Ahl-i Hadith

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Ahl-i Hadith or Ahl-e-Hadith (Persian: اهل حدیث‎, Urdu: اہل حدیث‎, people of hadith) is a religious movement that emerged in Northern India in the mid-nineteenth century from the teachings of Syed Nazeer Husain and Siddiq Hasan Khan.


  • The Ahl-i-Hadis have been an influential reform movement, one is almost tempted to say a self-righteous movement except for the fact that that expression would be true of almost all the other groups too—who could have excelled Maulana Ahmad Riza Khan in being certain that he alone was right? The Ahl-i-Hadis did not capture the masses, but their influence far exceeded the numbers who professed adherence to them. And there were good reasons for this: they had a large number of followers among the ‘aristocracy’, they had great influence at courts such as that of Bhopal; more important, they came in a sense to set the norms. This was because of their basic position: they taught that instead of going by the rulings of any of the law schools one should regulate one’s life by the Sunna of the Prophet, that is by what the Prophet himself had said, by the way he himself had acted. As the sayings and deeds of the Prophet are set out in the Hadis, they styled themselves as the Ahl-i-Hadis. They were also known as the Muhammadis and the Wahabis. They proclaimed that the world was about to end soon, in particular any time from 1884 as the fourteenth century of the Islamic era had begun that year and the Prophet had declared that the world would end in that century. This lent an urgency to their mission. They held that going back to the Hadis was the way to bring the Muslims together—for one could thereby vault over the feuds that had arisen among the law schools. They also introduced innovations in the manner of saying the namaz: some of these would appear trivial to the observer—should one lean on one knee or both, should one say Amin audibly or softly; but, as we shall see, these are exactly the sorts of things over which sects break each other’s heads; moreover, other changes which they decreed were not just in ritual—they taught, for instance, that nothing was to be gained by observing the urs etc., of pirs, that nothing was to be gained by namaz for the dead. Campaigns were always afoot, therefore, to prevent them from praying in mosques used by other Muslims.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • They inveighed against all syncretistic practices, condemning all these as vestiges of paganism and polytheism. They denounced the Barelvis for advocating observances of special days connected with ‘saints’ and the like; they denounced the Deobandis for basing their prescriptions on the jurists rather than on the Quran and the Sunna of the Prophet. As happens with all purist groups, while they succeeded in influencing other sects, a sub-sect grew from within which maintained that they were not pure enough: the Ahl-i-Hadis had argued that the others had departed from the true path by going by the rulings of sundry law schools rather than by regulating life in accordance with what the Prophet had said and done. From within them grew the Ahl-i-Quran who declared that the Ahl-i-Hadis had gone just as grievously wrong by putting all the stress on the Hadis. ‘What about the Quran?’ they asked. Allah, not the Prophet should be the Guide, His word should be the determinant. The Ahl-i-Hadis had set out to unite the Muslims. They became another sect, indeed a sect on account of which there were many contentions. The four-volume set, Fatawa-i-Ahl-i-Hadis, was published between 1981 and 1989.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)

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