Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi: In the Path of the Prophet (Makers by Usha Sanyal

By Usha Sanyal

Introduces the mythical chief of the good 20th-century Sunni movement.

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Extra info for Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi: In the Path of the Prophet (Makers of the Muslim World)

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The judgments of the ‘ulama were not enforceable in court. For instance, without a qadi it now became impossible to have marriages annulled. As a result, women began to declare themselves apostates from Islam, since apostasy automatically terminated a marriage. In the 1930s, Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi (d. 1943), a famous Deobandi scholar (‘alim), tried to solve this problem by arguing that apostasy had no effect on the marriage contract, while at the same time proposing both that the conditions under which marriages could be dissolved should be made less stringent and that in the absence of a qadi, ‘ulama or other “righteous Muslims” acting together could dissolve a marriage in his stead.

The British suspected them of sedition until 1871, when they concluded the so-called Wahhabi trials conducted against the jihadists who had continued to fight the British in Afghanistan and along the northwestern border, following Sayyid Ahmad Barelwi’s lead. Thereafter relations between them improved. In terms of their theological positions on the Sunni law schools and sufism, the Ahl-e Hadith was perhaps the furthest from the Ahl-e Sunnat of all the movements considered here. The Nadwat al-‘Ulama The Nadwat al-‘Ulama (“Council of ‘Ulama,” known as Nadwa, for short) was founded in the 1890s in the hope of bringing Sunni and Shi‘i ‘ulama together on a single platform, despite their differences of opinion.

The leader of this movement was Haji Shari‘at Ullah (d. 1840), who returned to Bengal in 1821 after living in the Hijaz in western Arabia for many years. 044 10/12/2004 5:11 PM Page 34 34 AHMAD RIZA KHAN BARELWI among Bengali weavers and peasants, he preached renewed commitment to the duties of Islam (daily prayer, the Ramadan fast, and the pilgrimage, among other things). Shari‘at Ullah also believed that sufism should be limited to the few, for its esoteric teachings were likely to be misunderstood by ordinary believers.

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