Deoband Movement is a Sunni Sufi Islamic revivalist movement, which started in India
and has more recently spread to other countries, such as Afghanistan, South Africa and
the United Kingdom. The movement took its name from the Indian town of Deoband, 90
miles north-east of New Delhi where the first Deobandi learning center, Darul Uloom
("House of Knowledge") was started in 1866. Deobandis follow the fiqh of Abu Hanifa
and Abu Mansur Maturidi’s thought in Aqidah and Kalam.
Features of Deoband Movement
Deobandi thought has five main principles, which are as under:
(Monotheism) of God; no one shares His attributes.
Following the methodology of Muhammad.
Following the methodology of companions of Muhammad.
Giving preference to the jurisprudence of one of the earliest jurists of Islam over
that of later jurists.
Jihād fī Sabīlil-Lāh:
Doing Jihad (Striving for the good, in the name of God).
This movement was essentially educational movement and encouraged Muslims to have
a good knowledge of their religion.
Tabassum (1996) states that the Deoband movement developed as a reaction to the
British Colonialism in India, which they believed to be corrupting Islam. Fearing this, a
group of Indian Islamic scholars (Ulama) led by Qasim Nanotwi founded an Islamic
seminary known as Darul Uloom Deoband. It is here that the Islamic revivalist and anti-
British ideology of the Deobandis began to develop. Gradually, through organizations
such as Jamiat Ulema- e Hind and Tablighi Jamaat, their influence began to spread, and
hundreds of schools and Darul Ulooms affiliated with Deoband sprouted. Notable
Deobandi seminaries include Nadwatul- Ulama in Lucknow and Darul Uloom Karachi in
Karachi, Pakistan. Early Deobandi scholars include Nanotwi, Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi,
Hussain Ahmed Madani, Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi, Ilyas Khandhelawi, Ubaidullah
Sindhi, and Muhammad Zakariya Al Kandahlawi. The founders of the Deoband believed
that the salvation of the nation lay in acquiring religious knowledge and preserving
religious traditions. They attributed the downfall of the Muslims to the fact that they did
not posses good knowledge of their religion (Khalid, 2000).
Just as Sikhs originated from Hinduism, but are not Hindus, and Protestants came from
Roman Catholicism, but are not Catholics, similarly, the Deobandi sect originated in the
Sunni community, but is not strictly Sunnis. The tack of Darul Uloom Deoband is in
accordance with the Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah, Hanafiate practical method (Mazhab)
and the disposition (Mashrab) of its holy founders, Hazrat Maulana Mohammad Qasim
Nanautavi (Allah's mercy be on him!) and Hazrat Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi
(may his secret be sanctified).
Named after the town of Deoband, where it originated, the movement expanded under the
guidance of Maulana Qasim Nanotwi on the traditional methods of Fiqh (jurisprudence),
Aqidah (theology) and Tasawwuf (purification of the heart - also known as Sufism). Now
the foremost madrasah of traditional Islamic thought in the subcontinent, leads to the
establishment of Deobandi thought is defined foremost by its adherence to the Hanafi
Fiqh (and to a lesser extent by many scholars, the Shafi'i Fiqh) and by its emphasis on
Tasawwuf (Tabassum, 1996).
The Deobandi interpretation holds that a Muslim's first loyalty is to his religion and only
then to the country of which he is a citizen or a resident; secondly, that Muslims
recognise only the religious frontiers of their Ummah and not the national frontiers;
thirdly,that they have a sacred right and obligation to go to any country to wage jihad to
protect the Muslims of that country (Tabassum, 1996).
Darul Uloom Deoband is the world's second largest center of Islamic study, the largest
being Cairo's Al-Azhar University. By 2001, Darul Uloom had graduated 65,000 Muslim
scholars from the Asian Muslim world, from Saudi Arabia to Malaysia in the south and
China to the north. These graduates operated thousands of madrassas (religious schools)
in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Deobandi thought focused on purity of the heart, knowledge of Islamic tenets and
jurisprudence and social cohesion and harmony. Darul Uloom Deoband was in fact the
strongest voice of opposition in India to British-backed movements that attempted to
renounce the struggle against British occupation, with its leaders and students actively
engaged in the military resistance to the occupation.
In Dar-ul-uloom there are no bombs, no dynamite, nothing explosive on the eight-acre
compound and not even in the written or spoken word. There was just the routine and the
defensive humor and goodwill of hard-working, devout people who believe in the Word
of God; people who study His revelations and try to interpret correctly the utterances of
His prophet Mohammed.
Dar-ul-uloom is a product of the Indian mutiny of 1857, a watershed for India's Muslims.
After Britain's victory ended the Muslim dominance of the subcontinent, the school
became the center of a forward-looking movement that sought to reform and unite
Muslim society in a country now ruled by non-Muslim foreigners. The key was
education. They were suspicious of Western learning and British attempts to educate
Indians to think like Englishmen. The Deobandis, as they are called, sought to create a
new generation of learned Muslims, self-confident and able to use the revealed texts and
Islamic law as a roadmap for modern life. They opposed hierarchies in every form and
opened their doors to the poor, offering free education to all students.
The movement spread across India to Afghanistan and into Central Asia where Russia
was taking over the Muslim Khanates. Deobandi scholars were involved in the anti-
colonial struggle for India's independence. After India and Pakistan achieved their
independence in 1947, the Deobandis switched their political focus to the "secular"
governments that took Britain's place. They sought to ensure Muslim rights were
It is the political reputation of graduates from Deobandi schools that has led some
governments in the region to keep the Deobandi movement at arm's length. India refuses
to grant visas to students from abroad to study at Dar-ul-uloom, fearful that another
leader like the Taliban's Mullah Omar might emerge in one of its neighbors. But the
government has no problems opening immigration doors to foreign students who wish to
study at the country's other great center of Islamic scholarship and revival and Aligarh
Muslim University (Tabassum, 1996).
Khalid, T. (2000). Education on introduction to educational philosophy and history.
Karachi: S. M. Printers.
Tabassum, F. (1996). Deoband ulema's movement for the freedom of India. Retrieved
24, 2008, from http://www.nmhschool.org/tthornton/deobandi muslims. php.