Wahhabi Fitnah in the Indian subcontinent
Dissent from the original creed
What were the original beliefs of the Muslims in the Subcontinent?
When and why did the disagreement begin?
From the very beginning, the Muslims of India have been affiliated with the Hanafi school of Sunni thought. In Malabar and Konkan  there is a small number of Sunni Shafi’i Muslims and in some areas of the country there are small communities of Shi’ites.
Sectarianism within the Muslims of India began in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. In particular, the following (taqleed) of the four Imams of fiqh was made an issue of contention and to a lesser extent, tasawwuf was also made a target for division. <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = O />
Taqleed and Tasawwuf were portrayed as innovations of misguidance and on these grounds many new sects came into existence that moved away from the Ahlu’s Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah.
To look at these facts in light of historic evidence, two excerpts are presented.
The first is by Hakeem Abdul Hayy Rae Barelwi and the second by Sulaiman Nadwi, a student of Mawlānā Shibli Nu’mani.
(1) According to some people, the taqleed of an Imam in issues of fiqh is impermissible and haram. They believe that those rulings that are evident in the Qur’an and Sunnah should be followed and in fiqhi issues, Qiyas (analogy) and Ijma’ (consensus) hold no weight.
To this school of thought belong Mawlānā Fakhir Ilahabadi bin Yahya and Miyan Ji Shaykh Nazeer Husain Husaini Dihlawi bin Jawwad Ali and Nawab Siddiq Hasan Bhopali and their followers.
One group has extreme opinions with regards to taqleed and they are adamant that it is forbidden. They consider muqallideen (followers of an Imam) to be slaves of the nafs (ego) and amongst the Ahlu’l Bid’ah.
They are so forceful with their opinion that they denigrate the four Imams and in particular Imam Abu Hanifah. This is the school to which Shaykh Abdul Haq Banarasi bin Fazlullah and Shaykh Abdullah Siddiqi Ilahabadi and others belong.
These people have written books propagating their ideas.
Shaykh Moinuddin Sindhi wrote “Dirasatul Labeeb” and Shaykh Fakhir Ilahabadi wrote “Qurratul ‘Ain”.
Shah Isma’il Dihlawi wrote “Tanweerul ‘Ainayn” and Miyan Sayyid Nazeer Husain wrote “Mi’yarul Haq.”Other books include Shaykh Abdullah Ilahabadi’s “I’tisamu’s Sunnah” and Nawab Siddiq Hasan Bhopali’s “Al-Jannah fi’l Uswati’l Hasanah Bi’s Sunnah.”
The Hanafi Ulema are also of two categories.
The first advocates taqleed based on research and evaluation. For example, Mulla Bahrul Uloom Abdul Ali bin Mulla Nizamuddin, the author of “Arkan-e-Arba’a” and Mawlānā Abdul Hayy Farangi Mahalli bin Abdul Haleem, the author of “Al-Ta’leeq al-Mumajjad.”
The other group of Hanafis are those that stick staunchly to taqleed and do not tolerate anything against it. For example, Mawlānā Shaykh Fazl-e-Rasool Amawi Badayuni and his followers. 
(2) Mawlānā Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi and Mawlānā Qasim Nanotwi
(founder of Darul Uloom Deoband)
are amongst the top students of
Shah Abdul Ghani Mujaddidi.
In Purab, Mawlānā Shah Isma’il’s student are Mawlānā Sakhawat Ali Jaunpuri and others. This group is characterised by its claim of refutating Bid’ah and ‘pure’ Tawhid alongside its adherence to the Hanafi madhab.
Another student of Mawlānā Shah Ishaq is Mawlānā Nazeer Husain Bihari Dihlawi.
His group is characterised not only by its claim of ‘Pure Tawhid’ and refutation of Bid’ah; but also its distancing from Hanafi fiqh. Instead, they call for derivation of rulings directly from books of hadith whatever one can and then act upon it. This group came to be known as
“Ahl e Hadith”.
The third group was that which stuck staunchly upon its old traditions and continued to call itself the
The leaders of this group were mostly the Ulama of Bareilly and Badayun.
According to Hakeem Abdul Hay Rae Barelwi and Sulaiman Nadwi, the group that stuck staunchly to taqleed, remained upon its old traditions and called itself:
constituted of Ulema who were from Bareilly and Badayun. Even today, they will not accept anything apart from taqleed and remaining upon old ways.
Abdur Rahman Parwaz Islahi and Prof. Muhammad Ayyub Qadri
portray this sectarian split in their own words.
(1) The students of Hazrat Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dihlawi were made up one group that remained upon his creed and did not tolerate anything against the issues of Shari’ah. However, the other group pressed for the abandonment of taqleed and called for Ijtihad. Hence, slowly but surely, disagreement appeared on certain issues between the two groups.
(2) Awadh produced some brilliant thinkers. In the latter days, Mawlānā Fazle Haq Khairabadi was the most exceptional of them all. Apart from his father, Mawlānā Fazle Imam, he also benefited from the Waliyullah family.
However, he sternly disagreed with many of the beliefs of Shah Isma’il and Shah Is’haq and remained steadfast upon his traditions.
Mawlānā Mahboob Ali Dihlawi (student of Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dihlawi) belonged to the same creed. Mawlānā Fazle Haq and Mawlānā Mahboob Ali refuted the ideas of Shah Isma’il strongly. The Ulema of Bareilly and Badayun helped them in this cause.
The opinions of Muhammad Ja’far Thanesari and Mawlānā Thanaullah Amratsari are much closer to the truth and are helpful in arriving at correct conclusions:
(1) During my time in India (1280 AH, 1864 CE) I believe, there were not even ten individuals in the whole of Punjab that followed the Wahabi creed. And now (1302 AH, 1884 CE) I see that there is no town or city in which at least one in four people are Wahabi who follow the creed of Muhammad Isma’il.
(2) In Amritsar, the Muslim and non-Muslim populations are equal. Eighty years ago, nearly all Muslims followed that creed which is today called “Hanafi Barelwi”.
Mawlānā Thanaullah Amratsari, editor of the periodical Majallah Ahle Hadith, said this in 1973. According to him, 165 years ago, the Muslim population of Amritsar, Punjab, followed the same creed as those that are known today as “Hanafi Barelwi” and according to Muhammad Ja’far Thanesri, 200 years ago, there was no sign of any Wahabi or follower of Shah Isma’il Dihlawi in the whole of [undivided] Punjab!
After Siraj-ul-Hind Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dihlawi
(d. 1239 AH, 1823 CE),
various people strayed from the Sunni Hanafi creed and adopted non-Madhabism which divided the Muslims of India.
Shah Isma’il Dihlawi’s “Taqwiyatul Iman” epitomised their views and was supposed to strengthen belief in Tawhid. About this book, Mawlānā Ashraf Ali Thanwi writes what Shah Isma’il Dihlawi himself thought of his book:
“I have written this book and I know that there are harsh words in some places and extremist views in certain other places. For example, some actions which are hidden polytheism [Shirk-e-Khafi], I have labelled it as manifest polytheism [Shirk-e-Jali.] I fear that there will be an outrage for these reasons. If I were here, I would have published its contents over an eight or ten year period. However, at this moment, my plan is to go to Hajj and thereafter, go on Jihad. Therefore, it is not possible to spread publication over eight or ten years. I also see that no one else will do this job so I published the book all at once eventhough there will be outrage due to it, though I feel that it will subside over time.”
Harsh language could be a writer’s habit but how did the author of Taqwiyatul Iman gain the authority to label Shirk-e-Khafi as Shirk-e-Jali?
His expectation of causing an outrage was certainly fulfilled but the division of Muslims has not healed unto this day.
 Mufti Sadruddin Azurdah, page 138. Maktaba Jamah Ltd – Abdur Rahman Parwaz Islahi
 Urdu Roznama – Urdu mein madhabi adab, page 55 – December 1975
 Tawarikh-e-‘Ajeeba, page 81. Sang Mail Publications, Lahore – Muhammad Ja’far Thanesri
 Sham’a Tawhid, page 4. Maktaba Thana’ia, Sargodha, Punjab – Thanaullah Amratsari
 Hikayat-e-Awliya (Arwah-e-Thalatha), page 98. Kutub khana Na’imia, Deoband – Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi