Tell Us : What Are You?

By Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwī and translated by Tariq Pandor

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They said, “You’ve written on Islamic Fiqh through the school of Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allah have mercy on him) and gathered (in your writings) proofs from him. Additionally, you’ve written a biography about him. So you’re a Hanafi. But then we see that you combine between prayers during travel, and give fatwa declaring the permissibility of wiping over socks. And you don’t mind if your students follow a specific Imam (in taqleed) or if they don’t follow anyone – so you’re a ‘ghayr-muqallid’ (someone who doesn’t adhere to one of the schools of thought).”

And they said, “You’re an Ash’ari because you graduated from Dar ul-Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, and the madrasahs in India generally follow the Ash’ari creed. But we see that you hold Allamah Shibli Noumani in high regard, you heap praise upon him, extol his virtue, and have respect for him. And he was Maturidi. So you must then be Maturidi. But then we see you teach Aqeedah al-Tahawiyyah, and you refute the Ash’aris and the Maturidis while giving preference to the methodology of the ‘salaf’ (predecessors), so you must be Salafi.”

And they said, “You pray in the Oxford mosque, and that’s a mosque for the Barelwis. So you must be a Barelwi. But then we see you sitting with the elders of Deoband and their senior scholars, so you must be a Deobandi. And then we see you praying Jumu’ah with the Arabs, mixing with them, being friendly with them while they’re being friendly with you. And they’re Wahhabis, so you must be a Wahhabi.”

And they said, “You go with Jama’ah al-Tableegh (in their outings), so you must be a Tableeghi. But then we see you criticizing their (use of) false, and weak narrations – so you must be from ‘Jamaat-e-Islami’ – many of your friends also belong to it, you visit their centers, and give lectures and classes there. And then we see you love Hasan al-Banna al-Shaheed, and you praise his book ‘Mudhakkirat al-Da’wah wal-Da’iyah’ and you’re a fan of the books ‘al-Tasweer al-Fanni fi’ al-Qur’an’ and ‘Mashahid Yaum il-Qiyamah’ of Sayyid Qutb, and ‘Duaa’t la-Qudaat’ of Hassan al-Hadibi, so you must be Ikhwani.”

And they said, “You read ‘Ihya Ulum al-Din’ of Ghazzali, and you relate stories from it to people. And you also peruse through ‘al-Mathnavi’ of Rumi and cite lines of poetry (from it), and express emotion through it – so you must be a Sufi. But then we see you vilifying Ibn Arabi’ and those who express (the ideology of) Wahdatul-Wujud (the Unity of Existance). And you criticize the ‘mystical states’ of the people of Sufism, and their ‘stations.’ And you deny their ‘conversations’ and ‘invocations’ (the divinely inspired statements claimed by Sufis to be made during their mystical state). So you must be from the followers of Imam Ibn al-Taymiyyah – we see you exalting him and encouraging your colleagues and students to read his books.”

They said, “So we’ve become confused by you. Tell us, what are you? Do you belong to any of these groups yet cajole with others hiding behind Taqiyya (dissimulation)’? Or are you without any school of thought at all? Or are you (being) political, and diplomatic (in order to) protect your interests and benefits by associating with the many diverse groups out there? Just tell us, what are you?”

I said, “I believe in Allah, and His Angels, and His Books, and His Prophets, and in the Day of Judgement and in destiny – that the good and the bad is from Allah and that there is resurrection after death.”

They said, “We’re not asking you about that. All of us believe in that, rather we’re asking you about your affiliation, the name (from the groups) that you choose for yourself.”

I said, “Allah says : ‘…And He named you ‘Muslims.’’ (Surah al-Hajj : 78). So I am a Muslim, the son of Islam, brother of the Muslim.”

They said, “You’ve increased us in even more confusion about yourself. And we’ve never been more confused about you than we are today.”

Disclaimer: Translations have not been checked by the author and represent the work of the translator