Darul Ulum Deoband – A Brief Account of its Establishment and Background (Part 4)
By Mawlana Muhammad Zafiruddin Miftahi
Translated by Professor Atique A. Siddiqui (M.A., Ph.D.; Aligarh)
Edited by [Maulana] Abu Zaynab
Founding of Darul Ulum, Deoband
It was at a small place near the capital called Thana Bhawan in District Muzaffarnagar that some of the greatest leaders of religious opinion assembled to take stock of the situation. These men, writes Mawlana Ashiq Ilahi in his biography of Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi, Tadhkirat al-Rashid, came to Haji Imdadullah Sahib and pointed out to him that the Muslims at that time were virtually without a ruler and this was their main problem. Since Haji Imdadullah was their religious leader, it was proper, they suggested, that he should also assume responsibility for their worldly guidance by agreeing to become “Amir al-Muminin”. Haji Imdadullah was thus persuaded to accede to their request and did for some time act as Qadi (in accordance with the laws of the Shariah) and decided civil and criminal cases.
Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Sahib Nanautwi and their dependents settled down here at Thana Bhawan since their services were required by Hadhrat Haji Imdadullah Sahib in the discharge of his magisterial and religious-judicial duties. Sheikh-al-Islam Hadhrat Mawlana Hussain Ahmed Madani points out that Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Sahib was appointed as the “Commander” while Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi was given charge of the magisterial-judicial duties. (See Naqsh-e-Hayat, p. 43).
These great men openly participated in the 1857 War of Independence (editor: dubbed by the British as the “Indian Mutiny”) and fought against the British Army in the battlefield of Shamli. It was in this battle that Hafiz Muhammad Zamin was killed and attained martyrdom.
When, however, the news about the loss of Delhi and the arrest of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was received, these brave men were forced to give up fighting. As soon as the upheaval of 1857 came to an end, they began to concentrate their attention on the protection and preservation of the Islamic faith. They began to think about the problem of saving the community and the nation from the onslaught of atheism, “Nature” worship and Christianity that had come in the wake of the British rule. They did so in order to prevent the so-called “Modern” culture and civilisation from distorting their religious beliefs and conduct, actions and ways of thought.
Qasim al-Ulum Hadhrat Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Sahib Nanautwi and his colleagues and friends together began to examine the various aspects of the contemporary situation. The greatest spiritual guide of the times, Hadhrat Haji Imdadullah Sahib Muhajir Makki, was also consulted in these matters. It was unanimously decided that a chain of religious educational institutions should at once be started, and also that the entire financial burden of running them should be borne by the Muslims themselves. It was also decided that the first institution of this kind should be started in the township of Deoband rather than in any big city. It was in accordance with these decisions that the foundation of the madrassah at Deoband was laid on 15th Muharram 1283 AH (21st May 1866).
At the time it was simply called the Islamic Arabic Madrassah and soon came to be known throughout the world as “The Mother of Madrassahs” (Umm al-Madaris). The founding of the madrassah at Deoband led to the establishment of another at Saharanpur. Very soon a whole chain of madrassahs came to be founded, which included Manba al-Ulum at Gulauthi, Madrassah-e-Shahi at Muradabad, Madrassah at Thana Bhawan, Jamia Miftahal-Ulum at Mau, Darul Ulum at Mau, and Madrasah-e-Imdadia at Darbhanga. All these educational institutions were in some way or other directly related to the Islamic Arabic Madrassah at Deoband, and all of them had been established in the lifetime of Hadhrat Mawlana Qasim Nanautwi.