Yes Sir culture of the Deobandees

26th February 2014

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:

  1. 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...
  2. 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?

Tags: islam
posted by Muadh_Khan on 26th February 2014 - 6 comments


Coloratura wrote on 26 Feb 2014

Hmmm I have commented this on Nouman Ali Khan but I wanna ramble again :D

I'm not a Deobandi, nor a Desi.... but in my country there is institution like, our version of your Deobandi. My father is one of them. Only it's Shafi'ie in madhab and Ash'ari in aqida, and ours are less strict and more cultural. Many of their scholars are from Al-Azhar, but OMG they often have a kinda fanatical mentality when defending their akabir.

Funny thing, they actually changed a bit after the entrance of Salafis who attack the Ash'aris, attack our Sufi awliya who had dedicated their whole lives to convert 80% of people in this land into Islam.... Now they kinda shift focus on how to counter the Salafis' tajsim aqeeda and protecting people's deen.

They haven't resorted to "stay away from ABC individual" steps, though.... I actually hope they're not.
Anonymous wrote on 26 Feb 2014
Are there - in your opinion - examples of any Deobandi organizations or individuals, who doing a good job regarding this? Maybe it encourage people to support organizations like that...
Blogger's Reply:
You are free to provide examples Hazrat since I am sure that you have some to share. The point of the blog is to highlight an issue.
Striver wrote on 26 Feb 2014
Or the Shaykh is a law unto himself turning up for the Majlis as he pleases because etiquette no longer applies to him. The content of the Majlis is Imam Ghazali's advices yet it's a known fact that attendee(s) don't know their last 10 Surahs properly or the meaning of the Kalima. No appreciation of whether content is relevant to the gathering. On one occasion The Majlis was cancelled due to snow but neither the Shaykh, nor the immediate Mureeds had the courtesy of contacting the brothers to say The Majlis had been cancelled. And if you try drawing the yes men's attention to any of this, the thugs will even threaten to beat you up.
Blogger's Reply:
Yes that happens at many places and nobody except close Mureeds know about time/schedule changes and nobody is actually bothered even those who travel from out of town after work etc just take it.
Anonymous wrote on 26 Feb 2014
Let's put it different, what are organizations like IDA (Leicester) or As-Suffa (Birmingham) lacking? What in your opinion should they improve on?

Just mentioned them two from the top of my head, although they are most probably not even close in efficiency to organizations from the "other camp"... or are they maybe even aiming at the wrong direction.

I'm not questioning your standpoint, but would just appreciate some more tangible details to the overall idea. Jazak'Allah khayran.
Blogger's Reply:
IDA are not the same in terms of delivery and professional as As-Suffa in my limited experience but may me more on the issue at some point in the future. Your comments are visible, Hazrat
Striver wrote on 27 Feb 2014
I think course content & spirituality go hand in hand. If you attend As-Suffa, the content is excellent but there is a lack of focus on tarbiyah. You see persons in Alim class for some time not dressed in Sunnah or with a dubious beard as the focus is intellectual discussion as opposed to serious tarbiyat. What's the point if the content is great & presentation is PowerPoint like that at university, when those attending those courses are no where to be seen in Fajr Salah?

Then there is the opposite case where Shaykh Saheb every word is hung upon & any questioning of it, even if it's unrelated to his field of expertise. Any questioning of it is met with a forceful rebuttal by yes sir mureed.

Finally we have the Tablighis who adopt the traditional method of teaching and learning in the Masjid in halqahs in opposition to technological fads, but they have pooranas whose knowledge is about as much as can be fitted on the back of a postage stamp & any questioning of them results in the accusation that one is anti-Tabligh or zehen is full of ishkals & I am saying this whilst being actively involved in the effort of Tabligh. We find that the ulama are reluctant to go in Jamat because either they find the poorana TJs repulsive arrogant or they consider it beneath themselves to go out and meet lay people. They must come to me because at the age of 25 I am now Shaykh so & so.
Striver wrote on 27 Feb 2014
Generally Shaykhs & Ameers of Jamats are beyond reproach. Their expertise in their areas automatically renders them experts in other areas & the yes men are the guardians of this expertise. Dare the shaykh or Ameer be told it can be done better.
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