Ahmad Raza Khan Barelwi is one of the most influential men in the Islamic history. His writings and the interpretation of Islam laid the foundation of a religious movement embraced by its adherents under the name Ahl-e Sunnat wa Jama‘at (meaning “the followers of the Prophet’s tradition and the broader community”). To the rest of the world, this movement is commonly referred to as Barelwi, a term originating from Bareilly, the birthplace and residence of Ahmad Riza.
Ahmad Raza Khan’s Lineage
Ahmad Raza Khan was born on 14 June 1856 in the city of Bareilly, British India. His father, Naqi Ali Khan, was an Islamic scholar.
Ahmad Riza Khan’s roots can be traced back to the Barech Pathan lineage. Historical records do not provide precise details regarding the timing of his ancestors’ arrival in India. It is possible that during the 17th century, a segment of his family migrated from Qandahar to India and became part of the Mughal imperial administration as both warriors and soldier-administrators. Eventually, a forebear of the family established residence in Bareilly and was granted land as a reward for their military contributions.
Ahmad Raza Khan’s Reform Movement
Ahmad Raza Khan believed that Muslims were facing a challenging period due to their deviation from authentic Islamic principles and proper Muslim conduct. He proposed that this situation could be improved by closely following the ways of the Prophet. Consequently, the Ahl-e Sunnat movement was a reformist effort with the goal of restoring the moral atmosphere believed to have prevailed during the time of the Prophet.
Works of Ahmad Raza Khan
Ahmad Raza Khan was an exceptionally productive poet, and he composed an extensive collection of Naat (poems dedicated to praising the Prophet). His deep family connection to the Qadiri Sufi tradition fueled his devotion, portraying him as the ‘lover of the Prophet’ (known as Ashiq-e Rasul). This affection for the Prophet radiates brilliantly in his poetry and other written works.
Ahmad Raza Khan was a follower of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. Among his numerous written works, the Fatawa-e-Razvia holds a prominent position. This collection comprises books and periodicals that offer legal judgments (fatawa) in accordance with Hanafi fiqh, addressing a wide range of subjects and beliefs.
Kanzul Iman is also one of Ahmad Riza Khan’s most renowned and influential works. It is a widely read translation and interpretation of the Quran. Kanzul Iman has been highly influential in shaping the religious outlook of the Barelwi community and has become a foundational text for their followers.
Views on other Islamic sects
Ahmad Riza Khan held strong views on various Islamic sects. He criticized Shia and Wahabi groups for their theological differences. He vehemently opposed the Ahmadi community, considering them heretical. Regarding the Deobandis, he had theological disagreements, leading to significant ideological clashes.
Legacy of Ahmad Raza Khan
Ahmad Raza Khan died on 28 October 1921 in Bareilly at the age of 65. The Barelwi Movement boasts a massive and widespread following throughout the Indian subcontinent. Those who follow Ahmad Raza Khan hold him in high regard and affectionately address him as Aala Hazrat.
Last updated on November 26th, 2023 at 01:24 pm
Islamic Chronicles is an Online Encyclopedia of Islamic History and Culture. It is dedicated to exploring the rich history and culture of Islam and Muslims. Through animated videos, in-depth articles, fascinating stories, and thought-provoking insights, we take you on a journey through the Islamic world, from its early beginnings to the present day.