Asslamo Allaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,
Over the past 2 decades I have had the pleasure of interacting with Deobandees from all over the world either online or in person. In my limited capacity I have attended Majalis, visited Darul-ulooms, spoken to Ulamah and Mashaykh, gone in Jamaats, sat in Mushwaras etc.
In my limited experience and exposure, I have discovered a dangerous precedence which is the culture of “Yes men” around those who run over institutes and those who in charge of the decision making process.
Most Deobandi institutes are run by a Senior Shaykh who is generally also a Shaykh of Tassawuff. The inner circle of the organisation is almost exclusively a group of individuals who are either Bay’t to the Shaykh or are in awe with him and revere him as a teacher or a spiritual guide. There is nothing wrong with Adab in Islam but the environment isn’t conducive to positive improvements on any fronts if critque is taken as criticism. There are countless examples but few stick to my mind which will illustrate the point:
- We were at Aitekaaf at a well known Darul-uloom over a decade ago and everyone (within the inner circle) were praising the website. The fact of the matter is that the website and content on it are probably the worst on the Internet and a professional brother took the courage to explain this to the one of the Mashaykh in detail and how it should be improved. Shaykh (HA) replied that Hafiz (A) who is graduating next year is in charge and will be updating it so the matter should be discussed with him. Hafiz (A) was a 19 year old with no IT, marketing or business experience (apart from knowing how to browse) but was one of the Mureeds closest to the Shaykh and was satisfied with the changes e was going to make. Shaykh (HA) turned to Hafiz A and those around him and they assured him that the website has been improved and the rest is history. On one hand you had someone who is a professional consult and on the other you had a Mureed...
- A few years in Pakistan while on a visit, I was called in by a well known Shaykh to discuss printing some books and creating a portal regarding his Shaykh. Coincidentally, a few days previously I had run into a Tableeghi brother who worked for one of the best known web developers and marketing agencies so with Hazrat’s permission I requested him to join us. Hazrat (HA) is old and he told me that we should consult the Maulana who prints the local (monthly) magazine and run the ideas through him as Hazrat (HA) has complete confidence in him. The Maulana in question was doing the job of taking hand written articles, delivering to a press which created the typeset and published the magazines and that was about the extent of his professional experience. I arranged the initial meeting and then left Pakistan soon after. I kept getting emails for about a year where the professional Tableeghi brother regularly travelled to the Darul-uloom with his ideas to be misunderstood, rejected, delayed or meetings cancelled. He had a young family but he sacrificed his time and money regularly to travel and in the time the project never took off.
Both brothers in the scenarios described above were Sunnah following Deobandees but weren’t in the inner circle.
Let’s turn from cyber presence to real life. There are plenty of Deobandi organisations which are trying to deliver Islamic courses or arrange lectures across the world and particularly in the Western world. It is no secret that Salafi or Salafi-oriented organisations are generally ahead of the Deobandees in this area but the “Yes men” are preventing rapid strides and positive improvements. In communities a program is held, Maulana (X) is invited and he delivers the content. In general, there is no positive critique of organisation, marketing, delivery and after program impact and those attending feel fortunate and blessed to have Maulana (X) visit their local Masjid. Locals should indeed feel fortunate because in this day and age of misguidance, it is indeed a great bounty to sit at the feet of Ulamah and acquire knowledge. However, without frank discussions improvements cannot take place!
When you attend the Tassawuff Majalis of a Shaykh, it is often encountered that the Majlis occurs late, or the venue changes or the content is delivered in a manner which is not fully digested by the attendees but critiquing or offering any advice is not well received.
It isn’t the Ulamah and Mashaykh who are at fault but the “Yes men” because they are creating an environment where suggestions and improvements are taken as a criticism. Why? Because nobody ever objects to what the Shaykh says or how things are done! It has always been done like this.
I learned from our Ulamah that in this day and age it is very difficult to be a “Jack of all” therefore people must specialise in various fields of Islam. When we discuss fields outside of Islam this advice is even more valid i.e. a Doctor cannot be an Accountant or a web developer or educator etc.
One of the many reasons of Salafi or Salafi institutes “apparently” progressing is because they do take advice from the experts and do genuinely listen to feedback, not perfect but better then Deobandees.
Deobandees are far ahead of Non-Deobandees in terms of resources (money, specialisation, technical expertise) and this is particularly true for countries like UK, Canada etc where there isn’t even a comparison between Deobandees and Non-Deobandees, however these resources (which are a blessing of Allah (SWT)) are not being leveraged appropriately and positively due to the “Yes men”. I am talking about Sunnah adhering Deobandees who are men and women of Taqwa and those who professionally excel in their respective fields and not wishy-washy Islam compromising Modernists.
As I keep saying that the issue isn’t Dr Zakir Naik, the issue is to develop capability to shut Dr Zakir Naik out of the market and to produce content which competes in an open market and draws customers.
This can’t happen until the “Yes men” are shut out and critique is actually listened to. Sure, some people will simply criticise for the sake to criticism and some will criticise based on jealousy but there will be others who will offer positive criticism and improvement and it’s the job of Management to separate the wheat from the chaff! It’s the job of Management to push the “Yes men” back and pull the “Sincere men” forward.
Until then the Deobandees will keep on issuing Fatwaas to avoid X and to avoid Y and sooner or later laymen will simply get sick of it like what happened to major Madkhalee sites and Scholars from the height of 1990’s to their despised status of today. From the mid 1990’s founders of Al-Maghrib (US) and others were beginning to foresee the problem and they evolved into what we see today.
If action is not taken the "Yes men” will destroy the very institutes which they have pledged to serve.
Summary: Ask yourself a simple question you were running a business upon which your livelihood and wellbeing of children depended upon would you NOT take the best professional advice and be on the lookout for continuous improvement OR would you simply ask your immediately family members and be content despite declining sales?