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IV The Style of Religious Leadership, I: Muftis and Shaikhs Muhammad Ya'qub was not only learned in the revealed and rational sciences, but he was a sojourner on the mystic path. . . . He was not only a doctor for spiritual ills, but for bodily ills as well. All in his family, young and old, considered him their elder. Indeed, not only his family, but the entire city accepted the influence of his dignity and majesty.... He was a man of great perfections and a recipient of revelations. He had hundreds of disciples and pupils.1 THE 'ulama as such had no formal role in the British imperial state, but they found wide scope for guiding Muslims in civil and religious matters. They acted both as muftis to determine appropriate legal precedents and as Sufi shaikhs to offer spiritual guidance to chosen disciples. Some provided charms and amulets; some undertook medical cures in the yunani tradition. In addition, as 'ulama have always done, they fulfilled certain public roles defined by the Islamic tradition, notably as preachers and leaders of congregational prayer, as debators with opponents, and as teachers of the young. The Deobandis were notably successful in playing this multifaceted role. Indeed, given the evidence of their numbers and effectiveness, many simply concluded that the town of Deoband had a population of cooperative jinn. Muhammad Qasim was judged by his followers to be among the highest order of men, close to the angels. Some ranked Rashid Ahmad as both the qutb of the 1. Hakim Amir Ahmad Nanautawl, Introduction to Maktubat-i Ya qubi wa Bayaz-i Ya qubt by Muhammad Ya'qflb Nanautawl (Thanah Bhawan, n.d.), p.13. 138 MuftL· and Shaikhs age—the great shaikh around whom the world revolved— and as the mujaddid as well, the renewer who in every century calls people back to the Law.2 The effectiveness of the Deobandis was judged to rest in their synthesis of the two main streams of the Islamic tradition , that of intellectual learning and that of spiritual experience. They themselves understood this unity oishan at (the Law) and tariqat (the Path) to be firmly within the bonds of Islamic orthodoxy, for they took the Law and the Path to be not opposed but complementary. They thus placed themselves in a line of thought—traceable most clearly to al-Ghazali (d. 1111)—that argued inevitable conflict over particular issues but not over the basic legitimacy of both styles of religious knowledge and practice. A religious person could emphasize either the Law or the Path, but he should understand both dimensions to be inherent in the religion. The junction of the many aspects of the faith was not easy. "Among the 'ulama I have a bad name," once lamented Muhammad Qasim, "and among the Sufis I have the stain of maulawiyyat."3 The leading Deobandis differed, in fact, in the skills they emphasized. Muhammad Ya'qub was known as "our majzub," often so absorbed in spiritual matters that he appeared to blaspheme.4 Rashid Ahmad, though a jurist, teacher of hadis, and a shaikh, was particularly distinguished as an administrator. Muhammad Qasim, who preferred not to deal with legal matters or lead prayers , was the greatest preacher and debater of this early group. 'Abid Husain, of all the early Deobandis, was most the "holy man," distributing charms and amulets. The goal for all, however, was to follow both Law and Path. The Deobandis were not alone in offering this style of composite leadership. Indeed it had been, as noted above, the norm for the great religious leaders in centuries past. 2. Zuhuru'l-Hasan Kasoll, ed., Arwah-i Salasah (Saharanpur, 1950), p. 240. Muhammad 'Ashiq Ilahi MIrathi, Tazkiratu'r-Rashid (Meerut, n.d.), II, 18, 162-65. 3. Zuhuru'l-Hasan, Arwah-i Salasah, pp. 230-31. See also Manazir Ahsan Gllanl, Sawanih-i Qasimi (Deoband, 1955), I, 340. 4. Zuhuru'l-Hasan, Arwah-i Salasah, pp. 314-15. 139 The Deobandi Movement In this period, in particular, the composite style was selfconscious and widespread, both among the 'ulama and, as in the case of the Chishti Nizamiyyah shaikhs of the Punjab, among some of those associated with the medieval shrines, as well. Both the Farangi Mahallis and the Barelwis made similar claims to espousing a "middle way." What was unique about the Deobandis—beyond their successful institutional innovations—was the extent to which they insisted on a responsible, reformist interpretation of the faith on the part of their...


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