Clarification on the Theological Disputes between Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd (Rahimahullah) & Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī

Asrar Rashid Barelwi says:

When this work Taqwiyat al-Īmān was written, this work like its counterpart in the Middle East Kitāb al-Tawḥīd caused sectarianism which exists until this day …. At that time a prominent scholar known as Imām Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī (raḥimahullāhu ta‘ālā) refuted the work Taqwiyat al-Īmān. He refuted him on a few theological points. One of those points was that Ismā‘īl al-Dehlawī considered it possible for Allāh (subḥānahū wa ta‘ālā), the divine power of Allāh (subḥānahū wa ta‘ālā), to bring out into existence those things which we would deem as being impossible. If something is impossible, Allāh (subḥānahū wa ta‘ālā) He does not will that which is impossible. So, in any given time there could only be one Khātam al-Nabiyyīn, one finality of prophets. The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) who is described in al-Quran al Karīm as Khātam al-Nabiyyīn the finality of prophets, there can only be one finality of prophets in any given time. Imām Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī (raḥimahullāh) refuted Ismail Dehlawi on this point where he considered it possible for Allah (subḥānahū wa ta‘ālā) to bring multiple prophets like our Messenger (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). Why is this considered from the realm of impossibility? One reason being there can only ever be one Khātam al-Nabiyyīn finality of prophets… Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī (raḥimahullāhu ta‘ālā) wrote Taḥqīq al-Fatwā, he wrote Imtinā‘ al-Naẓīr refuting the ideology of Ismā‘īl al-Dehlawī. And numerous other ‘ulamā’ also wrote refutations against Ismā‘īl al-Dehlawī at that time.  

Response (by Maulana Zameelur Rahman):

Allāmah Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī (1797 – 1861), wrote a brief refutation of Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd in 1826, to which the latter wrote a response called Yak Rozah. The debate occurred in response to a sentence of Taqwiyat al-Īmān. Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd was discussing a mistaken conception of shafā‘ah (intercession), called “shafā‘ah al-wajāhah” (intercession of status), in which it is believed that Allāh suppresses His original intent to punish one deserving of punishment because someone holding a high status intercedes, and He does not wish to cause disruption in His Kingdom on account of displeasing the intercessor. As Shāh Ismā‘īl explains, one who holds such a belief is a “true mushrik and a complete ignoramus, and has not understood the meaning of divinity in the slightest, and has not realised the greatness of this Owner of the Kingdom.”[1] Then, explaining the power and greatness of Allāh, he said: “It is the nature of this King of Kings that in a single moment, had He so wished with one command of ‘Kun’, He would create thousands of prophets, saints, jinn and angels equal to Jibra’īl, upon him peace, and Muḥammad, Allāh bless him and grant him peace; and would turn the whole universe from the throne to the earth upside down and put another creation in its place.”[2] He goes onto say that if all creatures were like Jibra’īl and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), this would not increase in the lustre of Allāh’s kingdom, and similarly if all creatures were devils and dajjals this would not decrease from the lustre of His Kingdom.[3]

In context, Shāh Ismā‘īl’s statement is justifiable, given that he was trying to drive home the point to readers (who would entertain the belief in “shafā‘ah al-wajāhah”) that Allāh has no need for His creation and does not depend on them in the slightest. But Allāmah Faḍl al-Haqq Khayrābādī picked up on a technical point, claiming that it is intrinsically impossible for there to be an equal (mithl/naẓīr) to Muḥammad (peace and blessings be upon him), so the scenario Shāh Ismā‘īl presented was not even hypothetically possible.

In Yak Roza, Shāh Ismā‘īl wrote a response. He explains that for an equal to come into existence is included within Divine Power but its materialisation is impossible. He presents evidence from the Qur’ān and from reason. From the Qur’ān, he cites the verse: “Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth capable of creating the like of them [i.e. human beings]? Of course!” (36:81) This verse shows Allāh can create an equal or a like of each human being, which of course includes the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).[4]

From a rational point of view, if ever something is mumkin  (intrinsically possible), then its equal is also intrinsically possible. In terms of the basic nature (māhiya) of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his characteristics of perfection, there is no intrinsic impossibility of a likeness or equal being created.[5]

Shāh Ismā‘īl also offers several responses to the point that the Prophet is “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”, and thus cannot have an equal. One response he offers is that it is in Allāh’s power to create a realm of existence that is not linearly connected in time with this realm, where the equal will also be a final prophet. Thus, it is not beyond the realm of conceivability and thus possibility that an equal of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) could be created. Thus, it is intrinsically possible though extrinsically impossible.[6]

It is not the case, as Asrar Rashid tries to make out, that the scholars in general refuted Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd. A close friend of Allāmah Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī, Muftī Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Dehlawī (1790 – 1868) [who was a teacher of Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī], rivalled Allāmah Faḍl al-Haqq in his expertise of the rational sciences, having studied with Mawlānā Faḍl al-Imām Khayrābādī (Allāmah Fadl al-Ḥaqq’s father) also. He approved of Taqwiyat al-Īmān[7] and disapproved of Allāmah Faḍl al-Ḥaqq’s refutations, as reported by one of his students, Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān (1832 – 1890).[8]

Later, Allāmah Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī wrote a more detailed refutation called Taḥqīq al-Fatwā. Sayyid Ḥaydar ‘Alī Tonkī (1788 – 1856), an expert in philosophy and logic, refuted it in a work called al-Kalām al-Fāḍil al-Kabīr ‘alā Ahl al-Takfīr.[9] Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān comments: “The reality is that the truth in these debates are in the hand of Sayyid [Ḥaydar ‘Alī Tonkī], not Shaykh [Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī], as evident to one who refers to their books with objectivity, and I have seen most of them.”[10]

A non-partisan scholar from a slightly later era, Pīr Mehr ‘Alī Shāh (1859 – 1937), was asked about this debate. Before offering his opinion, he said:

My aim here is to present what is in my mind on the possibility or impossibility of an equal to the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), not to deem either of the two groups, Ismā‘īliyya or Khāyrābādiyya, correct or incorrect. May Allāh repay their efforts. The writer of these lines regards both of them to be rewarded.[53]

References:

[43] Taqwiyat al-Īmān, p. 44

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Yak Rozah, p. 2-3

[47] Yak Rozah, p. 4-5

[48] Ibid. p. 10-2

[49] Majallah Aḥwāl wa Ᾱthār, no. 20-21, p. 35; Mawlānā Nūr al-Ḥasan shows this support is authentic from him

[50] Abjad al-‘Ulūm, 3:254

[51] Majallah Aḥwāl wa Ᾱthār, no. 20-21, p. 153

[52] Abjad al-‘Ulūm, 3:248

[53] Fatāwā Mehria, p. 11

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