Foreword by Maulana Abu Zaynab
The maktubat (letters) written by the ‘Ulama and masha’ikh to their murids (disciples) and fellow ‘Ulama overflow with wisdom and are truly a delight to read. They allow readers a brief glimpse into the life of those close to the Almighty.
The reading of letters written by the Sufis has been a practice among various Sufi tariqats for centuries, perhaps one of the most famous being the Maktubat of Mujaddid Alf-e-Thani Imam Rabbani Shaykh Ahmed Sarhindi (may Allah enlighten his grave), which has been translated into various languages and is commonly read by the Naqshbandi Mujaddidis and also by other tariqats in the Indian sub-continent.
Likewise, those connected to Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalawi have also tirelessly produced compilations of Hadhrat Shaykh’s letters to his murids. Many of those connected to Hadhrat Shaykh’s various khulafa (spiritual successors) are regularly advised to read these letters with the aim of gaining faydh (spiritual blessings) and an understanding of the way of our Akabir and ultimately traversing the Path and reaching the Goal.
Below is one of those blessed letters written by ‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari, known as the ‘Allamah Kashmiri of Egypt, who described Hadhrat Mawlana Mufti Shafi Uthmani (father of Hadhrat Mawlana Mufti Taqi Uthmani and Hadhrat Mawlana Mufti Rafi Uthmani, and founder of Darul Uloom Karachi) as faqih an-Nafs, a term that Mufti Taqi Saheb explains in detail in his prelude below.
In this same letter, ‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari also refers to another Deobandi scholar, ‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani as Muhaqqiq al-‘Asr and ‘that person who holds a unique position in knowledge.’
In his explanation of the term faqih an-Nafs, Mufti Taqi explains how ‘Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri conferred the title faqih an-Nafs on the likes of ‘Allamah Ibn Nujaym, the author of Al-Bahr ar-Raa’iq and Hadhrat Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, but not on ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abideen ash-Shaami.
‘Allamah Kashmiri, named Imam al-‘Asr (Imam of his time) by the likes of Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah, spent time in the company of Hadhrat Gangohi, acquiring knowledge in both the outward and inwards sciences and thus his praise is a first hand account of the vast knowledge and understanding of the Deen given by Allah to Hadhrat Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. It is a testimony to Hadhrat Gangohi’s high standing in fiqh and issuing Fatawa (legal rulings).
For the benefit of the lay people, it should be noted that in no way does such a decision by Hadhrat Kashmiri belittle the rank of ‘Allamah ash-Shaami, who was a scholar of great magnitude. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is heartrending to see, in this day and age, people belittling the stance of Hadhrat Mawlana Rashid Ahmed Gangohi and his students on various issues, particularly in relation to customary practices (mawlid/milad, hawl/urs), calling them “reformative” or “minority opinions”. In fact certain quarters venture further and level charges of infidelity against these icons of spirituality and piety, who firmly adhered to the requisites of the shariah and became the embodiment of the sunnah.
- Hadhrat Mufti Muhammad Taqi ‘Uthmani writes:
The conclusion of the previous texts is that a great man cannot become great just like that. Rather, in order to attain a lofty position in any particular science or knowledge, and in order to make that knowledge beneficial from the perspective of serving the faith and serving the creation, one needs to pass various stages. The lofty status of my father in religious sciences, in particular fiqh and the issuance of fatawa, was – apart from being a particular gift from Allah Almighty – the result of those outward means [zahiri asbab] that he adopted in their pursuit.
According to this lowly one, these zahiri asbab can be mentioned as four; striving, sincerity, the company of the pious elders, and a care for and extreme attention in gaining their [the pious elders’] tarbiyyat [upbringing]. The outcome of the complete attention of adhering to these four things resulted in Allah Almighty awarding him in fiqh and fatwa a status that made him unique and distinct amongst the people of his era.
‘Faqih an-Nafs” is among the terminology used by the fuqaha [jurists]. It refers to that person, who after long engagement with the science of fiqh, is granted by Allah Almighty a natural disposition with which one is able to come to correct conclusions [in matters of fiqh] without referring to books.
It is not befitting a person like me, who has no knowledge and little good deeds, to award any individual the title of Faqih an-nafs. The process of identifying a faqih an-nafs is the lot of those who Allah Almighty has given in-depth knowledge. For this purpose [of identifying a faqih an-nafs] the likes of ‘Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri is needed. ‘Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri was not ready to confer this title [of Faqih an-Nafs] on a scholar of such vast knowledge as ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abideen ash-Shaami, but rather gave it to ‘Allamah Ibn Nujaym, the author of Al-Bahr ar-Raa’iq. He also admitted that Hadhrat Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi was Faqih an-Nafs.
The famous research scholar of Egypt ‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari also referred to my respected father as Faqih an-Nafs. ‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari is that pious scholar who is referred to as the “‘Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri of Egypt” due to his vast, encyclopaedic knowledge. Once, my respected father wrote to him in relation to a juristic problem. The letter was answered and my father included part of this letter in his treatise Aalah Mukabbir as-Sawt. However, most probably out of humbleness, he did not relay the entire letter, which is still available in its original form in my respected father’s files. I present the entire letter here:
- ‘Allamah Zahid Al-Kawthari’s letter
To our respected brother (for the sake of Allah), the ‘Allamah, the Hadith Scholar, the Jurist, Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ ad-Deobandi (may Allah protect him)
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,
I received your kind letter on the 15th of Safar, 1369 AH. There was much delay in receiving this letter due to a mistake in the address. Anyway, your kindness in writing to me greatly pleased me. I thank Allah that you are well and that you have remained busy in the affairs of the religion with your excellent companions under the leadership of Shaykh al-Islam ‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani (may Allah lengthen his life in goodness and wellbeing, and may Allah grant you all the ability to establish Islamic knowledge and the foundations of Shari’ah in this Islamic state for which we have high aspirations).
I hope that you send my sincere greetings and regards to that person who holds a unique position in knowledge, Muhaqqiq al-‘Asr Mawlana [Shabbir Ahmad] ‘Uthmani. May Allah cure him completely from that illness which he has. The scholarly community of the world is impatiently awaiting him to expand his efforts in completing his commentary, which is tremendous in every way.
I have desired, for a long time, [to become acquainted] with your honoured self, since I have seen your beneficial works and benefited from them. Ustadh [Yusuf] Binnori and Ustadh [Ahmad Ridha] al-Bijnori have been perfuming our gatherings with sweet smelling words of praise for you. Therefore, my happiness was multiplied when I was made aware of your membership to the organisation that Mawlana ‘Uthmani presides over.  Your words are due to your extreme humbleness, otherwise your high rank in knowledge is known to all, whether they are close to you or far. We supplicate sincerely for you all, for complete success in your efforts, and that Allah keep you safe from the evils of the Isma’ilis and the Qadiyanis, and their like at home and abroad.
As far as issuing fatawa is concerned, you are the expert in this. Your long engagement [with issuing fatawa] has made you ‘Faqih an-Nafs’ in the true sense. The points that you have brought up [in your letter] are extremely notable … [Trans: this part of the text has been omitted by Hadhrat Mufti Taqi Saheb]
However, I do not dare add my signature to the fatwa, [because] I consider this to be insolence in light of your expertise in fiqh.
I pray to Allah that he grants you and I the ability to do that in which his pleasure lies and that he keeps you in good health.
The author of Faharis al-Bukhari  was extremely pleased at your appreciation for his book. He expresses his gratitude and sends his sincere greetings. I hope you do not forget me in your prayers during those likely times in which prayers are accepted.
Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari.
16 Safar 1369 AH
Mere Walid Mere Shaykh Aur Un ka Mijaz Wa Mizaq, Idarat-ul-Ma’arif, Pages 58-62
 Referring to the commentary of the Sahih of Imam Muslim, Fath al-Mulhim, work of ‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani and of which only three volumes were published. The later volumes, entitled Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim, were completed by Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani himself.
 They were both in in Egypt at the time. They are among the prominent students of Imam al-‘Asr ‘Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri.
 Referring to the ‘Ta’limaat Islami Board, established in Pakistan
 The author of Faharis al-Bukhari was a student of ‘Allamah al-Kawthari. He had sent this book to Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ for review. Mufti Muhamamd Shafi’ wrote a forward for it which has since been published.