As mentioned previously, the following article on the History of Darul ‘Ulum Deoband will be published on the blog in eight instalments due to its lengthy nature.  I will, in sha’ Allah,  post one section at a time to make the article easily digestible for all.

The sections are as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Background
  3. The Final Collapse of the Mughal Empire and the Massacre of Muslims

  4. Founding of Darul Ulum, Deoband

  5. Why the “modern” sciences were excluded at Deoband

  6. The widespread popularity of the Darul Ulum

  7. The universal recognition of the role of the Darul Ulum

  8. British counter-efforts 

Below is the third part of the article.

Click here to read part 1 & here to read part 2

Darul Ulum Deoband – A Brief Account of its Establishment and Background (Part 3)

By Mawlana Muhammad Zafiruddin Miftahi
Translated by Professor Atique A. Siddiqui (M.A., Ph.D.; Aligarh)
Edited by [Maulana] Abu Zaynab

The Final Collapse of the Mughal Empire and the Massacre of Muslims

With the events of 1857 came the climax of this age of calamity and crisis. The Mughal Empire came to an irrevocable end; the light finally left the lamp that had flickered for a century and a half. The British were now the supreme rulers of the country, the arbiters of the nation’s destiny. What did it all lead to? There was a general massacre of Muslims. The ulama were ruthlessly put to the sword. Along with the destruction of Delhi came also the end, one after another, of its religious seminaries and educational institutions. The ulama and religious leaders who escaped martyrdom were taken to the Andaman Islands (Kala Pani) where they ended their lives in utter helplessness after having suffered all kinds of tortures and ignominies.

Now the light of knowledge had completely been extinguished in the country, nor was there the least vestige of power and sovereignty left in the hands of the Muslims. The last of the Mughal Emperors, Bahadur Shah Zafar, had been arrested and deported from the country. The Red Fort was a picture of desolation and the great Jamia Masjid of Delhi in utter ruin. The educational institutions that had been imparting instruction to the Muslim youth in cities like Delhi, Lahore, Agra, and Jaunpur and similarly at many places in the provinces of Gujarat, Bihar, Madras and Bengal had all closed down after the establishment of British rule. This was mainly because they were being run with munificent grants from the Mughal court and from Muslim nobles. They also received financial aid from charitable trusts that had been founded in the past for this very purpose, and that had all stopped functioning or had been confiscated by the government after the establishment of British rule in India.

The British author, W. W. Hunter, has pointed out how the British had deprived the indigenous educational institutions of financial aid that had long sustained them. Most of the families of the nobles in Bengal used to bear the entire expenses of the madrassahs where their own children received education along with the children of their poor neighbours. Such family educational institutions, however, dwindled and their influence diminished as the noble families that had sustained them fell victim to economic depression and poverty. (See W.W. Hunter, “The Indian Musalmans”).

Hunter further points out that the confiscation of trusts and charitable freeholds led to the ruin of innumerable families and to the total disruption of the educational system of India’s Muslims since that system had been entirely dependent on financial aid from those charitable trusts. Religious education had no place at all in the educational system that was introduced by the British after the establishment of their rule. This fact has been acknowledged by, among others, Hunter:

There was no provision for the religious education of the Muslim youth in the British educational system. The British Government, however, went beyond this and misused the income of Muslim charitable trusts.

It is Hunter again who points out that the Muslim accusation about the misuse of funds by the government was not untrue; it is futile to deny that Muslim trusts, if properly managed, would certainly have supported institutions of higher learning in Bengal.

Having destroyed the educational system of the Indian Muslims, the British Government turned its attention towards their religious life and sought to undermine their existence as a separate community.

To quote W. W. Hunter again:

With a view to destroying the religious and personal laws of the Muslims, an act was passed by the Legislative Council by which the Muslims were deprived of the management of their religious affairs by officially appointed functionaries… The Muslims complain that we have taken away from them the means for the discharge of their religious duties and have thus brought about circumstances which have endangered their Faith.

 The British Government stopped the appointment of Qadis in order to reduce the importance of religion. It was suggested by the government that the continuance of the Qadis in the judicial system would be tantamount to a tacit acceptance by the British Government of their (Qadis) religious importance.

All these legislative changes had already been brought about during the rule of the East India Company (i.e. before 1857) and Muslims had been deprived of these privileges. The revolution of 1857 put a complete end to whatever little power and dignity that had remained with the Muslims. Everything was now doomed for the followers of Islam in India – honour, material welfare and political power. Religious freedom was also not spared. Educational institutions and centres of religious learning were closed one by one. Delhi, that had for centuries been the cradle of culture and learning, had been plundered.

A contemporary journal records:

A general massacre has been ordered in Delhi; innocent citizens are being killed every day. Thousands of men and women, and the old, young and innocent children have been burnt alive in their houses. The English commander is furious; he has ordered Major Reynard to raise to the ground the entire township of Fatehpur because the people there had objected to the construction of a church and the Christians of that place had made a complaint about this to the Commander.

It was a time of crisis for the religious leaders of Muslims: they could see that all political power had vanished, and with that had gone all dignity and material welfare. A large number of the ulama had been killed. Only their Faith remained – though that, too, was in danger since a large number of Christian missionaries stalked the land. The Islamic Faith and the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) were constantly and maliciously attacked by them. They were, at the same time, propagating (Pauline) Christian beliefs and extolling their virtues.

On the authority of the newspaper, Nur al-Anwar (23 August 1890), the Paigham-e-Muhammd mentions that besides the countless native missionaries, there were at least 900 European missionaries, too, who were wholeheartedly engaged in propagating Christianity. They were at the same time supported by a whole army of ancillary workers to share their burden. It had been proclaimed in the British Parliament at the beginning of 1857 that God had helped the British so that they might win victories for Jesus Christ in the Indian subcontinent. People had also been exhorted to work untiringly for the conversion of the whole of India to Christianity. Thus efforts were being made to convert Indians to Christianity in the name of modern education. Advantage was also being taken of the poverty and economic backwardness of the Indian people and thus they were in a way being coerced into accepting Christianity. It was part of the British policy in the earlier stages, the policy that aimed at establishing British domination of India through religious conversion.

These violent changes wore a traumatic experience for the great men of learning and scholarship in those days. The preservation of Islamic teachings, the propagation of the Book of Allah and the Hadiths, and the continued adherence of the ordinary Muslim to Islam were the main problems that stared them in the face. In these days of confusion and crisis Allah Almighty gave courage and determination to some of His faithful servants who, forgetting completely their own personal interest, prepared themselves for the defence and preservation of the Islamic Faith, and for propagating the fundamental tenets of Islam.