Defenders of [Traditional] Sufism

Elizabeth Sirriyeh who teaches in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies [University of Leeds] in her book, ‘Sufis and Anti-Sufis: The Defence, Rethinking and Rejection of Sufism in the Modern World’ has in one page discussed Imam Ahmad Raza Khan Qadiri (may Allah be pleased with him) and his ‘followers’. Despite its continuing appeal in the Muslim world, opposition is not essentially a modern phenomenon, Sufism has faced fierce challenges in the last 250 years.

The most vociferous [vocal, enthusiastic, determined] defense against the Sufi status quo came from Imam Ahmad Raza Khan (may Allah be pleased with him). The followers of his did not use the term ‘Barelwi’ for self-identification, rather, they regarded themselves as following the authentic Sunni creed [aqida] in opposition to all deviations by Deobandis and other ‘reformist’ movements, whom they saw as constituting as much of a threat to Islam in India as the British rulers. Consequently, they became the fervent champions and defenders of Traditional Sufi customs such as; respecting and honoring the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace); celebrating the ceremonies of the beloved Prophets birthday (Mawlud); celebration of the death days (urs) of Sufi Saints, especially that of the saintly founder of the Qadiriyya, Shaikh Sayyiduna Abdul Qadir Jilani (may Allah be well pleased with him); pilgrimage to saints tombs to seek their intercession for sin or their aid to cure disease or infertility or relieve debt; the widespread use of amulets (tawiz) and of divination by examining animal entrails.

Among the beliefs strenuously and passionately defended by the Ahl-e Sunnat wa Jamaat were those connected with the exaltation of the beloved Prophet Muhammad [blessings and peace of Allah (High is He) be upon him]:

The Sufi doctrine of the Light of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), held to be derived from the Divine Light at the very beginning of creation, such that the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was considered to be a light without shadow, human but not exactly as other human beings; the claim that the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) had ‘full’ mystical knowledge of the unseen world (ilm al-ghayb); and the conviction that he had full powers to intercede with Almighty Allah for those who called on him.

Imam Ahmad Raza Khan (may Alla be pleased with him) and his followers spent much time and effort in countering criticisms of all of the above, issuing numerous fatwas in which, like their Deobandi opponents, they drew on traditional Hanafi jurisprudence to reach very different conclusions. They also shared with the Deobandis a very deep concern to build a Muslim community in India, spiritually strengthened and able to resist the British, however the ‘Barelwis’ methods were different and more in line with medieval Sufi Tradition.The Imam and his followers appeal was very strong among the rural and uneducated, but was not without an ability to attract an educated Sufi elite. The founder himself was noted for his exceptional scholarship as well as his spiritual advancement. [Curzon Sufi Series, first published in 1999]

I beseech you for the honor of the falling blood-drops from that sacred body [the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)] who preached in the streets of Taif [Saudi Arabia]; for the sake of the pieces of the beautiful body of Jafer Tayyar (may Allah be pleased with him); for the sake of the bodies, feeble with hunger at the Valley of Mecca. I beseech you for the sake of wriggling bodies of martyrs and the palpitating sighs of the crying, oppressed people of the World of Islam. Create discipline and solidarity among your ranks. Promote unity and integrity. Follow the Ways which were treaded over by your ancestors. Settle your differences with one another and be friend to all and sundry. Be patient, if your own kith and kin injure your feelings. Be persevere even if they coerce you. This is the commandment from Imam Ahmad Raza's legacy. Don't play an evil-wisher to him, and even give give your life for his good name and noble works of Islam.

Oh he servants of the great Master, wrapped in the black raiment! How long will you sleep? Wake up and awake others. You are the rain drops of the blessings spread all over the Earth. Drop like the rain all over the world. Look at all around you. See the heads of states of the world. Study the qualities of the dignitaries ruling over the the Peoples of the World. You are the blessed servants of  Muhammad Mustapha (Allah bless him and give him peace). You have the credit to be the Master of all the world, as Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) has been sent for all the Peoples and for all times to come. You have been brought up for unifying the world in one order of Peace and Prosperity. [The Savior - Alahazrat Imam Ahmad Raza Khan Qadiri]

The Poet says,

"Open your lips, you are the most enchanted tune of the harp (of the world)."