بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Khalf al-Barbahaari (233—329 h.) of Baghdad was the leader of the Hanbalis in his day and he was a contemporary of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari (d. 324 h.) who according to al-Kauthari wrote his al-Ibaanah to guide al-Barbahaari from the heresy of literalism and tashbeeh. Imam Ahmad died in 241 so you can see that when Ahmad died he was a boy of eight. Al-Barbahaari caused such a tumult of riots and fighting in the year 321 h. over the issue of the supposed sitting the Prophet r on the Throne beside Allah that the Caliph ordered him to be arrested but al-Barbahaari fled but was arrested and deported to Basrah but he returned in 323 h. and caused again such a fitnah that the Caliph al-Radi again ordered him to be arrested and ordered that if any two of his followers met together that they should be arrested. Again he fled and died in hiding in 329. Apparently the name al-barbahaar is the name of a medicine that comes from India and the one who imports it was called al-barbahaari.
Ibn al-Atheer (d. 630) wrote in his al-Kaamil fee al-Taareekh in commenting on the events that transpired in the year 323 h. in Baghdad:
Mention of the fitnah of the Hanbalis
In this year the Hanbalis became powerful and the problem they posed became serious. They started to raid and take by surprise the buildings of the guards and the general public and if they found any containers of fermenting juice [nabeedh, which need not have become intoxicating] they overturned them and if they found any singer they beat him and broke his instruments [which act was to be appreciated and is consonant with Hanafi fiqh as well as Hanbali fiqh] and they interfered with buying and selling and if they saw a man going about with women or children they asked him whom he was escorting and if he did not answer they would beat him and carry him away to the chief of police and testified that he had committed some indecency [that is adultery or sodomy] and in this way they created tumult/disorder in Baghdad.
Finally on the 10th of Jumaadaa al-Aakhirah Badr al-Kharshani, who was the Chief of Police, went out and promulgated on the two sides of Baghdad [the city is divided by the Tigris River] concerning the Hanbalis, the followers of Abu Muhammad al-Barbahaari, that no two of them should meet together, and that they should not attempt to spread their ideas and that none of them should lead the prayer unless he would recite the basmalah [that is, بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم] in the morning and two evening prayers. However, that did not stop them and their mischief and dissension increased. They would use the blind that used to go to the masjids [to harass the people], so that if a Shafi [that is, a follower of Imam Shafi‘i] passed by they would instigate the blind men to beat them with their sticks until they well-nigh expired.
[This being the case] al-Raadi [the Caliph] issued a proclamation to be read to the Hanbalis in their denunciation rebuking them for their profession of tashbeeh and other things. Among the things that the proclamation declared was this:
On the one hand you presume that your ugly revolting faces resemble that of the Lord of All Things and your awful appearance resembles His [this being an allusion to their doctrine that Allah created Adam according to His image (soorah)], and you mention the hand and fingers and feet and gilded shoes and curly hair and the ascension to heaven and the descent to the lowest heaven [an allusion to their doctrine that Allah comes literally and physically to the lowest of the heavens at the end of the night to ask who is praying to Him]; however, Allah far transcends what the wicked and those who deny [His transcendence and incomparability] ascribe to Him. Then on the other hand you censure the greatest imams and accuse the descendents of Muhammad of unbelief and misguidance and you induce the Muslims to accept manifest heresies and blasphemous ideas that have no support from the Qur’an. Furthermore, you denounce visiting the graves of the great imams and you reproach those who visit them as heretics although you gather at the grave of a person who was a commoner and not any soul of distinction and pedigree, one who has no relation to the Messenger of Allah r and you encourage the people to visit him and you claim that you works the miracles of the prophets and the saints. May Allah curse the devil that has made such enormities seem fair in your eyes! How he has deluded you!
The Ameer al-Mu’mineen swears the most solemn oath by Allah and binds himself to fulfill it that if you do not give up your blamable ideas and stop your crooked activities, he will have you beaten severely and exiled and put to death and eliminated. By Allah, he will strike your necks with the sword and burn your homes!
The episode of al-Barbahaari is but a page in the sorry and continuing saga of the trial of the Hashawiyyah. That day the flag of their fitnah was carried by al-Barbahaari while on another day by Muhammad ibn al-Karram and Ibn Taimiyyah and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhaab. Today it is carried by those who call themselves “Salafis” in Arabia and the Gulf and in the west and “Ahl al-Hadeeth” in Indo-Pak and “Ansaar al-Sunnah” in Egypt and Sudan and if the world endures tomorrow it will be carried by people who will have assumed yet another name. The same flag was carried by Paul of Tarsus in the era of Christianity and by the sectarian leaders in the early period of Christianity who held that Isa u was literally the son of God and that Allah literally had a spirit which they called the Holy Spirit and made it one of the persons of the Trinity coeternal and coequal with the Father. That is why Thomas Patrick Hughes declared in his A Dictionary of Islam (1885) in his article on the “Wahhabi”:
On this account [that is, because of their literalist inclination] the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Sonship of Christ do not present the same difficulities to the Wahhabi mind which they do to that of a Sunni [that is orthodox Asharite].
Previous to this statement Hughes had written under the tenth article that distinguishes the Wahhabis from mainstream and orthodox Muslims:
They understand the terms “sitting on the Throne” (Arabic Istiwā’) and “hand of God” (Yadu ‘llāh), which occur in the Qur’ān, in their literal (Haqīqī) sense, and not figuratively (Majāzī) ; but at the same time, they say it is not revealed how God sits, or in what sense he has a hand, &c., and in this account the Christian doctrines…”
Notice that Hughes points out that the Wahhabis affirm the literal meaning but consign the precise description of that to Allah. Take note here that orthodox Muslims on the other hand deny the literal meaning and when opting for the stance of tafweed they consign the determination of a non-literal meaning to Allah and when opting for ta’weel advance a suitable figurative meaning in a tentative manner. This is because they deny that Allah has any mode of existence (kaifiyyah) affirming that He, the necessary being, exists without any cause and without any need and without the imperfections and restrictions of origination and contingency.
(This is an article of my shaikh Mualvi Muhammad Yusaf, and I will be posting more of his articles on this topic)