Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi

Islamic scholar, jurist, theologian, ascetic, Sufi, Urdu poet, and reformer of 19th century CE

Ahmed Raza Khan (Arabic: أحمد رضا خان, Persian, Urdu: احمد رضا خان‎, Hindi: अहमद रज़ा खान), commonly known as Ahmed Rida Khan in Arabic, or simply as "Ala-Hazrat" (14 June 1856 CE or 10 Shawwal 1272 AH – 28 October 1921 CE or 25 Safar 1340 AH), was an Islamic scholar, jurist, theologian, ascetic, Sufi, Urdu poet, and reformer in British India, and the founder of the Barelvi movement.


  • Praise be to Allah, ever since I gained consciousness I have found only strong dislike for the enemies o f Allah in my heart. Once I had gone to my village (apne dehat ko). Some rural courtcase arose and our servants (mulazim) from all four directions had to go to Badayun [to appear in court]. I was left all alone. This was a time when I suffered from severe colic pain. That day the pain started from the time o f zuhr (m id-day). . . I couldn’t stand up for the namaz (prayer). [Ahmad Riza then relates that he supplicated Allah and the Prophet for help, this plea was heard, and he was able to offer the namaz. But the pain returned just as severely as before, and he decided to lie down. While he was lying there,] a Brahman from the village passed by in front o f me. (The wretch himself professed something close to tauhid and deceitfiilly inclined toward the Muslims in order to please me.) The gate was open. Seeing me he came in. And putting his hand on my stomach he asked, 'Is this where it hurts?’ Feeling his impure (najis) hand touching my body I felt such revulsion (karahat, najrat) that I forgot my pain. And I began to experience a pain even greater than this, [knowing that] a kafir’s hand was on my stomach. This is the kind of enmity ( ‘ adawat ) that one should [cultivate toward kafirs].
    • quoted in Usha Sanyal - Devotional Islam and politics in British India _ Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi and his movement, 1870-1920-Oxford University Press (1996), also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.

Quotes about Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi and his teachingsEdit

  • Most Indian Muslims are Sunnis, some say almost 85 to 90 per cent are Sunnis. Most Indian Sunnis are Barelvis, some would say two-thirds of them are, in particular those living in the countryside. The Fatawa-i-Rizvia is the most important collection of fatwas of the Barelvis. It consists of the fatwas issued by the most influential figure among them—Maulana Ahmad Riza Khan. He was a prolific issuer of fatwas, a formidable polemicist, often an abusive one, an indefatigable campaigner, in a word a pugilist. Few dared to cross swords with him, indeed few dared to even stand in his way. He lived from 1856 to 1921, and came to exercise a mesmeric hold over vast numbers.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins) Introduction
  • Some of the practices which he allowed, indeed prescribed, were ones which others condemned as vestiges of paganism and polytheism—for instance, celebrating the urs or observing the anniversaries of pirs and ‘saints’. At the same time he was most emphatic in denouncing anyone who joined hands with the kafirs even for attaining strictly Islamic objectives. Thus, for instance, he heaped abuse and scorn at those who had agreed to work under the leadership of Gandhiji even though it had been with the object of restoring the greatest of Islamic institutions, the Caliphate. You have agreed to work under a kafir, he railed. You have made Muslims the slaves of a kafir, he railed.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins) Introduction
  • Maulana Ahmad Riza Khan’s fulminations against doing anything which entails association with kafirs, Hindus in this case, extend over more than a hundred quarto-sized pages of closely packed text. The denunciation and scorn he heaps on those who are advocating such a course are even greater than what he hurls at the course itself. Indeed, time and again he declares that those Muslims—’Muslims’ is the wrong term actually for his school had issued the fatwas of kufr on the leading ulema of Deoband, etc.—who advocate such a course are greater enemies of Islam than the kafirs themselves. His fatwas against associating with the kafirs in any way are, as we have noticed earlier, grouped under the generic heading, ‘Nafrat ke Ahkam’, ‘The Ordinances of Hatred.’...
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins) Chapter 5. Khilafat, independence and after
  • He next takes up the question of according respect to a polytheist, be he a man as exceptional as Mahatma Gandhi. Quoting authorities, including the Quran, the Hadis, the Durr-ul-Mukhtar, the Maulana declares, respect is to be paid only to Allah, the Prophet and the Muslims, but the hypocrites—munafiq—know not. Citing the Prophet the Maulana says, he who renders respect to followers of the wrong faith has without a doubt lent a hand for the demolition of the Islamic religion. When this is the commandment in regard to one of wrong faith, what shall be the commandment for honouring a polytheist?, he asks. The Prophet has forbidden us to even shake hands with any polytheist, he says, even to refer to him by his surname (kunniyat), even to use words of welcome (marhaba) upon his arrival. These are not even very consequential things entailing great honour, they pertain to regard of a very low degree, the Maulana notes—that one should not call him by his name, one should not call him as the father of so and so, one should not say ‘Aiye’ when he comes. And yet, he notes, the Hadis has forbidden Muslims from doing even these things. And these persons are asking us to cry ‘jai’ for him! This is a Satanic deed, the Maulana pronounces...
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins) Chapter 5. Khilafat, independence and after
  • He goes on reiterating the denunciation, repeating the points, citing the Quran and other authorities. And then he addresses the rationalization that there are grades of kufr and that it may be permissible to cooperate with some kinds of kafirs. Yes, he declares, if there is a difference among kafirs it is in this that the greater a person’s kufr the more haram it is to deal with him. To revere evil is kufr, the more severe the evil the stricter the commandment. This shall befall the liars and calumners—that in kufr the Magians are worse than Jews and Christians; and the Hindus are worse than the Magians; and the Wahabis and apostates are worse than the Hindus. The commandments about them are progressively harsher in this very order....
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins) Chapter 5. Khilafat, independence and after
  • To sacrifice the life of Quran and Hadis at the altar of idolatry is gross disrespect of the Quran and Hadis, and it is to accord great respect to idolatry, declares the Maulana. If this is not kufr, he says, then nothing in the world is kufr. Alluding to an instance in which the Prophet had taken the help of a kafir to make his way in an unfamiliar place, the Maulana exclaims, where is taking a polytheist along over an unfamiliar terrain, and where is making him one’s leader and guide in regard to one’s faith! Can there be any comparison, he asks. If a shaikh or imam were to sit in an ekka and the one driving it were a kafir, does that mean that, on the ground that the shaikh or imam was sitting behind the kafir, his followers can accept the imamat of the kafir and read the namaz behind him? And that incident regarding the Prophet, the Maulana says, too is an incident of a period when the order of jihad had not yet come down (from Allah), and of a time when the practice was ‘Unto you your religion and unto me mine’. But after that what was expected of Muslims regarding kafirs became progressively stricter, the Maulana points out, and eventually came the revelation for all time: O Prophet! wage jihad against kafirs and hypocrites.... If you draw your rule from the first incident then it is a great foolishness—if it is drawn by an ignorant man; and if it is drawn by or on the authority of an educated person then it is a crime and gross wickedness. This is false imputation on the Prophet, the Maulana proclaims. Never did the Prophet maintain any social relations with any kafir. For it is said in the Quran, He who among you maintains relations with them is one from among them. The ordinance of Allah to His Prophet was: O Prophet! wage jihad against all kafirs and hypocrites, and observe a harshness and strictness towards them.... And then the Maulana takes up the practice of calling Gandhiji a ‘Mahatma’. ‘Mahatma,’ he says, means ‘Great Soul,’ and this, he recalls, is the appellation special to angel Gabriel. To associate it with a polytheist is pure enmity of Allah and the Prophet.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins) Chapter 5. Khilafat, independence and after

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