Ahl-e Hadis/Ahl-Al Hadith

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The Ahl-e Hadis emerged as a distinctive orientation among Indian ulema in the late-nineteenth-century milieu of reformist thought, publication, debate, and internal proselytizing. Like other reformers, they fostered devotion to the prophet Muhammad and fidelity to shari˓a. Unlike them, they opposed jurisprudential taqlid (imitation) of the classic law schools in favor of direct use of hadith. They also opposed the entire institution of Sufism, a stance that further marginalized them. Like the Deobandis, they claimed to be heirs of Shah Wali Allah (d. 1763), and they encouraged simplification of ceremony and the practice of widow remarriage. Their practices in the canonical prayer (including uttering "amen" aloud and lifting their hands at the time of bowing) led to conflicts ultimately settled in British courts.

Core supporters of the Ahl-e Hadis came from educated and often well-born backgrounds. Cosmopolitan in orientation, they identified themselves with similar groups in Afghanistan and Arabia. Within India, they turned to princes for support, most famously with the marriage of Maulana Siddiq Hasan Khan (1832–1890) to the ruling Begum of Bhopal. Siddiq Hasan supported the classic interpretations of jihad, without the apologetic glosses of the day. Despite his writing to the contrary, he was suspected of disloyalty, as was another major figure in the movement, Sayyid Nazir Husain (d. 1902), who was briefly arrested as a "Wahhabi," as supporters of the Arab Muhammad Abd al Wahhab (1703–1792) were called. Suspicion of the Ahl-e Hadis abated by 1889, marked by the success of a campaign to drop the word "Wahhabi" in official British colonial correspondence.

The armed Lashkar-e Tayyiba, affiliated with the Ahl-e Hadis in Pakistan, is alleged to have been active both within Pakistan and Kashmir since the 1990s.

See alsoDeoband ; Fundamentalism .


Metcalf, Barbara Daly. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband1860–1900. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Saeedullah. The Life and Works of Muhammad Siddiq HasanKhan, Nawwab of Bhopal. Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1973.

Barbara D. Metcalf