Darul Ulum Deoband – A Brief Account of its Establishment and Background (Part 7)

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


The universal recognition of the role of the Darul Ulum

It was the sincerity and the single-minded devotion of the founders of the madrassah at Deoband that has been responsible for the fact that not a single part of the Indian sub-continent has remained uninfluenced by this institution. Most of the people who are devoted to the cause of Islam are now following in the footsteps of the followers of the Darul Ulum. The disciples of the learned scholars at Deoband have spread far and wide within and outside the country. They are engaged in seeking to counteract the poison that had entered the minds of the Indian Muslims with the establishment of British rule in 1857 or through the communal feelings generated by interested parties after 1947.

Hakim al-Islam Hadhrat Mawlana Qari Muhammad Tayyab Sahib had rightly pointed out that:

What, under the changing circumstances, the Darul Ulum did was to prevent Muslims from accepting undesirable changes in matters of faith, and social and cultural life. It encouraged them to continue to follow their traditional ethical code that was based on simplicity and purity. This, however, did not preclude necessary adjustments in social life, particularly of the common people, that had become inevitable due to the changed circumstances. Thus it was possible to retain the original elements of the Islamic cultural design and to prevent modern and foreign elements from completely overwhelming it. Thus again it was that respect for things Islamic that was given a new lease of life by removing the insidious and corrosive sense of inferiority in the cultural onslaught from the West.

The services rendered by the Darul Ulum have generally been acknowledged throughout the world, and glorious tributes have been paid to them. One such commentator writes:

May Allah bless the founders of the Darul Ulum at Deoband that because of their efforts the sounds of ‘and thus did Allah say…’ and ‘thus did the Prophet say…’ have thus been resounding at least in the ears of the common people, and so a firm structure of religious thinking remained undemolished in the beliefs and practices of the common people.

He further writes:

The greatest defence of tradition, against attacks from modern religious rationalism, was made by the people at Deoband who thought to protect religion by encircling it within the bounds of Divine and Prophetic sayings… Deoband is not merely an educational institution but a powerful movement, which has played an effective role and which has been a source of much inspiration both in theoretical and practical matters. It is not difficult to see that the source of the varied activities – scholarly, spiritual, religious, political and evangelical of Shaikh al-Hadith Mawlana Anwar Shah Kashmiri, Hakim al-Ummat Hadhrat Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, Mujahid-e-Hurriyat Mawlana Hussain Ahmad Madani, Shaikh al-Islam Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani, Muballigh-e-Millat Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas, and of Shaikh al-Hind Mawlana Mahmudul Hasan Sahib is none other than the Deoband movement. Most of the religious educational institutions, and religious and theological movements have their links with Deoband almost in the way that the mosques all over the world have with the Kaaba at Makkah. There is thus no doubt about the fact that almost all the dynamic elements in the religious life of the subcontinent – except, of course, those whose religious endeavour is confined solely to the celebration of the saints’ anniversaries, prayers for intercession and the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) birthday meetings – are related to the different branches of the Deoband movement. (Mithaq, Lahore).

Another writer points out:

No sane person can deny the fact that it was the great alumni of the Darul Ulum at Deoband who went to the nooks and corners of the country and defended the pure faith against attacks from heresy, modification and allegorisation. The institution has made valuable contribution to the cause of the preservation of the Islamic way of life in India and elsewhere. Whatever true spirituality, respect for the men and sciences of religion, and correct Islamic beliefs among men are still found in the country is, no doubt, largely owing to the Darul Ulum. (Payam-e-Nadwadat-al-Ulema).

The truth is generally recognised that if the Deoband movement had not come after the events of 1857 and if the Indian Muslims had not come under the profound influence of the great and learned men of Deoband, the true face of Islam would have either been distorted or the faith would have entirely been wiped out from the land.

Dr. Muhammad Iqbal had rightly pointed out to Hakim Ahmad Shuja:

Let the madrassahs remain as they are. Let the children of the poor Muslims continue to study in those madrassahs. Do you know what will happen if these mullahs and dervishes disappeared? I have elsewhere seen the result with my own eyes. The end of the influence of these madrassahs would be very much like what had happened in Spain: there are no traces of the eight centuries of Muslim rule in Spain except the ruins of Granada and Cordoba and the palaces of Al-Hamra and Bab al-Akhwain, and without these madrassahs there would be no trace left of Islam except the Taj Mahal at Agra and the Red Fort in Delhi. (Tamir-i-Hayat).

It is a fact that religious madrassahs have played a crucial role in the teaching of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah and the preservation of the Islamic faith in the subcontinent. It is because of them that the mosques are frequented, the sound of “Allah-u-Akbar” can still be heard from their minarets and knowledge has reached homes where the inmates cannot receive a square meal twice a day. The alumni of the Darul Ulum can be seen giving instruction in the excellence of morals and conduct from the mimbars of mosques throughout the length and breadth of the country and abroad. We can have some idea of the extent of the services rendered by the Darul Ulum from the fact that the number of its alumni who completed the entire syllabus exceeds 17,000 — including 4,000 students that came from foreign countries like Afghanistan, Russia, China, Australia, South America, England, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Ceylon, South Africa, Zambia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The number of students that could not complete the full Arabic syllabus but who studied Qur’an reading and recitation, Urdu, Persian and elementary Arabic is more than 70,000. Thus the total number of the Darul Ulum’s alumni comes close to 100,000). Besides Deoband there are thousands of other religious Madrasahs in cities, towns and villages, which are also in some way or other related to the Darul Ulum. (Editor: these figures were accurate at the time when the book was initially written in the early 1980s).

May Allah bless Hujjat al-Islam Hadhrat Nanautwi and his colleagues and disciples for having strongly and successfully defended Islam against all its antagonists. They went out to sing praises of Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him) throughout the length and breadth of the country. They silenced Christian missionaries and other detractors by giving well-argued and crushing replies to their objections against Islam. These great men also wrote treatises with a view to arming the ordinary Muslim for the defence of his faith, so much so that the Christian missionary had to retreat from the field taking refuge in his home and church. Of course, there were other learned men besides those of Deoband, who rendered unforgettable services. Mention may be made of the founder of the Nadwat-al-Ulema, Hadhrat Mawlana Sayed Muhammad Ali Mungeri (d. 1928 AD), who wrote a number of widely acclaimed books.

Read Previous Parts.

  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