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Barelvi ([6] Although Barelvi is the commonly used term in the media and academia, the followers of the movement often prefer to be known by the title of Ahle Sunnat wal Jama'at, or as Sunnis, a reference to their perception as forming an international majority movement.[7]

The movement is much influenced by Sufism and the traditional Islamic practices of South Asia, having formed as a reaction to the reformist attempts of the Deobandi movement, which was influenced by the Wahhabi movement in Arabia.[8][9]


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
  • Presence 3
  • Beliefs and practices 4
    • Beliefs regarding Muhammad 4.1
    • Practices 4.2
    • Mosques 4.3
  • Relations with other movements 5
    • Conflicts with the Deobandi 5.1
    • Conflicts with the Taliban 5.2
    • Sectarian violence 5.3
  • Reaction to Blasphemy Law 6
  • Criticism 7
  • Notable scholars 8
    • Early scholars 8.1
    • Present scholars 8.2
  • Notable organizations 9
  • Main institutions 10
  • See also 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


To its followers, the Barelvi movement is the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat "People of the traditions [of Muhammad] and the community" and they refer to themselves as Sunnis. This terminology is used to lay exclusive claim to be the only legitimate form of Sunni Islam in South Asia, in opposition to the Deobandi, Ahl al-Hadith, Salafis and Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama followers.[7][8][10]


The Barelvi movement was founded by Ahmad Raza Khan[11][12][13][14] who, after two failed attempts at establishing Islamic schools, finally succeeded in 1904 with the Manzar-e-Islam.[8][15] Though very much linked to Pakistan today, the movement's foundation predated Pakistan's nationhood; the movement was, essentially, founded as a defense of traditional Islam as understood and practiced in South Asia.[9] Defense of these beliefs sometimes brought the Barelvis into conflict with other movements and creeds. Unlike most other Muslim movements in the region, the Barelvis opposed the Indian independence movement due to its leadership under Mahatma Gandhi, who was a Hindu and not a Muslim.[16] On the other hand, Khan and his movement, being among the foremost campaigners for Sufism, were largely responsible for pulling Muslims into conflict with Hindus and were primary supporters of the Pakistan Movement.[16] The Barelvis were joined in this by all major Islamic movements in the South Asia, including Twelver and Ismaili Shi'i Muslims, except the Deobandis, the Barelvis' main rivals.[16][17][18]

The Barelvi movement formed as a defense of the traditional mystic practices of South Asia, which it sought to prove and support.[19](Sfeir 2007)

Although the Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama was founded in 1893 to reconcile South Asia's Muslim sectarian differences, the Barelvis eventually withdrew their support from the council and criticized its efforts.[20]

As a reaction to the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, a conglomerate of forty Barelvi parties called for a boycott of Western goods, while at the same time condemning violence which had taken place in protest against the film.[21]


India Today estimates that the vast majority of Muslims in India adhere to the Barelvi movement,[22] and The Heritage Foundation, Time and The Washington Post give similar assessments for the vast majority of Muslims in Pakistan.[23][24][25][26] Political scientist Rohan Bedi estimates that 60% of Pakistani Muslims are Barelvis.[27]

The majority of Pakistani and

  • Ahlesunnat Network Pakistan
  • Dawat-e-Islami
  • Sunni Dawate Islami Of India

External links

  • Geaves, Ron (2006). "Learning the lessons from the neo-revivalist and Wahhabi movements: the counterattack of the new Sufi movements in the UK". In Malik, Jamal; Hinnells, John R. Sufism in the West.  
  • Jones, Kenneth W. (1989). Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India, Part 3 1.  
  • Malik, Jamal, ed. (2008). Madrasas in South Asia: Teaching terror?.  
  • Sirriyeh, Elizabeth (1999). Sufis and Anti-Sufis: The Defense, Rethinking and Rejection of Sufism in the Modern World.  
  • Sirriyeh, Elizabeth (2004). "Sufi Thought and its Reconstruction". In Taji-Farouki, Suha; Nafi, Basheer M. Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century.  


  1. ^ "Barelvi - Oxford Reference". Retrieved 2014-09-24. 
  2. ^ Illustrated Dictionary of the Muslim World, pg. 113. Marshall Cavendish, 2011. ISBN 9780761479291
  3. ^ Globalisation, Religion & Development, pg. 53. Eds. Farhang Morady and İsmail Şiriner. London: International Journal of Politics and Economics, 2011.
  4. ^ Elizabeth Sirriyeh, Sufis and Anti-Sufis: The Defense, Rethinking and Rejection of Sufism in the Modern World, pg. 49. London: Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0-7007-1058-2.
  5. ^ Rowena Robinson, Tremors of Violence: Muslim Survivors of Ethnic Strife in Western India, pg. 191. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. ISBN 0761934081
  6. ^ Usha Sanyal. Generational Changes in the Leadership of the Ahl-e Sunnat Movement in North India during the Twentieth Century. Modern Asian Studies (1998), Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^ a b c d e Understanding Islam: The First Ten Steps - C. T. R. Hewer - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  8. ^ a b c  , page 123: "...were advanced by Imam Ahmad Reza Khan of Bareilly in 1906 as an alternative to the austere path of the Deobandis."
  9. ^ a b Sfeir, Antoine (2007). The Columbia World Dictionary of Islamism.  , page 92: " distinct from the reformist construction of Deoband."
  10. ^ Geaves 2006: 148
  11. ^ Roshen Dalal, The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths, pg. 51. Revised edition. City of Westminster: Penguin Books, 2010. ISBN 9780143415176
  12. ^ Barbara D. Metcalf, Islam in South Asia in Practice, pg. 342. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  13. ^ The Columbia World Dictionary of Islamism, pg. 92. Eds. Oliver Roy and Antoine Sfeir, trns. John King. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
  14. ^ Gregory C. Doxlowski. Devotional Islam and Politics in British India: Ahmad Raza Khan Barelwi and His Movement, 1870–1920. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Oct–Dec 1999.
  15. ^ Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900, pg. 312. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780195660494
  16. ^ a b c d e f g R. Upadhyay, Barelvis and Deobandhis: "Birds of the Same Feather". Eurasia Review, courtesy of the South Asia Analysis Group. 28 January 2011.
  17. ^ Yasser Latif Hamdani, Nationalist Mythologies And Nuances Of History. Pak Tea House, 22 May 2010.
  18. ^ A History of Pakistan and Its Origins By Christophe Jaffrelot page 223
  19. ^ Riaz 2008, p. 91.
  20. ^ Riaz 2008, p. 76.
  21. ^ Anti-Islam movie: Barelvi parties call for Western boycott. The Express Tribune, 5 October 2012.
  22. ^ Sandeep Unnithan and Uday Mahurkar (31 July 2008). "The radical sweep". India Today. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  23. ^ Curtis, Lisa; Mullick, Haider (4 May 2009). "Reviving Pakistan's Pluralist Traditions to Fight Extremism".  
  24. ^ "Pakistan plays Sufi card against jihadis | World War 4 Report". Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  25. ^ Rania Abouzeid, Taliban Targets, Pakistan's Sufi Muslims Fight Back. Time, Wednesday, 10 Nov. 2010.
  26. ^ a b c Karin Brulliard, In Pakistan, even anti-violence Islamic sect lauds assassination of liberal governor. The Washington Post, Saturday, 29 January 2011; 9:55 PM.
  27. ^ Rohan Bedi, "Have Pakistanis Forgotten Their Sufi Traditions?" Singapore: International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University, April 2006.
  28. ^ Karamat Bhatty, Religious groups find lucrative sources abroad. The Express Tribune, 7 September 2011.
  29. ^ Editorial: Britain, Al Qaeda and Pakistan. Thursday, 26 March 2009. Accessed Sunday, 19 May 2013.
  30. ^ Azyurmadi, Azra (2010). Varieties of Religious Authority. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 8. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  31. ^ Ahmed Raza. "Noor o Bashar ::Islamic Books, Books Library". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  32. ^ a b N. C. Asthana & A.Nirmal. Urban Terrorism : Myths And Realities. Publisher Pointer Publishers, 2009 ISBN 81-7132-598-X, 9788171325986. pg. 67
  33. ^ Clinton Bennett. Muslims and modernity: an introduction to the issues and debates. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005 ISBN 0-8264-5481-X, 9780826454812. pg. 189
  34. ^ Muḥammad Yūsūf Ludhiyānvī (1999). Differences in the Ummah and the straight path. Zam Zam Publishers. pp. 35–38. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  35. ^ Sirriyeh 1999: 49
  36. ^ Sirriyeh 2004: 111
  37. ^ Martin Parsons (1 January 2006). Unveiling God: Contextualizing Christology for Islamic Culture. William Carey Library. pp. 149–.  
  38. ^ Netton, Ian (19 December 2013). Encyclopedia of islam. Routledge. p. 88. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  39. ^ Abdulkader, Tayob. Muslim Schools and Education. Waxxman Verlag. p. 76. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  40. ^ Urban Terrorism: Myths and Realities - N. C. Asthana & A.Nirmal - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
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  42. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  43. ^ Curriculum in Today's World: Configuring Knowledge, Identities, Work and ... - Lyn Yates, Madeleine Grumet - Google Books. 25 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
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  45. ^ Urban Terrorism: Myths and Realities - N. C. Asthana & A.Nirmal - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  46. ^ Indian Defence Review: April - June 2007 - Bharat Verma - Google Books. 19 February 2008. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  47. ^ [3]
  48. ^ Arun Shourie, The World of Fatwas or the Sharia in Action, pg. 135. ASA Publications, 1995. ISBN 9788190019958
  49. ^ Shamin Akhter, Faith & Philosophy of Islam, pg. 271. Volume 2 of Indian religions series. New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, 2009. Accessed February 18, 2013. ISBN 9788178357195
  50. ^ Kenneth W. Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India, Part 3, vol. 1, pg. 71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  51. ^ Sheikh Qayoom, Kashmir’s Barelvi, Ahle Hadith leaders deny sectarian tension. Thaindian, courtesy of Indo-Asian News Service: Saturday, 28 April 2012.
  52. ^ Sushant Sareen, The Jihad Factory: Pakistan's Islamic Revolution in the Making, pg. 282. New Delhi: Har Anand Publications, 2005.
  53. ^ Ashok K. Behuria, Sects Within Sect: The Case of Deobandi–Barelvi Encounter in Pakistan. Strategic Analysis, vol. 32, no. 1. Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, January 2008.
  54. ^ Riaz 2008.
  55. ^ Haramayn refers to the Masjid al-Haram ("Sacred Mosque") in Mecca and the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi ("Mosque of the Prophet") in Medina. Dictionary of Islamic Architecture
  56. ^ Gregory C. Doxlowski. Devotional Islam and Politics in British India: Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi and His Movement, 1870-1920. The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Oct–Dec, 1999
  57. ^ Tembarai Krishnamachari, Rajesh. "Myths blown away by Taseer killing", South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, 12 January 2011.
  58. ^ Indian Muslims protest against Talibani terrorism. 17 June 2009
  59. ^ Pakistan’s Sunnis unite against Talibanisation. Thaindian News. 9 May 2009
  60. ^ Clashing interpretations of Islam. Daily Times (Pakistan), 5 May 2009
  61. ^ Bombers target two Pakistani cities Al Jazeera
  62. ^ Anti-Taliban views cost Mufti Naeemi his life – Daily Times
  63. ^ See:
    • Barelvi Activism Against Terrorism. Viewpoint Online.
    • Manjari Mishra, moderates Barelvis take on Deobandis over religious property. The Times of India, 6 January 2010.
    • Graeme Smith, Pakistan's Sufis end their silence. The Globe and Mail, 9 July 2010.
    • Zeeshan Haider, Pakistan clerics speak out against Taliban. Mail & Guardian, 13 May 2009.
  64. ^ Syed Hamad Ali, Why are Pakistan's 'moderate' clerics defending Salman Taseer's murderer? The Guardian, Wednesday 12 October 2011.
  65. ^ a b The Jamestown Foundation, Sufi Militants Struggle with Deobandi Jihadists in Pakistan, 24 February 2011. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 8. Accessed 11 March 2013.
  66. ^ a b c Omar Waraich, Why Pakistan's Taliban Target the Muslim Majority. Time, Thursday, 7 Apr. 2011.
  67. ^ a b Pervez Hoodbhoy, A long, sad year after Salman Taseer's killing. The Hindu, 4 January 2012.
  68. ^ Rana Tanveer, Rites and wrongs: Mosque sealed after Barelvi-Deobandi clash. The Express Tribune, 20 September 2011.
  69. ^ "Serious threat to Pakistan's civil society". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 18 April 2006. 
  70. ^ Bomb carnage at Karachi prayers, BBC Online, 11 April 2006
  71. ^ Special Coverage of Nishtar Park bombing, Jang Group Online
  72. ^ "One dead as ST tries to take control of Ahle Hadith mosque" Daily Times (Pakistan), 11 April 2007
  73. ^ Sectarian clashes kill seven in Pakistan, Agence France-Presse via Sydney Morning Herald, 28 February 2010
  74. ^ "Assassin linked with Dawat-i-Islami".  
  75. ^ See also:
    • Carlotta Gall, Assassination Deepens Divide in Pakistan. The New York Times, 5 January 2011.
    • Ayesha Nasir, Pakistan's Police and Army: How Many Enemies Within? Time Online, Saturday, 8 Jan. 2011.
    • Hardline stance: Religious bloc condones murder. The Express Tribune.
  76. ^ ST offers Rs200m blood money for Qadris release. The Nation, 8 October 2011.
  77. ^ PPI, Sunni Tehreek rejects capital punishment to Mumtaz Qadri. Dawn, 1 October 2011.
  78. ^ Taseer's daughter warned to back off, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 January 2011.
  79. ^ Rana Tanveer, Shahbaz Taseer abduction splits Barelvi group. The Express Tribute, 4 September 2011.
  80. ^ "Demonstrators Prevent Court Appearance of Alleged Pakistani Assassin".  
  81. ^ The Assertion of Barelvi Extremism. Current Trends.
  82. ^ Taseer no blasphmer, claim Barelvi ulema. The Nation, 14 October 2011.
  83. ^ Islam in Britain: Past, Present and the Future by Mohammad Shahid Raza
  84. ^ [4]


  • Kanzul Iman, an English/Urdu Quran translation by Ahmad Raza Khan
  • Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesian movement with similar ideology[84]

See also

Main institutions

In India:

In Pakistan, prominent Sunni Barelvi religious and political organizations include:

Notable organizations

Present scholars

Early scholars

Notable scholars

Some commentators see the Barelvi movement as a radical movement which does not accept the views of the Deoband Ulama, the Ahl al-Hadith and some others.[83]


On 4 January 2011, former governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of the Barelvi group Dawat-e-Islami due to his opposition to the blasphemy law in Pakistan.[66][74] Over five hundred scholars of the Barelvi movement voiced support for the crime and urged a boycott of Taseer's funeral.[16][26][65][67][75] According to Time, Sunni Tehreek rewarded the assassin's family[76][77] and threatened Taseer's family,[66][78] while another Barelvi group abducted Taseer's son.[79] Supporters attempted to prevent police from bringing the perpetrator to an anti-terrorism court, blocking the way and cheering on the assassin.[80] During the same period, a number of Barelvi scholars also condemned the assassination.[81][82]

Reaction to Blasphemy Law

In the 1990s and 2000s, sporadic violence resulted from disputes between the Barelvi and Deobandi movements over control of Pakistani mosques,[68] with the conflict coming to a head in May 2001 when sectarian riots broke out after the assassination of Sunni Tehreek leader Saleem Qadri.[69] In April 2006 in Karachi, a bomb attack on a Barelvi gathering in celebration of Muhammad's birthday killed at least 57 people, including several central leaders of the Sunni Tehreek.[70][71] In April 2007, Sunni Tehreek activists attempted forcibly to gain control of a mosque in Karachi, opening fire on the mosque and those inside, killing one person and injuring three others.[72] On 27 February 2010, militants believed to be affiliated with the Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked Barelvis celebrating mawlid in Faisalabad and Dera Ismail Khan, again sparking tensions among the rival sects.[73]

Analysts and journalists have produced conflicting opinions about the underlying nature of the Barelvi movement, with some describing the group as moderate and peaceful,[63] while others describe it as being effected by intolerance and radicalism in ways similar to other Islamic movements in the region.[16][26][64][65][66][67]

Sectarian violence

In 2009 another prominent Islamic scholar and mufti, or jurisconsult, of the movement, the late Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi, issued a fatwa denouncing suicide bombings,[61] as well as criticizing Taliban leader Sufi Muhammad by saying he "should wear bangles if he is hiding like a woman". Naeemi added: "Those who commit suicide attacks for attaining paradise will go to hell, as they kill many innocent people". Naeemi would himself be killed by a suicide bomber.[62]

Supporting this movement, the Pakistan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said: "The Sunni Tehreek has decided to activate itself against Talibanisation in the country. A national consensus against terrorism is emerging across the country."[60]

The Barelvi movement has taken a stance against the various Talibanisation. Terming the Taliban a product of global anti-Islam conspiracies, the leaders of SIC charged the Taliban with playing into the hands of the United States to divide Muslims and bring a bad name to Islam.[59]

Conflicts with the Taliban

Historically, relations between the Barelvi movement and Britain have been better than those of other Islamic movements.[7] R. Upadhyay and Rajesh T. Krishnamachari of the India-based South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG) have denied that a simple comparison exists between Barelvism and Deobandism on any scale of tolerance or moderation.[16][57] According to the same SAAG analysis, the "Deobandi-Barelvi rivalry is also known to be rooted to their ethnic rivalry."[16]

Not only did Ahmad Raza Khan obtain confirmatory signatures from other scholars in the South Asia, he managed to get agreement from a number of prominent ulama in Mecca. That occurred in the first years of the twentieth century—long before the Al-Saud and their Wahhabi allies got control of the Haramayn.[55] The feat was, nevertheless, stunning. The antipathy of the Deobandis toward the Ahl-i Sunnah on the emotional level becomes more comprehensible when Ahmad Riza's fatwa receives a full explication.[56]

The conflict with the Deobandi movement has been particularly heated and uncivil.[53] While both the Barelvi and Deobandi movements tend to prefer the Hanafi madhhab[54] and accept Sufism, their fundamental beliefs and way in practicing Sufism has kept them at odds.[7] Commenting on this, historian Usha Sanyal, in her research entitled Devotional Islam and Politics in British India: Ahmad Raza Khan Barelwi and His Movement, 1870–1920, stated:

Conflicts with the Deobandi

According to New Delhi analyst Sushant Sareen, in contrast to the substantial Saudi funds received by the Pakistani Deobandi and Ahle Hadith movements, the country's Barelvi movement has received almost no foreign funding. He says this is one reason no Barelvi jihadist group has grown large enough to get involved in Pakistan's Islamist and sectarian politics.[52]

Although conflict has occurred, relations with other Muslim movements in South Asia have not always been hostile. In mid-2012, leaders of both the Barelvi and Ahl al-Hadith movements in the Kashmir Valley denied that there was any animosity between the two sects in the region.[51]

Having formed as a reaction against the reformist Deobandi movement, relations between the two groups have often been strained. Ahmad Raza Khan, the founder of Barelvism, went as far as to declare not only all Deobandis infidels and apostates.[50]

Relations with other movements


  • Use of devotional music(Sfeir 2007, p. 339)[44][45][46] and dhikr.[47]
  • Leaving the beard to grow for men; the movement views a man who trims his beard to less than a fist-length as a sinner, and shaving the beard is considered abominable.[48]
  • Visiting the tombs of Muhammad, his companions and of pious Muslims, an act the Barelvis claim is supported by the Quran, Sunnah and acts of the companions, but which some opponents call "shrine-worshipping" and Grave worshiping and consider to be un-Islamic.[40][41][42][43]
  • Veneration of dead and living saints. This consists of the intervention of an ascending, linked and unbroken chain of holy personages claimed to reach ultimately to Muhammad, who Barelvis believe intercede on their behalf with God.[37][38][39]


  • He is a human being but created from light.[31]
  • He is present in many places at the same time.[32]
  • He is still witnessing all that goes on in the world.[32]
  • He has knowledge of that which is unknown, including the future.[33]
  • He has God's authority to do whatever he desires.[34]

Barelvis have several beliefs regarding Muhammad's nature that distinguish them from Deobandi, Salafi and Shi'i groups in South Asia:

Beliefs regarding Muhammad

Like other Sunni Muslims, Barelvis base their beliefs on the Quran and Sunnah and believe in monotheism and the prophethood of Muhammad. Barelvis follow the Maturidi school of Islamic theology and the Hanafi madhhab of fiqh in addition to choosing from the Qadiri, Chishti or Suhrawardi tariqas.

Beliefs and practices


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