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What was the response of the Shah Abdul Aziz to the Wahhabi Movement? – Aamir Hussaini


In fourth chapter of his book “Shah Abdul Aziz …” Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, renowned historian glanced in-detail on intellectual response of Shah Abdul Aziz to the Wahhabi Movement and its ideology.

In late colonial period after failure of Caliphate Movement and with formation of new state Saudi Arabia in 1925 by Ibn Saud with Wahhabi zealots under patronage of British imperialism, some factions of Caliphate Movement including leadership of Daruloom Deoband, its biggest political representative party JUH’s leadership, then Deobandi and Ahlehadees clergy sitting in Majlis Ahrar-UL-Islam Hind and intellectually sound persons leading Pan-Islamic groups like Abdul Kalam Azad, Maulana Madoodi, Allama Anyatullah Mashraqi All these tried to show Shah Waliullah and his sons in reconciliation with Wahhabi Ideas. Same intellectuals dared to present Ahmad Sirhindi as Ibn Taymiyya of Indian Subcontinent.

Yohanan Friedmann, an Israeli expert of Islamic Literature deconstructed in-detail the construed image of Ahmad Sirhindi in his doctoral thesis published in book form first time in 1971 under title of “Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: An outline of his thought and a study of his image in the eyes of posterity.”(I have translated this into Urdu but not published yet).

What intellectuals under influence of Ibn Taymiyya and Muhammad bin abdul wahhab did with Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, they did same with family of Shah Waliullah just to prove that their reformist thoughts about Islam inclined to Wahhabism had not alien from Socio-intellectual history of Sunni Islam in Indian subcontinent.

Prominent Deobandi Sunni Hanafi Ullema, clergy of Ahlehadees and pan-islamists educated in modern educational institutes like Muhammadon University of Aligarh in majority wrote hundreds of thousand polemical books just to show that there is no difference between their puritanism reconciled with Wahhabism and Puritan tendencies occurred in Shah Waliullah, Shah Abdul Aziz and others. They spent their energies to show the Shah Abdul Aziz intellectually standing along with Ibn Taymiyya and Muhammad ibn abdul wahhab.

After partition this practice continued even in Pakistan such efforts were succeeded to get the patronage of the state under some many rulers. Even Marxist and secular nationalist historians both in India and Pakistan forwarded the construed image made by Deobandi and Salafi nationalist clergy.

Only one Marxist theorist was exception among them that was Hamza Alavi, who first time broke such construed clichés about Shah Walilullah, Shah Abul Aziz, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi while exposing the contradictions of Caliphate Movement. Another exception is Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, who rejected the idea, that puritan tendency of Shah Waliullah and of the Shah Abdul Aziz was similar to the tendency of Ibn Taymiyyah or of Ibn Abdul Wahhab.

Strange thing is that neither Indian nor Pakistani compilers of the history of Muslim revivalist movements in 17th and 18th centuries Like Abul Hasan Nidvi , S. Ikram never discussed the intellectually sound deconstruction of images of Shah Waliullah and of the Shah Abdul Aziz in their books. Now it is meta-narrative in south Asian societies that Shah Waliullah and Shah Abdul Aziz were those who conformed the tradition of Sunni Islam in Indian subcontinent with Wahabbi movement emerged in Hijaz during 17th century which had given a new life to dead and unpopular ideas of Ibn Taymiyya.