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The War Within Islam (01 Apr 2010 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Bareillvi-Deobandi Tussle: Behind Bareilly’s Communal Turmoil

By M Shamsur Rabb Khan

The communal flare-up that hit Bareilly – a sleepy city of Uttar Pradesh – on March 2, 2010 when Juloos-e-Muhammadi procession (a procession taken out to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad) turned violent after insisting on marching through a communally sensitive locality, which was followed by riots between Hindus and Muslims. Soon, the trouble escalated to other parts of the city due to which curfew was clamped. On March 8, Tauqir Raza Khan, son-in-law of Subhani Miyan and national president of a Muslim organization, Itihad-e-Millat Council (IMC), who was leading the Juloos-e-Muhammadi procession, was arrested from his office by police in connection with the rioting. The police booked Tauqeer Raza, who he had been booked in the past under various sections of the IPC, including anti-national activities for his fiery speeches, for inciting people and plotting riots.

The arrest of Tauqir Raza Khan turned the situation more volatile since the followers of Bareilwi sect came out on the road, defying curfew, for his immediate release. It was the result of the high-pitched communal speech by Sunni cleric Subhan Raza Khan (popularly known as Subhani Miyan), the head of the famous Ala Hazrat dargah (also known as Khankahe Niyaziya mosque) only added fuel to the fire. Via loudspeakers, Subhani Miyan called people of the city to come out on the streets and protest against the detention of Tauqir Raza Khan. But here took place a lapse on the part of the administration. Had the police acted with a little prudence, the matter would not have escalated to the extent it did. Ignoring the importance of Tauqeer Raza Khan, one of the most important Maulanas of the Barelwis in India, and a direct descendant of Ahmad Riza Khan Bareilwi, who is revered by the Barelwis throughout the sub-continent, the police went on to book him. For local Muslims, this was a partial move by the police as they did not arrest any other ‘prominent’ person from the Hindu community. After comprehending the importance of Tauqeer Raza Khan along with political pressure from above, the police released him. But the damage had been done by then. Now it was the turn of Hindus to raise their protest, protesting against his release.

While assessing the communal flare-up in Bareilly, we need to explore the great Deobandi-Barelwi divide, aided and abetted by the religio-political ambitions that the holy men of these two sects nurse. Historically, the bitter rift between Deobandis and Barelwis dates back to the 19th century, when, Ahmed Raza Khan (also called Aala Hazrat or Fazil-e-Barelwi), a religious scholar of repute and founder of Barelwi School, parted ways on a theological line that was different from Deoband. Having established his dargah (hospice) at Bareilly, Ahmed Raza Khan propagated Barelwi thought and called himself and his followers “True Sunnis”, and described Deobandis as “Wahhabis”, while Deobandis called the belief of Ahmed Raza Khan and his followers ‘Biddat’ (innovative practice in Islam). The enmity grew so intense in the first half of the 20th century that countless “Munazras” (religious debates) between the two sects ended in fierce antagonism, abuses and even throwing of holy books including Quran.

The intensity of antagonism can be experienced throughout northern India; even in villages followers of each school don’t see eye to eye. While Barelwis revere ‘Milad’ as sacred Islamic belief, Deobandis ridicule it as the imitation of non-believers. In my village in Gaya district of Bihar, when a mosque has to be constructed the issue arises as to who will control it – Deobandis or Barelwis. That is the crux of the matter. The tussle between Barelwis and Deobandis has much to do with the dominance of mosques. This has become a major issue since the Deobandi ideology has been on the rise in recent decades due to which the Barelwis feel threatened. So, in a few mosques in Sasaram and Mumbai, it is clearly written in bold letters: “Tablighis, Deobandis, Ahle Hadis, Jamaat-e-Islami, Kafirs are not allowed”. Just a few months ago, in a meeting of prominent Barelwis, Maulana Tauqeer Raza gave a call to all Barelwi Muslims to ‘liberate’ their mosques and madrasas from the clutches of the Deobandis. Within Bareilly itself, mosques have become the sites of an ideological battle with the Barelwis accusing Deobandis of usurping their mosques. 

Unlike Hindu-Muslim conflict, Bareilly has witnessed Barelwi-Deobandi riots on several occasions in the past. Over the years, the level of conflict has worsened. Each regards the other as non-believers or kafirs. Mosques in Bareilly, and now in many other towns and cities, carry a signboard announcing that it is a Barelwi mosque and non-Barelwis cannot pray there. If missionaries of the Tablighi Jamaat ever use the mosque to propagate their ideology, the mosque is washed and cleansed. Having hold over illiterate Muslims and to stop the advancement of Deobandis, the Barelwis have been working hard to regain control over mosques, which are slipping away from their hands. Barelwis feel Deobandis enjoy disproportionate power and prestige despite being the numerical minority among Indian Muslims. With visible threat and with more and more Muslims becoming Deobandis, Barelwi maulanas face the danger of losing the patronage of vast number of Muslims across the country. This would make the Barelwi leadership obsolete

The whole idea of being a Barelwi is to oppose Deobandis, Tablighis, Ahle Hadis, Jamaat-e-Islami, etc. So, anything that Deobandis or Jamaat-e-Islamisists do, Barelwis oppose it outright. For example, rejecting the formation of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan formed a new board called AIMPLB Jadeed (modern) under his leadership, though there was hardly anything modern about this Board since it was as ridden with factionalism as the AIMPLB. Interestingly, Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan is the head of an organization called Ittehad-e-Millat (Council of Muslim Unity), although he has worked towards giving self-styled interpretation of Islam, and considers Deobandis and Ahle Hadis as being not Muslim enough and puts them at par with Hindus. Thus Deobandis and the Ahle Hadis are not Muslim enough and it is not permissible for Muslims to pray behind imams (prayer leaders) of such denominations. Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan is also infamous for offering a Rs five lakh reward to anyone who killed Taslima Nasreen. What a way of creating unity among Muslim!

Deobandis are no less vehement in rejecting the ideology of Barelwis. Less moderate while dealing with Barelwis, Deobandis have worked the least to create any rapprochement, in order to create a unified Muslim body. Prominent Muslim bodies such as the AIMPLB are dominated by the Deobandis and various governments have courted them with an eye on the Muslim vote. In Bareilly, the Deobandis are much better organized and through their network or madrasas and movements such as the Tablighi Jamaat, they are winning over considerable sections of the Barelwi Muslims. With nearly 34% Muslims in the district and almost 40% in the city, it is the Barelwis, who are, and have traditionally been, the numerical majority. Deobandis and other reformist traditions within Indian Islam are a minority here although their numbers are growing.

With a belief that they are the sole guardian of Sunni Islam in India, the Maulanas of Barelwi School are very aggressive in speeches and antagonistic in approaches when they deal with ulema of Deobandi School and Jamaat-e-Islami and vice verse. As per the traditional Islamic belief, the Juloos-e-Muhammadi procession is a religious innovation, and Deobandis consider it nothing but an exclusive affair of Barelwis to show the strength of the community. In Bareilly, the Juloos (procession) was an expression of the power of the Barelwi leadership aimed to counter the emerging threat from Deobandis. However, when it transformed into a Hindu-Muslim conflict, Maulana Tauqeer Raza can now claim to be the custodian of all Muslims, something which he had wanted to be for a long time.

Hindus entered the arena since a section of them nurse a grudge against Muslims because of whom BJP lost the last election to the Congress, though it has been a traditional seat for the saffron party. Though the release of Maulana Tauqeer Raza assuaged hurt feelings of the Muslims, it provided an excuse for the Hindu organizations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal, to take to confrontation. These organisations have deep roots in the city and played their role in fomenting trouble. The problem got murkier because soon after the trouble, the Congress, the BSP and the SP started wooing Maulana Tauqeer Raza. This resulted in polarization between Hindus and Muslims. However, the net gainer in this conflict would be Maulana Tauqeer Raza himself. Having an eye on controlling Bareilly and Barelwis, Maulana Tauqeer Raza’s insistence on a particular route for the Juloos-e-Muhhamadi can be seen as a well-calculated strategy to gain extra mileage in the Deobandi-Barelwi tussle. The Bareilly riots should not be seen as direct Hindu-Muslim conflict, but an expression of sectarian contest within the Muslim community itself. The price for such a religio-political ambition has been paid this time by the ordinary Muslims and Hindus of Bareilly.

Among the myriad problems facing the Ummah such as islamization, terror tags, and communal riots, the Deobandi-Bareilwi conflict is far deeper, durable and dangerous. We must understand this.

(Mr M Shamsur Rabb Khan is an Assist. Professor, Department of English, King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia and has authored six academic books. He is also a political and social analyst.)

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/the-war-within-islam/bareillvi-deobandi-tussle--behind-bareilly’s-communal-turmoil/d/2642


  • Assalamo Alaikum ahle imaan.

    I just want to clear one thing about this tussle... that is not egoism of Bareilvi . It is a fact of realisation it’s not depending on our own thoughts, primary we think about all the things surrounding ourselves then we make mind to whom we should follow.. From the beginning of Islam it is seen that the enemy of Islam wanted to separate its basics but he couldn't. You know why because of a confirm faith.... abu jehal, abu lehab, yazeed etc are the example of it.. 

    yazeed did his best to mislead the basic of Islam but our beloved Hazrat Hussain radi Allahu ta Aala Anhu defeated him by sacrification of his (Hazrat Hussain Radi Allahu ta Aala Anhu) sacred life. so the question is how can we realise and how can we find the right path of Islam?...

    many people used to say that all is well who reciting the Qura'n, performing the Salah, Hajj and follow other basics of Islam.. But I individually disagree with this line... no ...    Alhamdo LiLlah I reciting the Qura'n performing the Salah as well other Ahkaam but first of all i always remember the first basic of Islam that is Tauheed.. what is tauheed?? tauheed is the abstract of Islam it’s not it has a big big big meaning in itself.. All the followers of Islam are follow the basics of islam, obviously.. but why do they not follow the respect of beloved Nabi (SaLlahu ta Aala Alaihi Wasallam). For that we must follow the beautiful way of Sahaba (Radi Allahu ta Aala Anhu). Imam Ahmed Raza Khan fazile bareilvi (RehmatuLlah Alaih) has followed the way of Sahaba e Kiraam Ajmaeen... the way of Sahab e Kiraam Ajmaeen is great.. They used to terminate all the egoists and enemies of beloved Nabi

    (Sallahu ta Aala Alaihi Wasallam)

    By Mohammad Shahab Uddin -

  • Welcome back, traveler. You seem to have gone too far this time and for far too long. We missed your insights and your sense of humour. As you seem connected to Bareilly in some way, we would welcome your take on the mystifying events there. Did Bareilwi-Deobandi rivalry indeed play some role in communalising the situation? Are Deobandis and other Wahhabis truly becoming as aggressive as is reported from different parts of the country and if so why. AS a constant traveler you might even be able to tell us if this is happening in other parts of the country as well.

    By Sultan Shahin -

  • Barelwi-Deobandi surely is a issue but in case of Bareilly riots this angle seems to be a BADI DOOR KI KAUDI. As usual the comments having inputs from Mr. Haq, Mr. Ansari and surfer are probably more academic than the article itself.  Shams has beautifully elaborated the concept of class struggle. Haq's question on accountability of the culprits is a really important yet an unsolved issue. As usual Bareilly seems to be limping back to normalcy.

    It's inhabitants don't seem to learn meaningful lessons. We tend to behave like ants, we regain our track the moment unsettling event is over in doing so every now and then we make some old and some de-novo trails. Ants don't really care if the intruder is ever brought to the book? They got to live and work their lives. What shall we call this? A positive trait? Or a permanent handicap?

    By traveler -


    I think sometimes we should be less reflective, when it comes to crime and punishment. I also think that in this non-medieval and non-ancient (Can I use this word?) age, a crime well-defined in the constitutional and legal directories of the civil society, should be attended by punishment by means of efficient legal methods. I would request the learned panelists here to probe into what happened thereafter? Was any punishment given or is there any chance of punishment coming to the ones who acted criminally (were they identified honestly, in the first place?)? Come on friends, if we cannot address these questions, the second best thing to do is, what we are doing!!

    By Manzurul Haque -

  • Let us examine the case of Bareilly riots thruogh established norms and canons of social science which states, “External conditions create the condition of change, internal conditions become the basis of change, internal conditions become operative thru external conditions”. This is world famous norm, developed by Karl Marx who defined the remnants of class struggle in the society. The emergence of Communist party and its growth was the result of this norm as it was the job of Communist parties to accentuate this struggle in order to capture the political power. Historically, this struggle was noticed, recorded and underlined by the social scientists even before the emergence of Marxian science and it will remain in force without the presence of Communist parties as well.

    Every Riot in India carry’s a significant amount of class struggle but since it has so many factors, involvement of roles of different social forces has made it a complex sociological phenomenon. It could be termed a distorted form of class struggle. Communal Riots in India is actually a vast sociological subject and it has been changing its face from time to time. It had a different face Pre-Independent India, it was different in nature and character in 1970s post independent India and now what we see here and there, different part of India as also different which could be termed post Ayodhya carnage India.

    We have already seen Aditya Kohli’s factual report on Bareilly riots and what we have seen now by Mr M S R Khan is an attempt to define Bareilly riot thru some sociological spectrums. To my mind, there is an internal struggle between Bareillvi and Deobandi school of thoughts (NAI has already reported some communal strife took place in the eastern UP/Bihar town over the control of a Mosque last year) which is clearly visible after 9/11. There have been a divide amongst Muslim but it never led to any communal riots in any city of India in general unlike notorious Shia-Sunni divide in Muslim society. Second internal struggle within society is amongst Muslims and Hindu who try to establish their authority on the cost of competitor community. Khan’s whole emphasis in his analysis is that Tauqeer’s repeated insistence to take the procession thru Non-Muslim’s locality which, according to him became the cause of flash point. But, how it could be justified the prior presence of bricks which came like a saucers and injured several peaceful processionist? It means, facts are different from the theory and they speak otherwise.

    Bareilly riots are the yet another form of distorted class struggle, ‘State’ is ready to curb it in the name of law and order and they are comfortable to name it Communal Riot. State is ruthless to show its power once there is any open threat to its system (like Maoist) as they are busy in ‘Operation Green Hunt’ these days. Indian bourgeoisie system has contributed thru its different shades of political leaders and ideologies to distort this simplest form of social struggle. Laws of social science are in force everywhere in the society whether the revolutionary forces are there to shape them or to provide the leadership. In their absence, somebody has to take the advantage so we find reactionary forces at work, be it Muslim or Hindu fundamentalist, their nature and characteristics are same, both are anti-people, anti-working class and both are blood suckers of poorest of the poor. So we have their ideologue also, sitting at their respective places (media, Learning Institutes, Govt machinery etc), trying to form or deform the opinion of the masses.

    What could be a biggest issue of shame for India that they are still fighting in the name of medieval mind set religion and their so-called intelligentsia is prescribing theories to pacify their wrong doing? ‘Aam Aadmi’ is still an innocent pawn in the hands of politico-sociological criminals. Is that the game plan to keep aloof millions of masses from basic need of the life like water, education, medical, transport or electricity etc? Tauqeer and Gangwar are the two sides of same coin who are marshalled to deform class struggle. They are the one who defuse the anger of common men to force them to fight each other and always creates stumbling blocks to UNITE them and fight for total.....!!!


    By Shamshad Elahee Ansari-Mississauga ON Canada -

  • Too much of self-introspection is bad for digestion, Mr. M Shamsur Rabb Khan sb. But be assured, I have read your scholarly article.

    M. Haque

    By Manzurul Haque -

  • Dear Reader

    My article is not a report. It is about the age-old rift between the two prominent sects of Islam that I have seen from close quarters. The focus of the article is on the historical background of the tussle between Deobandis and Barelwis. This is sort of a self-introspection. Of course, BJP and others have taken part in the riot.

    As for Plagiarism, there are various conditions, not just the identical ideas and clones. All "common knowledge" can be written by many persons. Many people can write articles on one issue. And many can have similar ideas as well if it is not new inventions and discoveries. As for language and imitation, if a complete passage or paragraph is copied and pasted, it can be plagiarism, or anything more than 15% of the total content aped, it can be plagiarism. Arshad Alam is a renowned academician and I read him frequently though I don't know him personally.     

    When I completed the first draft, I, like any author, looked for some information, as you have cited Wikipedia, and I used the statistics for which I didn't cite reference or put inverted commas. I regret. 

    Thanks for your comments.

    M Shamsur Rabb Khan

    By M Shamsur Rabb Khan -

  • Dear EditorI have been a regular follower of your website and enjoy quality articles and debates on some of the burning issues of our times . I do so mostly in silence but After reading this article " BEHIND BAREILLY'S COMMUNAL TURMOIL" by the SO CALLED academically acclaimed author Mr. Shams ur Rab khan who has been introduced as an Assistant professor at famous King Khalid University , indeed a prestigious name in Arabian world ( must be as per the information made available to NAI "understandably by himself") I thought of writing this note which might not please the author who by claiming to AUTHOR six ACADEMIC books should have earned enough credibility by his own standard so as to pass un noticed through the gates of NEW AGE ISLAM without raising any kind of suspicion on his scholorship and ( possibly) the credibility of his report on Bareilly riots.      I hope most of the readers have not yet forgotten the report on the matter by an upright journalist Mr. Aditya kohli who was probably first to report altogether new information and insight on this sensitive issue. It came as a shock and eye opener to most of us here because the regular media was either mostly silent on the matter or in sporadic cases if the matter was reported then the reports were quite lopsided and strange .Understandably the Kohli's report generated lot of heat and worldwide discussion on various websites such as outlook and with the passage of time the report kept gaining confirmation of it's authenticity from delayed reports later published or telecasted by the regular Indian media . For example this famous report by IBN 7 on Bareilly riots.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eueMUWmwg5w&feature=youtube_gdata. Various enquiry committees published their preliminary report on the matter squarely indicting a BJP stalwart of the region . One such report was by Communist party investigation group later Congress also confirmed the observation.     By writing above I intend to underline the basic point that the present report by the author of this STORY is absolutely in contradiction to initially supressed but later confessed official media theory and would at the most qualify as just a figment of imagination ( if at all the author has one).    What can be the intention behind such a crooked exercise should best be known to the author himself but from a reader's perspective I suspect this to be a malignant attempt towards deflecting the truth and creating false flags in reader's mindscapes . Or may be it is just a case of trying to read too much between the lines ( off course by the author or hypothesizer of this story) and stretching one's imagination to the realm of the foul boundary. The Hindi daily Amar ujala was quick to report the real story in bits and pieces and others followed the suit with the result that now it is a common general knowledge in and around Bareilly that who perpetrated the riots? In short above TWO are my objections 1- on authenticity of the contents and 2- on intention of the contents but Sir I have a more serious THIRD objection which I think should surely be brought to the notice of the editor and his website's esteemed readers that the article is a simplistic attempt at P L A G I A R I S M. Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work." ( just like this one!)                          on part of the supposed author of this ACADEMICALLY THOUGHT PROVOKING ARTICLE . For reference I would request the editor to kindly click this link of a landmark debate on the OUTLOOK.COM http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?264697 here the same appears as a comment in 15th March edition of the OutlookIndia.com under the title " BAREILLY BURNS AMID BARELWI TRIUMPH " where the author is reported to be some Arshad Alam from Jamia milliya Islamiya Delhi. These two are almost identical clones of the similar linguistic and intellectual characteristics . Although now I'm not sure which one of the two lifted the words from the other . Now I seriously doubt even the existence of these two individuals but by the repitition of the same twisted tale there is little doubt regarding the intention of mixing mud in clear waters or who knows even throwing mud in to the eyes of the readers. Sincere regards    
    By ~ Surfer~ -

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