Men, generation after generation, have been treading on the sands of time, whilst most of them have been wandering in bewilderment and merely straying in the Darkness; have lost their Way, are confused to do anything and void any guidance to cross the deviation and come to the Light. This frustration and obstruction disappeared when they heard an echo of a Call in the universe: "Show us the Straight path, the path of those Thou hast Favored" [Al-Quran: al-Fateha 1 - The Opening, Ayats 5 and 6]. Oh what a call is this! It is from Allah the Magnificent Who revealed it upon His last Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) for the guidance of the entire humanity. O Men, say: "Lead us to the Straight Way, the Way of those dear ones on whom Ye conferred on prize!"
There can be no greater prize but Allah the Beneficent, may our hearts be illuminated with His radiant love and of His dear Beloved Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). Now whose hearts are illuminated with Love, their way is the only Straight Way, and there is no other way. The way is which leads to the Destination but indistinct and untraceable without the belief [Iman]; and the Belief is inaccessible without the sincere, glowing Love of Almighty Allah and His Universal Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Oh seekers of the Path of Light, choose people who have lively hearts as your Guide. Select the LOVERS of Prophet Mustapha (Allah bless him and give him peace) as your Guide. The Sacred Quran describes the 'lovers' footsteps as the Straight Way. The glorious Quran shows their footsteps as the Destination. Greet the voice of the Sacred Quran. Come forward and apprehend the laps of those [good friends] who have taken refuge under the blessed lap of Muhammad Mustapha (Allah bless him and give him peace).
In 1906, Imam Ahmad Raza Khan Qadiri (may Allah be well pleased with him) addressed some ulema in Mecca in his fatwa Husam al-Haramain ala Manhar al-Kufr wal Main [The Sword of the Haramain at the Throat of Kufr and Falsehood], as follows:
Tell me clearly, whether you think these leaders of heresy as I have portrayed them… and if so, whether the judgment [of kufr] that I have passed onto them is inappropriate….some ignorant people, in whose hearts faith has not lodged itself, claim that because they are ‘ulema’ and maulawis the sharia calls upon us to respect them – even though they are Wahabis, and even though they insult Almighty Allah and the Prophet. [Ahmad Raza Khan, Husam al-Haramain ala Manhar al-Kufr wal Main – Lahore: Maktaba Nabawiyya, 1985, p.10, originally written in 1323/1905-6]
The ‘leaders of heresy’ referred to in the above paragraph were well-known ulama in 20th century British India: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadiyan, the first on Imam Ahmad Raza’s list of kafirs , was the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement. The others – Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi, Ashraf Ali Thanawi, and Khalil Ahmad Ambethwi – were leading figures at the Darul Ulum at Deoband or in affiliated institutions. In this fatwa [legal opinion given by a mufti] originally written in 1902, all but Mirza Ghulam Ahmad were described as ‘Wahhabis’, a word frequently encountered in the then current literature of the Ahl-e Sunnat in reference to ulema with Deoband or Ahle-e Hadis affiliations.
The judgment of Kufr passed in Husam al-Haramain in 1906 was a highly public one, delivered in Mecca while Imam Ahmad Raza was on his second hajj. Despite the Imam’s insistent opposition to numerous groups of Muslims, among them the Twelver Shi’is and the organization of ulema known as the Nadwat al-Ulema. The Imam had written in general terms of various groups of Muslims being either bad-mazhab [those whose beliefs were ‘wrong’] or gumrah [‘lost’, on the wrong path], or murtadd [apostates from Islam], based on whether or not they had, as Imam Ahmad Raza interpreted it, denied any of the ‘fundamentals’ of belief [zuriyat-e din]. Though he had used the term kafir in this context, it had not being personally directed. There were no specific takfir [declaration of someone as kafir] involved.
It was thus of some consequence that Imam Ahmad Raza should have accused the ulema named in Husam al-Haramain of kufr, and have presented his fatawa to ulema in Mecca and Medina for their seals and signatures [tasdiqat], whereby they signaled approval of his opinion. He himself regarded the takfir [declaring someone an infidel or unbeliever (kafir)] of another Muslim with great seriousness. Experts in the law [fuqaha], he wrote, had enjoined restraint in making a charge of kafir as long as any possibility existed that a statement that seemed on the face of it to involve kufr may not have been intended that way, that another, perfectly ‘Islamic’ [as opposed to kufr-laden] interpretation of the statement may have been meant.
Nevertheless, and on the face of it in contradiction of the above principle [in fact not so, seen in Ahl-e Sunnat terms], Imam Ahmad Raza wrote that when confronted with one who ‘ascribes lies to Almighty Allah or decreases the glory of the leader of the prophets’, such search for intended meaning was unnecessary, for this was a clear-cut case of kufr.
Failure to acknowledge such a person as kafir, or doubt of such a person’s kufr, resulted in the denier or doubter of kufr becoming kafir as well. Because offences of this nature [denigrating Allah or the Prophet Muhammad] were against the ‘fundamentals’ of religion, even if a person’s faith [aqida] was within the bounds of Islam in every other aspect, in Imam Ahmad Raza’s view the person was a kafir. As he put it rather graphically, "If you put one drop of urine in nine hundred and ninety-nine drops of rose water, it will all become urine. But these ignorant people say that if you put one drop of rose water in nine hundred and ninety-nine drops of urine, it will all become pure. Seen in this light, everything hinged on whether or not a statement constituted denial of a ‘fundament’ of belief.
Detailed analysis of Husam al-Haramain provides a useful entrée into the nature of the Ahl-e Sunnat differences with Deoband and to approach related issues such the Ahl-e Sunnat use of the term ‘Wahhabi’, and most important Ahl-e Sunnat prophetology. It was the beloved Prophet who really held the key to the Ahl-e Sunnat perspective on what it was to be a ‘good’ Muslim.