An article contributed by Maulana Abu Zaynab.

The Great Medinan Scholar Shaykh Abdul Qadir Tawfiq al-Shalabi al-Tarablusi al-Hanafi on Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan


In this era of confusion, many western Muslims call for reconciliation between the Barelwis and the Deobandis. The Arab ulama, and those westerners that have studied at their feet, are looked upon as a source of inspiration in bridging this gap.

The proposition is interesting. However, one wonders how well these western and Middle Eastern Muslims actually understand the Barelwi-Deobandi divide. This is especially the case since most of the writings surrounding the subject are in Urdu, a language generally only understood by people with roots in the Indo-Pak subcontinent.

Nevertheless, it is important that we earnestly and sincerely listen to all our non-sub-continental Ulama on this particular topic. One such individual is Shaykh Abdul Qadir Tawfiq al-Shalabi al-Tarablusi al-Hanafi, who hailed from the Libyan city of Tarablus and was resident in Medina when Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan came to the Hejaz to elicit his notorious fatwa against the Ulama of Deoband.

On a trip to Medina in 1363AH, Faqih al-Ummat Mufti Mahmud al-Hasan al-Gangohi met Shaykh Abdul Qadir who interestingly narrated his version of events and his impressions of Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan. Incidentally, Faqih al-Ummat was the Khalifa of Hadhrat Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandalawi and former Grand Mufti at Darul Uloom Deoband.

As Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan’s contemporary and someone we can all assume to be neutral in the true sense, the words of Shaykh Abdul Qadir strike a particular resonance in this day and age. Through an impartial Middle Eastern scholar, many Deobandis are able to fully appreciate and confer the opinions of their elders regarding Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan and not be misled by contrary opinions that allude that the Akabir were perhaps “mistaken”.

Shaykh Abdul Qadir was not the only non-Salafi shaykh to voice concerns about Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan. Interestingly, Shaykh Sayyid al-Barzanji, the Grand Mufti of the Shafi’i’s in Medina, who was also an impartial Middle Eastern scholar and contemporary of Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan, wrote a book against Radha Khan entitled “Ghayat al-Mamul fi Ilm Ghayb al-Rasul”.

Abu Zaynab

Mufti Mahmud al-Hasan Gangohi narrates:

When I visited Medina for the first time in 1363AH, a person from Bukhara introduced me to Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Tarablusi. Shaykh Abdul Qadir asked me: “Do the serious differences that used to exist between Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan and the Ulama of Deoband still continue?”

I replied: “Where is Tarablus? And where is India? How do you know of this? What do you know of the differences between Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan and the Ulama of Deoband?”

He replied: “It’s been some time. Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan brought some Urdu texts to me. He attributed them to the Ulama of Deoband and sought a fatwa. I told him that the texts were in Urdu, which I didn’t know, and so how could I possibly issue a fatwa. He said he would translate them into Arabic for me, so I asked him how that could be possible when he is the claimant. How could his translations be accepted? He then convinced a student of mine to translate the texts into Arabic, which he did.”

Shaykh Abdul Qadir continues: “At that, I issued a fatwa with certain conditions that if these writings are those of the Ulama of Deoband, that these are the meanings of these texts (as explained by Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan), that the preceding and succeeding texts do not show the meanings to be otherwise, and that these are the authors’ intentions then these texts lead to disbelief. After that, Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan’s book “Husam Al-Haramain” (Sword of the Two Sanctuaries) was published. I looked at my fatwa inside there, it had been altered. My words had been changed and from this I realized that this man (Molwi Ahmed Radha Khan) was not from the people of trust (Ahl al-Diyanat).”

Malfudhat Faqih al-Ummat, Volume 2, Page 333

Translated by Abu Zaynab