The Deoband Madrassah Movement

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The Deoband Madrassah Movement: Countercultural Trends and Tendencies
English cover
AuthorMuhammad Moj
SubjectDeobandi movement in Pakistan
PublisherAnthem Press
Publication date
1 March 2015

The Deoband Madrassah Movement: Countercultural Trends and Tendencies is a book authored by Muhammad Moj, a research fellow at the University of Western Australia, that aims to examine the Deobandi movement from a counter-cultural perspective, with a particular focus on its impact in Pakistan.[1] The book comprises six chapters, providing insights that challenge conventional views of madrasas as centers of learning and socialization. Zeeshan Chaudri, a PhD scholar at SOAS University of London, commented on the book, expressing concerns about its research methodology and the potential bias in portraying the Deobandis as an intolerant faction in South Asia.[2]


The initial chapter provides a historical overview of madrasas in the Indian subcontinent, tracing their origins from the early presence of Muslims. It delves into the significant role of madrasas as educational institutions for Muslim clerics and explores the events of the 19th century that compelled the ulama to adopt a defensive position, leading to the emergence of Darul Uloom Deoband. Various perspectives on the Deobandi movement, its objectives, and goals are examined, alongside a comprehensive exploration of countercultural theories and types. The chapter also includes a detailed section on the research methodology employed.[3]

Continuing to the next chapter, it uncovers the roots of the Deobandi movement, tracing them back to the reformist works and ideas of Shah Waliullah Dehlawi in the early 18th century. While the book presents a hypothesis of possible influence from Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab on Waliullah's ideology, it establishes a connection between the early generation of the Deobandi movement and Waliullah's reformist agenda. This chapter particularly emphasizes the ascetic counterculture that characterized the Deobandi movement until 1905.[3]

Chapter three sheds light on the Deobandi movement in united India, with a particular focus on the activist countercultural trend that emerged through the involvement of scholar and activist Mahmud Hasan Deobandi in politics. The chapter explores the resulting conflicts within the Deobandi movement, as Hasan's activities deviated from the founders' established goals and objectives, including the concept of compromise as defined by the author. The author challenges the common assumption of the Deobandi movement's support for the Pakistan movement, thus reinforcing the argument for countercultural inclinations within the movement.[3]

The fourth chapter delves into the trajectory of the Deobandi movement in Pakistan, highlighting distinct phases and trends. It provides comprehensive documentation of the multifaceted dimensions of extremism that manifested at various levels across the country. It examines the role of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a group of scholars from the Deoband school who endorsed the Pakistan movement. Additionally, the chapter explores the pressing issue of Talibanization and the rise of terrorist tendencies, further emphasizing the presence of an extremist aspect within the counterculture.[3]

Chapters five and six explore the contrasting perspectives between Deobandi Islam and folk Islam, as well as popular customs. The viewpoints expressed in Deobandi journals and held by Deobandi students starkly differ from those prevalent in mainstream society. The chapters delve into various themes contributing to this contrast, such as festivities, the status of Prophet, intercession, shrine visits, the role and status of women, politics, education, and popular values and practices.[4]


According to the insights of Zeeshan Chaudri, a PhD scholar at SOAS University of London, it is accurate to consider the movement as countercultural. However, simplifying South Asian Islam into opposing categories of 'counter culturists' and 'pro-culturists' is unjustified. Instead, the majority of Muslims in South Asia practice an Islam that embodies a fusion of diverse cultural and religious influences. While attempting to explain the principles of the Deobandi movement, Moj takes an excessively critical approach. For example, he argues that the early Deobandi ulama issued controversial rulings that were perceived as disrespectful by certain members of the Muslim society, including the Prophet and God. However, he fails to provide substantial evidence to support his claim regarding the widespread sentiment within the Muslim society. Similarly, he relies on a secondary source to cite a fatwa that portrays Rashid Ahmad Gangohi as intolerant towards the Ahl-i Hadith, suggesting that praying behind them is invalid. Interestingly, Gangohi's own collection of fatwas (Fatawa-e-Rashidiya) presents the opposite viewpoint.[5] Muhammad Naveed Akhtar from Ghazi University contends that it presents a monological and unilateral perspective on historical episodes and ideological phenomena.[6]

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  1. ^ Farooqi, Irfanullah (2017). "Review of The Deoband Madrassah Movement. Countercultural Trends and Tendencies". Anthropos. 112 (1): 341. doi:10.5771/0257-9774-2017-1-341. ISSN 0257-9774. JSTOR 44789650. Archived from the original on 12 July 2023. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  2. ^ Chaudri, Zeeshan (2022). Demarcating the Contours of the Deobandi tradition via a study of the 'Akābirīn' (PhD thesis). SOAS University of London. p. 22. doi:10.25501/soas.00037291. Archived from the original on 15 June 2023. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Farooqi 2017, p. 341.
  4. ^ Farooqi 2017, p. 342.
  5. ^ Chaudri 2022, p. 23.
  6. ^ Akhtar, Muhammad Naveed (2022). "Darul Ulum Deoband: Preserving Religious And Cultural Integrity Of South Asian Muslims Through Structural And Strategic Innovations". Hamdard Islamicus. 45 (3): 83. doi:10.57144/hi.v45i3.326. ISSN 0250-7196. S2CID 252890505. Archived from the original on 9 December 2022. Retrieved 26 December 2023.

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