deobandi scholars praised ibn Taymiyyah, with many others continuing to do so. While on the other side of the same coin, many Deobandi scholars severely criticised him, with many others continuing to do so.

The answer is pretty simple for an unbiased, truth seeking mind.

Their example is that of those who preceded them. The Imams of the past were divided over the state of ibn Taymiyyah due to some being more aware of his deviations than others. Likewise is the case with the Deobandi scholars. Those who were aware of all his deviations and controversial views, along with his trigger-happy takfiri tendencies and maniacal massacreing of believers, thoroughly refuted and criticised him. Those who were not aware of such, praised him based on what had reached them. This tradition continues among the Deobandi scholars of today, and thus some praise him, while others criticise him.

Most Deobandi scholars who spent time in the Arab lands would heavily criticise (and those of today who have done so, still criticise) both Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and his hero ibn Taymiyyah. Most of those who have remained confined to subcontinent scholarship in their studies, have near to no knowledge of the reality of either of the two above-mentioned individuals.

The reasons for this are many. Some of which are as follows:

– Many of the books of ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab are not available in the subcontinent. Those who do have access to them rarely use or read them except to quote ibn Taymiyyah against the wahhabis of the subcontinent (who call themselves “ahl al-hadith”).

– The so-called “ahl al-hadith” would not (until fairly recently) attack ahl al-sunnah in the subcontinent with their poisonous anthropomorphic creed. Their main focus has always been to attack the fiqh (jurisprudence) of the Hanafi madhhab (school of thought). As a matter of fact, the early wahhabis of the subcontinent have been known to have been inclined towards tasawwuf (sufic mysticism) and would even opt for figurative interpretation of the attributes of Allah.

If anyone still sincerely doubts the above, then my humble advice to them would be to confront a Deobandi scholar with the statements of the scholars from ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s time as well as the critical statements of their Deobandi elders in regards to the reality of his call, beliefs, and understanding. They should also explain all of the above to them in a respectable manner and see if they change their views on ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab.

For anyone who may object and say: “The Barelwis were aware of the reality of ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, so how can it be the case that the Deobandis weren’t??” Then any honest, learned Barelwi would know that the majority of the Barelwis and many of their scholars are not aware of most of the controversies surrounding ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and ibn Taymiyyah. Their general understanding of being a wahhabi is someone who follows Saudi moonsightings, or objects to their manner of celebrating the mawlid and ‘urs (note: the Deobandis disallow these as a way to blocking the means of many innovated practices of some subcontinent Barelwis which anyone who visits the subcontinent or searches youtube can clearly see. Many celebrate the mawlid and do ‘urs in a manner which in no way resembles that of the Arab scholars). Their knowledge of ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab being a deviant (or in their case – a disbeliever) is based on what they had received/heard, while the Deobandis based their praise or criticism of him on what they had received/heard. This is a point which some people seem to object to, possibly because of their generalisation of Barelwi scholars based on those around them. If that is the case, then please don’t take my word for it, I encourage you to speak to the Barelwi scholars of the subcontinent and their elderly scholars in the west – especially those who were born and raised in the subcontinent, have no link to Arab scholars and have not studied in the Arab lands. Test them on their knowledge of ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and see the extent of their research on him – better yet, ask them if they’ve ever even read any of his books, and if most of what they know is in fact, based on hearsay. The simple fact that they call the Deobandi scholars “Wahhabis” is in itself, an attestation to the fact that they have no idea what a follower of ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab believes and propagates.

The following is an extract from the declaration of Deoband:

“… then in sum it is this that religiously Darul Uloom is Muslim; as a sect, Ahl-e-Sunnat wal-Jama’at; in practical method, (Mazhab), Hanafi’yat; in conduct, Sufi; dialectically, MATURIDI ASH’ARI; in respect of the mystic path, Chishtiyyah, rather comprising all the Sufi orders; in thought, Waliyullhian; in principle, Qasimiyah; sectionally, Rasheedian; and as regards connection, Deobandi…

… DIALECTICAL MATURIDIISM: That is, as regards beliefs, the sustentation of the power of certitude and the stability of true beliefs with right thinking in accordonce to the laws and principles determined and codified through the method of the Ahlus Sunnat wal-Jama’at and the ASHA’IRA and the MATUREEDIA; for without it escape from the doubts cast by the tergiversators and the conjectural innovations, superstitions and skepticism of the false sects is not possible. It is evident that this branch is connected with faith (iman)…

… Hence among the constituents of the track of Darul Uloom this factor is an important element on which the establishment of the education and training of Darul Uloom working. It comes under Ihsan (god-consciousness), while it is connected with spiritual training. Thus the knowledge of the Shari’at, the following of the path, conformity to the Sunnat, Jurisprudential Hanafi’ism, dialectical MATURIDIISM, defense against deviation, and the taste for Qasimism and Rasheedism are the constituents of this moderate track which answers well to “seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains” (11:261). If these “seven ears” are expressed in shara’i language, they can be interpreted as Iman (faith), Islam, Ashan and Izhar-e- Deen (demonstration of religion), as has been indicated item-wise above. The collection of all these seven articles with the above-mentioned details is the track of Darul Uloom Deoband…


A further point to take note of is the fact that Deobandi scholars do not go around slaughtering and massacre-ing believers while accusing them of shirk. Rather, they do what the scholars have said ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab should have done – they strive to raise awareness of the many prevalent customs in the subcontinent which outwardly denote shirk although the individuals involved may internally be safe from such. Something to ponder upon.

Incase the reader is of the view that the author of this very basic article is biased towards the Deobandi scholars as he himself is a Deobandi, then please know that this was written with the intention of raising awareness among the Deobandis, just as much so, as it was written to raise awareness among the Barelwis and everyone else. A huge problem, and one of the main reasons for disunity, takfir, and tabdi’ in the subcontinent between the Deobandis and Barelwis, is ilzami arguments ie. “You said such and such, which means you believe this”, or “You did such and such, so in turn it means that…” – this is a very unscholarly manner of discussion and in reality, is nothing but specualtion. Both camps need to move away from this tradition which is rampant on both sides. I do not agree with those who have made tabdi’ and takfir of others while utilising this line of argument – whichever group they belong/ed to, and that this is/was an error on their respective part. We are not obliged to follow the errors of the scholars, but should rather learn from their mistakes and we should distance ourselves from such mistakes without bias and fanaticism. Many people need to learn and stop thinking that the Islamic world is based around the subcontinent and their issues of dispute, as sadly, this is case with many individuals.

Rather than making a generalisation of all Deobandi scholars based on those who may have praised Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, it would be more fruitful to join those like myself who strive to make them aware of his reality and that of ibn Taymiyyah. Let us be those who are part of the cure, and not the disease.

A final word of advice: One should keep in mind that true research is that research which is done with the purpose of seeking the truth, and not that which is done to prove someone right or wrong according to ones own understanding based on preconceptions which they are stubborn upon. Have an open mind, and always seek the truth.

And Allah knows best.

Courtesy of: Fulan ibn Fulan al-Deobandi


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