Who are Deobandi? Difference between Deobandi, Barelvi, and Wahabi | Islamic sects explained


As told in the first video, the Hanafi sect is divided further into two sects. Deobandi and Barelvi. Both originated from the Indian subcontinent. Currently, the Deobandi school of thought is prevalent primarily in Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

the Hanafi sect is divided further into two sects. Deobandi and Barelvi.


To know about the origin of Deobandi, first, we need to know the history of the Indian subcontinent. In 1857, after the war of independence, the British completely toppled the Muslim government of the Mughal Empire. Muslims were held solely responsible for the War of Independence and were deprived of education during British rule. Muslims were persecuted and Islam was made corrupt. 10 years after this, in 1867 Maulana Qasim Nanotvi a renowned Muslim scholar of his time started a school named Dar ul Uloom. The school was in an area called Deoband. The students of this school called themselves Deobandi. This is where the name Deobandi came from. This eventually turned into a movement to revive Islam and promote anti-Imperialist ideology. 

in 1867 Maulana Qasim Nanotvi a renowned Muslim scholar of his time started a school named Dar ul Uloom

During this time another movement called the Aligarh movement led by Sir Syed was running in parallel to the Deoband movement. Aligarh movement was pro-British and promoted western education contrary to the Deoband movement. 

The madrasa at Deoband followed the old Islamic principles, but it also incorporated many features of the new educational institutions established by the British. For instance, division of students in regular classes, attendance registers, and written examinations. By 1931, 900 students were enrolled in the madrasa, including 43 foreign students. Later the movement spread throughout the subcontinent through the establishment of schools. The teachers of this madrassa supported Muhammad Ali Jinnah and played a pivotal role in the partition of India and Pakistan. After the partition, mostly Deobandi clerics migrated to Pakistan and opened schools there. By 1970, there were as many as 8000 Deobandi schools across Pakistan. According to a survey, nearly 65% of the total Madrasah

 in Pakistan are run by Deobandis. Later Deobani expressed their roots in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar the founder of the Taliban was a strong follower of Deobandi Islam. After the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban implemented Deobandi Islamic Laws in Afghanistan. 


In the subcontinent, three Islamic schools of thought are mostly present. Ahl e Hadith also known as Wahabi, Barelvi, and Deobandi.

Difference between Deobandi and Barelvi

Both Barelvi and Deobandi follow the teachings of Imam Abu Hanifa. However, they both differ in some fundamental beliefs. Before starting about the beliefs, need to put a disclaimer that this video is only for educational purposes. It does not support or condemn any sect of Islam. 

Difference between Deobandi and Barelvi

The basic difference between Deobandi and Barelvi is about the Status of Prophet Muhammad. Deobandi believe that Prophet Muhammad is a human being like other normal human beings with some extra power bestowed by God. On the other hand, Barelvi believes that Prophet Muhammad is Noor. Noor means light. As the light has no boundaries, they believe that the power of Prophet Muhammad is limitless. The prophet is present everywhere and is seeing and listening to one calling him. They believe that Muhammad himself attends the Islamic gatherings the Milad un Nabi. Another major difference between Deobandi and Barelvi is about asking for help from prophets and the saints. Deobandi believes that a Muslim can seek help only from Allah. 

 Deobandis’ request to Barelvis is not to do exaggeration in respecting the prophets and the saints so much that you start attributing qualities of the Almighty to them. Contrary to that, Barelivi request to Deobandi is not to limit the power of Prophets and Saints. 

Difference between Deobandi, and Wahabi

Deobandism’s founders, Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and Qasim Nanautavi were inspired by Wahhabism and Ibn Abdul Wahhab. They adopted Wahhabi theology and mixed it with Hanafi legal practice. The beliefs of Wahhabis, which oppose Sunni-Sufi practices such as Milad, Urs, etc. and beliefs such as Nur Muhammadiyya (light of Muhammad (SAAW)), the intercession of Muhammad (SAAW), universal knowledge of Muhammad (SAAW) which is from God, and others were adopted by the Deobandis. The main difference between Wahabi and Deobandi is on the doctrine of taqlid. taqlīd

, in Islamic law, is the unquestioning acceptance of the legal decisions of another without knowing the basis of those decisions. 

Deobandis are strong supporters of Taqlid, In other words, they believe that a Deobandi must adhere to one of the four schools of Sunni Islamic Law. Wahabi’s belief is opposite to it. They believe that person should not follow anyone blindly, instead, he should study Quran and Sunnah, and find a solution to problems through Quran and Sunnah directly without depending upon others. Deobandis’ counter-argument to this is, that the Deobandi school of thought is completely in accordance with Quran and Sunnah. Imam Abu Hanifa had spent his entire life developing Fiqh, so researching again on the same topic is just a waste of time. Moreover, no one will be able to get as deep into all topics related to Fiqh as Imam Hanifa did. 

Difference between Deobandi, and Wahabi

Deobandi is one of the leading Islamic schools of thought in major Islamic countries. An estimated 15-25 percent of Pakistan’s Sunni Muslims consider themselves Deobandi. About 15% of Indian Muslims identify as Deobandi. In Bangladesh 51% of Sunni Muslims are Deobandi. Deobandi Islam is the most popular in the Pashtun belt on both sides of the Durand Line that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan. Taliban are stauch followers of deobandi Isalm. 


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