Tahzir al-Nas and the issue of Takfir


Do you possess the book by the title "Tahzir al-Nas" by the author, who is the respected co-founder of Dar al-Ulum Deoband? If you do, could you summarise its contents, and in particular how he interprets khatam al-nabiyyin, as this is raising a lot of controversy. [Shaykh Qasim Nanotwi was declared kafir by some because of writing this book]


The aforementioned book discusses the full meaning of "Khatm al-Nabuwwa." The Shaikh in a very scholarly manner explains that when Allah taala calls the Messenger of Allah "Khatam an-Nabiyyin," this is clearly in the context of praise. However just the fact that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, came at the end of a line of prophets in terms of time, is not in itself something of virtue. Thus there must be more to this epithet that does establish virtue for and the loftiness of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings upon him. Shaikh Qasim argues this is that the attribute of Khatam (seal or finality) means that the origin and spring of Prophethood is the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and the prophethood of all other prophets extends from it.

Thus it would be said Prophethood as an intrinsic property (bil-Dhat) belongs only to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. As for the other prophets their prophethood extends from and is a reflection (bil-`Ard) of his prophethood. To explain further what he means, the Shaikh gives the example of light. We see that when the sun rises light appears on the walls, roads and fields. These things can be said to have light, however that is by virtue of the sun and is borrowed from it. As such it will be said this light they have is the sun alones and it is the sun that possess real light because it is by virtue of its own being and not borrowed from anything. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, position is like that of the sun in that his person has the quality of prophethood in essence (bil-Dhat) and has not gained it from anyone. The Prophethood of all other prophets extends and is taken from his Prophethood, peace and blessings be upon him. As such their prophethood, like the light of the wall, is borrowed (bil-`Ard). Since the prophethoods of all prophets come to an end at the prophethood of the Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, thus it will be said, Prophethood finishes with the person of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. This is the fuller meaning of the "Finality of Prophethood" or "Khatm al-Nabuwwah." The Shaikh obviously bolstered his opinion by many proofs from the Holy Qur'an and Hadith that support this meaning.

It should be noted that no where in the book does he deny that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him is the last and final prophet in terms of his, peace and blessings be upon him, place in time. Rather, as I have mentioned the Shaikh was saying the greatness of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings upon him, cannot be established by his merely coming at the end of a line of prophets. It is obvious this does not, in any sane person's understanding, mean that the Shaikh is also saying that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, is not the final prophet chronologically.
The narration of Ibn Abbas r.a.
Shaikh Qasim's explanation also had in mind the 7 earths narration of Ibn Abbas r.a. It is narrated in Dur al-Manthur of Imam Suyuti that:"Verily Allah created seven earths. Upon each earth is an Adam like your Adam, a Nuh like your Nuh, a Ibrahim like your Ibrahim, Isa like your Isa and a prophet like your Prophet" If it is kept on its apparent meaning, one of the meanings is that just as there is a final prophet of the prophets of our earth so too will there be for the prophets of those earths. Thus the unrivalled greatness and virtuosity of Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, as the final Prophet is no longer found. Through the above explanation of Shaikh Qasim, even if this meaning is taken of Ibn Abbas' r.a. narration, it does not take away from the superiority and virtuosity of the Prophet Muhammad over all prophets including those on the other earths even with the existence of last prophets in those lines of prophets. In this way, not only is the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, chronologically the last Prophet on our earth (in terms of time), and all claimers of prophethood after him are liars and dajjals, but also he is the seal and master of all the prophets of all the earths. (See Asiradarvi's biography: "Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautvi Hayat awr Kaarname," pp. 414-419.

This was the greatly researched opinion of Shaikh Qasim. However, this is not the only opinion regarding the narration of Ibn Abbas and the meaning of "Khatm al-Nabuwwah," such that we are obliged to follow it.

Other opinions

[1] There are scholars such as Shaikh Abd al-Hay Laknawi who held there are prophets like our prophets on the six earths and there are also six final prophets. He also adds, nevertheless our final Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, is still greater than them for several reasons he mentions, see Majmuat al-Fatawa, vol.1 p.20.

[2] There is also another view, that of Shaikh Aloosi who said that these prophets in these six earths are being likened to the prophets of our earth in that they are guides and distinguished above the other inhabitants there. Thus there is no question of "final prophets" being there too who could detract from the virtue of the Finality of our Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him.

[3] Similarly, many scholars have simply rejected the narration of Ibn Abbas r.a., these include many scholars such as Ibn Kathir, Ibn Hajr and Abu Hayyan.
The scholars mentioned in 1, 2 and 3, who are the majority, however differently they have viewed the narration of Ibn Abbas r.a. have all upheld the basic meaning of "Khatam" as final in terms of time only, without considering a fuller meaning to the word "Khatam."

However, the opinion of Shaikh Qasim is one of erudition and based upon evidence. In fact such depth of understanding and research is the mark of true scholars. One should remember that Scholars have always had differences of opinion and as long as this is based upon evidence, and does not entail denial of the definitive texts, it has always been tolerated.
One should ask those who do Takfir (declare a person a disbeliever) what is the basis of doing Takfir? The Shaikh has not denied the finality of the Prophethood of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings upon him, in any sense. Nor has he denied a definitive text of the Holy Qur'an.
If one looks at how the Ahl-Sunnah have viewed Takfir, one will always note that the jamhoor of the scholars did not do takfir for the real deviations of many sects who denied particular beliefs based on verses because, however defective was their basis, they did argue using texts. At the most they would declare them innovaters and Fussaq.

Thus to do takfir of such a great Imam is abandoning the methodology of the ahl-al-sunnah, especially in view of the fact he has not rejected any definitive text. Thus one can only attribute this to personal grudges and sectarian prejudices.

Those who do such rash and thoughtless takfir of such Muslim scholars are merely destroying their Next-life at their own hands. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: "When a Muslim says to his brother 'Kafir,' one of the two will certainly be so." (Sahih Muslim).

On the basis of Takfir

The basis of Takfir that has been presented is lamentable. Not simply because of the inadequacy of the proof, but because it is due to the consequences such baseless propaganda that rifts and divisions are created within the Ummah. In any case it is we believe important to elaborate the reality behind this declaration of disbelief.

Lest the reader looses sight of what is being claimed by these people and what needs to be put forward to establish the claim of Kufr, let us remind ourselves of the following:
What is needed to establish Takfir

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings upon him) being the last Prophet is an undeniable point of belief established by the verse, Ijma and mutawatir hadith (hadith supported by many chains). Thus to deny this point of belief is clear disbelief. Similarly to deny the meaning of the word "Khatam," would also be demanding Takfir and its literal meaning is "Last" or "Final." Any objective honest person would agree that to make the most sensitive and dangerous of declarations of Kufr, one would expect the denial of one of these two things.

One will thus expect that the adversary must have brought a clear proof in which the person being declared a Kafir has said words like: Another Prophet can come after the Prophet or will come after the Prophet, or there is a possibility that another new prophet will come. Similarly, that he has interpreted Khatam in a manner that denies the literal meaning, of the Prophet being (peace and blessings upon him) the last prophet chronologically.

The alleged basis of Takfir

The following are the actual quotes used by the claimants that apparently are supposed to be so heretical to have taken Shaikh Qasim out of the fold of Islam:

[A] "The general public believe the Messenger of Allah being the Final prophet means that he is the very last prophet, However the people of understanding know that there is no virtue intrinsically in being first or last….p.4-5"

[B] 'If it were supposed that there also be a prophet in his (peace and blessing upon him) time, it would not take away from his Khatam (Sealship)." p.18

[C] ‘Supposing even if a prophet were to be born after the Prophet's time, still it would not affect the Muhammadi Khatamiyyah (Sealship)." p.34

Before we turn to our analysis, the reader can see for himself the deception of the author even today by looking up in Husam al-Haramain where the author cites these sentences. One will note that the above three separate sentences have been taken out of their contexts and presented as one continuous single passage with the first sentence in order (p5) brought at the end.
Translation of the actual text found in Husam al-Haramayn

"'If it were supposed that there also be a prophet in his (peace and blessing upon him) time somewhere, it would not take away from his Khatam (Sealship) (B). Even if, supposing, a prophet were to be born after the Prophet's time, still it would not affect the Muhammadi Khatamiyyah (Sealship) (C). The general public believe the Messenger of Allah being the Final prophet means that he is the very last prophet, However the people of understanding know that there is no intrinsic virtue in being first or last….(A)'" See p12 (or p19 in some editions) of "Husam al-Haramain."

[A, B and C have been added by the writer of this article in order to indicate that the text that precedes them is from another page.]

It is clear to see the new meaning that the author wishes to create for the unsuspecting reader by deliberately cutting texts and joining them arbitrarily to others. There is not even a sign to indicate that these texts are being taken from different places. Obviously such citing of texts is rank dishonesty and not acceptable even according to western non-Muslim academic standards. Any truth-seeking person should find a copy of Husam al-Haramain and see this for himself on its pg.12. For this fundamental discrepancy is enough to render the whole work unreliable and just another biased diatribe.

As for the three statements themselves, when taken individually, the reader should ask; where is the clear kufr in these excerpts?

Shaikh Qasim in a very elevated and scholarly discussion, not meant to be discussed by the common people untrained in the sciences, never in a single sentence of the whole book explicitly denied the chronological finality of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings upon him. This is leaving aside the fact he explicitly states he (pbuh) is the final Prophet chronologically, after whom a new prophet cannot come on the basis of Ijma, Mutawatir hadith and the verse of "Khatam al-Nabiyyin," see Tah zir al-Nas, pg.15.

Secondly, regarding the verse, nor does he anywhere deny the literal or metaphorical meaning of Khatm. No proof to establish these points has ever been or can be cited.

Shaikh Qasim has only further elaborated, using many proofs, the meaning of Khatam which he is permitted to do based on the fact the word Khatam also has, along with its literal meaning, another metaphorical meaning of "most virtuous" and "best" and what this dictates.
As is apparent, in quotations 2 and 3, Shaikh Qasim is merely extrapolating the consequences of also remembering the fuller meaning, in his view, of Khatm. Namely, if a new prophet were to come then the rank of the Prophet is so great that he would still be greater than him. What is noteworthy is that he clearly did not (a) state a new prophet is coming, (b) deny the literal meaning of Khatm and say that the Messenger (peace be upon him) is not the last Messenger. Both sentences, as is clear to see, are suppositions used to make manifest the lofty rank of the Messenger of Allah. The fact it is a supposition in itself tells a person that the coming of a new prophet is not possible otherwise why suppose it. This is just like the supposition of the Messenger, peace and blessings upon him, to make manifest the lofty virtue of Umar r.a., said: "Were there to be a prophet after me it would be Umar."

Thus, is this really a justifiable basis of declaring a person nothing less than a disbeliever? Neither has Shaikh Qasim denied that the Messenger, peace and blessings upon him, is the last prophet chronologically nor has he nullified the literal meaning of Khatm. Thus the common reader should not be so willingly misled when shown the above excerpts from Tahzir al-Nas, by such people brimming with emotions and told : "Look he said; 'if a prophet comes after the prophet…', how could he say that! That’s Kufr how can a new prophet come after the prophet?"

One writer (Muhammad Shafi Brelvi, in his Taaruf Ulema-e-Deobnad p.99, Ziya al-Qur'an Publications), argues that the reason for the declaration was in fact saying If a prophet came afterwards it would not detract from the Messengers Khatamiyyah He points out, but this is wrong, if a new prophet were to come it would detract from his Khatamiyyah and the denial of this demands Takfir.

Firstly, this is a clear later reformulation of the so called basis of takfir, which for those who can see, is just another evidence of the flimsiness of the proof that was advanced and the insincerity of these propagandists. Again, this quoted text does not deny that the Messenger of Allah is the last Prophet, nor does it deny the literal meaning of Khatm (which really would be the only sound basis of takfir). Shaikh Qasim is talking about the issue of whether the chronological finality in itself represents the unrivalled virtuosity of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him).

He believes his virtuosity is more intrinsic and elevated than just being chronologically last which he, peace and blessings upon him, unquestionably also is. Thus, he uses many evidences to show there is a further meaning to Khatm which establishes an unrivalled rank and virtuosity for the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him.

However the point is, to deny the virtuosity of being chronologically last, cannot be a cause for Takfir as that (virtuosity in being last) is not emphatically established by a text (Qati), unlike the fact that he (pbuh) is chronologically the final prophet. If this is the actual basis of Takfir then does this not render the pseudo-fatwa of Husam al-Haramain indefensible, because in the whole text no where is there a quote from the Meccan and Medinan scholars stating words similar to: A person who denies the virtuosity of the finality has committed disbelief, and nor has this explicitly been said in the text of Husam al-Haramain.

This is, obviously, only assuming if we were to accept the veracity of Husam al-Haramain itself. It is well documented that the Meccan and Medinan scholars quickly retracted their edicts, as can be seen in the Arabic book written at the same time entitled "Al-Muhannad ala-al-Mufannad," by Shaikh Khalil Ahmad Saharanfuri. In this book all the issues raised, were clarified, and signatures from all the senior scholars of the Deobandi School were then appended to it to confirm these are the beliefs of the School. This document was then taken to the same scholars of the Haaramain, who also signed their names to it stating these were also their beliefs and those of the Ahl al-Sunnah. The names of the Meccan and Medinan scholars who signed this document, clearly at the same time nullifying the veracity of Husam al-haramayn, were: Shaikh Muhammad Saeed Babaseel al-Shafai, the teacher of the Scholars in Mecca and also the Imam of the Sacred Mosque. His signature in itself counts as the taking back of all the scholars of their previous view, as he was from the most senior of them. Other signatures include the Maliki Mufti Shaikh Muhammad Abid Husssain. Both these names are found at the end of Husam al-Haramain.

It is obvious, that these men of religion were not fumbling novices who would lightly sign their names. The fact they did so a second time and did it so readily tells they had been led to make a mistake the first time (because of the natural trust they had of their Muslim brothers; they obviously never expected a seemingly learned person would go to such lengths and such deception in such a dangerous issue as takfir). Secondly, it will have become clear to the objective reader, who has read the points mentioned earlier in this piece, the obvious falsehood of the book "Husam al-Haramain," thus there cannot be any doubt whether they did or did not retract their edicts. This documentation is found in the following works: Al-Muhannad ala-al-Mufannad, Naqsh-e-Hayat and Al-Shihab al-Thaqib. The last two works are by Shaikh Hussain Ahmad Madani.
[This answer is the revised version of an earlier piece, and for which the original works were also consulted]
Courtesy: As-Suffa Institute

P.S - Also download these following files for a thorough explanation the same issue:

Propaganda against Ulema-e-Deoband - Part 1

Propaganda against Ulema -e-Deoband - Part 2

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