Khan, Reza of Bareilly (1856–1921)

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Ahmad Reza Khan Barelwi (Bareilly) was an influential scholar and Sufi whose followers emerged in the colonial period as one of two major groupings among South Asian Sunni Muslims—the other being the Deobandis. Ahmad Reza's voluminous writings include a translation of the Qur'an and many volumes of advisory opinions, or fatawa. Although often called "Barelwi" by outsiders, those associated with this religious style claim the name Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama˓at, that is, the true Sunnis. They follow the Hanafi school of legal interpretation and primarily follow the Qadiri order in Sufi affiliation.

For the Barelwis, a good Muslim is defined as one faithful to the shari˓a and personally devoted to the prophet Muhammad as continuous intercessor to Allah through the mediation of the Sufi master. Unlike other reformers, they participate in ceremonies like the ˓urs observances at Sufi shrines (the saint's "wedding" with the divine) and the mawlid celebration of the Prophet's birthday. Conflict with the Deobandis revolved around issues related to the Prophet's attributes: his ability to see into the future, to have knowledge of the unseen, and to be present in multiple places, all of which they accepted. Ahmad Reza charged those who differed with him as being "Wahhabi," a politically charged label in the colonial context because it linked opponents with the militant followers of the Arab Muhammad ˓Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1787).

Ahmad Reza opposed participation in the Khilafat movement and, subsequently, his followers were aloof from the Jam˓iyat-e ˓Ulama-e Hind. Mosques and madrasas identifying themselves as Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama˓a are currently found across South Asia and in places of Indo-Pakistani settlement like Britain and South Africa. The Jam˓iyat-e ˓Ulama-e Pakistan political party represents these ulema in Pakistan. The apolitical Dawat al Islami movement engages in grassroots "Barelwi" proselytizing in both India and Pakistan.

See alsoJam˓iyat-e ˓Ulama-e Pakistan ; Khilafat Movement ; South Asia, Islam in ; Wahhabiyya .


Metcalf, Barbara Daly. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband l860–1900. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Sanyal, Usha. Devotional Islam and Politics in British India: Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi and his Movement, 1870–1920. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Zafaruddin Bihari. Hayat-i A˓la Hazrat. Karachi, Pakistan: Maktaba Rezwiyya, 1938.

Barbara D. Metcalf