After reading your fatawa on the Salafis could you please answer the following question?
Was Maulana Rashid Ahmed Ghangohi a Wahabbi and what are your views on him? As he issued the following fatwa:
Question: Who are the Wahabis and what was the belief of Abdul Wahab al-Najdi? What was his madhab and what type of person was he? What is the difference in belief between the people of Najd and Sunni Hanafi?
Answer: The followers of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab are called “Wahabis” and they had good (umdah) beliefs and their school of thought was Hanbali. Although his attitude was very extravagant (shidatt) he and his followers were good people. But, yes, those who exceeded the limits were overcome by roguishness (fassad). And their basic belief are all united, the difference they have is in actions is (like that) of Shafi’i, Hanafi, Maaliki and Hanbali.
Shaykh Mawlana Rashid Ahmad al-Gangohi (Allah have mercy on him) was a great scholar of recent times in the Indian Subcontinent. He was a Muhaddith (scholar of Hadith), faqih (jurist), Mufassir (exegete), Sufi and a follower of the Hanafi School of Sunni Islamic law and the Matrudi Aqidah. He was an avid follower of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and immensely engrossed in his love (Allah bless him & give him peace).
He spent all his life studying, teaching and benefiting thousands of thirsty students of sacred knowledge. There was no one like him in his time in piety, knowledge, chastity and being steadfast on religion.
His teachers include Shaykh Mamluk al-Ali al-Nanotwi, Mufti Sadr al-Din al-Dehlawi, Shaykh Abd al-Ghani al-Dehlawi and others (Allah have mercy on them all). He took allegiance (bay’a) with the great Shaykh of Tasawwuf, Haji Imdad Allah al-Makki in the Chishtiyya spiritual order.
In the latter years of his life, he began teaching all the six books of Hadith (kutub al-Sittah) himself in one year with chains of transmission (isnad) going back to their authors. When he lost his eyesight, he stopped teaching and concentrated more on spiritually reforming his disciples (murids) in a manner that adhered to the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
He students number many, who themselves went on to become great scholars of their time. Scholars such as: Shaykh Khalil Ahmad al-Saharanfuri (author of the renowned commentary of Sunan Abu Dawud in 20 volumes, Bazl al-Majhud), Shaykh al-Hind Mahmud Hasan, Shaykh Abd al-Rahim Raifuri, Shaykh Yahya al-Kandahlawi, Imam Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri (Allah have mercy on them all) and many others were privileged to have studied by him.
His works include: Imdad al-Suluk, Tasfiyat al-Qulub (both in the science of Tasawwuf), Zubdat al-Manasic (rules pertaining to the ritual of Hajj), Sabil al-Rashad and Hidayat al-Shi’a (in refutation of Shi’as). His Fatawa were collected and compiled in a book known as Fatawa Rashidiyya, regarding which you have also asked.
He passed away to the mercy of Allah on Friday after the Jumu’ah Adhan in 1323 A.H. May Allah Almighty sanctify his secret and shower him with mercy and His pleasure, Ameen. (See: al-I’lam bi man fi tarikh al-hind min al-A’lam, 3/1229, Dar Ibn Hazm, Beirut print)
The above clearly demonstrates that Shaykh Rashid Ahmad al-Gangohi was a great scholar of traditional Sunni Islam, follower of the Matrudi Aqidah and the Hanafi School of Islamic law. He was in no way a follower of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi and was not in any way from those who reject the four Schools of Sunni Islamic law and condone Taqlid.
As far as what you have quoted from his Fatawa regarding Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi, it is true indeed. He answers two questions with regards to him. Below is the translation of each of the two questions and their answers:
“Question: What kind of a person was (Muhammad ibn) Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi?”
“Answer: People call Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab a Wahhabi. He was a good person, and I have heard that he was a follower of the Hanbali School of Islamic law and acted upon the Hadith. He used to prevent people from Shirk and innovation (bid’a), but he was harsh (shadid) in his attitude.”
“Question: Who are the Wahhabis and what was the belief of Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi? What was his Madhhab and what type of person was he? What is the difference in belief between the people of Najd and Sunni Hanafis?”
“Answer: The followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab are called Wahhabis. They had good (umdah) beliefs and their school of thought was Hanbali. However, they were very stringent in their attitude but he and his followers were good people. But, yes, those who exceeded the limits were overcome by wrongness (fasad). And basic beliefs of everyone are united. The difference they have in actions is (like that) of Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali.” (Fatawa Rashidiyya, P. 241-242)
The above is what the respected Shaykh wrote about Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi and his followers. However, one must understand the background of the Shaykh’s statements.
The great Faqih of recent times in the Indian Subcontinent, Shaykh Mufti Mahmud al-Hasan al-Gangohi (Allah have mercy on him) who passed away in 1994 A.D, the grand Mufti of India whose Fatawa are gathered and compiled in 17 volumes discusses the reason behind Shaykh Rashid Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him) mentioning this in his Fatawa.
Note that, these two scholars are two different people and not related to one another, though they both have the same last name, namely Gangohi, which is an attribution to a village known as Gangoh in India. Shaykh Rashid Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him) was the great grand-teacher of the more recent Mufti Mahmud al-Hasan (Allah have mercy on him), hence the latter holds the former in great regard and respect. This humble writer was also privileged to have received Ijazah in Hadith from Mufti Mahmud al-Hasan al-Gangohi.
Nevertheless, Mufti Mahmud al-Hasan al-Gangohi (Allah have mercy on him) states in his Fatawa that, Shaykh Rashid Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him) was initially unaware of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi’s position, because al-Najdi was initially known in the Subcontinent as a reformer of Sunnah, and the one who strived greatly in rejecting Bid’a and establishing the Sunnah. As such, the respected Shaykh also said what he had heard, for a Muslim should always hold good opinions about other Muslims until it is proven otherwise.
Thereafter, the respected Shaykh’s mentor and teacher sent him the copy of Radd al-Muhtar wherein Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) clearly refuted Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Allama Ibn Abidin states:
“…As it has occurred in our times with the followers of Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi, who appeared from Najd and imposed their control over the two sacred Harams. They used to attribute themselves to the Hanbali School but they believed that only they were Muslims and that who ever opposed their beliefs were polytheists (mushrik), thus they considered the killing of those who were from the Ahl al-Sunnah and their scholars to be legitimate, until Allah Most High destroyed their might and power.” (Radd al-Muhtar, 3/339-340, chapter regarding the followers of Abd al-Wahhab, the Khawarij of our times)
Mufti Mahmud al-Hasan states that had Shaykh Rashid Ahmad read what Allama Ibn Abidin stated in his Radd al-Muhtar regarding the Wahhabis, he would surely not have stated what he had in his Fatawa.
He states that this does not in any way demean the status and rank of Shaykh Mawlana Rashid Ahmad al-Gangohi, for he had said what he had heard. He did not have knowledge of the unseen, thus he cannot be blamed. Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) was geographically closer to Najd, thus he was aware at first hand of what Shaykh Rashid Ahmad, who was living in India, was unaware of. (See: Fatawa Mahmudiyya, 13/411-412)
I would like to add here that this is clearly the case when we look at Shaykh Rashid Ahmad’s first Fatwa wherein he states “I have heard that he was a follower of the Hanbali School…..” stipulating that his information was purely based on what he had heard. This was not a matter of Fiqh or Shariah as such in which he needed to investigate, and anyway, a Muslim should always have good opinion (husn al-Zann) about fellow Muslims until the contrary is proven.
Moreover, the students of Shaykh Rashid Ahmad al-Gangohi (Allah have mercy on them all) clearly refuted the ideologies and actions of the Najdis. Shaykh Khalil Ahmad al-Saharanfuri (Allah have mercy on him), a student of the Shaykh, stated in his renowned al-Muhannad ala al-Mufannad that he and his teachers hold the same view as Allama Ibn Abidin regarding Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi and his followers. This was agreed upon and signed by almost all of the major scholars of the Indian subcontinent.
Finally before parting, I would like to say that I dislike the idea of dwelling over people’s personalities. Unfortunately, many of us are involved in debating about those who have passed away to the mercy of Allah; hence we have become negligent with actions (a’mal) and preparing one’s self for the hereafter. We will not be asked on the day of Judgment as to what opinion we held about such and such person, but what we will be questioned regarding is our own actions.
“That was a people that have passed away. They shall reap the fruit of what they did, and you of what you do! Of their actions there is no question in your case.” (Surah al-Baqarah, V. 134)
Therefore, do not dwell too much into personalities and names; rather, exceed them to conduct and deeds. Unfortunately, many Muslims argue and debate about these petty issues and leave the important aspects of Deen. Today, Muslims are being attacked in all fields by the enemies of Islam, yet here we are busy fighting amongst ourselves. Thus, we need to leave these issues to one side and concentrate on the things that unite us. May Allah Almighty bless this Ummah with unity, Ameen.
I was reluctant to answer this question and write on this subject, for there were far more important questions that needed answering. However, due to this question being posed repeatedly, I had no choice but to compile an answer. But we must remember that this is not something we need to dwell into, thus the matter is closed here, and I will not be answering any more questions on this topic.
And Allah Knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK