Deobandi (Pashto and Persian: دیو بندی, Urdu: دیو بندی, Bengali: দেওবন্দী, Hindi: देवबन्दी) is a revivalist movement within Sunni (primarily Hanafi) Islam. It is centered in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, has recently spread to the United Kingdom, and has a presence in South Africa. The name derives from Deoband, India, where the school Darul Uloom Deoband is situated. The movement was inspired by scholar Shah Waliullah Dehlawi (1703–1762), and was founded in 1867 in the wake of the failed Sepoy Rebellion in northern India a decade earlier.
The Deobandi movement developed as a reaction to the British colonialism which was seen by a group of Indian scholars — consisting of Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, Muhammad Yaqub Nanautawi, Shah Rafi al-Din, Sayyid Muhammad Abid, Zulfiqar Ali, Fadhl al-Rahman Usmani and Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi — to be corrupting Islam. The group founded an Islamic seminary known as Darul Uloom Deoband, where the Islamic revivalist and anti-imperialist ideology of the Deobandis began to develop. In time, the Darul Uloom Deoband became the second largest focal point of Islamic teaching and research after the Al-Azhar University, Cairo. Through the organisations such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Tablighi Jamaat, the Deobandi ideology began to spread.
Graduates of Deoband from countries such as Saudi Arabia, South Africa, China and Malaysia opened thousands of madaaris throughout the world.:33
Towards the time of Indian independence, the Deobandis advocated a notion of composite nationalism by which Hindus and Muslims were seen as one nation who were asked to be united in the struggle against the British. In 1919, a large group of Deobandi scholars formed the political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and opposed the Pakistan Movement. A minority group joined Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League, forming the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in 1945.
The Deobandi Movement in India is controlled by the Darul Uloom Deoband and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. About 20% of the Indian Muslims identify as Deobandi. Even though a minority, the Deobandis form the dominant group among Indian Muslims due to their access to state resources and representation in Muslim bodies. The Deobandis are referred to as 'Wahhabis' by their opponents — the Barelvis and the Shias. In reality, they are not Wahhabis, even though they share many of their beliefs. The true Wahhabis among Indian Muslims are said to be fewer than 5 percent.
An estimated 15–20 percent of Pakistan's Sunni Muslims consider themselves Deobandi. According to Heritage Online, nearly 65% of the total seminaries (Madrasah) in Pakistan are run by Deobandis, whereas 25% are run by Barelvis, 6% by Ahl-i Hadith and 3% by various Shia organizations. The Deobandi movement in Pakistan was a major recipient of funding from Saudi Arabia from the early 1980s up until the early 2000s, whereafter this funding was diverted to the rival Ahl al-Hadith movement. Having seen Deoband as a counterbalance to Iranian influence in the region, Saudi funding is now strictly reserved for the Ahl al-Hadith.
According to a 2007 investigation by The Times, about 600 of Britain's nearly 1,500 mosques were under the control of "a hardline sect", whose leading preacher loathed Western values, called on Muslims to “shed blood” for Allah and preached contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus. The same investigative report further said that 17 of the country's 26 Islamic seminaries follow the ultra-conservative Deobandi teachings which had given birth to the Taliban. According to The Times almost 80% of all domestically trained Ulema were being trained in these hardline seminaries.
In 2014 it was reported that 45 per cent of Britain’s mosques and nearly all the UK-based training of Islamic scholars are controlled by the Deobandi, the largest single Islamic group.
The Deobandi movement sees itself as a scholastic tradition, situated within orthodox Sunni Islam. It grew out of the Islamic scholastic tradition of Medieval Transoxania and Mughal India, and it considers its visionary forefather to be Shah Waliullah Dehlawi (1703-1762), the celebrated Indian Islamic scholar and thinker of the eighteenth century.
Deobandis are strong proponents of the doctrine of Taqlid. In other words, they believe that a Muslim must adhere to one of the four schools (madhhabs) of Sunni Islamic Law and generally discourage inter-school eclecticism. They themselves are predominantly followers of the Hanafi school. Students at madrasas affiliated with the Deobandi movement study the classic books of Hanafi Law such as Nur al-Idah, Mukhtasar al-Quduri, Sharh al-Wiqayah, and Kanz al-Daqa’iq, culminating their study of the madhhab with the Hidayah of al-Marghinani.
With regard to views on Taqlid, one of their main opposing reformist groups are the Ahl-i Hadis, also known as the Ghair Muqallid, the nonconformists, because they eschewed taqlid in favor of the direct use of Quran and Hadith. They often accuse those who adhere to the rulings of one scholar or legal school of blind imitation, and frequently demand scriptural evidence for every argument and legal ruling. Almost since the very beginnings of the movement, Deobandi scholars have generated a copious amount of scholarly output in an attempt to defend their adherence to a madhhab in general. In particular, Deobandis have penned much literature in defense of their argument that the Hanafi madhhab is in complete accordance with the Quran and Hadith.
In response to this need to defend their madhhab in the light of scripture, Deobandis became particularly distinguished for their unprecedented salience to the study of Hadith in their madrasas. Their madrasa curriculum incorporates a feature unique among the global arena of Islamic scholarship, the Daura-e Hadis, the capstone year of a student's advanced madrasa training, in which all six canonical collections of the Sunni Hadith (the Sihah Sittah) are reviewed. In a Deobandi madrasa, the position of Shaykh al-Hadith, or the resident professor of Sahih Bukhari, is held in much reverence.
Deoband's curriculum combined the study of Islamic scriptures (Qur'an, Hadith and Law) with rational subjects (logic, philosophy and science). At the same time it was Sufi in orientation and affiliated with the Chisti order. Its Sufism however, was closely integrated with Hadith scholarship and the proper legal practice of Islam.
According to Qari Muhammad Tayyib — the 8th rector or Mohtamim of the Darul Uloom Deoband who died in 1983 — "the Ulema of Deoband ... in conduct ... are Sufis, ... in Sulook they are Chisti [a sufi order] .... They are initiates of the Chistiyyah, Naqshbandiya, Qadriyah and Suhrawardiyya Sufi orders.”
Not all agree that Deobandis are Sufi. They are considered by many to be anti-Sufis Whatever the case, the Darul Uloom Deoband's conservativism and fundamentalist theology has latterly led to a de facto fusion of its teachings with wahabism in Pakistan, which "has all but shattered the mystical Sufi presence" there.:34 Recently Maulana Arshad Madani, an influential leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind rejected Sufism and said, "Sufism is no sect of Islam. It is not found in the Quran or Hadith. .... So what is Sufism in itself? Sufism is nothing."
Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is one of the leading Islamic organizations in India. It was founded in British India in 1919 by Abdul Mohasim Sajjad, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Ahmed Saeed Dehlvi, and Mufti Muhammad Naeem Ludhianvi and the most importantly Mufti Kifayatullah who was elected the first president of Jamiat and remained in this post for 20 years. The Jamiat has propounded a theological basis for its nationalistic philosophy. Their thesis is that Muslims and non-Muslims have entered upon a mutual contract in India since independence, to establish a secular state. The Constitution of India represents this contract.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) is a Deobandi organization, part of the Deobandi movement. The JUI formed when members broke from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind in 1945 after that organization backed the Indian National Congress against the Muslim League's lobby for a separate Pakistan. The first president of the JUI was Shabbir Ahmad Usmani.
Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam (Urdu: مجلس احرارلأسلام), also known in short as Ahrar, was a conservative Deobandi political party in the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj (prior to the independence of Pakistan) founded December 29, 1929 at Lahore. Chaudhry Afzal Haq, Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari, Habib-ur-Rehman Ludhianvi, Mazhar Ali Azhar, Zafar Ali Khan and Dawood Ghaznavi were the founder's of the party. The Ahrar was composed of Indian Muslims disillusioned by the Khilafat Movement, which cleaved closer to the Congress Party. The party was associated with opposition to Muhammad Ali Jinnah and establishment of an independent Pakistan as well as persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, Majlis-e-Ahrar divided in two parts. Now, Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam is working for the sake of Muhammad, nifaaz Hakomat-e-illahiyya and Khidmat-e-Khalq. In Pakistan, Ahrar secretariat is in Lahore and in India it is based in Ludhiana.
Tablighi Jamaat, a non political Muslim missionary organisation, began as an offshoot of the Deobandi movement. Its inception is believed to be a response to Hindu reform movements, which were considered a threat to vulnerable and non-practicing Muslims. It gradually expanded from a local to a national organisation, and finally to a transnational movement with followers in over 150 countries. Although its beginnings were from the Deobandi movement, no particular interpretation of Islam has been endorsed since the beginning of the movement.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) (English: Army ofJhangvi) is a militant organization. Formed in 1996, it has operated in Pakistan since Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP). Riaz Basra broke away from the SSP over differences with his seniors. The group is considered a terrorist group by Pakistan and the United States, and continues to be involved in attacks on Shi'a civilians and protectors of them. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is predominantly Punjabi. The group has been labelled by intelligence officials in Pakistan as a major security threat.
The Taliban ("students"), alternative spelling Taleban, is an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan. It spread into Afghanistan and formed a government, ruling as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from September 1996 until December 2001, with Kandahar as the capital. While in power, it enforced its strict interpretation of Sharia law. While many leading Muslims and Islamic scholars have been highly critical of the Taliban's interpretations of Islamic law, the Darul Uloom Deoband has consistently supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, including their 2001 destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan,:34 and the majority of the Taliban's leaders were influenced by Deobandi fundamentalism. Pashtunwali, the Pashtun tribal code, also played a significant role in the Taliban's legislation. The Taliban were condemned internationally for their brutal treatment of women.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (the TTP), alternatively referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, is an umbrella organization of various Islamist militant groups based in the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border in Pakistan. In December 2007 about 13 groups united under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud to form the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Among the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan's stated objectives are resistance against the Pakistani state, enforcement of their interpretation of sharia and a plan to unite against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
The TTP is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban movement led by Mullah Omar, with both groups differing greatly in their histories, strategic goals and interests although they both share a primarily Deobandi interpretation of Islam and are predominantly Pashtun.
Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) is a banned Pakistani militant organization, and a formerly registered Pakistani political party. Established in the early 1980s in Jhang by the militant leader Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, its stated goal is primarily to deter major Shiite influence in Pakistan in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. The organization was banned by President Pervez Musharraf in 2002 as being a terrorist group under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. In October 2000 Masood Azhar, another militant leader, and founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), was quoted as saying that "Sipah-e-Sahaba stands shoulder to shoulder with Jaish-e-Muhammad in Jehad." A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable described JeM as "another SSP breakaway Deobandi organization."
The following books and subjects are studied ... Fiqh: Hidayah, Quduri, Nur al-Idah, Sharh-i Waqayah, Kanz al-Daqa'iq
Polemicists from among the Ahl-i Hadith were especially being targeted in Thanawi's explanation, since they accused those who adhered to the rulings of one scholar or legal school of "blind imitation." It was the practice of the Ahl-i Hadith to demand and provide proofs for every argument and legal ruling.
The Deobandi sensitivity to the Ahl-i Hadith challenge is indicated by the polemics they engaged in with the Ahl-i Hadith and by the large commentaries on classical works of hadith written specifically to refute them
...gave a new and, in the Indian context, unprecedented salience to the study of hadith in their madrasas. Hadith had, of course, been studied in precolonial Indian madrasas, but the Deobandis instituted the practice of studying (or, more exactly, “reviewing”) all six of the Sunni canonical collections of hadith in the course of a single year; this practice has come to serve in Indian and Pakistani madrasas as the capstone of a student’s advanced madrasa
A predominantly Punjabi group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is linked with the 2002 murder of US reporter Daniel Pearl and other militant attacks, particularly in the southern city of Karachi.
As soon as it took power though, the Taliban imposed its strict interpretation of Islamic law on the country
The Taliban's mindset is, however, equally if not more deaned by Pashtunwali
In the UK the Dār al-‘Ulūm al-‘Arabiyyah al-Islāmiyyah (Bury madrasa) and Jāmi’at ta’līm al-Islām (Dewsbury madrasa) are considered the ‘Oxbridge’ of the traditional madrasa world....The need for leadership and imams increased alongside the increasing number of Mosques and in 1975 the first madrasa was established in a village called Holcombe situated near Bury – known as Dār al-‘Ulūm Bury or Bury Madrasa.
In the UK the Dār al-‘Ulūm al-‘Arabiyyah al-Islāmiyyah (Bury madrasa) and Jāmi’at ta’līm al-Islām (Dewsbury madrasa) are considered the ‘Oxbridge’ of the traditional madrasa world...The second madrasa to be established was that of the Tablīghī Jamā’at called ‘Jāmi’at Ta’līm al-Islām (Dewsbury Madrasa) in Dewsbury in 1981
opportunities for studies were created locally when in 1971 the first Darul-Ulum was established in Newcastle, Kwazulu Natal. This Darul-Ulum was based on the Darsi-Nizami course from Deoband, India.
The Islamic schools in Lenasia and Azaadville in South Africa represent prominent examples of schools that provide religious education in a format which is firmly rooted in traditions and interpretations of Islam originating outside South Africa. Established by the Muslim minority community of the country, the schools follow the Deobandi interpretation of Islam from South Asia...Mawlana Ishaq following Hamid (sic) Akhtar from Karachi (see below) adheres to the Chishtiyya Sabiriyya Imdadiyya Ashrafiyya lineage, that puts special emphasis on the legacy of Muhammad Ashraf Ali Thanwi (1863-1943).
Less indigenous to South Africa and more in keeping with the Deobandi spirit is the Azaadville seminary, near Johannesburg, which teaches all subjects in Urdu.
It became clear through field research by the author that Deobandi schools in several countries increasingly rely on graduates from Azaadville and Lenasia. The two schools and their graduates are functioning as network multiplicators between Deobandi schools worldwide.
For the Tablighi Jama’at, the two schools are important switchboards for their preaching activities in South Africa, in Africa proper and around the world.
Especially for teaching the Deobandi curriculum of the degree course to become a religious scholar (‘Alim) in the English-speaking world, books from Azaadville have become increasingly useful.
The Islamic schools in Lenasia and Azaadville in South Africa represent prominent examples of schools that provide religious education in a format which is firmly rooted in traditions and interpretations of Islam originating outside South Africa. Established by the Muslim minority community of the country, the schools follow the Deobandi interpretation of Islam from South Asia.
He began teaching the basic subjects and was regularly promoted until he became the head-teacher and the Shaykh al-Hadith. He served the Darul Uloom until 1914 (1333)...The Shaykh was very active politically as well. A movement known as Reshmi Roomal was formed in India to remove the British. He played a major role in advancing this movement.
وكان أكبرُ كبارِها وشيخُ شيوخِها الشيخَ محمود حَسَن الدِّيْوْبَنْدي الملقَّبَ بشيخ العالَم، والمعروفَ بشيخ الهند، وكان في الحديث الشريفِ مُسنِدَ الوقتِ ورُحلةَ الأقطار الهندية. (Trans. And the greatest of its [Dar al-Ulum Deoband's] great ones, and the shaykh of its shaykhs was Shaykh Mahmud Hasan al-Deobandi, who is entitled (al-mulaqqab) Shaykh al-'Aalam, and popularly known (al-ma'ruf bi) as Shaykh al-Hind. In regards to the noble Hadith, he was the authority of his time (musnid al-waqt), whom students traveled from all parts of India [to study with].
After Shaykh al-Hind's demise, he was unanimously acknowledged as his successor. ..He was the President of the Jamiat Al-Ulama-Hind for about twenty years...He taught Sahih Al-Bukhari for about thirty years. During his deanship, the strength of the students academically impred...About 4483 students graduated and obtained a continuous chain of transmission (sanad) in Hadith during his period.
The Bihishti Zewar was written by Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi (1864-1943), a leader of the Deobandi reform movement that crystallized in north India in the late nineteenth century...Maulana Thanawi was an extraordinary successful exponent of reform.
This great Hafiz of Hadith, excellent Hanafi jurist, legist, historian, linguist, poet, researcher and critic, Muhammad Anwar Shah Kashmiri...He went to the biggest Islamic University inIndia, the Darul Uloom al-Islamiyah in Deoband...He contributed greatly to the Hanafi Madhab...He wrote many books, approximately 40...Many renowned and erudite scholars praised him and acknowledged his brilliance...Many accomplished scholars benefited from his vast knowledge.
In recent years, the Islamic missionary movement of the Tablighi Jama'at has attracted increasing attention, not only in South Asia, but around the globe...The Tablighi movement came into being in 1926 when Muhammad Ilyas (1885-1944) started preaching correct religious practices and observance of rituals...Starting with Ilyas' personal association with the Dar al-Ulum of Deoband, the movement has been supported by religious scholars, 'ulama', propagating the purist teachings of this seminary located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Muhammad Zakariyya can be termed as the "Reviver of Deobandi tasawwuf." He is the last in the long line of prominent scholar Sufis who epitomized Deobandi characteristics.
He completed his formal education [from Deoband] in 1907 (1325) with specialization in Hadith. Thereafter he taught for some time at the Dar al-Uloom Deoband...He supported the resolution for the independence of Pakistan and assisted Muhammad Ali Jinnah...He was given the task of hoisting the flag of Pakistan...Due to his tremendous effort, the first constitution of Pakistan was based on the Quraan and Sunnah...Fath Al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih Muslim. Even though he passed away before being able to complete the book it was accepted and praised by many renowned scholars. These include Shaykh Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari and Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri.
The scholar of great learning, Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ (Allah Almighty have mercy on him), is counted amongst the leading ‘ulama of India and Pakistan...He completed his studies in the year 1325 H, and because he was from the advanced students in the period of his studies, the teachers of the Dar al-‘Ulum selected him to become a teacher there...the teachers appointed him as the head of the Fatwa Department at Dar al-‘Ulum...Ma‘arif al-Qur’an. This is a valuable exegesis of the Noble Qur’an which Shaykh [Muhammad Shafi‘] compiled in the Urdu language in 8 large volumes.
Leading scholar for the Deobandis...Usmani is very important as a figurehead in the Deobandi movement
Leader of the Pakistan chapter of the Tablighi Jamaat [...] Hajji Abd al-Wahhab is a prominent Pakistani scholar with a significant following in South Asia and the United Kingdom...Abd al-Wahhab's work[...] stems from the prominent Islamic institution Darul Uloom Deoband, in India, where the latter studied before establishing a following in Pakistan.
He has been very effective in influencing all types of the communities ranging from businessmen and landlords to ministers and sports celebrities.