Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
Syed Ahmed ‘Shaheed’ Rai Barelwi was born in 1786 in Rai Bareilly in India.
Therefore, he is called “Rai Barelwi” (not “Barelwi”, so it should not be
confused with the term popularly attributed to those who belong to another city
in India called “Bareilly” or those who subscribe to the views of Imam Ahmad
Raza Khan Barelwi).
Abul Hasan Nadwi, prominent Islamic and Arabic scholar of Deobandi denomination
and former rector of Nadwatul Ulema in Lucknow, authored a complete and
comprehensive book on the biography of Syed Ahmad Rai Barelwi showcasing the
‘glory’ of his Jihad movement in India. He notes in his book, “Seerat Ahmad
Indian Islamic movement of Ahl-e-Hadith, also known as Wahhabi movement, was
inspired and led by Syed Ahmad Shaheed, who was born in Rai Bareli (Awadh) on
29th November, 1786…..He was an eminent Islamic thinker, scholar, an
unparalleled orator of his time and well-versed in both religious and mundane
affairs. The chain of his preaching and proselytisation (Dawat o Irshad)
was spread across the country…..Almost 4,000 non-Muslims embraced Islam at his
hands” (Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, Seerat Ahmad Shaheed, Vol. 1, pp.20,
Published by MajlisTahqiqat-o-Nashriyat Islam, Lucknow, 1977).
quite interesting to note that Syed Ahmad Barelwi coined a new term “Bai’at-e-jihad” (allegiance to jihad) in
parallel to the popular Sufi term “Bai’at-e-Tariqat”
(allegiance to a spiritual master). Dwelling more on the jihad movement of Rai
Barelwi, Maulana Ali Nadwi writes: “Thousands of people undertook Bai’at-e-Jihad at his hands, in which
they were taught war skills and use of arms in place of Zikr-O-Muraqabah
(Sufi practice of chanting, meditation and remembrance of Allah). The
high-soaring slogans of Jihad Fi Sabi-Lil-Lah (jihad in the path of God)
were also raised”.
Ali Nadwi further enumerates: “He [Syed Ahmad] used to lay great emphasis on
the zeal for jihad. He would exhort his followers, saying: keep with you arms
and weapons with the intention of Jihad and eat to your fill. Insha Allah! (God
willing), we will engage in jihad against the Kuffar (infidels and polytheists). So keep doing practice and
preparation for this. There is no better godliness and sainthood (Darweshi Aur
Faqiri) than this.”
Maulana Ali Nadwi’s book, Seerat -e- Ahmad Shaheed is also recommended as a
reading reference for the students of Islamic Studies in many madrasas and
universities. It takes one to the conclusion that the battle of Ballakot which
was fought between the forces of Syed Ahmed Rai Barelvi and Raja Ranjit Singh
eventually led to the martyrdom of Syed Ahmed Barelvi ushering in the Jihad
movement in India.
Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi in his book “Major Muslim Religious Movements in
India” originally written in Urdu, the current head of the department of
Islamic Studies in Jamia Millia Islamia, Dr. Iqtidar Mohammad Khan writes under
the subtitle “Tahrik-e-Mujahideen and Ahl-e-Hadith’s Ulema of
Sadiq Pur”: “When the Islamic reform movement in India was championed by Syed
Ahmad Shaheed (1201-1246) and Maulana Ismail Shaheed (1196-1246), after Shah
Waliullah, it was opposed by the British and some Pirs and Maulvis [Sufis] who
called it “Wahhabi movement in India” because of its objective being similar to
that of Ibn Abdul Wahhab in the Najd”.
further comments that “the two reform movements [of Ibn Abdul Wahhab and Syed
Ahmad Rai Barelwi) arose in the lands where Jihalat (ignorance),
superstitions, Qabr-Parasti (grave-worshipping), and Peer-Parasti
(saint-worship) were rampant. Therefore, both the Islamic movements were
adversely affected by the British propaganda”.
just taken a cursory glance over what the Indian Ulema and Islamic circles
think of Syed Ahmad Rai Barelwi and how they project him in their remarkable
writings. Let us now see what liberal authors and secular researchers have to
say with regard to him:
authoritative scholar on Islamic thinkers and reform movements in India,
Barbara Metcalf made a particular mention of Syed Ahmad Rai Barelwi in her work
on Deoband as ‘someone who was trying to synthesize his experience in
establishing an Islamic state as per his pious commitment to the Shariah’.
(See: Metcalf, Barbara Daly, 2002. Islamic revival in British India: Deoband,
1860-1900 (3rd impression. ed. New Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press).
author of the ground-breaking book “Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan”, Mr.
Olivier Roy (1985) recalled Rai Barelwi as the first Indian Islamist leader who
launched an armed jihad and led a movement that was religious, military and
political. Mr. Roy succinctly explained how Syed Ahmad sermonised jihad to the
local Pashtun tribes, urging them to abandon their local customs and strictly
adhere to the Shariah. He mentioned that due to his religious decrees, the
traditional tribal chieftains (the khans) were replaced by the clerics and
mullahs. They formed a new system of religious tax (Jizyah) to finance
the Jihadi activities. (See: Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan. Cambridge
University Press. pp. 57–8)
same way, Edward Mortimer, a noted scholar on Islam in South Asia described
Syed Ahmad Rai Barelwi “as an Islamist who anticipated modern Mujahideen
in his waging of jihad and attempt to create an Islamic state with strict
enforcement of Islamic Shariah.
Syed Ahmad Rai Barelvi was glorified as “Ameer ul Momineen” (the chief leader
of believers) by his supporters among the Ulema and Islamic leaders in India.
Some of his diehard followers even believed him to be the promised Imam Mahdi (al-Mahdial-Mauood), as the eminent
Islamic historiographer, Shaikh Ikram has noted this in his classical work on
this subject, “Mauj-e-Kausar: Musalmano ki
Mazhabi aur Ilmi Tareekh ka daur e Jadeed (the modern religious and
intellectual era of Muslims in India).
This is precisely why a great adoration of Syed Ahmad Rai Barelvi and
high glorification of his jihad movement are an integral part of Wahhabi
Madrasa curriculums in the subcontinent, particularly in Pakistani madrasas.
syllabus of Class IX, there is a book entitled, “Pakistan Studies” which
carries a chapter "Syed Ahmed Shaheed Barelvi". After a brief
introduction, sings high praises of Syed Ahmed as ‘great thinker and martyr of
Islam’, the chapter gives the historical background of his Jihad movement with
an illustration of its chief objectives. It reads under the subtitle “The
Ahmed Shaheed Rai Barelvi started a great movement in the North of India known
as “The Mujahideen Movement” or “The Movement of Jihad”. This movement arranged
a power for the struggle of freedom in Muslims which produced a spirit of
survival and they started freedom struggle”. Giving the background of the
Mujahideen Movement, it further reads: “Syed Ahmed Shaheed Barelvi devoted
himself in the preparation of the holy war. He started a national movement for
this purpose in 1818 and organized this movement after his arrival from Hajj as
the Mujahideen Movement in 1831”.
the prime objectives of Mujahideen Movement, as the above chapter puts forward,
were: “To protect the Muslims from the
worship of other things except Allah, and to preach Jihad because it was not
possible to get freedom from an evil force without an armed struggle”.
book has clearly stated that Syed Ahmed Rai Barelvi wished to eradicate the rule
of Sikhs from Punjab in order to establish Islamic values and traditions. It
further adds: “He [Syed Ahmed] started Jihad in Punjab. Shah Ismail Shaheed
along with six thousand followers also joined Syed Ahmed Shaheed in his Jihad
against evil forces. He toured different areas around Delhi and Punjab, where
number of his followers joined him”.
widely held among many Ulema of the Indo-Pak that Syed Ahmad Rai Barelvi
launched his Tahrik e Jihad or Jihadi movement against the British imperialism
in India. But the historical facts unravel the truth that his jihad was solely
aimed at fighting Punjab’s Sikh community, overthrowing non-Muslim rule and
ultimately establishing an Islamic state in the country. His core belief was
that Muslims in India could not achieve true freedom unless they launch an
‘aggressive, violent and armed struggle against the non-Muslim forces’. He
regarded non-Muslims as ‘monstrous evils’ who had corrupted the Islamic
society, and therefore, launched a great jihad with thousands of his fervent
followers to eliminate the ‘evils’.
A New Age Islam columnist, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a
classical Islamic scholar.
It is also
noteworthy that there are a number of Islamic scholars such as Ibn Khaldun and
Dr Muhammad Iqbal who have rejected belief in the advent of Imam Mahdi. Some of
them even go on to dismiss Muslims’ obsession with this subject with contempt
and disapproval. While many Islamic clerics of all Muslim sects and hues warn that
it is not only false but also sinful to strive for a deeper understanding of
the subject of the advent of Imam Mahdi. There are also Muslims who prefer to
get content waiting with folded arms for the Imam.
It is interesting to note that in general, the term Messiah is
specific to only the Abrahamic faith traditions. But prophecies abound in
nearly all world religions that a leader will come and accomplish the messiah’s
Jews long for the promised Messiah.
Christians believe in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who has
already come and ascended to heaven but will reappear at his Second Coming.
Muslims expect the second advent of Hazrat Isa alaihis salam or
Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), who will come as a Muslim Imam. Both Sunnis
and Shias share this belief in common. But among the Shias, there are various
expectations of a future Imam Mahdi.
In conformity to the Islamic doctrine of Mahdism, the Sikh scripture
prophesises the advent of the "Mahdi Meer" who will be born for a
purpose of defeating Kali, who will become egoistic referring to himself
as the Almighty. In Dasam Granth, the Sikh scripture attributed to the tenth
Sikh guru Guru Gobind Singh, it is propheised that the powerful Mahdi will slay
Kali and rule the world.
It should be clarified that Kali is also a Hindu goddess who is
the mighty aspect of the goddess Durga. The name Kali is derived from the
Sanskrit kala, or time. Therefore, it represents time, change, power,
creation, preservation, and destruction.
Buddhist scripture prophesies the coming of the Maitreya
Hindu scriptures prophesy the future descent of an avatar named
Zoroastrian scriptures prophesy the coming of the Saoshyant.
Confucian texts speak of a future True Man who will finally bring
peace to the world by perfectly instituting the Way of Confucius.