Shah Waliullah is one of the most influential clerics in the history of Muslims in India and Pakistan. He played a key role in radicalization of Sunni Muslims by converting them into Wahhabi and semi-Wahhabi (later emerged as Deobandi) radical sects. He also played a key role in creating hatred not only against Hindus and other Non-Muslims but also against Shia Muslim minority. He is the one who wrote letters to Ahmad Shah Abdali Durrani of Aghanistan inviting him to attack India in order to ‘save Muslims’ from Hindus and Shias.
What is, however, not known is that Shah Waliullah was also a contemporary of Muhammad ibn Adal Wahhab, founder of the violent Wahhabi/Salafi sect of Saudi Arabia, and during his visit to Arabia for Hajj, Shah Waliullah was completely radicalized by Wahhabi ideology. Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab (1703-1792 AD) of Saudi Arabia was a contemporary of Shah Waliullah (1703–1762 AD) of Delhi, India.
Famous Sunni Barelvi/Sufi scholar Allama Muhammad Umar Icharwi (d. 1971) – known as ‘Junayd of his time’ clearly documented book Miqyas Hanafiyyat that Imam Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dahlawi was a Wahhabi. Below are some of the facts and arguments presneted in this book. Scanned images of relevant pages are attached at the end.
1. While discussing the history of Wahhabis, which ideologically starts from ibn Taymiyyah, Allama Icharwi mentions that Shah Waliullah was born in the year 1114H who was nine years younger than Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab. He writes that Shah Waliullah was, by birth, a Sunni Hanafi, as taught by his father Shah ‘Abd al-Rahim, and heir to his father’s wilayyah.
2. However, Shah Waliullah’s intention for Hajj took him to Hijaz. There Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab noticed that Waliullah is very influential scholar in India. Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab saw this as a good opportunity and started to attract Shah Waliullah towards Wahhabi ideology.
3. When Shah Waliullah returned to India, he lost the wilayyah of his father as well as the Hanafi touch. When the followers of Shah Waliullah saw his abuse of the pious Sunni Muslims and ideology, most of them left him.
4. It became famous in Delhi that Shah Waliullah had turned into a Wahhabi. He was declared a kafir by some leading Sunni and Sufi scholars.
5. Shah Waliullah began teaching Wahhabi ideology under the title ‘Muhammadi’. Few individuals became his followers and they were always around him for his protection because no ordinary Sunni Muslim could tolerate his abuse of the Prophets and saints. At that time, he was the lone Wahhabi scholar in the subcontinent.
Here’s an example of Wahhabi ideology of Shah Waliullah:
Shah Waliullah writes: “And among that (the occasions where forbidden shirk is present): Surely they seek aid from [people] other than Allah for their needs — including cure for the ill and giving wealth to the poor; and they make vows (nadhr) and hope that their aims are successful on account of those vows; and they recite their [people’s] names hoping to gain their blessings. Allah Most High has made it incumbent on them that the say in their prayers, ‘It is only you that we worship and it is only you that we seek aid from.’ Allah Most High says, ‘So, do not call with [the name of] Allah anyone else.’ And the meaning of du’a (supplication) is not ‘ibadah (worship), as the exegetes say, but it is isti’anah (seeking assistance), because of the verse of…” (Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, 1:186)
Shah Waliullah says that seeking help (istighasa) from Allah’s chosen Prophets and saints is shirk (polytheism), so basically he is caling Sunnis, Sufis and Shias as polytheists (mushrik), which is a Wahhabi idology.
6. Then Shah Waliullah wrote books wherein he propagated the intolerant and violent ideology of Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab and abused the Prophets and saints therein. Consistent with Wahhabi ideology, he supported the destruction of graves of Sahaba and Ahlul Bayt by the Saudi Wahhabi Najdi regime.
7. In this situation, he left his home country for Najd [second time] and stayed with Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab as a representative of Wahhabis in India. He returned during his later part of life.
8. Shah Waliullah left his two sons, Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and Shah Rafi’ al-Din, as his heirs. Even though his sons preferred the Hanafi madhhab of their grandfather, but [as the saying goes] one is swayed by fatherly influence. They were influenced at least somewhat by their father but the scholars sufficiently answered [refuted] them. Intolerant ideology and violent Jihad not only against Sikhs but also against Sunni Sufis by Shah Muhammad Isma’il Shaheed and Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed is a confirmation that Shah Waliullah and his sons were completely radicalized by the Wahhabi ideology.
Scans of Miqyas Hanafiyyat, p.575-578:
Allama Icharwi’s research is not a lone opinion among Indian and Pakistani Sunni circles.
Before Hazrat Aḥmad Raza Khan, Allama Fazl-e-Rasul Badāyūnī (d. 1272AH) wrote in his Persian book Al-Bawāriq al-Muḥammadiyya bi Rajmī al-Shayātīn al-Najdiyya (The Muḥammadan Lightning in Striking The Najdī Satans):
“The conclusion of everything that Shāh Walī Allāh has written shows that he is against the Ahl al-Sunnat wa al-Jamāʿat. Shāh Walī Allāh’s pious children have not published and distributed these types of books (by Shāh Walī Allāh), and have kept (these books) hidden. It is as if they have veiled those words of their father that were unveiled.”
 Translator: Molwī Faḍl-e-Rasūl is being sarcastic here
Mawlana Hakim Sayyid ‘Abd al-Hayy Hussaini [father of Shaykh Abul Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi] writes regarding Molwi Fazl Rasul Badayuni, “He was a faqih who was argumentative and very biased in his beliefs, he was in constant opposition of the ‘ulama, most far away from the Sunnah and an aid to bid’ah, he encountered the people of haqq with his lies and innovations and was a lover of the world. He made takfir of Shaykh Shah Isma’il ibn ‘Abd al-Ghani Dahlawi and he accused Shaykh Shah Waliullah al-Muhaddith Dahlawi of being a Nasibi Khariji. And he accused and spoke ill of Shaykh Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Ahad al-Sirhindi [Mujaddid al-Alf al-Thani] who was the imam of the Mujaddidiyyah and he [Fazl Rasul] would say, ‘All of them are deviated and are leading others astray’.” (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p.1065)
G.F Haddad extensively quotes Fazl Rasul Badayuni in his criticism of ‘Allamah Shah Isma’il Shahid.
In his book, God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad, Charles Allen writes:
R. Upadhyay notes that: (http://saag.org/paper629)
On principle Wali Ullah had no difference with his contemporary Islamic thinker Abd-al-Wahab (1703-1787) of Saudi Arabia, who had also launched an Islamic revivalist movement. Wahab, who is regarded as one of the most radical Islamists has a wide range of followers in India. He “regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation” (Qamar Hasan in his book – Muslims in India -1987, page 3).
Wali Ullah also supported the rigidity of Wahab for strict compliance of Sharat(Islamic laws), and shariatisation was his vision for Muslim India. He maintained that “in this area (India), not even the tiniest rule of that sharia should be neglected, this would automatically lead to happiness and prosperity for all” (Shah WaliUllah and his Time by Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, 1980, page 300). However, his theory of rational evaluation of Islam was only a sugar quoted version of Islamic fundamentalism for tactical reasons. He was guided more due to the compulsion of the turbulent situation for Muslim rulers at the hands of non-Muslim forces around them than any meaningful moderation of Islam, which could have been in the larger interest of the subcontinent.
Glorifying the history of Muslim rule as triumph of the faith, WaliUllah attributed its downfall to the failure of the community to literal adherence to Islamic scriptures. His movement for Islamic revivalism backed by the ideology of Pan-Islamism was for the political unity of Indian Muslims. His religio-political ideology however, made a permanent crack in Hindu–Muslim relation in this sub-continent. Subsequently non-Muslims of the region viewed his political concept of Islam as an attempt to undermine the self-pride and dignity of integrated Indian society.
The religio-political theory of Wali Ullah was quite inspiring for Indian Muslims including the followers of Wahhabi movement. It drew popular support from the Ulama, who were the immediate sufferers from the declining glory of Muslim rule in the subcontinent. The popular support to his ideology “has seldom been equaled by any Muslim religious movement in South Asian subcontinent” (The Genesis of Muslim Fundamentalism in British India by Mohammad Yusuf Abbasi, 1987, page 5). He was of the view that the lost glory of the faith could be restored if the Muslims adhered to the fundamentals of Islam literally.
The Sepoy mutiny of 1857 was a turning point in the history of Islamic fundamentalism in India. With its failure Indian Muslims lost all hopes to restore Muslim power in India. But successive Ulama in their attempt to keep the movement alive turned towards institutionalised Islamic movement. Some prominent followers of Wahhabi movement like Muhammad Qasim Nanauti and Rashid Ahmad Gangohi drew furter inspiration from the religio-political concept of Wali Ullah and set up an Islamic Madrassa at Deoband in U.P. on May 30, 1866, which grew into a higher Islamic learning centre and assumed the present name of Dar-ul-Uloom (Abode of Islamic learning) in 1879. For last 135 years Dar-ul-Uloom, which is more a movement than an institution has been carrying the tradition of Wahabi movement of Saudi Arabia and of Wali Ullah of Delhi. Even Sir Sayid Ahmad drew inspiration from the tactical moderation of Islam from Walli Ullah in launching Aligarh movement. The Muslim politics as we see today in Aligarh Muslim University is deeply influenced with the Islamic thought of Wali Ullah.
According to Dr. Sayed Riaz Ahmad, a Muslim writer, the Muslim leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Mohammad Iqwal, Abul A’la Maududi and others, who participated in freedom movement were followers of Wahhabi school and carried the tradition of Wali Ullah with slight re-adjustment. Thus, the nostalgic appeal to Muslim fundamentalism had a direct or indirect influence of Wali Ullah on the overall psyche of Indian Muslims. Unfortunately, the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam by Wali Ullah gradually widened the gap of mistrust between Hindus and Muslims of this sub-continent.
Combination of Islamic extremism of Wahhab and religio-political strategy of Wali Ullah has become the main source of inspiration for Islamic terrorism as we see today. So long the Muslim leaders and intellectuals do not come forward and re-evaluate the eighteenth century old interpretation of faith any remedy for resolution of on going emotional disorder in society is a remote possibility. It is the social obligation of intellectuals to awaken the moral and economic strength of entire society without any religious prejudice.