Hadhrat Mawlana Sayyad Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi (rh) writes concerning Hadhrat Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas’ (rh) stay at Gangoh, in the company of Hadhrat Mawlana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi (rh), during his childhood and teenage years:
In 1893, his elder brother, Muhammad Yahya, went to live at Gangoh with Mawlana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas used to live with his father at Nizamuddin, and sometimes, with his maternal grand-father’s family at Kandhla. At Nizamuddin, his education was being neglected owing to the over-fondness of his father and his own excessive occupation with prayers. Mawlana Yahya thus requested his father that as the education of Muhammad Ilyas was suffering, he might be allowed to take him to Gangoh. The father agreed and Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas came to Gangoh in 1896 or early 1897 where Muhammad Yahya began to teach him regularly.
Gangoh, in those days, was the seat of Sufi-saints and savants, the benefit of whose company was constantly available to Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas. A greater part of his impressionable age was spent there. When he went to live at Gangoh, he was 10 or 11 years old, and at the time of Mawlana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi’s death, in 1905, he was a young-man of about 20. Thus, he stayed with Mawlana Gangohi for about 9 years.
Mawlana Muhammad Yahya was an ideal teacher and benefactor. He wanted his brother to derive the utmost advantage from the society of these illustrious men. Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas used to say that when the ‘Ulama who had been the favourite pupils or disciples of Maulana Gangohi came to Gangoh, his brother would often stop the lessons and say that his education, then, lay in sitting with them and listening to their conversation.
Usually, Mawlana Gangohi did not take bay’ah from children and students. It was only when they had completed their education that he allowed them to take the pledge. But owing to the exceptional merit of Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas, he, at his request, permitted him to do the bay’ah at his hand.
Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas had been born with a loving heart. Such a strong attachment did he develop for Mawlana Gangohi that he felt no peace without him. He would, often, get up in the night, go and see Mawlana Gangohi’s face, and return to his bed. Mawlana Gangohi too, had great affection for him. Once Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas told his brother, Mawlana Muhammad Yahya, that if the Mawlana consented, he would sit near him while studying. As Mawlana Muhammad Yahya conveyed the request to Mawlana Gangohi, he remarked,
”there is no harm in it. My privacy will not be disturbed by the presence of Ilyas, nor will it affect the peace of my mind.”
At the time of dhikr, Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas used to feel a sort of load on his heart. When he mentioned it to Mawlana Gangohi, the Mawlana shuddered. He said that,
”Mawlana Muhammad Qasim [Nanautwi] had complained of a similar feeling to Haji Imdadullah, upon which Haji Sahib had observed that Allah was going to take some special service from him.”
A page further, Mawlana Sayyad Abu ‘l-Hasan al-Nadwi writes:
The death of Mawlana Gangohi occured in 1905. Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas who was at his bedside during the dying moments and reciting the Surah of Ya-sin was so deeply affected by it that he used to often say, ”two shocks have been most painful to me. One was the death of my father, and the other, the death of Mawlana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi.”
In 1908. Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas went to Deoband where he studied [the Jami’ of Imam] Tirmidhi and Sahih Bukhari from [Shaykh al-Hind] Mawlana Mahmood Hasan. The latter advised him to approach Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri for spiritual guidance and instruction, since his mentor, Mawlana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, was no more, and thus, he completed the various stages of sulook under Mawlana Saharanpuri’s supervision.
Life and Mission of Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas, Pages 8-11 (Academy of Islamic Research and Publications)
Note: The spellings of certains words have been changed when reproducing these passages .