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Who is the original Ahl al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama’ah?

October 1, 2012

By Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasmi

In order to recognise the original Ahl al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama’ah, and to understand the concise and balanced way of the ‘ulama of Deoband, wherein there are no excesses (ifrat tafrit), no exaggerations, in fact a perfect embodiment of a balanced way, we need to contemplate over the root and source of the title. In this way the foundations and standard of comparison will become apparent. The title of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama’ah comprises two parts – al-Sunnah and al-Jama’ah. The combination of both these translates into the way of the ‘ulama of Deoband. Al-Sunnah denotes principles, rules and regulations and al-Jama’ah denotes a body, persons and companions. From this, it is apparent that an ideology (a way and method), which has principles and regulations but no body (group of persons) or if there is a body but there are no principles and regulations, then it is meaningless and not worth any consideration. Laws find their recognition and implementation in a body (group of persons) and a body is recognised by their laws. Therefore, an ideology is not regarded as being notable if the one is existent without the other. Just as Allah had not only given this Ummah the Qur’an on its own, He bestowed them with the being of the Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace), who conveyed the message of the Qur’an. He relayed the words thereof, taught its meaning and implemented it in his practical example. Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not restrict himself to only implementing the laws of the Qur’an, he even prepared personalities with these laws, who on their own and in their respective eras taught and implemented the laws of din, thereby nurtured and preparing others.

From this Sunnah of Allah and Sunnah of His Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) it is apparent that for this din and guidance of the din the Qur’an on its own or personalities on their own are insufficient. In fact, together with the laws,there has to co-exist teachers of these laws, and together with literature there has to be guiders. This is so in order that knowledge not merely exists in book and word form,but it is granted a luminous hue and colour which shines forth and impacts on the hearts of people. Hence, the way of the ‘ulama of Deoband, who are also known by the other title of Ahl al-Sunnah wa ‘l-Jama’ah, have brought into practice these two integral assets – laws and a body – gleaned from the guidance of nubuwwah (prophethood). In fact,the very title of this group demonstrates the subject matter of its contents, and includes these two integral constituents, namely, al-Sunnah and al-Jama’ah.
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