Editorial: Disassociate from Deoband at your own peril

By The Editor

Recently it has become uncomfortable and disconcerting for myself while taking a hiatus away from the doldrums of online Deobandiyyat. However, with the arrival of one of the greatest Deobandi scholars in the world – if not the greatest – to the shores of South Africa, ‘Allamah Khalid Mahmood (hafizahullah), there has been a need to pen a few words on the feelings and thoughts being experienced in light of recent developments that have come to light.

There has been disuccsions in some quarters of our local scholarship who traditionally have been known to associate themselves with Deobandiyyat – due to the virtue of being graduates of Deobandi Dar al-‘Ulums both locally and from the subcontinent – to advocate towards a disassociation from Hanafiyyat generally and Deobandiyyat specifically. To understand further it should be borne in mind that the concept of Deobandiyyat in simple terms is the understanding of all aspects of the Shari’ah as per the the scholars of Deoband starting with Mawlana Qasim Nanautwi and Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (rahimahullah). The maslak, manhaj and mizaj of these scholars and their long line of students spanning a century and a quarter is what defines DeobandiyyatDeobandiyyat is by no means a homogeneous school of thought, it is in reality an understanding of the Shari’ah according to the 13 centuries of scholarship of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama’ah, in particular adhering to the Hanafi school of thought in fiqh, the Ashari and Maturidi schools of thought in ‘aqidah as well as accepting in suluk the Chisti, Naqshbandi, Suharwadi and Qadiri schools.

Now these calls from within the so-called traditional Deobandi scholarship – albeit from a fringe group – has been linked as a response to the growing influence of the Western brand of Salafiyyat which is epitomised by the likes of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, Ustadh Nu’man Ali Khan and othersThis in reality is not merely a disassociation from Deobandiyyat but also in essence a change to a path that is more in line with the brand of Salafiyyat that is in vogue and that will enamour the masses. Glittery conferences, university-styled courses and of course encouraging females to join are among the hallmarks of this revised and modernised brand of dispensing Islamic knowledge.

This brings me to the subject of the arrival of ‘Allamah Khalid Mahmood (hafizahullah) to South Africa during November 2016.

To understand the backdrop to this would be to firstly highlight the stature of ‘Allamah Khalid to fully appreciate that his visit to South Africa should not be seen as an ordinary visit by an ordinary scholar. He is over 90 years old, having spent his life in studying; promoting; teaching; writing; and lecturing on the various Islamic sciences. He is not only an erudite orator but also a prolific author.  He is also among the leading scholars who has grasp and has dealt first-hand with the various fitnahs that Muslims the world over have experienced in recent times which includes Shi’ism, Qadiyanism and Barelwism. ‘Allamah Khalid has lived in the United Kingdom for over four decades. He is by all means a “Western” scholar living in a Western country having a first hand experience of the status quo. However, ‘Allamah Khalid remains a vociferous promoter of remaining on Hanafiyyat and Deobandiyyat and following in the path of the scholars of Deoband.

A peculiar observation that I personally made at one of the talks of ‘Allamah Khalid that was organised specifically for scholars was the absence of many of the younger generation scholars in general and the absence of scholars affiliated to the school of thought that has been advocating a move away from Hanafiyyat and Deobandiyyat. This was indeed strange but not surprising. Whereas our local scholars are quick to embrace visiting scholars such as Ustadh Nu’man Ali Khan why would they shy away from attending the discourses of the likes of ‘Allamah Khalid? It is not also only embracing the likes of Ustadh Khan but also the – to put it plainly – outright adoration and cult-like following that is displayed.

The likes of ‘Allamah Khalid and others who vehemently guard Deobandiyyat in this age is certainly a thorn in the side of those who wish to disassociate and move away from Deobandiyyat. Alas, what other explanation can there be for the lack of their presence in his talks, the lack of fanciful posters promoting his talks adorning Masjid notice boards and even the lack of his biography being discussed on their radio stations?

Let it clearly be known that those who wish to disassociate themselves and disassociate our scholarship from the scholarship of Deoband are the ones who have failed to acknowledge the presence of a giant in the form of ‘Allamah Khalid whilst fully being aware of his status in terms of knowledge. In reality, they ought to have thrown themselves at his feet to learn knowledge and wisdom like small children being thought by their ustadh in a maktab. Instead, using the positions with which they are entrusted – positions of leadership – they privately hatch their plots and advocate a disassociation from Deobandiyyat. This can only be regarded as their embracing of a brand of scholarship that is concerned more about gaining popularity, a scholarship of Instagram videos and mixed gender conferences. This declaration is evident by their snubbing of the visit of ‘Allamah Khalid to the shores of South Africa.

We remind our scholars that disassociating from Hanafiyyat and Deobandiyyat is like disowning your own mother. Adopting the ways and mannerisms of celebrity scholars is definitely not the path that should be followed. Our scholars, the true scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama’ah never hankered after the world and its trimmings, their mission was not to become celebrity scholars. For our scholars the example of becoming ideal scholars is in the life of the scholars of Deoband. It should be mandatory that in the curriculum of Dar al-‘Ulums a course be included that solely deals with learning from the lives of the scholars of Deoband so that the definition of Deobandiyyat is imprinted on the minds of all future scholars. Further, it is also imperative that those scholars that regard themselves to be associated with Deobandiyyat to regularly read from the lives of the scholars of Deoband. With this the need to disassociate from Deobandiyyat will become clear in the minds of anyone who has such feelings as being totally uncalled for and not required.

*The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of ahlaldbidah.wordpress.com or hayataluluma.wordpress.com.


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