In a recent book, Navigating the End of Time, Asrar Rashid attempts to show a link, albeit a “subtle” and “unexpressed” one, between Deobandīs and Qādiyānīs. Apart from decontextualized citations from Taḥdhīr al-Nās of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī, his evidences for this are extremely thin, indeed in some cases apparently fictitious. This is not altogether surprising given an earlier critique of some of his unfounded and untruthful claims.
In the following essay, we will first put Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s work Taḥdhīr al-Nās in historical context, followed by a contextualisation of some specific citations from his work that Asrar Rashid presents.
This will be followed by a brief analysis of some points he puts forward regarding:
- Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn Bhairawī’s (successor of Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad Qadiyānī) alleged connection to Deoband;
- The alleged proximity between the authorship of Taḥdhīr al-Nās and Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad’s claims of prophethood;
- The alleged use by Qādiyānīs of Taḥdhīr al-Nās in the 1974 Pakistan Supreme Court hearing aimed at declaring Qadiyānīs non-Muslims and the alleged failure of the scholars of Deoband to put up a credible defence.
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī (1833 – 1880)
Mūḥammad Qāsim, a descendant of Sayyidunā Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (Allāh be pleased with him), was born in March of 1833 in the village of Nanauta, North India. He was a distant relation of the famous spiritual master, Ḥājī Imdādullāh Muhājir Makkī (1818 – 1899), as well as the renowned Delhi theologian, Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī Nānotwī (1789 – 1851). After primary education in Nanauta and Saharanpur, he left for Delhi in 1845 to study under the latter. He excelled in his studies, particularly the rational sciences.
He then studied Ḥadīth under Muhaddith Aḥmad ‘Alī Sahāranpūrī (1810 – 1880) and Shāh ‘Abd al-Ghanī Dihlawī (1809 – 1878), two prominent successors of Shāh Isḥāq Dihlawī (1782 – 1846). As a student, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī saw a dream in which he stood on the roof of the Ka‘bah, thousands of rivers pouring forth from him. His teacher, Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī Nānotwī, interpreted it to mean: “Abundant benefit will spring from you in the knowledge of dīn.”
Upon completing his education in 1851, he worked as a proof-reader and annotator at various printing presses in Delhi and Meerut. He was also involved in the first ever print of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, famously produced by Muḥaddith Aḥmad ‘Ali Sahāranpūrī in the early 1850s.
He was one of the most prominent founders of the famous Dār al-‘Ulūm at Deoband in 1866, of which he served as its first “sarparast” (figurehead). The Dār al-‘Ulūm became renowned world-over not only for housing some of India’s most brilliant and saintly personalities, but also for spawning an educational reform movement in the subcontinent and beyond. Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī also founded a well-known madrasah in Moradabad, the Madrasah Shāhī.
He taught students in spare hours between his work at the printing presses, mainly on the topic of Ḥadīth. His famous students include: Shaykh al-Hind Mawlānā Maḥmūd Ḥasan Deobandī (1851 – 1920), Mawlānā Fakhr al-Ḥasan Gangohī (d. 1897) and Mawlānā Sayyid Aḥmad Ḥasan Amrohawī (1851 – 1912).
He married a woman of Deoband in 1853 with whom he had ten children. One of his sons, Mawlānā Ḥāfiẓ Muḥammad Aḥmad (1862 – 1928), went on to become rector of the Dār al-‘Ulūm in Deoband.
Mawlānā Nānotwī wrote prolifically, although most of his writings were letters to associates, transcripts of talks/debates or marginalia to other books. He wrote only two actual books that were intended as books: Hadiyyat al-Shī‘ah (1867), a detailed refutation of Shī‘ah (which has been translated into English and summarised in Arabic), and Āb-i-Hayāt (1870), a follow-up to Hadiyyat al-Shī‘ah, on the topic of the prophets being alive in their graves.
He was mentored by Mawlānā Muẓaffar Ḥusayn (1805 – 1866), a respected and pious personality from Kandhla, and was instructed in spirituality by Ḥājī Imdādullāh Muhājir Makkī from whom he attained successorship in Taṣawwuf. He would exert himself in worship to the point that a close colleague once saw him recite 27 juz’ of the Qur’ān in a single rak‘ah! Ḥājī Imdādullāh Muhājir Makkī held his spiritual student, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī, in great esteem.
He performed three Ḥajj journeys: in 1861 (during which he memorised the Qur’ān); in 1870; and a final Ḥajj in 1877. He fell ill on his return from this latter Ḥajj and never fully recovered. In April of 1880, he travelled to visit his ailing teacher Muhaddith Aḥmad ‘Alī at Saharanpur, which made his sickness worse. On his return, he stayed at Deoband where he passed away on the 15th of April, 1880. His Janāzah was attended by large gatherings the likes of which were never before seen in Deoband. His teacher, Muhaddith Aḥmad ‘Alī, died only two days later.
He would venture into deep discussions on matters of theology and jurisprudence, his specialism being the underlying philosophy and wisdom behind Islām’s theology and praxis and arguing for their superiority over other religions, particularly Christianity and Hinduism. Hence, he was also famous for his debates against preachers of other religions and his defences of Islam in such tracts as Taqrīr Dilpazīr and Ḥujjat al-Islām.
Taḥdhīr al-Nās: Context
Taḥdhīr al-Nās, the full title of which is “Taḥdhīr al-Nās min Inkār Athar Ibn ‘Abbās” (“Warning Men Against Rejecting the Narration of Ibn ‘Abbās”), was first printed in 1873. Mawlānā Qāsīm Nānotwī never intended it to be printed as a book. Nor did he give it its famous title. It was Mawlānā Muḥammad Aḥsan Nānotwī (1825 – 1895), a gifted scholar who operated a printing press in Bareilly, that gave it a title and published it. Mawlānā Aḥsan Nānotwī had become involved in a dispute on which he solicited the view of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī and ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī.
The dispute traces back to a statement of Shāh Ismā‘īl Dihlawī Shahīd (1779 – 1831) in his Taqwiyat al-Īmān. In Taqwiyat al-Īmān, Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd discusses a mistaken conception of shafā‘ah (intercession) that he calls “shafā‘ah al-wajāhah” (intercession of status), where it is believed that Allāh suppresses an original intent to punish someone deserving of punishment because an attendant of high status has interceded and Allāh does not wish to cause disruption to His kingdom by displeasing the intercessor.
Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd explains that the one who holds such a belief is a “true mushrik and a complete ignoramus, and has not understood the meaning of divinity in the slightest, and has not realised the greatness of this Owner of the Kingdom.” Then, explaining Allāh’s greatness and power, he said: “It is the nature of this King of Kings that in a single moment, had He so wished, with one command of ‘Kun’, He would create thousands of prophets, saints, jinn and angels equal to Jibrīl, upon him peace, and Muḥammad ﷺ; and would turn the whole universe from the throne to the earth upside down and put another creation in its place.” He further states that if all creatures were like Jibrīl and the Prophet ﷺ, this would not increase in the lustre of Allāh’s kingdom, and similarly if all creatures were devils and dajjāls this would not decrease from the lustre of His kingdom. Thus, in context, Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd was merely showing the utter transcendence of Allāh and His being completely without need for creation, so why would He fear anyone’s status when exercising His will?!
Despite the simplicity of the point that Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd made, this simple comment spurred a highly technical and contentious debate in 19th century India on what became known as “imkān al-naẓīr” or “imtinā‘ al-naẓīr”, the possibility or impossibility of a likeness of the Prophet ﷺ existing. ‘Allāmah Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī (1797 – 1861), the premier expert on philosophy and rational subjects of that era, argued that it wasn’t even possible in the mind’s eye for a likeness of the Prophet ﷺ to exist and thus to create his likeness is not contained in divine power. Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd and his defenders argued the more sensible view that it is in and of itself possible (i.e. conceivable in the mind’s eye) but its materialisation is not possible given Allāh’s intent.
The scholars of the Ahl-i-Ḥadīth persuasion sided with Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd in this matter. A debate ensued in 1871 between some Ahl-i-Ḥadīth scholars and those who sided with ‘Allāmah Faḍl al-Ḥaqq Khayrābādī. The contents of the debate were recorded in Munāẓara-i-Aḥmadiyyah. During the course of the debate, the Ahl-i-Ḥadīth debaters brought up a narration attributed to Ibn ‘Abbās (Allāh be pleased with him).
The narration is a commentary on a verse of the Qur’ān which states: “It is Allah who created the seven heavens and of the earth the same [number], the command descending down through all of them.” In commenting on this, Ibn ‘Abbās (Allāh be pleased with him) said: “In each earth there is the like of Ibrāhīm”, and in another version: “Seven earths, in each earth there is a prophet like your prophet, an Ādam like your Ādam, a Nūḥ like your Nūḥ, an Ibrāhīm like your Ibrāhīm and an ‘Īsā like your ‘Īsā.”
This thus opened up a new debate over the validity or otherwise of the report of Ibn ‘Abbās (Allāh be pleased with him) on prophets existing on other earths. Mawlānā Aḥsan Nānotwī was called upon to address the report. He initially refused. But when ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī (1848 – 1886), a brilliant young scholar of that time, said the report is sound and its meaning is unproblematic if understood correctly, and his answer was endorsed by Muftī Sa‘dullāh Murādābādī (1805 – 1877), Mawlānā Aḥsan Nānotwī lent his support to the fatwā of ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī with a short corroborating statement. This resulted in a backlash against Mawlānā Aḥsan Nānotwī in his place of residence, Bareilly (the birthplace of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān Barelwī, eponym of the Barelwī school).
Mawlānā Aḥsan Nānotwī then wrote up a question that he sent to Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī and ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī. The question is as follows:
What do scholars of religion say of this matter? With respect to the statement of Ibn ‘Abbās which is found in al-Durr al-Manthūr and other sources: “Verily, Allāh created seven earths. In each earth is an Ādam like your Ādam, a Nūḥ like your Nūḥ, an Ibrāhīm like your Ibrāhīm, an ‘Īsā like your ‘Īsā and a Prophet like your Prophet.”
Zayd [a reference to Mawlānā Aḥsan Nānotwī himself] – in following a scholar [i.e. ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī] who was also endorsed by a muftī of the Muslims [i.e. Muftī Sa‘dullāh Murādābādī] – wrote this statement:
“My belief is that the aforementioned ḥadīth is authentic and reliable. And the strata of the earth are separate. In each stratum there are creatures of the divine. It is inferred from the aforementioned ḥadīth that there are prophets in each stratum. However, while it is established there are seals on each stratum, it is not established they are equal to our Seal of the Prophets. Nor is it my belief that those ‘seals’ are equal to the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ. The children of Ādam that have been mentioned in, ‘We have ennobled the children of Ādam’, and are better than the rest of creation, are the children of the Ādam of this stratum by consensus. Our Prophet ﷺ is better than all the children of Ādam. Thus, undoubtedly, he is better than all creatures. Thus, the ‘seals’ of the other strata, who are included amongst ‘creatures’, cannot be equal in any way to him.”
Despite writing this, Zayd says: “If something contrary to this is proven from the Sharī‘ah, I will accept that. I am not adamant on this statement.”
Thus, the question to the scholars of Sharī‘ah is: Do the words of the ḥadīth contain the possibility of these meanings or not? And will Zayd become a disbeliever or sinner or outside of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama‘ah because of this statement or not? Clarify and be rewarded.
It was Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s detailed response to this question, as well as ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī’s brief response, that would be printed as Taḥdhīr al-Nās min Inkār Athar Ibn ‘Abbās in 1873 from Mawlānā Aḥsan Nānotwī’s printing press in Bareilly. As is evident, the question that Mawlānā Aḥsan Nānotwī had in relation to the report of Ibn ‘Abbās (Allāh be pleased with him) was primarily about the status of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ. If there are counterparts to the Prophet ﷺ on other earths, does that call into question the Prophet ﷺ being the superior-most creation of Allāh? The question was not over the chronological finality of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ, which was never in question.
When ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī had written his explanation of the report, he made clear that any counterpart of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ on another earth would have to be chronologically prior to him to maintain the essential belief in the Prophet Muḥammad’s ﷺ finality and the universality of his law and message. Other “final prophets” are only final relative to their earth, while the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ is the absolute final prophet of all earths.
Taḥdhīr al-Nās: Content
Thus, the context of Taḥdhīr al-Nās was to reconcile the superiority of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ with the report of Ibn ‘Abbās affirming counterparts existing on other earths. Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī had already explained his view on the superiority of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ in an earlier work, Āb-i-Ḥayāt, in 1870. In it, he explained a distinction between direct/non-derivative (dhātī) and indirect/derivative (‘araḍi) attributes. The light of the moon and planets is indirect/derivative while the light of the sun is direct/non-derivative. He argued prophethood had a similar division.
In his words: “This division also exists in the characteristic of prophethood. It is either non-derivative or derivative. The prophethood of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ is non-derivative and the prophethood of other prophets besides him is derivative [hence, subordinate to the prophethood of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ].” He proceeds to present textual and rational evidences for this proposition.
In Taḥdhīr al-Nās, he extends this to argue that the report of Ibn ‘Abbās (Allāh be pleased with him) enhances the supremacy and greatness of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ and does not in any way impinge on it. How so? Because all prophets, whether of this world or any other, ultimately derive their prophethood from his. Hence, the more prophets that are subordinate to his ultimate prophethood, the greater his status.
“Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”: Ẓahr and Baṭn
In Taḥdhīr al-Nās, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī couches this argument in an esoteric meaning of the prophetic title “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”, referred to in the verse of the Qur’ān: “Muḥammad is not the father of any of your men, but the messenger of Allāh (rasūlAllāh) and the seal of prophets (khātam al-nabiyyīn).” While the plain meaning of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” is “the last chronological prophet”, a more subtle or esoteric meaning was propounded by some scholars.
Almost a thousand years before Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī, the Ṣūfī Muḥaddith, al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī, wrote:
Allāh, exalted is He, has combined the particles of prophethood for Muḥammad ﷺ, perfected them for him and put a seal over them with His seal… The meaning of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” according to us is that prophethood was completed in its entirety for Muḥammad ﷺ, so his heart was made for the pinnacle of prophethood a receptacle around it, and then it was sealed.
Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī included the following couplet in his famous Mathnawī: “The Prophet is the Khātam because no likeness has he in generosity nor will he; like when a scholar acquires special mastery in a field, you say: ‘This field has been sealed by you.’” In commenting on this couplet, Baḥr al-‘Ulūm Laknawī writes:
Meaning, the Prophet ﷺ is “Khātam” and he is designated “Khātam al-Rusul” because there is no one like him in generosity, favour and bestowal, nor will there be. His gift is inclusive of all people. No prophet has reached his prophetic perfection nor a saint his saintly perfection but via the effusion of his spiritual light. He has gifted the perfections to all prophets and saints… Since the Prophet ﷺ is the teacher of all prophets and saints, and has gifted them all, and there is none like him in this generosity and favour, this is why he has been designated with the attribute of “Khātam”.
Thus, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī argues the verse has a conspicuous meaning (ẓahr) and an esoteric meaning (baṭn), both of which are equally true. In Ajwibah Arba‘īn, a work published in 1874 in refutation of Shī‘ah, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī wrote:
Based on the ḥadīth, “Indeed every verse has a ẓahr (a conspicuous meaning) and a baṭn (esoteric meaning)”, since the sealship of time is, as it were, the ẓahr of the verse, the baṭn, i.e. an esoteric meaning, is also desired. The esoteric meaning of prophetic sealship is that the continual chain of receiving prophethood ends at him ﷺ. The light of the moon and planets are received from the sun. In the world of means, the light of the sun is not received from another. Similarly, the prophethood of the earlier prophets was received from Muḥammad ﷺ. Yet, the Muḥammadan prophethood was not received in the world of means from another. The continual chain of light ends at the sun, so it is right to call it “khātam al-nayyirāt”: the seal of lights. So too, the continual chain of prophethood ends at the Muḥammadan soul, hence it is deserving he be called “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”.
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī would later author a work to refute some charges made against Taḥdhīr al-Nās by his detractors, who were led by ‘Abd al-Qādir Bādāyūnī (1837 – 1901). He called it Radd-i-Qawl-i-Faṣīḥ (“Refutation of Qawl-i-Faṣīḥ”), but it was given the title “Tanwīr al-Nibrās” by his students. In it, he refers to himself in the third person as “the author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās”. In this work, he wrote:
At this juncture, it would be appropriate to point to this [meaning of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”] from the explanation (tafsīr) of the noble Awliyā’ too, although there isn’t scope here to cite the passages. Haḍrat Muhyī al-Dīn Ibn ‘Arabī, Mawlānā Rūm, Mawlānā Baḥr al-‘Ulūm, Haḍrat Mujaddid Alf Thānī, Allāh sanctify their souls, Haḍrat Shaykh ‘Aḍuḍ al-Dīn Amrohī, Allāh sanctify his soul, and others – all of them gave the same explanation of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” which the author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās did. While Qāḍī Bayḍāwī and others explained the ẓahr of the speech of Allāh, these [Awliyā’] explained its baṭn. The author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās combined both [the ẓahr and the baṭn] in [his explanation of] this verse.
He further states:
If the sealship of rank, which is the baṭn of the verse, is not mentioned in Tafsīr Bayḍāwī, which is explaining the ẓahr of the Qur’ān, to say Imām Bayḍāwī denies the baṭn of the verse is merely your presumption. According to ḥadīth, all verses have a ẓahr and a baṭn. If someone explains a baṭn for the outer meaning of the Qur’ān, why should this be denounced?
Positional Sealship Entails Chronological Finality
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī believed that the esoteric meaning he offers for “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” automatically entails finality in time. He explained this in several different ways. In Ajwibah Arba‘īn, at the conclusion of the above-cited passage, he says it is divine wisdom that effectively “the best is left till last”. Hence, the direct prophethood of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ also entails chronological finality.
He also argued that superiority in status entails superiority of laws, and the superior-most law must also be the endmost law, hence the Prophet ﷺ must be the endmost prophet. In an 1877 transcript of a debate, he said:
There is no position or rank higher than the seal of the ranks of prophethood. All ranks fall below this. Hence, his laws will supersede the laws of all others. The laws of others will not supersede his. It is thus necessary that he is the seal in terms of time too because the turn of the highest authority occurs after all subordinate authorities. Therefore, his judgement is the endmost judgement. It is evident that a legal case is only taken to the supreme court after all else.
Thus, no other prophet claimed to be the seal (i.e. the last prophet). It was only Ḥaḍrat Muḥammad Rasūlullāh ﷺ that claimed this as stated clearly in the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth. If anyone besides and before the Prophet ﷺ were to have claimed to be the seal it would have been Ḥaḍrat ‘Īsā, but leave aside claiming to be the seal, he said: “The king of the world will come after me.” It is evidently clear from this that he denied being the seal, but rather gave glad tidings of the seal to come. The “king of all” is the seal of authorities. When there are different judgements, his judgement will be the endmost, as is clear in the matter of legal cases.
In other words, because of the superiority of the Prophet ﷺ, his laws are superior-most, which entails they must also be the endmost. In an 1878 transcript of a debate, he said:
Ḥaḍrat Khātam al-Nabiyyīn is the perfect slave in relation to the Deity, so too is he the perfect lawgiver in relation to humanity. Why should this not be? He is the best of them, so he has authority over all. Hence, it is necessary that his law emerges after all laws because it is clear in the sequence of legal cases the judgement of the highest judge is endmost. But, since he is the highest authority, it is also necessary that his law is acquiesced to by all, whether willingly or unwillingly.
In Taḥdhīr al-Nās, his most detailed exploration of this issue, he argues that since the Qur’ān is a preserved book, divine wisdom dictates that no prophethood after the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ is needed, even one that does not bring with it a new law. In this manner, the superiority of status entails chronological finality. In his words: “In this way, chronological posteriority is necessitated by prophetic sealship in the meaning submitted.”
Hence, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī believed “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” even in the esoteric sense of the “culmination of prophets” includes the meaning of chronological finality as a necessary implication or what he calls “an implicative meaning” (dalālah iltizāmiyyah/ma‘nā iltizāmī). He further states that in his judgement, the term “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” incorporates multiple meanings at once, one of which is finality in time (see below).
Hence, in response to detractors who claimed he did not believe the term “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” indicated finality in time, he said:
The author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās does not mean that the sentence on Khātam al-Nabiyyīn doesn’t in any way indicate chronological finality or that chronological finality cannot be meant by the term ‘Khātam al-Nabiyyīn’. He himself has given two explanations of how chronological finality is meant and indicated [by the verse/term].
Taḥdhīr al-Nās: Thesis
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī develops a case for his point of view in Taḥdhīr al-Nās. His first main contention is that verse 33:40 contains the conjunction lākin (but) which entails a corrective of a false assumption (istidrāk). Hence, the two attributes “Messenger of Allāh” and “Seal of the Prophets” correct a wrong assumption that may derive from “Muḥammad is not the father of any of your men”.
While other exegetes have explained this corrective in different ways, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī argues that the initial part of the sentence negates a physical fatherhood while the latter part of the sentence serves to establish a metaphysical fatherhood for the Prophet ﷺ to both his community of believers and to all previous prophets. The Prophet’s ﷺ fatherhood of his community is expressed in the term “Messenger of Allāh”, because they derive their belief from his. In Mawlānā Nānotwī’s words: “He is the spiritual father of believers in this matter. Meaning, the faith of others was born of his ﷺ faith. His faith is the source of the faith of others. The faith of others is the offshoot of his faith.” The Prophet’s ﷺ fatherhood of the previous prophets is expressed in the term “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”, which means the prophethood of other prophets derives from and culminates at his prophethood.
He offers a number of evidences for why he believes the earlier prophets derive their prophethood from the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ. He accepts these evidences are “abductive” (innī) – that is, arguing the cause from its effects, which is not a definitive form of evidence. But he develops a cumulative case which he argues offers strong support for his claim.
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī explains:
In this situation, the outcome of the meaning of the noble verse will be that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ has not acquired fatherhood of the known kind with respect to any man, but he has acquired spiritual fatherhood with respect to his community, as well as with respect to the prophets. “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” is proof only with respect to the prophets. The attributes of those that embody attributes indirectly are branches of the one that embodies them directly. The one that embodies attributes directly is the source of the derivative attributes and they are its offshoots.
Since the blessed Muḥammadan being embodies the characteristic of prophethood directly and the remaining prophets embody it indirectly, it is now established that he ﷺ is a spiritual father (wālid ma‘nawī), and the remaining prophets are with respect to him spiritual children (awlād ma‘nawī). With respect to his community, ponder the phrase “RasūlAllāh” and this reality will become clear.
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī offers a linguistic analysis of a) how the terms khātam and khātim (two accepted readings of the word in the Qur’ān) carry the meaning he argues; and b) how multiple meanings can simultaneously be meant by the term. For the latter, he gives the example of another verse in which wine and gambling are referred to as “rijs” (filth). Wine is physical filth and gambling is moral filth, yet the word “filth” is used for both. In the same way, the word khātam/khātim entails posteriority. Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī argues the posteriority is inclusive of time, status and location. Posteriority of time means he comes chronologically at the end of all prophets. Posteriority of status means his position outstrips that of all other prophets in the manner he explained. Posteriority of location means his earth is above the remaining six earths, as described in ḥadīths.
Chronological Finality is an Essential Belief of Islām
Hence, Mawlānā Nānotwī says the term “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” indicates chronological finality either as an implicative meaning or as one of multiple simultaneous meanings – the latter which Mawlānā Nānotwī says is his preferred view. After explaining this, he writes in Taḥdhīr al-Nās:
Therefore, if [sealship] is unrestricted and inclusive, the establishment of chronological finality is evident. Otherwise, accepting the necessity of chronological finality by implicative indication is definitely established. Here, the explicit statements of the Prophet ﷺ like: “You are to me at the level of Hārūn to Mūsā but there is no prophet after me”, or as he said, which is apparently derived from the term “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” in the manner explained above, are sufficient on this subject because they reach the level of mass-transmission.
Furthermore, consensus has been reached on this. Although the aforementioned words were not reported with mass-transmitted chains, despite this lack of mass-transmission in words, there is mass-transmission in meaning, akin to the mass-transmission of the number of rak‘ats of obligatory ṣalāhs, the Witr ṣalāh and so on. The words of the narrations stating the number of rak‘ats are not mass-transmitted. Yet, just as the one who denies that is a disbeliever, the one who denies this is also a disbeliever.
He then comments:
Look now, in this situation, the conjunction between the two sentences and the aforementioned corrective and exception come into focus at the height of coherence. The sealship [of the Prophet ﷺ] is established in the best way. Chronological finality (khātamiyyat zamānī) too does not escape one’s hand.
Further, in this situation, just as the reading “khātim” is made sense of, so too is the reading “khātam” made sense of to the highest degree, without any artificiality (takalluf). The mark or seal of a “khātam” – with fatḥah on the tā’ – appears on the thing that is sealed. Similarly, the mark of one that embodies a characteristic directly appears on those that embody the characteristic indirectly.
Relative Khātams and Universal Finality
In Tanwīr al-Nibrās, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī makes it explicitly clear that he regards the counterparts of the Prophet ﷺ on the other earths to be “relative khātams”, i.e. relative to their earth, while the Prophet Muḥammad’s ﷺ finality is inclusive of all earths. He writes: “The seals of the lower earths are relative seals (khātam iḍāfī) while the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ is the real seal (khātam ḥaqīqī).”
He explains that the Prophet ﷺ is the “real seal” in both senses – status and time:
The author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās did not specify the positional sealship (khātamiyyat martabī) to be in relation to the prophets of this earth. Assuming the report of Ibn ‘Abbās to be genuine, he affirmed the Prophet’s ﷺ positional sealship to be in relation to the prophets [in the earths] below too. In fact, you can even say, this was the reason for writing the treatise Taḥdhīr al-Nās.
In this scenario, the Muḥammadan chronological finality (khātamiyyat zamānī), according to the author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās, will not be specifically in relation to those prophets [of this earth]. He would be the chronological seal of the prophets [in the earths], below too, which entails all other prophets [on all earths] came before him in time.
Hence, in summarising his views, Mawlānā Ḥusayn Aḥmad Madanī (1879 – 1957) writes:
According to the intent of Haḍrat Mawlānā [Qāsim Nānotwī], the Prophet ﷺ will not be called ‘Khātam’ of this earth only. Rather, his prophethood, both in terms of time and status, is a seal for the prophets of all seven earths.
What this entire discussion shows is that Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī never questioned the chronological finality of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ. Indeed, he regards anyone who questions it to be a disbeliever. Rather, he merely questioned chronological finality being the sole basis for the prophetic title of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”.
Now that we have been introduced to the context and basic thesis of Taḥdhīr al-Nās, we are in a position to examine some of the controversial statements from the book.
A Belief of the Common People?
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī begins his answer in Taḥdhīr al-Nās as follows, which we will refer to as “citation 1” in reference to Asrar Rashid’s “quotes” (see below):
Before presenting an answer, it is submitted that first the meaning of “the Seal of the Prophets” (Khātam al-Nabiyyīn) [as it occurs in the Qur’ān] should be understood so that there is no difficulty in understanding the answer. Hence, in the understanding of the common people, the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ being the “Seal” is in the sense that his time comes after the time of the previous prophets, and he is the last of all prophets. However, it is clear to men of understanding that there is no intrinsic merit to chronological priority or posteriority. Then, how can it be valid, in this situation, that “but the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of Prophets” (Qur’ān, 33:40) is in a context of praise?
He proceeds to explain why he believes the context must be one of praise and not merely a neutral statement. Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s detractors objected that this statement means all exegetes of the Qur’ān, even the Prophet ﷺ and the companions themselves, be considered “common folk” because they all believed “the Seal of the Prophets” means “the last chronological prophet”.
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī responds to this objection in Tanwīr al-Nibrās. He explains that he too takes chronological finality as a meaning of the verse as he goes on to explain in Taḥdhīr al-Nās, so he is not describing merely understanding “chronological finality” from the term “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” as “the understanding of the common people”. Rather, he is referring to a restriction of the meaning of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” to chronological finality, and this is what he describes as the “understanding of the common people”. His contention is that it is not restricted to this meaning alone, but encompasses a broader meaning. Hence, his observation that “in the understanding of the common people, the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ being the ‘seal’ is in the sense that his time comes after the time of the previous prophets” means in the restricted or limited sense.
He explains in Tanwīr al-Nibrās:
The common people, based on their belief in the famousness of chronological finality as its meaning, regard sealship limited to time to be the absolute and total meaning…What the author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās meant was that the common people consider the whole meaning and the assigned literal meaning of “Seal” to be the last in time, hence they consider it impermissible to take other meanings. Yet, the reality [according to the author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās] is that the meaning of “Seal” is the last, whether in terms of time, location or position. At the level of the essence, this meaning is general and these specifications play no part.
Hence, what he took issue with is it being the “sole meaning”. This is clear from Taḥdhīr al-Nās itself as he has himself said the verse indicates chronological finality. As was quoted from him earlier, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī said: “The author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās does not mean that the sentence on Khātam al-Nabiyyīn doesn’t in any way indicate chronological finality or that chronological finality cannot be meant by the term ‘Khātam al-Nabiyyīn’. He himself has given two explanations of how chronological finality is meant and indicated [by the verse/term].”
As explained, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī believed the elements of time, location and status are all included in the Prophet’s ﷺ sealship. If the sealship of time were hypothetically violated, the sealship of status would remain. Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī expressed this in a couple of places in Taḥdhīr al-Nās, which became a source of criticism on the part of his detractors. The point that Mawlānā Nānotwī was getting across in these passages is that with this understanding of “sealship” no doubt will remain as to the supremacy and excellence of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ, even to the extent that any hypothetical prophet would be subordinate to his direct prophethood. So, there can be no doubt as to the Prophet’s ﷺ superiority. We will refer to the following two citations as “citation 2” and “citation 3”.
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī states (citation 2):
Yes, if sealship in the sense of a non-derivative embodiment of the attribute of prophethood is taken, as this humble one has submitted, then besides Allāh’s Messenger ﷺ, any other individual intended for creation cannot be considered equal to the Prophet ﷺ. Rather, in this way not only is his superiority over external individual prophets established, his superiority over even conceivable (muqaddarah) individuals is established. Therefore, even if it were hypothesised that after the time of the Prophet ﷺ any prophet was born, even then there would be no difference to the Muḥammadan sealship.
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s reference to “a prophet that is born after the Prophet ﷺ” in this statement falls in the category not of actual, “external” individuals, but merely hypothetical, “conceivable” ones. Mawlānā Idrīs Kāndhlawī (1899 – 1974) explains this passage as follows:
If it were legally possible for a prophet to be appointed after the Prophet ﷺ according to the deceased Mawlānā [Qāsim Nānotwī], he would not have used the word “hypothetically” (bi ‘l-farz). The term “hypothetically” itself indicates it is impossible, the clear meaning of which is that this is impossible and in no way is it possible [for it to occur]. However, if in hypothetically assuming the impossible, for a short while this impossibility [of a future prophet being born] were to be entertained, even then there would be no difference to the positional sealship of the Prophet ﷺ, his excellence and supremacy.
Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī reiterates the same point in another section of Taḥdhīr al-Nās (citation 3):
The unrestrictedness of “Khātam” entails that the series of all prophets (upon them peace) terminates at him ﷺ. According to the above-described explanation, it is established from this expression that the earlier prophets are in need of him ﷺ for the characteristic of prophethood, and that he is not in need of anyone for this characteristic, whether earlier prophets or any other [created entity]. In the same way, if it is hypothesised that in his ﷺ time on this earth or any other earth, or in the sky, there was to be a prophet, he too would be dependent on him ﷺ for the characteristic of prophethood, and his series of prophethood will in any case terminate at him…The objective is that if sealship in the meaning I presented is taken, then his position as the Seal will not be specifically in relation to the past prophets. In fact, if hypothetically in his own time another prophet existed somewhere, even then his position as the Seal will remain sound.
The point he is getting across is that based on this understanding of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”, there is no conceivable way that the narration of Ibn ‘Abbās (Allāh be pleased with him), which he and others regard to be authentic, can call into question the Prophet’s ﷺ absolute superiority.
Asrar Rashid’s Citations
Let us now turn to how Asrar Rashid irresponsbily presents three “quotes” from Taḥdhīr al-Nās to forge a link between Deobandīs and Qādiyānīs. In a section of his book titled “Wahhābī/Deobandī Support” (i.e. of Qādiyānīs), he writes:
Qāsim al-Nānawtawī – the founder of the Deoband Movement – was a prolific author who had garnered a sizeable following in the Subcontinent during his time. However, his writings were met with strong responses as many times he purported erroneous beliefs as being orthodoxy. One example, which is relevant to the discussion here, was his quotes from Taḥdhīr al-Nās.
Al-Nānawtawī said: “To interpret the ‘finality of Prophethood’ as the ‘Last Prophet’ is a misconception in the minds of the general public – this meaning is incorrect according to the learned”; “Even if a prophet were to be born after the Holy Prophet ﷺ, the finality of the Prophet ﷺ would not be affected in any way” and “Even if it were assumed that a new prophet can come during the era of the Holy Prophet or after him ﷺ, it would not have effect on the finality of our Prophet ﷺ.” These statements gave birth to an unprecedented debate on the finality of the Prophet Muḥammad.
Even though these “quotes” are selected from several different sections of Taḥdhīr al-Nās, Asrar Rashid gives only a single reference in his footnote to the third “quote” as: “Taḥdhīr al-Nās, p.25”. Moreover, Asrar Rashid has taken liberties in his translation of these “quotes”, the full translations of which have been given above as “citations 1-3”.
Our first question for Asrar Rashid is:
➩ Given the context of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s statements both in Taḥdhīr al-Nās and in his other writings, do these isolated and decontextualised quotes fairly represent his views?
If Asrar Rashid disagrees with Mawlānā Nānotwī’s thesis, he should have accurately presented his views, followed by a careful critique of them. What purpose does it serve to quote three isolated sentences selectively in this manner from a complex discourse? To a neutral observer, it may even come across as willful deception. These isolated “quotes” give the impression that Mawlānā Nānotwī believed the title “Seal of the Prophets” gives no indication to chronological finality at all, and indeed that chronological finality is not even a necessary belief. Yet, the context of the passages from Taḥdhīr al-Nās makes it clear he does regard chronological finality as being included within the meanings of “the Seal of the Prophets” and that it is an essential belief of Islām.
Asrar Rashid concludes the paragraph of “quotes” with:
These statements gave birth to an unprecedented debate on the finality of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ.
What “unprecedented debate on the finality of the Prophet Muḥammad” he is referring to however is not clear. As we have shown very clearly, the finality of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ was never in question in Mawlānā Nānotwī’s writings.
A Link Between Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn Bhairawī and Deoband?
Asrar Rashid says:
Mirzā’s successor, Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn (1914 C.E) had attended lectures at the Deoband seminary [dār al-‘ulūm] and fell under the influence of Qāsim al-Nānawtawī (1880 C.E) on finality of prophethood [khatm al-nubuwwa] which had caused controversy amongst Muslims and was refuted by many scholars. Later Qādiyānites, however, would use it as proof to validate their views on the finality of prophethood.
After having been away from his home for years – spent in quest of religious and medical education and performing the Ḥajj pilgrimmage twice – Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn left Jeddah for Bombay and from there to Delhi by rail. This was at the time when Qāsim al-Nānawtawī held spiritual sway in Delhi and was engaged in the teaching of the Holy Qur’ān and Ḥadīth. It was during that time that Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn had the opportunity of attending one of his sessions. Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn gave an account of such a meeting in his own words: “I have seen Mawlānā Qāsim al-Nānawtawī. He is a very intelligent man. He has an intellectual temperament and handles all questions sharply.”
Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn Bhairawī (1841 – 1914 CE) was a close companion and ally of the notorious false prophet, Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad Qādiyānī (1839 – 1908). He was also the “first khalīfah” of the Qādiyānī group. Asrar Rashid’s reference for the above account is a biography of Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn Bhairawī by a Qādiyānī author titled: “Hakeem Noor-Ud-Deen: The Way of the Righteous”. Nowhere in this biography does it say that Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn “attended lectures at the Deoband seminary”, nor that he “fell under the influence of Qāsim al-Nānawtawī on finality of prophethood”. It appears these are entirely fictional additions by Asrar Rashid himself. Hence, the next questions for Asrar Rashid are:
➩ Is there any credible evidence that Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn Bhairawī attended lectures at Deoband?
➩ Is there any credible evidence he borrowed ideas on khatm al-nubuwwah from Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī?
The second paragraph from the above citation is an almost verbatim restatement of a passage from the Qādiyānī biography of Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn that Asrar Rashid referenced. The most it establishes is that Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn attended a single session of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s classes. This would have occurred long before Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn made any contact with Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad Qādiyānī or had any associations with him. Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn first met with Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad in 1885, after the publication of the first few volumes of the latter’s Barāhīn Aḥmadiyyah.
Morever, Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn studied with other famous scholars like Mawlānā Irshād Ḥusayn (1832 – 1893) of Rampur (Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn spent three years in Rampur for studies), Mawlānā Raḥmatullāh Kīrānawī (1818 – 1891) and Shāh ‘Abd al-Ghanī Dihlawī. He attended more than a single lecture of theirs. Why are they not implicated in Asrar Rashid’s conspiracy-laden discourse?
Proximity Between Mirzā’s Claims and Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s Writings?
After presenting the three decontextualised “quotes” from Taḥdhīr al-Nās, Asrar Rashid writes:
Amongst Sunnī Muslims, the debate quickly gained the attention of many, as confusion became widespread. Such views presented by al-Nānawtawī were being proposed at the time when Mirzā had declared himself to be a prophet.
Although Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad of Qadian (1839 – 1908) was a contemporary of Mawlānā Qāsim Nanotwī, he was relatively unknown before 1880 (the year of Mawlānā Nānotwī’s demise) which was when he began publishing his magnum opus, the Barāhīn Aḥmadiyyah. Taḥdhīr al-Nās was published in 1873. So a further question for Asrar Rashid is:
➩ In what way were Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s views being proposed “at the time” that Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad claimed himself to be a prophet?
Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad Qādiyānī did not make any explicit claims of prophethood until 1901, several decades after Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī had already passed away. What Asrar Rashid appears to want to get across is some sort of causal link between Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s views and Mirzā’s claims of prophethood.
Apart from being baseless and unfounded, Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad’s absurd views on the meaning of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” is not the same as Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s. Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad believed that the prophets that came before the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ were “independent prophets”, while only “dependent prophets” who have been validated by the Prophet Muḥammad’s ﷺ “seal of approval” can appear subsequent to him. Because he regarded himself as a “dependent prophet”, he did not see this as violating the Prophet Muḥammad’s ﷺ sealship. Yet, he says it is not possible for ‘Īsā (upon him peace) to literally return as this would violate the Prophet Muḥammad’s ﷺ sealship given he is an independent prophet!
This heretical distortion of the meaning of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn” is of course an assault on definitive Islāmic beliefs that a) with the arrival of the the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ it is impossible for anyone to be appointed a prophet; and b) that ‘Īsā (upon him peace), who is not a new prophet, will literally return. Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s conception of “sealship” agrees with Islāmic orthodoxy on both points. He understood “sealship” to mean that all prophets derived their prophethood from the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ in a manner that entails the Prophet Muḥammad’s ﷺ absolute chronological finality. There is no doubt that in his view Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad Qādiyānī would be a disbeliever for his claim of prophethood. In Taḥdhīr al-Nās, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī notes that “anyone who claims prophethood today would be regarded as a disbeliever”.
1974 Supreme Court Hearing on Qādiyānīs
Asrar Rashid further claims:
Unbeknown to many, a subtle, unexpressed connection always remained between the Deobandī and Qādiyānī movements. In 1974, when Shāh Aḥmad Nūrānī al-Ṣiddīqī challenged the Qādiyānites to debate their identity as Muslims in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the final straw they tenaciously clung onto were these statements of al-Nānawtawī.
During the court proceedings the Deobandī representatives were unable to answer this presentation on part of the Qādiyānites. The Sunnī scholars present, however, refuted these statements and made it abundantly clear that when al-Nānawtawī wrote them they were also declared heretical by the likes of Muftī Ḥāfiẓ Bakhsh al-Badāyūnī and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī.
Asrar Rashid has a footnote at the end of each of these paragraphs. The first footnote reads: “See: ‘Proceedings of the Special Committee of the Whole House Held in Camera to Consider the Qadiani Issue’ by the National Assembly of Pakistan”. The second footnote has the reference: “‘Abd al-Ghaffār al-Kānpūrī, Ibṭāl-i-Aghlā-i-Qāsimiyya (sic.), p.39-40”.
His first reference, Proceedings of the Special Committee of the Whole House Held in Camera to Consider the Qadiani Issue, is a report that runs into thousands of pages, but Asrar Rashid does not identify a page number. Why would that be? Is it because this is a citation bluff? It certainly seems that way.
The 1974 court case against Qādiyānīs was one of the most high-profile and impactful efforts against the Qādiyānīs. It was led by scholars from all persuasions, including Deobandīs. Some of the members of the National Assembly of Pakistan who in 1974 pushed for a Supreme Court judgement against Qādiyānīs include: Muftī Maḥmūd (1919 – 1980), a prominent Deobandī scholar and politician; Mawlānā Ghulām Ghawth Hazārvī (1896 – 1981), a Deobandī scholar; and Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq Akorwī (1912 – 1988), founder of the famous madrasah Dār al-‘Ulūm Ḥaqqāniyyah.
The next question we have for Asrar Rashid is:
➩ Can Asrar Rashid show where in this official report, namely Proceedings of the Special Committee of the Whole House Held in Camera to Consider the Qadiani Issue, the reference he has himself cited, it gives the account he describes?
It will not do to quote hearsay or reports from other sources that cannot be corroborated. Since Asrar Rashid has cited the official proceedings, he should be able to show where this account is found in there.
This is not to say that Qādiyānīs never used Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s statements. Qādiyānīs have misused the statements of many scholars, including Mullā ‘Alī al-Qārī, Shāh Waliyyullāh Dihlawī, Jalāl al-Dīn al-Rūmī etc. The mere fact that they misuse Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s writings says nothing about the validity or otherwise of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s views.
In his (fictitious?) account about the 1974 court proceedings, Asrar Rashid makes out that Deobandī “representatives” were unable to put up a credible defence against Qādiyānī citations from Taḥdhīr al-Nās. (The onus is on Asrar Rashid to identify where this account is found in the document he references.) Yet, where Qādiyānīs had used passages from Taḥdhīr al-Nās to support their beliefs, the scholars of Deoband had adequately refuted them.
Another high-profile court case occurred in the Bahawalpur state between 1926 and 1935 with regards to the status of the marriage of a woman whose husband converted to Qādiyānism. Seeing that this court case was critical to the integrity of their movement, the Qādiyānī leadership hired experienced lawyers to argue their case. ‘Allāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī (1873 – 1933) and his students led the case against the Qādiyānīs. During the proceedings, the Qādiyānī lawyer argued from some isolated statements of Taḥdhīr al-Nās, to which ‘Allāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī replied:
In his inspired tract [i.e. Taḥdhīr al-Nās], Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muḥammad Qāsim Ṣāḥib (Allāh have mercy on him) offered strong evidences and proofs for the Prophet ﷺ being the Seal of the Prophets and espoused remarkable academic insights on the narration transmitted from Ḥaḍrat ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās. In several places in this treatise, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā also affirmed that the Noble Prophet ﷺ is the Seal of the Prophets in terms of time, and that this is a unanimous doctrine, and that this meaning has been mass-transmitted and its denier is a disbeliever. See also Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā’s book Munāẓarah ‘Ajībah on this very topic, and also his Āb-i-Ḥayāt, Qāsim al-‘Ulūm and other writings.
Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā affirmed not one, not two, but three types of sealship for the Prophet ﷺ. The first is direct sealship. Meaning, the position of the Prophet ﷺ is a direct sealship. The Noble Prophet ﷺ is characterised with prophethood directly while all other noble prophets (upon them peace) are characterised by it indirectly, via him. This is like in the world of means, the sun is directly imbued with light while other heavenly bodies, the moon and so on, and earthly things are imbued with light via the sun. This is analogous to the characteristic of prophethood.
Hence, the Prophet ﷺ received prophethood before everyone else. It is clear from the verse on the prophetic covenant that just as the Noble Prophet ﷺ is the Messenger of this Ummah, he is the prophet of all prophets (nabiyy al-anbiyā’). The group of prophets had been placed to one side and the Noble Prophet ﷺ to another side, and an agreement and oath to believe and support the Prophet ﷺ was taken from all of them. By saying “then he comes to you”, the verse clarifies that the time of appearance of the Prophet ﷺ will occur after all of them.
This is also demonstrated by the prophets (upon them peace) on the Night of Mi‘rāj forming rows and waiting for an imām and the Prophet ﷺ becoming their imām…Furthermore, the last of the Israelite prophets arriving and supporting the religion of the absolute Seal of the Prophets and implementing the Muḥammadan Sharī‘ah is a practical demonstration of the Prophet ﷺ being the best prophet and the Seal of the Prophets and is clearly aimed at showing Muḥammadan virtue. It should be clear that the doctrine of the descent of ‘Īsā (upon him peace) is a unanimous and mass-transmitted doctrine.
The second is chronological sealship, meaning that in this world of seeing, his time of prophethood occurs at the end of all prophets (upon them peace). No one will be endowed with prophethood after him. In the seventh volume of Rūḥ al-Ma‘ānī, it is reported as a marfū‘ ḥadīth from Ḥaḍrat Ubayy ibn Ka‘b: “The creation [of prophets] began with me, but I will be the last to be sent”. It is also reported as a marfū‘ ḥadīth from Ḥaḍrat Abū Hurayrah (Allāh be pleased with him): “I was the first prophet to be created and the last to be sent”.
Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Nānotwī (Allāh have mercy on him) affirmed a third type: sealship of location: “Meaning, the earth in which the Noble Prophet appeared is above and at the end of all earths, and there are no earths above it.” He demonstrated this with evidences.
This was an incident some forty years before the 1974 Supreme Court case. If the scholars of Deoband were able to put up a defence several decades before, why would they suddenly fail to do so here?!
Ibṭāl Aghlāṭ Qāsimiyyah
Asrar Rashid cites a very questionable document, Ibṭāl Aghlāṭ Qāsimiyyah, to argue that “when al-Nānawtawī wrote [these passages] they were also declared heretical by the likes of Muftī Ḥāfiẓ Bakhsh al-Badāyūnī and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī”. Yet, Ibṭāl Aghlāṭ Qāsimiyyah was published after the demise of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī in 1882 or 1883, almost a decade after Taḥdhīr al-Nās. Professor Ayyūb Qādrī (1926 – 1983) explains:
Ibṭāl Aghlāṭ Qāsimiyyah [1300 H]: Upon the suggestion of Mawlawī ‘Ubaydullāh, the imām of Jāmi‘ Masjid at Mombay (a Murīd of Mawlānā Faḍl-i-Rasūl Badāyūnī), an individual ‘Abd al-Ghaffār put this treatise together as a refutation of Taḥdhīr al-Nās. According to ‘Abd al-Ghaffār, the individual who put it together, a debate occurred in Delhi between Mawlānā Muḥammad Qāsim Nānotwī and Mawlawī Muḥammad Shāh Punjābī on the contents of Taḥdhīr al-Nās. Putting together a question with the views of them both, ‘Abd al-Ghaffār acquired signatures against Mawlānā Muḥammad Qāsim from the ‘Ulamā’. Along with others, this treatise has the signatures of Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Qādir Badāyūnī, Mawlawī Muḥibb Aḥmad Badāyūnī (student of Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Qādir Badāyūnī), Mawlawī Faṣīḥuddīn (author of Qawl al-Faṣīḥ), Mawlawī ‘Ubaydullāh, the imām of Jāmi‘ Masjid at Mombay, and others.
In other words, it was something compiled by Mawlānā Nānotwī’s detractors, those in the circle of ‘Abd al-Qādir Badāyūnī. A signature that is clearly out of place and unexpected is that of ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī, which Asrar Rashid capitalises on. But this signature does not seem to be genuine. Nor does it seem anything of note is known about the compiler ‘Abd al-Ghaffār.
In Ibṭāl Aghlāṭ Qāsimiyyah, the views of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī are presented merely as citations from Taḥdhīr al-Nās, as well as one citation from a letter in Qāsim al-‘Ulūm (a collection of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī’s letters). The bulk of Ibṭāl Aghlāṭ Qāsimiyyah consists of objections allegedly made by Mawlānā Muḥammad Shāh Punjābī, objections which Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī had already responded to in Tanwīr al-Nibrās.
‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī agreed with Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī on the authenticity of the report of Ibn ‘Abbās. He explicitly opposed the declarations of disbelief and deviation that occurred in this matter. In a work he authored in 1880 in refutation of Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān Qinnawajī, he wrote:
This is an issue regarding which various views and unsound notions have arisen from the scholars of our age. The debate has even led to declarations of disbelief and deviation, but the issue is not something in which either of the two sides on it are ruled to have disbelief or deviation. I compiled three books on it, two in Urdu, the first al-Āyāt al-Bayyināt ‘alā Wujūd al-Anbiyā’ fi ‘l-Ṭabaqāt and the other Dāfi‘ al-Waswās fī Athar Ibn ‘Abbās, in which I verified the matter in a nice way and removed the doubts of many skeptics in an explanatory manner. The third is in Arabic called Zajr al-Nās ‘an Inkār Athar Ibn ‘Abbās, in which I incorporated the outcomes of the two previous books and added a lot from the books Allāh favoured me to read in the two Blessed Ḥarams. I finished compiling it in Makkah Mu‘aẓẓamah in 29 Dhu ‘l-Qa’dah 1292 (January, 1876). Scholars of the two Ḥarams came across it and approved of it and praised its contents. Mawlānā Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghanī al-Mujaddidī al-Dihlawī, resident of Madīnah Ṭayyibah, wrote a few words endorsing it with his noble pen.
‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī maintained friendship with Mawlānā Nānotwī, apparently right the way till the latter’s death. Moreover, ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī did not shy away from arguments with scholars, as evident from his refutations of Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān Qinnawajī, Muḥammad Bashīr Sahsawānī, ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq Khayrabādī and Muḥammad Ḥusayn Batālawī. A short statement of ‘Allāmah Laknawī also forms part of Taḥdhīr al-Nās, which was printed more than a decade before his demise. If he took issue with its contents, surely he would have written something sooner? Given ‘Allāmah ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī’s well-known erudition, why would he endorse a text that consists of objections that Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī had already addressed?
These are good reasons to be skeptical of the contents of Ibṭāl Aghlāṭ Qāsimiyyah. This is aside from the point that Asrar Rashid references Ibṭāl Aghlāṭ Qāsimiyyah in the context of certain scholars who allegedly used it against Qādiyānī citations from Taḥdhīr al-Nās in the 1974 court case. Asrar Rashid must therefore present credible evidence that this was the case.
Scholars of Deoband & the Anti-Qādiyānī Movement
Scholars of Deoband were in fact at the forefront of the anti-Qādiyānī movement. In an 1897 work, Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad Qādiyānī called out Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī (1829 – 1905) by name for his opposition to him.
‘Allāmah Zāhid al-Kawtharī (1879 – 1951) authored a short article on Qādiyānīs. In it, he said:
The ‘Ulamā’ of Ahl al-Sunnah in India have undertaken many appreciated works in refuting the Qādiyānīs by writing books in various languages, documenting in them citations from the words of Ghulām Aḥmad, the claimant of prophethood…
Who is ‘Allāmah Zāhid al-Kawtharī referring to? In the same article he says:
May Allāh elevate the rank of the erudite scholar, the deceased soul of Islām, the Muḥaddith, the debater, Muḥammad al-Anwar al-Kashmīrī, in the gardens of paradise and repay him with the reward of those who defend the sanctuary of the religion of Islām, for he defeated the Qādiyānīs with his shattering proofs and became a barrier to the moderate and extreme of them spreading in India by authoring beneficial books in refutation of them in various languages. In his book Ikfār al-Mulḥidīn, he verified the matter of anathematising them and their likes. At its conclusion is around seventy-seven citations, like those that have preceded, from the statements of Ghulām Aḥmad the claimant to prophethood, quoting from the books of this heretic and identifying their pages, as researched by the eminent teacher, Mawlānā Sayyid Murtaḍā Ḥasan al-Hindī. With those citations are their translations into Arabic penned by the passionate teacher, Mawlawī Muḥammad Shafī‘ al-Deobandī.
‘Allāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī, Muftī Muḥammad Shafī‘ (1897 – 1976) and Mawlānā Sayyid Murtaḍā Ḥasan (1868 – 1951) were prominent scholars of Deoband.
In terms of political, legal and grassroots activisim against Qādiyānīs, Deobandī scholars played important roles. They played an important part in the 1974 constitutional amendment declaring Qādiyānīs non-Muslims. It was under the leadership of ‘Allāmah Yūsuf Bannūrī (1908 – 1977) that several organisations came together (including a Barelwī organisation led by Shāh Aḥmad Nūrānī) that created the momentum for this critical court hearing.
Asrar Rashid mentions none of this, and instead claims there exists a “subtle” and “unexpressed” connection between Deobandīs and Qādiyānīs! Given the historical reality, is this not a gross and unfair mischaracterisation of the relationship between Deobandīs and Qādiyānīs?
Following on from our earlier critique from some four years ago, it seems Asrar Rashid has continued to adopt the same mode of pseudointellectual discourse when critiquing Deobandī and pre-Deobandī figures, one that is academically sloppy and, indeed, dishonest. He cites isolated and decontextualised sentences from Taḥdhīr al-Nās, without giving the proper context, to apparently convey a meaning which the author of Taḥdhīr al-Nās himself explicitly rejects. He forges a fictitious link between Ḥakīm Nūr al-Dīn Bhairawī and Deoband. He rehashes a story about the 1974 Supreme Court of Pakistan proceedings citing a source which apparently does not support the claim.
This does not represent fair and honest discourse, nor how a Muslim, much less someone who puts himself forward as a scholar of Islām, ought to behave. Allāh says: “Oh you who believe, be mindful of Allāh and be amongst the truthful”; “Oh you who believe, be mindful of Allāh and speak straight [i.e. truthful and fair] speech”; “Oh you who believe, if a sinner brings news to you, verify it, lest you harm a people in ignorance and then you become remorseful over what you did”; “Oh you who believe, be upholders [of truth] for Allāh, witnesses in fairness; and let not your dislike of a people lead you to be unfair. Be fair!”
These are basic ethics of Islām found in the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Asrar Rashid needs to learn to be truthful, fair and careful in what he writes and attributes to others. He should start with answering the five questions raised here, as well as the questions asked of him in our previous critique.
 Navigating the End of Time, pp.74-6
 Ḥālāt Ṭayyib (Muftī Ilāhī Bakhsh Academy), p.36
 Ḥālāt Ṭayyib, pp.27-8
 Mawqif al-Imām al-Nānotwī min al-Qaḍāyā al-Khilāfiyyah bayn al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Shī‘ah (Ḥujjat al-Islām Academy), Muḥammad Noshad Nūrī al-Qāsimī
 Ustādh al-Kull Hazrat Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī Nānotwī (Muftī Ilāhī Bakhsh Academy), p.477; Ḥālāt Ṭayyib, p.78
 Ḥālāt Ṭayyib, p.46
 Ḥālāt Ṭayyib, p.37; Kulliyāt Imdādiyyah, p.73
 Ḥālāt Ṭayyib, p.69
 For a detailed English biography of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotwī, see Hujjatul Islam Hadhrat Moulana Muhammad Qaasim Nanotwi (rahmatullahi alayh): A Glimpse into his Life, available as a PDF here: hadhrat_moulana_muhammad_qaasim_nanotwi-a_glimpse_into_his_life.pdf (talimiboardkzn.org)
 Ṭaqwiyat al-Īmān, p.43
 Ibid. p.44
 See: Yak Rozah
 Mawlānā Muḥammad Aḥsan Nānotwī (Javed Press Karachi), Professor Muḥammad Ayyūb Qādrī, p.85
 Qur’ān, 65:12
 Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, 23:27; Mustadrak al-Ḥākim, 3869, 3869; al-Asmā’ wa ‘l-Ṣifāt, 831, 832. Imām al-Bayhaqī and others have considered it to be radically inconsistent with other texts (shādhdh), even though the chain is sound. Regarding the shorter version, al-Dhahabī said: “[The chain of] this ḥadīth agrees with the criteria of Bukhārī and Muslim; its narrators are authorities.” Regarding the lengthier version, he said: “Its chain is ḥasan.” (Ākām al-Marjān, Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, p.37) Imām ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī argued at length for its authenticity and consistency with other texts. He also disagrees with Ibn Kathīr’s judgement that Ibn ‘Abbās took it from Isrā’īlī sources. (Majmū‘ah Rasā’il al-Laknawī, 1:395-423)
 Mawlānā Muḥammad Aḥsan Nānotwī, p.86
 Ibid. p.89
 Qur’an, 17:70
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās (Ḥujjat al-Islām Academy), pp.12-3; Majmū‘ah Fatāwā ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Laknawī (Maṭba‘ Yūsufī) pp.16-7
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, pp.90-3; Dāfi‘ al-Waswās ‘an Athar Ibn ‘Abbās, p.21
 Āb-i-Ḥayāt (Idārah Ta’līfāt Ashrafiyyah), p.179
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, pp.76-7
 Qur’ān, 33:40
 Kitāb Khatm al-Awliyā’, pp.340-1; Kitāb Sīrat al-Awliyā’, pp.39-43
 Quoted in Futūḥāt Nu‘māniyyah, p.484
 Quoted in Futūḥāt Nu‘māniyyah, pp.486-7
 Sharḥ Mushkil al-Āthār, 3077; Imām al-Ṭaḥāwī comments: “The ẓahr of the verses is the meaning that is evident and the baṭn is the meaning that is hidden.”
 Ajwibah Arba‘īn, p.245
 Tanwīr al-Nibrās, p.54
 Tanwīr al-Nibrās, pp.43-4
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, p.16
 Ajwibah Arba‘īn, pp.245-6
 Gospel of John, 14:30
 Mubāḥathah-i-Shāhjahānpūr (Ḥujjat al-Islām Academy), p.46
 Intiṣār al-Islām (Mīr Muḥammad Kutubkhānah), p.50
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, pp.26-7
 Tanwīr al-Nibrās, p.31
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, p.36
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, pp.83-4
 Ibid., pp.30-1
 Ibid., p.30
 Qur’ān, 5:90
 Ibid., pp.27-9
 Ibid. p. 27
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Dār al-Ta’ṣīl, 4398); Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (Dār al-Ta’ṣīl), 2483
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, pp.29-30
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, p.30
 Tanwīr al-Nibrās, p.127
 Tanwīr al-Nibrās, p.37
 Al-Shihāb al-Thāqib, p.258
 Munāẓarah ‘Ajībah, p.144
 See also: Āftāb-i-Nubuwwat, Qārī Muḥammad Ṭayyib, 79 – 93; Ma‘ārif al-Qur’ān, Mawlānā Idrīs Kāndhlawī, 6:291-6
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, pp.16-7
 See Futūḥāt Nu‘māniyyah (p.79) for why this interpretation is also viable linguistically. A millennium before Mawlānā Nānotwī, al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī makes almost the same exact point in his discussion on the meaning of “Khātam al-Nabiyyīn”. He states: “The one blind to this information thinks that ‘Khātam al-Nabiyyīn’ means only that he is the last of them to be appointed. What merit is there in this? What knowledge is there in this? This is the understanding of the ignorant.” (Kitāb Sīrat al-Awliyā’, p.42)
 Tanwīr al-Nibrās, pp. 32-4
 Tanwīr al-Nibrās, p.31
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, p.63
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās (Dār al-Ishā‘at), p. 56
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās (Ḥujjat al-Islām Academy), p.38
 Navigating the End of Time, pp.75-6
 Ibid. p.352
 It would seem these three quotes were selected and presented in this manner in imitation of Aḥmad Riḍā Khān’s equally irresponsible citation from Taḥdhīr al-Nās. (Ḥusām al-Ḥaramayn [Dār Ahl al-Sunnah], pp. 31-3)
 Navigating the End of Time, p.75
 Ibid. p.352
 Hakeem Noor-Ud-Deen: The Way of the Righteous, p.31
 Tārīkh-i-Aḥmadiyyat, 3:102
 Tārīkh-i-Aḥmadiyyat, 3:33
 Ibid. 3:36
 Ibid. 3:61
 Ibid. 3:64-5
 Navigating the End of Time, p.76
 Qadianism: A Critical Study (Abul Hasan Nadwi), p.35
 Ibid. p.59
 Mawāhib al-Raḥmān, pp.69-76
 Fatḥ al-Mulhim, 2:202-4 (quoting Āb-i-Ḥayāt)
 Taḥdhīr al-Nās, p.85
 Navigating the End of Times, p.76
 Ibid. p.352
 Ibid. p. 353
 Nigārishāt-i-Akābir, pp.619-20
 Memories, Mufti Taqi Usmani, pp.399-400
 Qur’ān, 3:81
 Anwār-i-Anwarī (Jāmi‘ah ‘Arabiyyah Aḥsan al-‘Ulūm), pp.193-8; Malfūẓāt Muḥaddith Kashmīrī (Idārah Ta’līfāt Ashrafiyyah) pp.59-61
 The title page mentions it was published in 1300 H (1882/1883 CE)
 Mawlānā Muḥammad Aḥsān Nānotwī, p.93
 Ibrāz al-Ghayy al-Wāqi‘ fī Shifā’ al-‘Ayy (Dār al-Fatḥ), pp.160-1
 Al-Imām ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī (Dār al-Qalam), p.300; Arwāḥ-i-Thalāthah, p.182
 Al-Imām ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī, pp.301-17
 Rūḥānī Khazā’in (compilation of Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad Qādiyānī’s writings), 11:69
 Maqālāt al-Kawtharī, p.322
 Ibid. pp.333-4
 Difā‘ Ahl Sunnat, Sājid Khān Naqshbandī, 2:242-254; Memories, pp.388-411
 See: Memories, pp.388-402
 Qur’ān, 9:119
 Qur’ān, 33:70
 Qur’ān, 49:6
 Qur’ān, 5:8