Are Deobandis part of the Ahlussunnah wal-Jama’ah?
Are the Deobandi people Kafirs? I have heard that Deobandi people are not of the saved sect mentioned in the Hadiths and they are a deviant group. It is said that they have some Sufi beliefs. Is Deobandism a part of the Hanafi madhhab and is it required to be Deobandi? If you are Deobandi does that mean you are part of the Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jama’ah?
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,
Deoband is the name of a town in the Saharanpur district in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Northen India. It is roughly 150 kilometers from Delhi.
In this town of Deoband, a Dar al-‘Ulum (Islamic university) was founded by a group of ‘Ulama (scholars) after the British tried to eradicate Islam from India. The primary objective of starting this institute was to protect the Islam of the masses, and also preserve authentic Islamic knowledge.
Although the institute started with only one student in 1866, it quickly grew to become one of the leading Islamic institutes. Students from all over the world flocked to Deoband to learn from some of the most leading scholars of that time.
After graduating, these students returned to their respective countries, and in turn began to teach what they learnt. They started Dar al-‘Ulums and continued to affiliate their institutes to their mother institute, Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband.
Anyone graduating from Deoband directly, or from one of the hundreds of Dar al-Ulums worldwide which were started by the graduates of Deoband is called a Deobandi.
From this it becomes clear that Deoband is not a seperate sect. Rather, it is just a school of thought, based on the teachings of Deobandi institutes. A person who graduates from a Deobandi institute is called a Deobandi.
When we look at the syllabus taught in Deoband and its affiliate Dar al-‘Ulums, we find that they do an in-depth study of Quran and Hadith. No other institute teaches the Sihah Sittah (six classical authentic books of Hadith) with such detailed explanations as done in Deobandi institutes.
Besides just teaching, Deobandi scholars have also authored an unmatched number of detailed commentaries of Quran and Hadith over the last hundred and fifty years. These commentaries are recognised as oceans of knowledge throughout the world, even by non Deobandi scholars.
This proves that the Deobandi school of thought is strongly backed by Quran and Hadith. A point of note is that in Deobandi institutes, Hadith is recited before teachers who in turn attained Hadith from their teachers; and in this way there are uninterrupted Asaaneed (chains of transmissions) right up to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam).
As for ‘Aqidah, Deobandi institutes generally teach the ‘Ash’ari and Maturidi ‘Aqidah. Most of the greatest Mufassiroon, Muhaddithoon and Fuqaha over the past eleven centuries were either ‘Asharies or Maturidies. To such an extent that scholars like ‘Allamah Kawthari etc suggested that a person will only be from the Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah if he follows one of these two schools. This proves that Deobandies are most definitely from the Ahl as -Sunnah wal Jama’ah. A collection of Deobandi beliefs have been docummented in a book called al-Muhannad ‘alal-Mufannad. This book has been endorsed and approved by forty five top ranking scholars from the Indian Subcontinent, Hijaz, Egypt and Syria.
In Fiqh, the Deobandi school of thought requires a person to follow any ONE of the four Madhaahib, viz Hanafi, Shafi, Hambali or Maliki exclusively. However, since majority of the students and teachers are Hanafi, most of the Deobandi institutes primarily teach Hanafi Fiqh using classical books of past scholars. These are explained in great detail. However, there are also Deobandi institutes which specialises in one of the other three Madhaahib.
You mention about Deobandies following Sufi orders. It should be noted that not all Sufi orders are incorrect or misguided. Rather, great scholars of the past also attributed themselves to Sufi orders. As long as there are no violations of Shariah, there is nothing wrong with following a Sufi order. Sufism is all about rectifying ones heart and lifestyle, inculcating good habits, and learning how to make Dhikr correctly. Not only are these permissible, rather they are recommended.