Ahl-e-Hadith are the adherents of Shariah based on hadith and sunnah. As strict adherents to hadith, members of the Ahl-e-Hadith take for themselves a broader meaning with wider implications and claim themselves to be the followers of Sahih (the reliable) Hadith. This thought of Ahl-e-Hadith was there in the sub-continent for about two hundred years.
As a reform movement, Ahl-e-Hadith received inspiration from the Tariqah-e-Muhammadiyah movement of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid of Rai Bareily. Maulana Belayat Ali Sadiqpuri of Patna, Maulana Sayyid Miyan Nadhir Husain Dehlavi and Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan of Bhopal shaped the full contours of the movement. The movement spread extensively throughout British India during the second half of the nineteenth century. Inspired by the ways of life of the early generation of Muslims, the members of Ahl-e-Hadith launched the movement for reviving Islam on the basis of its fundamental principles.
Compared to other Islamic movements and madhhabs (schools of law), Ahl-e-Hadith has greater similarities with the Hambali Madhhab. Of course, adherents of Ahl-e-Hadith are not inclined to identify themselves with any of the madhhabs. As a religious revivalist movement, Ahl-e-Hadith is committed to the practice of the sunnah of the great Prophet muhammad (Sm). In a word, Ahl-e-Hadith leans strongly towards strict and immutable principles formulated by their leading advocates. Historically, therefore, the followers of Ahl-e-Hadith divide the ways of life of Muslims into two main streams viz., the Ahl-e-Hadith, who do not believe in madhhabs and the Ahl-e-Sunnat wa'al Jam'at, who follow madhhab.
Contemporary exponents of Ahl-e-Hadith in the subcontinent convincingly depict it as a continuous religious puritanical movement. According to Allama Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi the Ahl-e-Hadith movement in India has been founded on four pillars: (a) belief in pure Unitarianism, (b) the Sunnah of the great Prophet Muhammad (Sm), (c) enthusiasm for jihad or holy war and (d) submission to Allah. Ahl-e-Hadith insists on taking all decisions on the basis of the holy quran and hadith, and not by applying the methodology of Qiyas or analogy.
In the wake of the independence of India and Pakistan, Ahl-e-Hadith movement was organised in and around Karachi, the capital city of Pakistan. In 1948, the 'Pakistan Markazi Jami'at-e-Hadith' was founded at Lahore. In 1914, the Bangali and Assamese students of Maulana Sayyid Miyan Nadhir Husain formed Bengal and Assam wings of 'Anjuman-i-Hadith'. Since 1916, the organisation has been regarded as a branch of the All India Ahl-e-Hadith Conference. The 'Nikhil Banga and Assam Jami'at-e-Hadith' was formed at Calcutta in 1946 under the leadership of Maulana Abdullahil Kafi (1900-1960). After 1947, the headquarters of the organisation was shifted from Calcutta to Pabna. The 'Anjuman-e-Ahl-e-Hadith' was formed in West Bengal in 1951. The 'Nikhil Banga and Assam Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith', Pabna was given a new name - the 'Purba Pakistan Jami'at-e-Ahl-e-Hadith' in 1953. In 1956, its headquarters was shifted to Dhaka. Lately, the name of the organisation was again changed to 'Bangladesh Jami'at-e-Ahl-e-Hadith'. [Editorial Committee]