Ahl-e Hadith, meaning the people of hadith, is a religious movement that emerged in northern India in the mid-nineteenth century. They regard the Quran, sunnah, and hadith as the sole sources of religious authority and oppose everything introduced in Islam after the earliest times. In particular, they reject taqlid (following legal precedent) and favor ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) based on the scriptures.
Adherents of Ahl-e Hadith profess to hold the same views as the early Ahl al-Hadith movement which first emerged in the 2nd or 3rd Islamic centuries. Ahl al-Hadith began as a movement of hadith scholars, who also considered the Quran and authentic hadith to be the only authority in the Islamic creed. Ahl al-Hadith followers believe that the zahir (literal, apparent) meaning of the Quran and the hadith has sole authority in matters of faith and that the use of rational disputation is forbidden even if it verifies the truth.
In recent decades, the Ahl-e Hadith movement has expanded its presence in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, and has drawn both inspiration and financial support from Saudi Arabia.
The movement has been compared to Saudi Wahhabism, or a variation on the Wahhabi movement, but the movement itself claims to be distinct from Wahhabism, and some believe it possesses some notable distinctions from the mainly Arab Salafis.
Like other Islamic movements, the Ahl-e Hadith are distinguished by certain common features and beliefs. The men tend to have a particular style of untrimmed beard often considered a visual indicator. In regard to ritual acts of Muslim worship, the movement’s practices are noticeably different from the Hanafi legal school which predominates in South Asia; the men hold their hands above the navel when lined up for congregational prayer, raise them to the level of their heads before bowing, and say “ameen” out loud after the prayer leader.
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The terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has recruited followers of the Ahl-e Hadith movement in the past. News sources have reported that members of LeT were planning to attack the US and Indian embassies in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on November 26 2009.
Ahl-e Hadith Bangladesh chapter
Ahl-e Hadith movement in Bangladesh made its noticeable presence through Muhammad Asadullah Al-Ghalib, a former Rajshahi University Arabic professor. He is the founder of Ahle Hadith Movement Bangladesh (AHAB) which came into being on September 22, 1994. He is also the founder of an Islamic research journal, monthly At-tahreek. Former Rajshahi University vice-chancellor, the late Dr MA Bari, first took an initiative in the 1960s to form such an organization. Ghalib joined the Arabic department of Rajshahi University as a lecturer with the help of Bari in the mid-1980s.
However, Galib’s links with the movement can be traced back to 1978, when he formed Ahab’s youth wing Ahle Hadith Jubo Shangha (AHJS). While forming the AHJS, Galib argued that they needed to engage in Jihad against Islamic fallacies including the mazar culture to bring an Islamic rule in the country.
In an interview in 2017, Shakhawat Hossain, Ahl-e Hadith Andolon Bangladesh spokesperson, said the group claimed its lineage and the inspiration for its name from Islamist groups that had fought British colonialism in the early 19th century.
In February 23, 2005, Asadullah Al-Ghalib was arrested along with three of his closest aides, however, he denied any involvement with Islamic militancy and was freed from jail on August 28, 2008, receiving acquittal from all the charges against him.
The JMB, founded in 1998, and its militant wing Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh became active in the early 2000s and was inspired by the ideology of Wahhabi-inspired Ahl-e Hadith Movement. JMB chief Abdur Rahman and Asadullah Al-Ghalib were well-known to each other. Abdur Rahman studied at Madina University in Saudi Arabia on Ghalib’s recommendation and after completing his course, he joined with Ghalib. l
This article has been compiled by the Dhaka Tribune from different journals and newspaper articles available on the internet.
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