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Deobandi Islam

The northern Indian Deobandi school argues that the reason Islamic societies have fallen behind the West in all spheres of endeavor is because they have been seduced by the amoral and material accoutrements of Westernization, and have deviated from the original pristine teachings of the Prophet.

Deoband is a town a hundred miles north of Delhi where a madrasa (religious school) was established there in 1867. The so-called 'Deobandi Tradition' itself is much older than the eponymous Dar-Ul-Ulum at Deoband. The Deoband madrasa brought together Muslims who were hostile to British rule and committed to a literal and austere interpretation of Islam.

For the last 200 years, Sunnis often have looked to the example of the Deoband madrassa (religious school) near Delhi, India. The Deoband school has long sought to purify Islam by discarding supposedly un-Islamic accretions to the faith and reemphasizing the models established in the Koran and the customary practices of the Prophet Mohammed. Additionally, Deobandi scholars often have opposed what they perceive as Western influences.

Just as Sikhs originated from Hinduism, but are not Hindus, and Protestants came from Roman Catholicism, but are not Catholics, similarly, the Deobandi sect originated in the Sunni community, but are not strictly Sunnis. The tack of Darul Uloom Deoband is in accordance with the Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah, Hanafiate practical method (Mazhab) and the disposition (Mashrab) of its holy founders, Hazrat Maulana Mohammad Qasim Nanautavi (Allah's mercy be on him!) and Hazrat Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi (may his secret be sanctified).

The Deobandi interpretation holds that a Muslim's first loyalty is to his religion and only then to the country of which he is a citizen or a resident; secondly, that Muslims recognise only the religious frontiers of their Ummah and not the national frontiers; thirdly,that they have a sacred right and obligation to go to any country to wage jihad to protect the Muslims of that country.

The Deobandi interpretation of Islamic teachings is widely practiced in Pakistan. The Deobandi movement in Sunni Islam, was founded in response to British colonial rule in India and later hardened in Pakistan into bitter opposition to what its members views as the country's neo-colonial elite. The Islamic Deobandi militants share the Taliban's restrictive view of women, and regard Pakistan's minority Shiia as non-Muslim. They seek a pure leader, or amir, to recreate Pakistani society according to the egalitarian model of Islam's early days under the Prophet Mohammed. President Musharraf himself, is a Deobandi, actually born in the city in India, where the school took it's name.

During the first half of April 2000, the Government of Pakistan permitted a 3-day conference organized by the Deobandi Muslim political party Jamiat-Ulema-Islami (JUI). Several speakers at the conference made anti-Western political declarations. Deobandi and Barelvi sects struggled, sometimes violently, for control over local mosques in Lahore neighborhoods.

The fundamentalist Deoband Dar-ul-Uloom brand of Islam inspired the Taliban movement and had widespread appeal for Muslim fundamentalists. Most of the Taliban leadership attended Deobandi-influenced seminaries in Pakistan. The Taliban was propped up initially by the civil government of Benazir Bhutto, then in coalition with the Deobandi Jama'at-ulema Islam (JUI) led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman [who by 2003 was the elected opposition leader at the Center in Islamabad and whose protg is now the chief Minister in the NWFP]. Traditionally, Sunni Islam of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence was the dominant religion of Afganistan. The Taliban also adhered to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, making it the dominant religion in the country for most of 2001. For the last 200 years, Sunnis often have looked to the example of the Deoband madrassah (religious school) near Delhi, India. Most of the Taliban leadership attended Deobandi-influenced seminaries in Pakistan. The Deoband school has long sought to purify Islam by discarding supposedly un-Islamic accretions to the faith and reemphasizing the models established in the Koran and the customary practices of the Prophet Mohammed. Additionally, Deobandi scholars often have opposed what they perceive as Western influences. Much of the population adheres to Deobandi-influenced Hanafi Sunnism, but a sizable minority adheres to a more mystical version of Sunnism generally known as Sufism. Sufism centers on orders or brotherhoods that follow charismatic religious leaders.

Although the majority of the Islamic population (Sunni) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, belong to the Hanafi sect, the theologians who have pushed Pakistan towards Islamic Radicalism for decades, as well as the ones who were the founders of the Taliban, espoused Wahabi rhetoric and ideals. This sect took its inspiration from Saudi Hanbali theologians who immigrated there in the 18th century, to help their Indian Muslim brothers with Hanbali theological inspiration against the British colonialists. Propelled by oil-generated wealth, the Wahhabi worldview increasingly co-opted the Deobandi movement in South Asia.





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