Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam
5 January 2016
Sectarian unity is certainly an admirable
goal. The intention behind it, however, is also very important. Wahhabi
Deobandi and Sufi-Barelvi sects, who call each other kafir (infidel), are
seeking to unite for some months now.
But towards what end?
The initiative was taken by Maulana Tauqeer
Raza Khan of Bareilly who visited Deoband in May 2016, following the
International Sufi Conference in March, attended by the Prime Minister, in
which he was not invited. Deobandi Maulana Mahmood Madani of Jamiat-ul-Ulema
held reciprocated with a mega gathering at Ajmer Sharif along with Bareilvis a
few months later in November.
Deobandis are touting their new-found love
of Sufism, and claiming to be followers of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti of
Ajmer. They even published in front page ads in Urdu newspapers their Shijra
(pedigree), showing the proximity of their elders to Sufi Shaikh. They sought
to bury the hatchet after a century of sectarian war with Sufi-Bareilvis in
which they called Sufism a “pollution” and “perversion” of Islam. As recently
as in March 2016, the Jamiat chief, Maulana Arshad Madani had severely
castigated the World Sufi Forum as the BJP-led government’s bid to divide the
Muslim community over Sufism vs. Wahhabism. He had said: “Sufism is nothing: It
is no sect of Islam and is not found in the Quran. This is a thing for those
who don’t know Quran and Hadith.” Even in the Ajmer Conference, Deobandi
leaders did not express any regret over the abuses heaped on Sufism. Deoband
did not display any change in their theological understanding of Sufism.
Deobandis ending their century-old schism
with Sufis and Bareilvis, initiated by them, would have been a momentous
occasion. But they merely resolved to fought any change in Muslim Personal Law.
One can only conclude that Deoband is merely trying to create and lead as large
a front of Muslims against the BJP-led government as possible. It knows that
despite Wahhabism’s recent Saudi Petrodollar-inspired growth, Deoband still has
fewer followers. By and large Indian Muslims continue to remain Sufism-oriented.
It’s not only Deoband, however, that is seeking unity with Sufi-Bareilvis
merely for political reasons. Even Maulana Tauqeer Raza Barelvi had said while
visiting Deoband: “We should stick to our religious (sectarian?) beliefs and
get united to fight with common enemy, this is the only way out.”
Who is the enemy? The BJP-led government, of course. But why now? Primarily because it is showing signs of
allowing gender justice-based reforms in Muslim Personal Law. While this has
embarrassed and silenced Sufi Ulema and Mashaikh Board which had invited the
Prime Minister to speak from its forum, all other groups are trying to unite to
oppose the possibility of a ban on instant triple talaq.
For Deoband, however, there is an additional factor. It has been close
to the powers that be for most of our post-independence years. Now it is
feeling disempowered. So, while opposing a possible reform in Muslim Personal
Law, it is also telling the government that we too are Sufis if that is what
you prefer: align with us.
Bringing Muslims together on a purported platform of protecting the
religion and fighting the kafir is not difficult. A belief in Islamic supremacy
has been promoted among Muslims for centuries. All madrasas, Barelvi or
Deobandi, teach principles of fatwa from Rasmul Mufti (Roadmap for Muftis). Two
principles are taught repeatedly.
a) Al-islamu Ya'lu
Yu'la Wala 'alaih (Islam will always be superior or victorious; It will never
be surpassed or defeated)
millatun wahida (all Kafirs are one nation).
No wonder, Barelvi Muftis have no objection
to Tauqeer Reza Khan uniting with Deobandis for fighting the “kafir”
government. But when one of their own, Pakistani scholar Maulana Tahirul Qadri,
suggested ways for genuine sectarian unity in a book “Firqa Parasti Ka Khatima Kaise Ho” (How to end Sectarianism), the
same Barelvi Muftis issued a fatwa against him.
Muslims of every sect are Kafirs in the
eyes of ulema of other sects. Solving ideological disputes to unite with each other
is unthinkable. But, they can and should unite to fight the Kafirs of a
As long as this Muslim-Kafir binary informs
the consensus theology of ulema, it will be difficult for Muslims to live
amicably with others. Temporary sectarian unity which could threaten permanent
communal harmony is not the way forward. As Muslims, we need to not only bridge
our internal divides, but also stop thinking in terms of Kafir and Momin. We
cannot survive as Muslims in the 21st century multicultural world with our
antiquated notions of supremacy and separatism.
Sultan Shahin is the founding editor of a Delhi-based
progressive Islamic website NewAgeIslam.com.
First published in Mail Today and dailyo.in on 6 Jan
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Dear Sudeep Kumar
touched by your sentiments. I am also among those who love all people regardless
of religion. As your father is Urdu teacher he may tell you that there is one
single line in the classical urdu poetry that is insulting to the Hidus or
Hiduism. My late dad (died in 75) had scores
of Hindu customers who visited him at Calcutta from different parts of India
for business transactins. I never heard one word against the Hindus from his
mouth – and he was a very devout Muslims. I hope time is not toofar away when
your wish will be fulfilled and “indian Muslims will exhibit a new direction to
world to balance emotional confilict.” – but this will not happen until the
mainstream society begins to understand the root cause of anti-Hindu sentiments
and Muslims in Pakistan and the Hindus in India realize the need for burying
Dear Pervez Ahmed
If it is indeed true that the listed
principles i) Islam will always be superior or victorious ii) all Kafirs are
one nation - is taught in all Barelvi and Deobadi madrassas, then those who teach
these principles stand to go down as kafirin in their divine records and Sultan Shahin
Sahab a witness to truth for bringing across the dimension of kufr in the
The truth as spelled out in my duly
exegetic work referenced below – based on an in-depth probe into the
fundamental concepts and notions of the Qur’an is that the Qur’an envisions
“a universal brotherhood of humanity that will allow people of diverse faith,
culture, color and language to live together, to know each other and to assist
each other to make life easy and peaceful for all human beings.” [Ch. 9.7]
2. I totally disagree with you that this article "promotes hatred against Muslims and Islam." If what he wrote is true then the madrassas are spreading hatred against the non-Muslims which constitutes 'kufr' from Qur'anic universal perspective and hate crime for this era for which they may be forced by law to expunge any hate inducing material from their curriculum.