Question # 186: There’s a barelwi masjid next to my house. I go pray sometime over there. Someone told me it’s not good to pray behind them because they have deviated beliefs please help any suggestions

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: If one knows that the imam believes in the doctrine of Barelawis, it is not permissible to pray behind a Barelawi Imam. The prayer will be regarded invalid because most of the beliefs and practices of Barelawis are characteristics of kufr (disbelief) and bid‘ah (innovation) and contrary to Tawheed. Some of those are as follows:

  • They allow seeking help from someone other than Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), whether dead or alive, a prophet or apostle, a pious saint;
  • In their belief, there is an extreme exaggeration in the description of Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and the veneration of saints, raising them to the status of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى);
  • They call upon the prophets and saints, after their death and invoke them besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), believing that the dead listen to them, answer their supplication, and possess power and authority;
  • They believe that the prophets, the messengers of Allah, His righteous servants and the saints possess the knowledge of the unseen; and
  • They believe that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is omnipresent and omniscient (present at every place and sees everything).

Long Answer: Before answering the question about praying in a Barelawi masjid or praying a Barelawi Imam, let us first briefly understand the origin and aqidah of the sect of Barelawis.

From the book ‘The Jamaat Tableegh and the Deobandis – A critical Analysis of their Beliefs, Books and Dawah’ Compiled by Sajid Abdul Kayum, we learn that: 

Sufism or Tasawwuf is divided into many sects, called Tareeqahs. The four major Tareeqahs are Chistiya, Qadriyah, Naqshbandiya and Soharwardiyah. Sufism in India is represented by ‘the Deobandis’ and ‘the Barelawis’, who follow all these four Tareeqahs.

Until the seventeenth century, there was no distinct school of thought amongst India’s Sufi Hanafi Scholars. But mutual disagreements later caused a great rift among them and led to the formation of two different and opposing institutions; the ‘Barelawis’ and the ‘Deobandis.’ …Both these groups claim to follow the Hanafi Madhhab, though they only follow the Hanafi Fiqh and do not share Imam Abu Hanifah’s beliefs.

The founder and Imam of the Barelawis was Ahmad Raza (Rida) Khan, who was an extremist Sufi known for his Takfeer (declaring kufr) and extremely heretical beliefs. [He named himself Abd al Mustafa (i.e. the servant of the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)] Allama Ehsan Illahi Zaheer has written a detailed book on the Barelawis, which highlights their following features:

  1. The influences of Shi’ism on the founder of the Barelawi school of thought.
  2. The easiness with which they declare Kufr on their opponents.
  3. Their giving superstitions, baseless talk, unfounded stories and fables, the garb of religion.
  4. Their distortion (Tahreef) and misinterpretation of the Book and the Sunnah to support their beliefs.

The following is the summarized version of doctrine of Barelawis from the Article ‘Barelawis: History and Beliefs’ by Shaheed Ehsaan Elahi Zaheer rahimahullaah (Dr. Abdullah, Idara Tarjuman Al Sunnah, 4th Edition, 1986):

Their beliefs and doctrines are very absurd and their nonsense rites, ceremonies and superstitions have [regrettably] spread in many countries among the Sufi circles:

  • The Barelawis make such statements which Islam refutes openly, ‘There are servants of Allah whom He has singled out for fulfilling the needs of the people who flee to them with their needs’. (Al Barelawi, al Amn wal ula, Lahore, Dar al Tabligh, p 29) Further, the Barelawi said, ‘Seeking help and aid from anyone besides Allah is lawful and desired. No one denies it, except an arrogant and obstinate’; ‘Seeking help from the Prophets and the Messengers and the pious is permissible’ (Al Barelawi, Hayat al Mawat, included in al Fatawa al Ridwiyya Vol IV p 300) [In other words, they allow seeking help from someone living or dead, a prophet or apostle, a saint of pious].
  • Barelawi said, ‘It is the Messenger of Allah who heals up the diseases and pains and removes every calamity from the Muslim people, he give life, and resolves the dilemmas, benefits all the creatures, and raises their degree. He is the guardian and the helper, the remover of the adversity. It is he who cooled down the fire upon Abraham. It is he who bestows, and his command is in force and his order is operative in the universe’ (Al Bareilawi, al Istimdad ala ajyal al Irtidad p 29-30) Another says, ‘The Messenger of Allah, the chief of the universe, is the generous, the sustainer, and we all are needy to him’ (Al Fatawa al Ridwiyya Vol I p 577) Barelawi said, ‘The saints give life to the dead, heal up the born blind and the leper, and cover the whole earth by a single pace’ (Al Amm wal ulal p 24) [Hence, it is apparent that there is an extreme exaggeration in the description of Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and the veneration of saints, raising them to the status of Allah]
  • The Barelawis call upon the prophets and saints, and pious men after their death and invoke them besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), on account of their belief that the dead listen to them, answer their supplication, and possess power and authority. Hence they say, ‘The saints and the pious men hear and see in their tombs more than the extent to which they hear and saw during their life in this world’ (Amjad Ali, Bahari Shariat, p 56)
  • One of the most significant beliefs the Barelawis have is that the prophets, the messengers of Allah, His righteous servants and the saints possess the knowledge of the unseen and of the unseen of the heavens and the earth. The Barelawi hold views that ‘The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) know, rather see and watch over all that which happened and all that which will happen from the first day to the last’ (Ahmad Rida, al Dawlat al Makkiya, Lahore, p58)
  • One of the chief beliefs which the Barelawis harbor is that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is omnipresent and omniscient (present at every place and sees everything). Barelawi says, ‘There is no place and there is no time in which the Messenger of Allah is not present’ (Ahmad Said al Kazimi, Taskin al Khawatir fi Masalat al Hadir wal Nazir, p85) ‘The Messenger of Allah has the power to travel throughout the lands with the spirits of the companions, and many saints have seen him’ (Jaal Haqq p 150) ‘The saints are able to visit ten thousand cities in a single moment if they please and intend’ (Al Barelawi, Malfuzat, p 113)

As for the shari’ah ruling on praying behind Barelawi, the scholars of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas replied: “It is not permissible to pray behind one who is like this, and if one who knows that the belief of the imam is like that prays behind him, his prayer is invalid, because most of [their beliefs and practices] are characteristics of kufr (disbelief) and bid‘ah (innovation) that are contrary to the Tawheed (affirmation of the Oneness of Allah) with which Allah sent His Messengers and which He revealed in His Books. It is contrary to the clear meaning of the Qur’an, such as the verses in which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “Verily, you (O Muhammad) will die and verily, they (too) will die” (Soorah az-Zumar 39:30) and “And the mosques are for Allah (Alone), so invoke not anyone along with Allah” (Soorah al-Jinn 72:18)…” (Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah) (Islamqa.info)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam