Munawwar Atiq in this article claims there is an inconsistency between what Mawlana Khalil Ahmad al-Saharanpuri wrote on the mawlid in al-Muhannad (in 1325 H/1907) (translation available here), after the death of Mawlana Gangohi and to the Arabs, and what he wrote in al-Barahin (in 1304 H/1887 CE) with the approval of Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, to the Indians. In fact, what was mentioned in Muhannad is almost identical to what is found in al-Barahin.
On p. 8 of al-Barahin, it clearly says: "There is no prohibition of the essence of commemorating the birth of the Pride of the World, upon him peace, rather commemmorating his birth, just like commemorating his biography and his states, is praiseworthy." (p. 8) (nafs zikr milad fakhr 'alam 'alayhi al-salam ko koi man' nehi...), which is akin to the statement in Muhannad: "Commemorating the states which have the least connection with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is from the most desirable of recommended acts (ahabb al-mandubat) and the greatest of preferable acts (a‘la l-mustahabbat) according to us, whether it is the commemoration of his noble birth or commemoration of his urine, feces, standing, sitting, sleeping and waking as is stated clearly in our treatise called Al-Barahin al-Qati‘ah at various junctures therein."
And then, in both Barahin and Muhannad, he refers to the fatwa of Mawlana Ahmad 'Ali al-Saharanpuri which is quoted in full in al-Muhannad. The fatwa states that if the mawlid is free of impermissible activities, like narrating fabricated narrations, missing obligatory prayers, introducing polytheistic and innovated practices, giving it greater importance than it has, restricting its timing, then it is a rewardable practice. Mawlana Saharanpuri adds to the impermissible activities: free-mixing, extravagance and the belief in its obligation. However, in Muhannad he adds that the mawlid gatherings of India are rarely found to be free of these impermissible practices. Therefore, based on the second and third principles mentioned here, the fatwa will be of general impermissibility. Barahin says: "Because of the the unlawful things that have become attached to it [i.e. the mawlid gatherings], a ruling is given to all of innovation and impermissibility." (p. 8) And he says "This ruling is because of those unlawful restrictions not because of the essence of the commemoration." (p. 8)
It is clear from this passage from al-Barahin and the answer in al-Muhannad, that there is essentially no difference in what they state. Mawlana Gangohi's fatwas quoted in the above article reflect the general condition of the mawlid celebrations of that time for which a general fatwa of impermissibility was given; even those that are free of these impermissible activities are not excused from the fatwa for the principle of blocking the means of the public to the impermissible actions it could lead to. In sum, Barahin clearly states that the essence of the mawlid commemoration is permissible and desirable, and Mawlana Gangohi approved this statement, though his fatwas in general opposition are based on the principle that even those gatherings free of the impermissible activities that have become associated with them could eventually lead to them.
After quoting a section from Muhannad's stance on the mawlid, Munawwar writes: "Bear in mind that the very same Shaykh Khaleel opposed, in al-Muhannad, his own opinion on celebrating Mawlid gatherings in his Urdu work, ‘Baraheen-e-Qati’ah’ in which he compared the Mawlid gathering which consists of Qiyam to Kunhaya, a Hindu festival!" Yet, he mentions a little later that the Muhannad itself quotes this statement from Barahin and clarifies it to explain that this does not impinge on the permissibility of the essence of mawlid, so how is it that the Muhannad opposes the Barahin? Mawlana Saharanpuri wrote in Muhannad:
Munawwar quotes Shaykh Ahmad bin Muhammad Khayr al-Shinqiti disapproval of this passage, but note: al-Shinqiti does not disagree with the substance of what is being said, rather the way it was phrased. Mawlana Gangohi and Saharanpuri condemn the Qiyam when done with the belief of a rebirth as described above, and Shaykh al-Shinqiti wrote that this belief of a rebirth is a belief that should not be held by any sane person [i.e. agreeing with the statement of Mawlana Gangohi], but then said this should have been phrased in such a way to say the Qiyam in some forms is permissible. Munawwar also quotes Haji Imadullah agreeing that with the belief in a rebirth, the Qiyam is impermissible: "Yet however, one should not, in Qiyam, have the belief that the Prophet is being born," which indicates this was a popular belief at the time.
Have you mentioned in a particular treatise that commemorating his – Allah bless him and grant him peace – birth is like Kanhaiya’s Janmashtami (birth festival) or not?
This is also from the slanders against us and against our elders from the Dajjalic innovators. We have explained previously that commemorating him – upon him peace – is from the best of recommended acts and the most virtuous of preferable acts, so how can it be suspected of a Muslim that he says, refuge is from Allah, that the commemoration of the noble birth resembles the practice of the disbelievers? They only invented this slander from a text of Mawlana al-Gangohi – Allah sanctify his mighty secret – which we quoted in al-Barahin on page 141. Far be the shaykh from saying the like of this, and his intent is far by miles from what they attributed to him as will become apparent from what we will mention, which announces in the highest voice that whoever attributes to him what they mentioned is a liar and a slanderer.
The upshot of what the shaykh – Allah Exalted is He have mercy on him – mentioned in the discussion on Qiyam when mentioning the noble birth is that whoever believes the arrival of his noble soul from the world of spirits to the world of seeing and believes with certainty in the very noble birth in the Mawludi function, so he behaves in a manner that would be required in the moment of the actual past birth, he has erred and imitated the Majus in their belief of the birth of their deity known as Kanhaiya every year and their behaviour on that day in the way they would behave at the moment of the real birth; or [he] imitated the Rafidis of India in their treatment of our master al-Husayn and his followers from the martyrs of Karbala – Allah be pleased with them all – where they produce the story of all that was done with them in Karbala on the day of ‘Ashura in word and deed, so they build a coffin, shroud, graves, and they are buried therein and they display the banners of war, and they dye the garments with blood and they wail upon them and [other] such superstitions that are not hidden to one who sees their conditions in these lands. The text of his statement, Arabised, is as follows:
As for the justification of Qiyam due to the arrival of his – Allah bless him and grant him peace – soul from the world of spirits to the world of seeing, so they stand in veneration of him, this is also from their fooleries, because this reasoning demands standing upon the realisation of the very noble birth, and when does the birth recur in these days? Thus, this [belief in the] repetition of the noble birth is like the practice of the Majus of India since they produce the exact story of the birth of their deity Kanhaiya or like the Rafidis who transmit (i.e. verbally and practically) the martyrdom of the Ahl al-Bayt – Allah be pleased with them – every year, Allah’s refuge [is sought]. This practice of theirs has become a retelling of the real noble birth; and this movement without doubt and reservation, is deserving of blame, prohibition and iniquity; rather, this practice of theirs is beyond the practice of those, for they do this once every year, and these people practice these fictional embellishments whenever they wish, and there is no precedent for this in the Shari‘ah that one imagines something and behaves with it in the manner of its reality; rather, this is prohibited in the Shari‘ah.
So look, Oh possessors of intelligence, that the revered shaykh – Allah sanctify his mighty secret – only repudiated the ignoramuses of India who, from them, believe this corrupt belief, who stand for the like of these corrupt imaginings. Hence, there is no comparison in this [statement] of the gathering in commemoration of the noble birth with the practice of the Majus and Rafidis, our elders be far removed from saying such a thing. However, the oppressors of the people of truth invent [lies] and deny the signs of Allah
Mawlana Gangohi and Mawlana Saharanpuri may have held the opinion that the Qiyam is always impermissble, whereas they believed the mawlid commemoration in its essence is desirable. This is obvious from both Muhannad and Barahin, and there is no contradiction.
Mawlana Zafar Uthmani says in I'la al-Sunan: "From that which should be known is that the Qiyam that is common in the mawlid is not from what we are discussing; and is not proven by any proof, neither strong nor weak, rather it is from the inventions of the minds and the insinuations of the soul and a new legislation. So it is not accurate to include it in the disagreements of the 'ulama and their judgements. This is the reality. As for the one who is not from the people of ijtihad and fatwa and is deluded by the disagreements of the 'ulama, and believes it is from the ijtihadi issues differed upon amongst the people of knowledge without any severity in it and [without] condemning those who disaprove of it, he ought to be excused." 'Allamah ibn Hajar al-Haythami also considered it a detestable innovation in al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyya, but said the public are excused (just like Mawlana Uthmani above): "Akin to this is the practice of many to stand (qiyam) upon the mention of his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) birth and his mother delivering him, which is also a bid'ah concerning which nothing has been narrated, although people only do this out of respect for him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) so the general people will be excused for this as opposed to the elite." (ونظير ذلك فعل كثير عند ذكر مولده صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم ووضع أمه له من القيام وهو أيضا بدعة لم يرد فيه شيء ، على أنّ الناس إنما يفعلون ذلك تعظيما له صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم فالعوام معذورون لذلك بخلاف الخواص)
There is, therefore, no contradiction in the Deobandi view regarding the mawlid as expressed by Mawlana Gangohi and Mawlana Saharanpuri: the mawlid in its essence is praiseworthy, but because it has become inseperable from impermissible activites, the fatwa is given of its general impermissibility, to prevent the masses from falling into sin and block the means from this happening.