The article reproduced below is a follow up to a previous entry entitled, Shah Waliullah And Darul ‘Uloom Deoband. Like the previous article, it has been taken from Maulana Mahmood Ahmad Ghazi’s work, ‘Islamic Renaissance in South Asia (1707-1867): The Role of Shah Waliullah and his successors.’ The original text has been edited and certain additions have been made in the body text for the benefit of the average reader. Footnotes (mainly references) which were in the original text have also been omitted. Some footnotes have been retained in the body text.

    Scholars of the Waliullahi Tradition – The ‘Ulama of Deoband

In the chapter entitled, ‘Scholars Of The Waliullahi Tradition’, the author concludes thus:

The Waliullahi tradition of combining scholarship, piety and tazkiyah was most strikingly manifest in the personalities of Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and Hujjat al-Islam Mawlana Qasim Nanotwi.

Mawlana Rashid Ahmad was born in 1244AH/1829CE and was initially taught by Mawlana Mamluk Ali and Mufti Sadruddin Azurdah; later, he specialized in hadith under Shah Abdul Ghani and was initiated in tasawwuf by Haji Imdadullah Muhajir Makki.

He wrote extensively on hadith, fiqh and tasawwuf, and issued thousands of fatwas, which provided much-needed guidance to South Asian Muslims on questions of social, political and spiritual importance. In response to queries about the legal position of India, he issued a lengthy fatwa, pronouncing India Dar al-Harb and lectured on hadith for over a half century. His student and murid, Mawlana Muhammad Yahya Kandhalawi, compiled his lectures on hadith. Subsequently, his lecture on the Jami’ of Imam Tirmidhi were edited and published by Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya (son of Mawlana Muhammad Yahya Kandhalawi) under the title Al-Kawkab al-Durri, while those on Sahih al-Bukhari, entitled Lami’ al-Darari, were also published by Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya. Of his numerous students, the most notable were Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Sahranpuri, Mawlana Yahya Kandhalawi, Mawlana Siddiq Ahmad, Mawlana Abdul Rahim Raipuri, Shaykh al-Hind Mawlana Mahmud Hasan, Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas (the founder of the worldwide Tablighi movement) and Shaykh al-Islam Mawlana Hussain Ahmad Madani.

Mawlana Khalil Ahmad deserves special mention: as a child, he was educated in the British system; this changed when his maternal uncle, MawlanaYa’qub Nanotwi, was appointed professor-in-charge (Sadr Mudarris) at Darul Ulum Deoband. Mawana Khalil Ahmad joined the Darul Ulum and later went to Saharanpur and completed his education at Mazahir al-Ulum. Later, he specialized in the study of hadith under Mawlana Muhammad Mazhar Nanotwi.

His association with Mufti Abdul Qayyum Budhanwi – Mawlana Abdul Hayy’s son and the student and son-in-law of Shah Muhammad Ishaq – also proved of great benefit. Later, he visited the Hijaz and received a sanad from Shah Abdul Ghani, as well as ijazah to teach all the works of hadith. In 1288AH, he was initiated into tasawwuf and became a murid of Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, who also appointed him his deputy (khalifah). In 1298AH/1881CE, on a second visit to the Hijaz for Haj, Haji Imdadullah Muhajir Makki granted him khilafah.

Mawlana Khalil Ahmad spent some fifty years teaching hadith, and in preaching and missionary work. He taught at Mangalore, Bhopal, Sikandarabad, Bahawalpur, Bareilly, Deoband and Saharanpur. At Mazahir al-Ulum, in a period of thirty years, about four hundred ulama graduated after completing their studies under him. His students included Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalawi, Mawlana Muhammad Anwar Shah Kashmiri, Mawlana Muhammad Idris Kandhalawi (who subsequently post-partition lectured at Jamia Ashrafia, Lahore), Mawlana Badr-e -Alam Meeruti (who became resident in Madina al-Munawwara), Mawlana Ashfaq al-Rahman and Mawlana Abdul Shakur Kamilpuri.

Apart from his immense contribution to Islamic education, Mawlana Khalil Ahmad also wrote extensively on hadith and theology. His writings on the refutation of bid’ah provoked harsh criticism from his adversaries. His commentary on the Sunan of Abu Dawud, entitled Badhl al-Majhud fi Hal Abi Dawud is his most original contribution to the science of hadith (this has been published several times in India and else where, most recently in Beirut in fourteen volumes under the supervision of Shaykh Taqi al-Deen Nadwi).

Muhammad Rashid Ridha was greatly impressed by Mawlana Saharanpuri’s balanced outlook, broad-mindedness, sincerity and insight. According to Ridha, there was no one in India who could surpass Mawlana Khalil Ahmad as far as these qualities were concerned.

Mawlana Khalil Ahmad’s encyclopaedic knowledge of hadith was passed on to his brilliants pupils, who included the likes of Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalawi and Mawlana Anwar Shah Kashmiri. Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya is popularly known as Shaykh al-Hadith on account of his extraordinary services to the dissemination of hadith studies in India. His early education was entrusted to his father, Mawlana Muhammad Yahya, a student and murid of Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. Then he specialized in the study of hadith with his father and Mawlana Khalil Ahmad. Soon after that, he became closely associated with Mawlana Khalil Ahmad, becoming his murid and assisting him in writing Badhl al-Majhud.

Mawlana Zakariyya taught hadith at Mazahir al-Ulum for about sixty years; he wrote profusely on hadith, sirah and other Islamic subjects, and edited the lectures of Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. Among his outstanding works is a multi-voluminous commentary on the Muwatta of Imam Malik – entitled Awjaz al-Masalik Ila Mu’atta Imam Malik – considered the best on the subject. It was first published in six volumes in Saharanpur, and more recently in Cairo in twenty volumes. (Even more recently, it has been published in Beirut in eighteen Volumes under the supervision of his student Shaykh Taqi al-Deen Nadwi.) His paternal uncle, Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas, was also a murid of Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi.

Mawlana Anwar Shah Kashmiri was also a student of Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and Shaykh al-Hind Mawlana Mahmud al-Hasan. He taught hadith at Deoband and Dabhel (Gujarat), and achieved widespread renown as one of the foremost hadith scholars of Muslim South Asia. His students compiled his lectures on hadith in several volumes. Although, Mawlana Anwar Shah also studied under Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, his principal teacher was Mawlana Mahmud al-Hasan, known as Shaikh al-Hind.

Mawlana Mahmud al-Hasan’s teachers included Mawlana Yaqub Nanotwi and Mawlana Qasim Nanotwi. During a visit to the Hijaz, Shah Abdul Ghani handed him a sanad in the narration of hadith, while Haji Imdadullah Muhajir Makki handed him khilafah in tasawwuf. In 1288AH, Mawlana Mahmud Hasan was appointed junior teacher at Darul Ulum Deoband and was soon promoted to teach hadith, he strictly followed the methodology of Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi and Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi and tried to synthesize the conflicting views of the fuqaha and muhaddithin. He wrote several treatises on fiqh, hadith and tafsir, and revised, updated and annotated Shah Abdul Qadir Dehlawi’s translation of the Quran. His works on hadith include a treatise on the explanation of Bukhari’s Tarajim al-Sunan. His lectures on hadith were compiled by a number of his students.

Shaykh al-Hind Mawlana Mahmud al-Hasan also took part in the politics of South Asia and the Muslim world at large. His struggle against British imperialism is a heartbreaking epic in itself. He was the founder of Jamiat al-Ansar, a semi-political organization and the forerunner of Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Hind. Prominent among his students were Hakim al-Ummat Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (d.1943), Shaykh al-Islam Mawlana Hussain Ahmad Madani, Mufti Kifayatullah, Mawlana Ubaidullah Sindhi, Mawlana Ahmad Ali, and Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani (d.1949).

From amongst these, Hakim al-Ummat Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi rose to great prominence and achieved a high degree of popularity. He embodied the culmination of the movement started under Mujaddid Alf-e-Thaani Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi to assimilate and synthesise the shariah and the tariqah. He was awarded the khilafah by Haji Imdadullah and was hailed as one of his most eminent successors in tariqah and spiritual initiation. He revived the khanqah of his spiritual guide in 1315AH and initiated people in spiritual training for about half a century. Hakim al-Ummat’s stature as a scholar has also been equally distinguished. According to Aziz al-Rahman, he authored three hundred and forty-five books, while the compilations of his published speeches number over three hundred. It has been mentioned elsewhere that his publications number over one thousand. In the arena of politics, he was always very critical of Gandhi and the Indian national Congress. His support for the All India Muslim League and the demand for Pakistan proved very effective in popularizing it, particularly in religious circles (editor: please see Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalawi’s Al-Eitidal fi Maratib al-Rijal for further details about this). His students and disciples included luminaries such as Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi, Mawlana Zafar Ahmad Uthmani, Mawlana Abdul Majid Daryabadi and Mawlana Abdul Bari Nadwi.

Another prominent student of Shaikh al-Hind was Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani, whose high standing as a scholar of hadith and tafsir has been somewhat obscured by his prominence in politics. His Urdu commentary on the Quran and his commentary in Arabic on the Sahih Muslim bear testimony to his profound learning and encyclopaedic knowledge (this is entitled Fath al-Mulhim fi Sharh Sahih al-Muslim [1354AH]). The author could not complete the work in his lifetime and the later volumes, entitled Takmilat Fath al-Mulhim (1994), were most appropriately written by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Uthmani). He was associated with the All-India Muslim League, founded the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam, and worked for the establishment of Pakistan, along with other colleagues from Hakim al-Ummat Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi’s circle.

This is only a glimpse of the services rendered by the scholars of the Waliullahi tradition to the cause of preserving and popularizing Islamic education in highly unfavourable conditions. A thorough survey of these historic efforts would require separate detailed studies. Only then will it be possible to assess the real genius of Shah Waliullah and the lasting impact of his religious, intellectual and educational efforts on the subsequent generations of the Muslims of South Asia.