The Problem with Group Think

Figure 1A: Is this how you lead your life? If so, then you need to really take a much more careful standard.

Figure 1A: Is this how you lead your life? If so, then you need to really take a much more careful standard.

Having received a recent e-mail and publishing it on the blog, I believed that the matter would be resolved by the individual who had asked the question. Instead, what occurred was a classic case of group think.

This worrying trend is one that is often observable in exclusive groups, whether this be cults (Salafiyyah and all of its’ offshoots, Ahmadiyyah – both Lahori and Qadiani forms, Shi`ah, Mu`tazilah, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Ikhwan ul-Musliminin, etc) or aberrant groups among the ranks of Muslim Orthodoxy (the great bulk of Bareilwis, some Deobandis, etc).

Group think is very easily identifiable. There will usually be a group of people polarised around a particular understanding that they have derived and they thus become the in-group. That in-group then anathematises the out-group.

In-group members are often told not to read other literature, associate with out-group members as well as utilising clever euphemisms and side-bar polemics for their adversaries. This works fine until the rank and file member encounters new information.

This new information (i.e. every piece of literature outside of the group) will often be glaringly and grotesquely contradictory to the in-group core beliefs in its’ nature, which in turn leads to cognitive dissonance.

This situation comes about as the member finds a contradiction that is unsettling in the mind. This leads to two possible conclusions:

1) Taking on the information and testing it by way of research and independent query. This is one of the reasons why some of the most brilliant members caught in group think usually find their way out after a relatively short period of time (e.g. Abul Hasan Al-Ash`ari (d. 325 AH), the Shaikh of Muslim Orthodoxy springs to mind).

They notice and follow the logic to its’ complete conclusion, coming to the realisation that the information that they had previously utilised is either reconcilable or not. In the case of realising that it is no longer possible to intellectually invest in the organisation… they leave.

The immediate result of such a move is for the establishment preachers and cognitive gnomes to put forth the conclusion that the “unchurched” man or woman was never really faithful in the first place. Then there begins the long process of besmirching every good gesture ever committed by the former member.

People come forward, remembering almost on cue that, “I knew there was something not right about that guy/girl.” Other tid bits include, “He never was that serious.” Sometimes you even find, “I remember that he used to always be unsure and not on the truth.”

2) this is the most concerning, as it involves compartmentalizing two separate personalities or worlds, that of reality and that of the group think. This is known as rationalisation. Group think members may redact history, alter facts or quotes, resort to petty personal attacks or at the pinnacle commit bodily harm (most often murder).

I would like for the reader to digest the words of one of the great marja` people of the past, who diagnosed this sickness before an actual term was applied to it in Western psychology. It is the statement of Imam Sulaiman ibn `Abdul Wahhab (d. 1209 AH):

In this day and age, humanity has been tested by those who claim to be going by the Book and the Sunnah and they attempt to extract rulings from its’ sciences, and they do not care who opposes them.

When I tell him to take his statements to the People of Knowledge, he does not do so, but he does the contrary. He proceeds to make it compulsory that the people should go by and follow his statements and understanding, and when there is someone who opposes him, according to him he is an unbeliever while the individual in question does not have even one characteristic of the people of ijtihad.

By Allah, indeed he does not possess one tenth while he is opening his mouth and speaking a great deal of ignorance. To Allah we belong and to Him we return.

The entire Ummah speaks with one voice and when this individual is not able to refute them with one word, he declares them all unbelievers or grossly ignorant. The Divine Lightning, pp. 77-78.

When the rank and file encounter contradictory information in this second example, they are not encouraged to research and ask questions on the back of their research. No. Instead, they are encouraged to report back, even if the individual is the one being directly addressed.

The original e-mail that was referred to at the beginning of this article was sent to the brother in question in the original form, which I will now reproduce below in full. One can see that in the e-mail, I have referenced my statements and advised him to pick up the documentation.

Rather than do this, the brother fell back into group think, reverted to original model and asked for his organisation to give him the answer that is already a well settled conclusion in his mind.

I made a number of assertions along with stating the origins of where I took them from and I hope that the reader will take this on board. As said previously, I have enclosed the e-mail, but also put a few links under the misunderstandings of the GHQ (General Head Quarters)

or of the organisation attempting to keep doctrinal mainline and avoid cognitive dissonance that would result in the abandonment of the organisation, loss of funding and the collapse of the institutions that live off the blind faith of the followers that at the end of everything else are the bill payers.

Please examine carefully below and notice that the questions the brother asked I specifically answered and then invited him to do research and examine the affair:

Jan 23 at 9:04 PM

Assalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatu respected brother

wa `Alaikum us-Salaamu wa Rahmatullah, 

Noble brother, 

Alhumduillah I have benefitted from many of your talks via youtube & I pray that my Allahu Ta’ala accept your works & efforts.

I understand. 

By the Grace of Allahu Ta’ala I also hav a youtube channel (AfwaunMumeen) where I was able to also take some of your talks & re-upload it for the benefit of the Ummat.

As long as they are left in their original full format, I have no issue with this but if they are cut and sectioned in a way in which they convey misinformation, then this is wrong. 

Respected brother, my reason for contacting you is to insha’Allah enlighten you with regards to certain aspects of the Ummat you may not be aware of. I came across a talk where you likened the Deobandi Jamaat to the Wahaabis while the Barelvi Jamaat were likened to the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah based on some misinformation that was forwarded to the honorable Ulama of the Hijaaz.

No, I did not. Rather, what I said in the 13 centuries lecture is that some Deobandis do have 5 or 6 of the sixteen masa’il of Salafiyyah, and this is error. Not all of them have these errors. I further said that the book Taqwiyat ul-Iman is a re-load or poor copy of Kitab ut-Tawheed by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab. It has the exact same errors in it and the same false conclusions, such as “shirk in one’s daily chores,” that the Quraish and previous nations believed that Allah was the only creator (when at the same time they denied the Resurrection, which is part of believing that He is the only Lord, thus constituting a major theological error in Salafiyyah and Deobandis that hold that position).

In addition to this, the article, Takfir: A Problem for Some Sunnis Too, I pointed out that Imam Ahmad Rida Khan is from Muslim Orthodoxy (Ar. Ahl us-Sunnah Wal-Jama`ah). The reason for this is two of the great Hanbali mujaddids of the time praised his works and said noble things of him regarding his texts. 

As for the Muhannad, I have a copy of this that was actually signed and given to me by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam Al-Kawthari. I have made reference to it a number of times in other lectures; but this does not address the particular issues in question to which I was making reference, namely the 5 or 6 masa’il of Salafiyyah. None of those questions were answered in that text

This isn’t your fault but if it’ll please my Allahu Ta’ala, I’d like to forward you something concerning the honorable Ulama of the Hijaaz retracting their statements of kufr & deviation placed on the Ulama-e-Deoband.

As for the fatwa from the scholars of the Hijaz, I have the original Arabic and no text of kufr from the scholars of my madhhab and to the best of my knowledge any other was every placed upon Deoband as a group or specific individuals. No one in the text was referred to as an unbeliever.

I know this as I have the original rulings of Imams Muhammad ibn Humaid An-Najdi (d. 1295 AH), who was also a teacher of Ahmad Rida’ Khan. No statement that they were unbelievers was every made by him or the grand judge Imam Hasan Ash-Shatti (d.1275 AH) or the son of Imam Ibn Humaid. 

What you will need to do is look at those rulings again and you will see that the rulings were given in a general sense: “Whoever believes this, then that is kufr.” Another example: “Whoever says this, then he is a kafir.”

This does not mean a said individual is a kafir. They do not know that individual. So they cannot say a specific person is a kafir, “Due to my previous fatwa, YOU are a kafir,” as they do not know the condition of people living miles away from them that they cannot assess for the impediments, conditions and other matters related to takfir.

So speaking in general terms is permitted and perfectly fine. Again, as for the Muhannad, this does not solve things for the Deoband people that have Salafi masa’il in their ranks.

There is a statement from Imam Mustafa Ash-Shatti (d. 1348 AH), whose works I have already translated. He gives a rather cautious statement on the text due to the fact that again, he does not know the Deoband or its’ people. Not only this, I would advise you to read the works of Imam Mustafa Ash-Shatti and see if you still think that this is someone you would like to go to as a source of the Deoband being upon right guidance. 

In his text, he discusses making intercession at the gravesites, when the deceased are absent and using them in one’s supplication as well as the position that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, can be seen in a wakeful state in his natural form. If all of deoband adheres to this, along with the Salafis in general being Kuffar and Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab being upon the same level as Musailimah the Liar, then this is perfectly fine. 

Go right ahead. But if not or in consideration, I really suggest you read the works of Mustafa Ash-Shatti here. 

And those of Muhammad ibn Humaid An-Najdi (d. 1295 AH). Even read the works of the great Hanbali sages before Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab’s appearance and you will find them making intercession with the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, after every prayer in supplication. I am not talking about making intercession with your IMAN in him, I mean making intercession with HIM, HIMSELF in every supplication after every compulsory prayer and addressing him as if he is present. Using him as part of the supplication

If the deoband is fine with this, then this should be no problem and should be made public so the people know the truth. If this is not the case, you have a lot of reading to do and some studying as well. I am not interested in the Deobandi/Barelwi conflict as most of this has come in the aftermath of the death of Ahmad Rida’ Khan. Rather, I compared them both to Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, his students and scholars after and the theology passed down by their luminaries. 

Measuring both Deoband and the Barelwi against the school of Imam Ahmad, both are defective and without complete merit and missing the complete truth. However, Barelwi his some aspects of that truth and Deoband has some aspects of truth. Abandoning both is the truth, the true path. Thank you for your time. 


Al-Hajj Abu Ja`far Al-Hanbali

 Insha’Allahu Ta’ala you find it of great benefit & may my Allah Ta’ala bestow upon you the ability to remember me in your Duaas


Af’WauN Al-HaNaFi (NYC)

Now after this comes the reply of the brother (who was directly addressed in the e-mail and requested to research) who then using his phone forwarded it onto someone in South Africa that may have some authority in his eyes (please note that this individual is not marja`, thus no universal jurisdiction and therefore none of his pronouncements are binding) without including the original link to Imam Mustafa Ash-Shatti that I enclosed for perusal.

Please observe the group think at work and also the attacks on an individual and not the principle, the ignoring of context and the desperation to preserve the social construct created for the group:

Sent from my iPhone
Begin forwarded message:
From: “The Mujlisul Ulama of South Africa M.U.S.A” <>
Date: February 23, 2015, 2:52:25 AM EST
To: “Mister HANAFI Mu’Meen” <>
Subject: Re: Al Muhannad ‘ala Al-Mufannad
Assalamu Alaykum respected brother, our conversation was forwarded to my respected Sheikh (Mufti Ahmad Sadiq Desai) & his reply is produced below:


29 Rabiuth Thaani 1436 (20 February 2015)Mister Hanafi,

Your e-mail dated 6 February 2015 refers.

With respect, your English language is quite poor, hence the method in which you have expressed yourself is ambiguous and confusing in some aspects. I shall, therefore, appreciate clarity before I pursue the subject further.

(1)  You state:  “Some Deobandis do have 5 or 6 of the sixteen masail of the Salafiyyah, and this is error.”


Please enumerate these “5 or 6 masail”, and also  who are the
Deobandis who subscribe to them?

(2) You said that the book “Taqwiyatul Imaan “is a re-load or poor copy of Kitab-ut-Tawheed by Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab. It has the exact same errors in it and the same false conclusions.”

Please enumerate these errors and the false conclusions to enable me to  pursue the dialogue further.

(3) One of the supposed ‘errors’ you mention is  “shirk in one’s daily chores”. Kindly expound the ‘error’. You mention that this is an error. In which way is it an ‘error’? What did you understand by “shirk in one’s daily chores.”?

(4) You made an extremely poor attempt, possibly because of
deficiency in your English, to explain the one supposed ‘error’ you have mentioned. You explain it as follows: “…..that the Quraish and previous nations believed that Allah was
the only creator (when at the same time they denied the Resurrection, which is part of believing that He is the only Lord, thus constituting a major  theological error in Salafiyyah and Deobandis that hold that

This statement is utterly confusing. What are you trying to say? Please explain clearly. From the statement, I have understood that according to you it is erroneous to say that the mushrikeen despite worshipping idols believed in One Creator.  Have I understood your ambiguity correctly? If yes, then what is the error in the contention?
If I have not understood your ambiguity correctly, then please


(5)  You are  attempting to sidetrack the issue.  You mention: “Whoever believes this, then that is kufr.”, Whoever say  this, then he is a kafir,”  Please elaborate to which specific statements  of the
Ulama of Deoband were these ‘general’ comments directed.  This general statement, “does not mean  a said individual is a kafir”, is NOT the issue. The issue is”; What is that statement of the Ulama of Deoband
which evoked the general statement of kufr and kafir? If you elaborate, then we could further discuss the specific statements of kufr.

(6)  Please explain which are the “Salafi masail in the ranks of the Deobandis” which are erroneous?

(7) There is no need for me to go to Mustafa Ash-Shati for
ascertaining the  Haqq of the Ulama of Deoband.  If I am in any need regarding their views, beliefs and practices, then I shall go directly to them.

(8) The second paragraph on page 2 of your letter  is atrociously phrased. I don’t know what you are exactly saying. Please state with
clarity your beliefs regarding intercession (Tawassul) of  the Ambiya and Auliya. What error do you find in the belief of the Ulama of Deoband regarding Tawassul? While Salafis negate and deny the validity of Tawassul, the Deobandis  subscribe to Tawassul minus the shirki beliefs which Barelis attach to it. I don’t know your concept of Tawassul.

(9) You say: “If deoband is fine with this, then this should be no
problem and should be made public so the people no the truth.”

Fine with what? Everything – belief and practice – of Deoband is public. People are aware of the beliefs and practices of the Ulama of Deoband. There is no hidden dimension to the Deen propagated and practiced by the Ulama of Deoband. They are the staunchest followers
of the Hanafi Math-hab. They ascribe to Tasawwuf. Most of them being of the Chishti Silsilah. They are anti-Bid’ah, hence the Barelwis and
perhaps people such as you  detest them. They are followers of the Sunnah. Now what needs to be made public?  What is the kufr that you are attributing to them for which they should issue public clarification?  Perhaps you have been duped by someone to understand
that the Ulama of Deoband subscribe to kufr. Therefore,  state what you believe regarding the kufr beliefs of the Ulama of Deoband.

(10) Your contention: “….most of this (i.e. Deobandi-Barelwi conflict) has come in the aftermath of the death of Ahmad Rida Khan.”, portrays
your unawareness of the conflict. The conflict did NOT come into existence after the death of Ahmad Radha Khan. The conflict was ignited by him. He was the worst  kaafir-making machine in India.  He had intransigently and venomously assailed the Ulama of deoband. The conflict was at its highest during his very lifetime.

(11) For your edification, if the Ulama of Deoband differ with the Hanaabilah in some aspects, then such difference is perfectly valid. You overlook the fact that they are Ahnaaf. They are not the muqallideen of Imaam Ahmad (rahmatullah alayh). You have no right to
slate any official position of the Hanafi Math-hab. In so doing, you will be portraying bigotry and narrow mindedness.

We suggest that you write to him as above.




Mujlisul Ulama of S.A.
On 06/02/2015, Mister HANAFI Mu’Meen <> wrote:

Assalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatu my honorable Maulana

13 Rabi’uth Thani 1436 AH  (2/4/2015)

Alhumduillah my Allahu Ta’ala has deemed me fit to continue propagating the Haq utilizing different Internet forums as the medium.

By the Grace of Allah Ta’ala, there’s a website called “Youtube” where one

can upload videos & post it for all & sundry to view. I also have a Youtube

Channel (AfwaunMuMeen) where I’ve uploaded the “audio” of Sheikhs in order to benefit the Ummat. I’ve came across a “Hanbali” Sheikh by

the name of “Abu Jafar Al-Hanbali” who’s also been utilizing the “Youtube”

Website to refute the Deviate Wahaabi movement. I enjoyed his bayaans

UNTIL I came across a comment he made likening the Deobandis to the Wahaabis.

He’s also made comments where he referred to Ahmad Raza Khan of the Ahle

BID’AH a “Mujahid”. Since it was more then obvious he was misinformed I decided

to email him while also forwarding him a downloadable copy of “Al

Muhannad ‘ala

Al-Mufannad” & Alhumduillah he replied right away. Due to my limited knowledge

I decided not to refute his email thus making a fool of myself but instead refer this

matter “to those who know”.

Insha’Allah the conversation is produced verbatim word for word without adding or

deleting a dot. Whatever I stated is written regular & his “reply” is written in BOLD letters in order for you to differentiate between the two.

My reason for forwarding you this conversation is NOT because I have any doubts regarding our illustrious elders who came from the Portals of Deoband,

NOR do I have any doubts regarding the Bid’ah of the Ahle Baatil BUT the Sheikh has went public with the “private” email that I sent him

which can be found

Via the link


At the link Provided, one will see the opening words of the Sheikh as follows:

“Below is a useful and edifying message from a Muslim brother on a

re-occurring problem among

some of the ranks of the Muslims. My response immediately follows:”

Insha’Allah the Haqq can be confirmed while the brains of whatever baatil was spewed

can be smashed because what was once a private issue has been made public


Abdul’Kareem Al-Hanifiyya


PS: You’re forever in our Duaas, please continue to keep my Ustaadhs &

Masjid (myself included)

in your Noble Duaas

The conversation is below:


It is my hope that this is of some benefit to believers. I say, praise be to Allah who did not make me Deobandi, Barelwi or any of these other groups. I follow the main body of the Muslims and follow the Maraji` ut-Taqlid wal-Ittiba`, (“Those who are sources of imitation and may be followed”).

No one else deserves this authority. And may Allah keep myself and all believers on the main body of the Muslims. Islam is not 250 years old or less. It is ancient…as ancient as Az-Zaitunah, Al-Qarawiyyin, Al-Azhar, The Umayyad Central Masjid, Al-Mustansiriyyah, Al-Muzaffari and this is the leadership of the religion.

Until next time,

Al-Hajj Abu Ja`far Al-Hanbali

One response to “The Problem with Group Think

  1. Assalaam alaykum wa Rahmatullah,

    I’m sorry to see you experience this but it’s not surprising at all. A Deobandi from South Africa once told me that it was fardh upon me to forcibly prevent women in Fes from going to the masjid. I told him that such a position is not shared by the Shafi’is (the madhab I follow) or the Malikis (the madhab of Morocco). He then, with characteristic Deobandi humility, set out to tell me what the Shafi’i position is on women in the masjid, using a misquote from Imam ibn Hajar al-Haytami, He quoted it from a Deobandi source and not from the Imam’s own fatwa book, so I went to the Imam’s book and found that the fatwa is actually quite lengthy and Imam Ibn Hajar states clearly therein that the Shafi’is say what Imam an-Nawawi says in Sharh Sahih Muslim, which is that women are generally allowed as long as they don’t try to draw attention to themselves. I had translated the full statement several years before and published it on my blog, so I sent him the link for him to read. I also pointed out how his organisation had misread/distorted the fatwa of Imam Ibn Hajar. He seemed to be processing the information, he also admitted that he didn’t read Arabic (I sent him Imam Ibn Hajar’s fatwa in Arabic), and then he said he had to “check” with someone. After going back and forth a few times, he decided in the end to send me another email with lots of block capitals and exclamations marks demanding that I go to my local masjid and forcibly prevent the women of Fes from entering. I politely responded that it not my wish or desire to die such a gruesome death, or something to that effect.

    This is the epitome of group think, or the “true believer” syndrome, and it goes back to a fear of an autonomous existence. These people are scared of having to make their own decisions, to think for themselves, to do their own research and take responsibility for themselves and their families. Such a malady is not restricted to Muslims (following cults, Sufi tareeqas etc) as it can be found in political parties and organisations like Greenpeace. I’ve written about this before on my blog:

    In both of the above articles I included a link to this video:

    The way the Greenpeace activists responds to the facts is the same as any true believer, be they Deobandi, cultist, sufi etc.

    May Allah help us all.



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