Deobarelwi Public Thikr Sessions

The following question was posed to Qutubul Aalam Hadhrat Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (rahmatullah alayh):

Question: “In Ramadhaan Shareef, in the Musjid during Taraaweeh Namaaz after performing four raka’ts, if all the musallis collectively recite Tasbeeh and make Dua, and with the niyyat of proclaiming the glory, grandeur and glitter of Islam, they recite the Kalimah ‘Laa ilaha illallaah’ with jahr (loudly), will this be permissible or not?”

Hadhrat Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi responded:

To make Thikr in this manner after the jalsah (sitting) during the Taraaweeh has not been narrated from the Sahaabah and Taabieen. Therefore, this ha’it (specific form) is bid’at. It is mentioned in Al-Waaqiaat:

Reciting Surah Faatihah after the Fardh Salaat on occasions of events of upheaval (such as calamity, fear and disaster, etc.) is Makrooh (Tahrimi) because it is Bid’at in view of the fact that it has not been narrated from the Sahaabah and Taabieen.’

It is also stated in Bahrur Raa-iq that it has been narrated from Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) that he heard a group of people had gathered in the Musjid and were reciting Lailaha illal laah and Durood on Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) audibly (jahran). Then he went to them and said: “During the age of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) we did not practise in this manner. I do not consider you except as mubtadieen (innovators).’ He continued saying so until he expelled them.”

On the basis of these two evidences, even though Thikr is mutlaqan jaa-iz, but to change a special form which had prevailed during Quroon-e-Thalaathah (the three noble eras of Islam) is bid’at. Hence, despite Kalimah Tayyibah being permissible jahran on its occasions of permissibility, but during the sitting of Taraaweeh this practice is not proven, hence to do so is bid’at. In addition the masses will think that this practice is Sunnat. A mubah (permissible practice) which the masses believe to be Sunnat is bid’at.

It is mentioned in Aalamgheeriyah (Fataawa Hindiyyah):

The practice which is done after Salaat is Makrooh because the juhhaal (ignoramuses) will believe it to be Sunnat or even Waajib. Every Mubah (permissible practice) which leads to this is Makrooh. So is it reported in Az-Zaahidi.’

Thus, it is bid’at to make Thikr in this manner despite Thikr per se of Kalimah Tayyibah with jahr being permissible. However, at this occasion this hai’t is not proven from Quroon-e-Thalaathah. On the contrary, this is an occasion of Ikhfa’, hence it is bid’at. Furthermore, in this practice there is the danger of corrupting the Aqeedah (belief) of the masses. And Allah knows best.” – End of Hadhrat Gangohi’s dissertation. (Tazkiratur Rasheed)

The Qur’aan Majeed says: “And, none takes lesson except the People of Intelligence.” From the aforementioned faqeehaanah (juridical and wise) exposition of Hadhrat Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (rahmatullah alayh), every unbiased, intelligent seeker of the Haqq will observe the following salient aspects which exposes the deviance of today’s ‘Deobandi’ Mashaikhs who are fast on the path of the Barelwis in pursuit of the propagation of bid’ah:

(a) Despite Hadhrat Gangohi being a Khaanqah Shaikh, who engaged in khafeef (very light) Thikr bil Jahr , he unequivocally branded the specific form of collective loud Thikr as being bid’at.

(b) The collective loud Thikr is bid’at because this practice did not exist in the initial three noble eras of Islam.

(c) The validity of the Abstention argument is confirmed by Hadhrat Gangohi, namely, this practice did not exist in the Sunnah, hence it is bid’ah.

(d) The authenticity of the narration of Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) is vindicated. Hadhrat Gangohi did not argue away the act of Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) with any of the defective interpretations which the votaries of bid’ah attribute to the said narration. On the contrary, he cited it from an authentic Kitaab of Fiqh, Bahrur Raa-iq, as evidence in refutation of bid’ah. Despite being a Chishti Shaikh practising Thikr bil Jahr in the privacy of his Khaanqah or home, he upheld the Hadith of Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu), and did not lamely argue it away in order to justify and vindicate the practices of the khaanqah. He was a Man of Ilm and Taqwa. Hadhrat Gangohi (rahmatullah alayh) along with being an Aashiq and an Aarif Billaah, was a Faqeeh whose primary function was to guard the Shariah and the beliefs of the masses. Hadhrat Gangohi’s presentation of the Hadith of Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) is merely an affirmation of the authenticity of the narration which has been accepted as mustadal (evidence) against bid’ah in the authoritative books of fiqh of all madh-habs.

(e) When the masses see Ulama and Sulaha engaging in Thikr practices, they will naturally infer that such acts are Sunnat, and when they see the iltizaam (emphasis) with which these practices are observed by the Ulama, then they naturally and justifiably begin to believe that these acts of ‘ibaadat’ are Waajib.

(f) The principle of existence and non-existence of an ibaadat practice during Khairul Quroon is an important and a necessary determinant and criterion for all practices of Thikr which are executed in the full view of the masses.

(g) Khaanqah practices which are spiritual remedies prescribed specifically for patients should not be cited as a basis for justifying acts of Thikr which have no basis in the Sunnah.

(h) There is a stark difference in Thikr bil jahr (loud thikr) conducted in the privacy of the khaanqah and home, and in Thikr bil jahr collectively executed in public Musaajid frequented by the masses. While the former does not corrupt the beliefs of the masses nor develop into bid’ah in which the masses become entrapped, the latter undoubtedly corrupts the Aqeedah of the masses and develops into bid’ah.

(i) It is imperative that collective Thikr practices which were not in vogue during the era of the Noble Ages, not be advertised in public Musaajid and other places open to the ignorant masses whose Aqeedah will become corrupted. Any khaanqah practice should be confined to the four walls of the khaanqah or to private homes of the mureedeen who have been prescribed these spiritual remedies by a qualified Shaykh who is an embodiment of Taqwa and Wara’ – not the glut of unqualified bid’ati Shaykhs today who are drenched in a cesspool of Mushtabah (doubtful) and Haraam matters.


In his Malfoozaat, Hakimul Ummat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh), explains explicitly that the belief that Jahr (loudness) is an act of thawaab is Bid’ah Sayyiah (An Evil Bid’ah). It is undeniable that the Awaam (masses) who witness such practices in public will acquire this belief of bid’ah:

But, jahr is not the actual objective (maqsood bith-thaat) nor is it by itself an act of thawaab. To subscribe to such a belief is bid’at….It is thus apparent that jahr itself is not an ibaadat. If Thikr is believed to be the objective and jahr is adopted for some expediency such as warding off stray thoughts, gaining concentration, etc., [i.e. spiritual remedies prescribed by a Kaamil Shaykh] then this will not be prohibited on condition there is no accompanying adverse factor…If the belief is that jahr itself is an act of thawaab, then this will not be permissible. It will be bid’at, except where it is established by the Shariah, e.g. Talbiyah during Hajj, Takbeeraat Tashreeq, etc…”

In another Malfoozat, Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi clarifies the imperative need for a Qualified Shaykh to precribe these spiritual remedies which must be practiced in the privacy of one’s homes or a Khanqah:

…Athkaar are like medicine and pills which could be prepared by studying the books of medicine. However, the need of a qualified medical practitioner is imperative for diagnosing the illness and prescribing a remedy. Similarly, Thikr formulae and ashghaal (spiritual exercises) are recorded in books. However, there is the need for a spiritual guide to diagnose the spiritual ailments of the nafs and to prescribe remedies for reformation.”

About the poor state of the khaanqahs of this age, Hakimul Ummat says:

Sometimes when one suffers from spiritual ailments, e.g. ujub, takabbur, riya, etc., then abundance of athkaar and auraad (the type of non-Masnoon Thikr practices of the khaanqahs) worsens the diseases. The need is for mujaahadah (struggling against the nafs) so that one does not become the victim of show and pride after having rendered a good deed. Islaah (reformation) has priority over athkaar and auraad.

The Mutaqaddimeen Sufiya paid particular heed to moral reformation. However, nowadays people are not concerned with this essential requisite. Despite staying in the company of Mashaaikh and devoting time to Thikr and shaghl, moral reformation is not achieved. The spiritual diseases remain uncured. The mureed on seeing some dreams considers himself to be a wali. It should be well understood that the habit of sinning cannot coexist with wilaayat (sainthood).

In every halqah (group) when customs become overwhelming, haqaaiq (truths and realties) are overshadowed. The Maqsood of Sulook (Tasawwuf) is not auraad and ashghaal. Although these acts facilitate the obtainal of the Maqsad, the objective is self-reformation. As long as moral reformation has not been achieved, the full efficacy of auraad and ashghaal will not be attained. In fact, sometimes, on account of ujub and kibr, these (khaanqah) auraad and ashghaal constitute dangers.” – Malfoothaat

This is the state of the khaanqahs in our era. They have degenerated into venues of ostentation and lifeless rituals unrelated to the Sunnah. The attitude and practice of the participants in these Thikr rituals convey the distinct impression that they believe that their Thikr and shaghl practices are the epitome and ultimate goal of Tasawwuf. The sheikhs of this era themselves sorely lack in the understanding of Tasawwuf and its Maqaasid.

Stating candidly the condition of the current-day sheikhs and ‘khilafaats’ today which are handed out like candy, Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) said:

Alas! Nowadays people (i.e. the mashaaikh) are unaware of the Maqsood. Khilaafat (appointing a khalifah) no longer has a standard. What service (i.e. of guiding mureeds) can they render? In fact, they (these unqualified dumb khalifahs) come within the scope of the Hadith: “They are astray and they lead others astray.” On account of their fossilized minds, they lack discernment.”

Hadhrat Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) commenting on the corruption of present-day ‘tasawwuf’ said:

When Tasawwuf becomes corrupt, it is transformed into either insanity or hereticism (zindaqah). When a delicate object decomposes, its stench is intense.”

Revealing the dangers of opening up the doors to such spiritual remedies to the masses Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi states in an advice that should prove salutary for the ‘shaikhs’ of Halqah Zikrs never found amongst the Salaf-us-Saliheen such as “Khatm-e-Khwaajgaan”, “congregational zikr sessions” etc:

The Mashaaikh in former times would not prescribe athkaar and ashghaal to the masses. Nowadays, there prevails astonishing disorder in the ranks of the Sufis. They prescribe Thikr and shaghl to just anyone. The consequences of this are evil. These people become involved in many errors. Then it becomes difficult to extricate them from such errors.” [Malfoothaat]

The corruption is intense among the sheikhs and their khalifahs in our day. Collective Thikr programmes and other Khanqah practices are promoted publically causing mass confusion amongst the Awaam and corrupting their Aqeedah. The sheikhs go on tours promoting their collective Thikr performances in the Musaajid, and canvassing for mureeds. Indeed they are astray and mislead others as the Hadith says. Commenting on the despicable campaigning of the ‘sufis’ of this age, Hakimul Ummat said:

In this age there exists the disease of canvassing for mureeds. A mureed strives to rope in others to become the disciples of his sheikh.”

Not only mureeds, but the sheikhs themselves actively canvass for mureeds, or instructing their Khalifahs to do so. Since the sheikhs are primarily concerned with numbers, and they are forever self-conscious over the ‘pious’ image they are constrained to portray in front of their fan-base, correcting the faults of the mureeds and Islaah of the Nafs – the very Maqsad (purpose) of Tasawwuf – have been thoroughly expunged from their version of ‘Tasawwuf’ which is increasingly resembling the ‘Tasawwuf’ of the Barelwis.

The statements and comments of Hakimul Ummat and of other Mashaaikh on the topic of khaanqah Thikr are too numerous to mention here. The samples of such comments presented here should suffice to remove the haze from the state of confusion which the Deobarelwi Shaykhs masquerading as Deobandis have spun around the khaanqah Thikr programmes which have been promoted to the pedestal of Shar’i daleel.

It is futile for these ‘Mashaikhs’ and ‘Khalifahs’ to present the personal Thikr practices of the Akaabir Sufiya and Ulama in support of the collective Thikr programmes which are nowadays being conducted in the Musaajid. These cosmopolitan Musaajid frequented by Muslims of a variety of persuasion are not the venues for the remedies which have been devised by the Sufiya. The problem today is that those who prescribe these non-Sunnah forms of athkaar and those who participate in these programs are equally in the dark. They gather firewood in the dark, not knowing on what they are setting their hands.

Not even the Mashaaikh of the Khaanqahs present their Thikr and shaghl practices in substantiation of the bid’ah collective Thikr programmes which the small-timers innovate in the name of Tasawwuf. If these small-time sheikhs and khalifahs correctly employ their Aql, they will not fail to discern the khuraafaat and bid’ah which they have fabricated in the name of Tasawwuf.

We acknowledge the permissibility, worth and value of the athkaar and ashghaal executed in the privacy of the khaanqah or homes. We are related to that system. We are related to the Chishtiyya Akaabireen. We subscribe to this gracious system. But what the deviant ‘sufis’ have innovated in the Musaajid today in this country, has no relationship with the khaanqah practices.

The collective Thikr performances enacted for public consumption in the Musaajid are in fact Bid’ah Sayyiah as was confirmed by Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu). The Fatwa and action of this Jaleelul Qadr Sahaabi whom Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) eulogized fits the current collective Thikr programmes perfectly.

[Abridged from “Thikrullah: In the Mirror of the Sunnah” by Hazrat Maulana Ahmad Sadeq Desai]

To be continued…

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