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Shaikh Shah Waliullahs Dehlawi’s (1176H) Inclination in Fiqh and his Hanafiyyah – al-Allamah Shaikh Muhammad Ismaeel Salafi (1378H)

Shaikh Shah Waliullahs Dehlawi’s (1176H) Inclination in Fiqh and his Hanafiyyah 

al-Allamah Shaikh Muhammad Ismaeel Salafi (1378H)

Compiled and Translated 

Abu Hibban & Abu Khuzaimah Ansari


Shaikh Shah Waliullah and those who were upon his way did not want to staunchly restrict themselves to any one school of thought in terms of their beliefs, principles and fiqh. They wanted to act upon the issues which were presented by scholars of hadith and the four madhabs without any restrictions or obligations. Although he apparently was a Hanafi [1] he preferred to give precedence to the positions of the scholars of hadith and the Shafi’s.

In current times the deobandis show great reverence and affiliation with Shaikh Shah Waliullah and his family however their actions, inclinations and thought processes are in total contradiction and in opposition to the thoughts and understanding of Shaikh Shah Waliullah, his family and his followers.

The Deoband (ie their school) of today is almost entirely indifferent from the Barelwis of today and any differences between them are merely polemics.

We will find from the following clarifications the extent of Shaikh Shah Waliullah digressive thinking with regards to his fiqh and the sheer restriction and staunchness of the deobandis. They cannot bear to hear anything negative about themselves whereas Shaikh Shah Waliullah did not tire and abstain from practising and acting upon the Shafi madhab.

The Hadith of Qulatain

There is huge difference of opinion between the Shafis and the Hanafis with regards to the purification of water and the Hadith of the Qulatain is at the forefront of this. The hanafis say the Hadith is mudhtarib (confused) and the Shafis understand it to be authentic. So Shaikh Shah Waliullah understood that the Hanafi and Maliki elders did not come across the ahadith or their understanding was erroneous.

He says, “The Hadith of Qulatain is authentic and has been transmitted via numerous routes.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 1/117).

Meaning the doubts and discussions that arose due to this Hadith pertaining to purification, Shaikh Shah Waliullah favoured and sided with the shafis and excused the hanafis and malikis on the basis that the Hadith was not widespread in earlier times.

Reciting Fatihah Behind The Imam

This disagreement between the hanafis and shafis, wether to recite fatihah behind the imam is famous and numerous treatises have been authored on this subject. Shaikh Shah Waliullah said,

“The individual praying behind the imam, it is obligatory for him to listen and to remain silent (ie not to recite loudly). If the Imam recites loudly then he should recite between the pauses. If the imam is reciting quietly then he may recite as he wishes. However he should not recite the Fatihah loudly so that it contends and mixes with the recitation of the imam. The first way is what I prefer (ie reciting between the pauses) and this is how we reconcile the ahadith in this regard.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 2/7)

There is balance in Shaikh Shah Waliullahs statement as he does not prefer the staunchness from both parties (ie to either remain totally silent or to recite the Fatihah loudly and contend with the imam)

Raf ul-Yadain and Witr

Shaikh Shah Waliullah said whilst discussing raising of the hands whilst going into ruku and the witr prayer, he said,

“The truth according to me is that this sunnah is optional wether to pray one rakah witr or three and raising of the hands is better then not raising as their are numerous ahadith for raising of the hands and they are established. A person should not get hung up about and cause dissension for himself.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 2/8)

It is apparent during those times such acts caused animosity and hence his statement was an encouragement to both sides.

Travelling to Visit Graves.

It is common amongst the people to undertake long journeys to visit graves of holy people and their mausoleum. They would do this just as if they were going on Hajj. Shaikh Shah Waliullah said,

“The truth according to me is that visiting (ie undertaking a journey) graves, a place of worship of a wali and mount Toor are prohibited to visit and they are equal in their prohibition.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 1/153)

The deobandis and barelwis who love visiting graves speak very fervently about his topic but Shaikh Shah Waliullah position is in concurrence with that of Shaikh ul-Islam Imam Ibn Taymiyyah and other Imams of Tawhid.

Nullifiers of Wudu

The jurists differ over what nullifies wudu and Shaikh Shah Waliullah’s position is,

“The Asal ie the fundamental reason that obligates wudu is what is expelled from the two private parts and everything other than this is returned to this principle.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 1/149)


There is difference of opinion concerning the witr. The Hanafi jurists say they are obligatory whereas the scholars of Hadith say they are Sunnah. Shaikh Shah Waliullah’s position is,

“The truth is that witr are Sunnah mu’akidah (to be performed with designation) and Ali, Ibn Umar and Ubadah as-Samit (RadhiAllaahu Anhuma) expounded them to be Sunnah.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 2/13)


The Hanafi jurists consider the Qunut in the witr prayer to be obligatory where as the Shafis consider the Qunut in the fajr prayer to be obligatory, Shaikh Shah Waliullah said,

“There is difference of opinion regarding the ahadith and also amongst the position of the companions and the successors about the Qunut in the fajr prayer, according to me reciting or not reciting the Qunut is optional except during a great calamity where a few words are to be said before the ruku which is what I prefer as the ahadith establish the dua against the tribe of ra’al and Dhakwan as was later abandoned. This is not a text that totally abrogates the Qunut however it must be remembered that the Qunut is Sunnah that is not to be continuous forever.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 2/9)

Combining Prayers

The jurists differ whether to combine the prayers due to a reason, the hanafis believe it is not permissible to combine the prayers at all, whether at the earlier time or the later time and Jam Suri (apparent combining) is not even really combining but a form of combining. Shaikh Shah Waliullah said there are essentially 3 times for prayer, Asr is extracted form Dhuhr and Isha from Maghrib thereby reducing the prayer time between the 2 prayers and reducing laziness from Dhikr, he said

“The one with the shariah (Sallalahu Alayhee Wasallam) combined both at the earlier and later time but he did not order for this to be practised regularly nor emphasised it, just as he did not emphasise on the delayed prayers.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 2/18)

The Takbirs For Eid

The Hanafi jurists the Ahlul Hadith jurists differ over the number of takbirs for the eid prayer and the method of the eid prayer. Shaikh Shah Waliullah said,

“There are 7 takbirs in the first rakah before the recitation and 5 takbirs before the recitation (just as the people of Haramain do ie the Ahlul Hadith) however the practise of the Kufiyeen [2], (ie the hanafis) say there are 4 takbirs before the recitation just like the funeral prayer and 5 takbirs after the recitation in the second rakah, however the Sunnah and the practice of al-Harmain (ie the people of Makkah and Madinah) is given precedence.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 2/23)

Amount of Water

The Hanafi and Shafi jurists differ with regards the quantity of water (for purification). The later Hanafi jurists quantify it as 2 large quantities (Dardah) whereas the Shafis say 2 Qulatain. So if a water well becomes impure there is some strange and obtuse Qiyas in how to purify the well with large buckets. Shaikh Shah Waliullah said,

“There is nothing in this discussion which is reliable or anything obligatory that should be acted upon.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 1/217)

Then he said,

“The scholars have long debated the amount of water in a well containing a dead animal and if the water is flowing, however nothing is reported from the Messenger of Allaah (Sallalahu Alayhee Wasallam) in this regard.” (Hujatullah al-Balighah 1/147)

There are numerous issues Shaikh Shah Waliullah has cited in his Hujatullah, Musfa and Muswa in which he has sided with the Shafi and Ahlul Hadith jurists, which clearly highlights that he was far from staunch bigotry and did not favour narrow mindedness (to remain within the madhab). We also find that the earlier Hanafi scholars in general were not as bigoted and staunch as they are today. This bigotry started in the 4th century and gained prominence right up to the 9th century.

The fundamental way in preventing and reprimanding innovations is to follow the way of the Salaf. Taqlid of the Imams also played a part preventing the spread of innovation however with this came the bigotry of the reverence of these individuals. Due the variant opinions of the companions and following the way of Salaf based on the greater benefit it is highly unlikely that bigotry would take hold.

Taken from Tehrik Azad Fikr (pg.74-80)

Translator notes

[1] Here Shaikh Salafi is referring Shaikh Shah Waliullah being a Hanafi based on the understanding of how the Hanafi scholars of the past were for example Imam Tahawi, Imam Ibn Abil Izz etcetera in that they were not staunch and bigoted. 

[2] This is a another important clarification that if Shaikh Shah Waliullah was a Hanafi in the sense the current day hanafis understand Hanafiyyah and then he would not have said kufiyeen ie referring to the Hanafi scholars. It is also evident from the style of the language that he did not count himself from amongst the hanafis as they see it. It however cannot be denied that his main learning and understanding was the Hanafi madhab and this is what we believe. Yet, it is biased to label him Hanafi as the current day hanafis label themselves to be Hanafi as their is a stark difference and even this small article has demonstrated that.

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