Imam Hakim al-Ummah Thanwi (1863–1943 CE): The link between the Juniors and Seniors 

 Translated by Abu ‘Asim Badrul Islam 

Shaykh al-Hadith Imam Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi (1898-1982 CE) writes: 

 ”I had been acquainted with Mulhiq al-Asaghir bi’l-Akabir Hadhrat Hakim al-Ummah Mujaddid al-Millah[1] [Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali] Thanwi – may Allah enlighten his resting place – for a long time. He passed away on the sixteenth night of the month of Rajab 1362 AH (1943 CE).

  I write the title of Mulhiq al-Asaghir bi’l-Akabir before his name because [his direct] spiritual relationship was with Sayyid al-Ta’ifah[2] Hadrat Haji Imdadullah Saheb who honoured him with ijazah in tasawwuf. Therefore, all of those who had a formal spiritual relationship with Hadhrat Hakim al-Ummah and/or were honoured with ijazah by him have just one link between Hadhrat Sayyid al-Ta’ifah and themselves. This was in Tariqah.  

 As for Shari’ah, Hadhrat Hakim al-Ummah had ijazah in the science of Hadith from Hadhrat Mawlana Fadhl al-Rahman Ganj-Muradabadi. Hadhrat Shah Ganj-Muradabadi had studied under Hadhrat [Imam] Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz [Muhaddith-e-Dehlawi] Saheb. It is mentioned in the book Arwah-e-Thalathah (p.347)[3] that: 

  ‘Hakim Ni’matullah Saheb once asked Hadhrat Mawlana [Fadhl al-Rahman Ganj-Muradabadi], “I have heard that your eminence has studied under Hadhrat [Imam] Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz [Muhaddith-e-Dehlawi] Saheb?” He replied, “Yes.” I requested that he listen to some Hadith from me and grant me ijazah [in Hadith] so that I may gain some barakah. He listened to [me read] a few Ahadith from Mishkat, and said, “I grant you ijazah”, and impressed upon me to act [upon the hadith][4].’ 

 This useless one has always had an immense desire to obtain an ijazah [in Hadith] from Hadhrat Hakim al-Ummah as the sanad was very high. To this end I had visited Thana Bhavan [where Hadhrat Hakim al-Ummah resided] a few times, intending to seek ijazah. However, on each visit embarrassment prevented me from doing so. How could I say “Please grant me ijazah in Hadith” when I knew that I did not possess any knowledge? This was despite the fact that many of those who had studied under me had obtained ijazah [in Hadith] from him. In this respect, these students have a higher sanad in hadith than me. ”

Shari’at wa Tariqat ka Talazum (The interdependence of Shari’ah and Tariqah), Karachi: Maktabah al-Shaykh, 1993, p.5-6) by Shaykh al-Hadith Imam Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi (1898-1982 CE)

[1] This lengthy title could be translated as: The one who acted as a linkage between the young/juniors and the elders/seniors, the spiritual physician of the Ummah, the renovator of the Islamic community. (translator)
[2] ‘The Master of the community of Sufiyyah’. (translator) 
[3] Also known as Hikayat-e-Awliya, this is a work of Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi containing anecdotes from the lives of some of the greatest ‘Ulama and Awliya of India. (translator)
[4] It has been mentioned in Ma’arif al-Akabir (Karachi: Idarah Islamiyyat, p.452) that Mawlana Fadhl al-Rahman Ganj-Muradabadi remained in the company of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz [Muhaddith-e-Dehlawi] for two months before returning home. The Mawlana travelled to Delhi again after the demise of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz [Muhaddith-e-Dehlawi] and completed his study of hadith at the feet of [Imam] Shah Muhammad Ishaq Dehlawi, the grandson and successor of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz [Muhaddith-e-Dehlawi]. At the time the Mawlana was only sixteen to seventeen years of age but was already considered among the most learned scholars. He had produced many erudite scholars of the Qur’an and hadith and Mashayikh of tasawwuf, amongst whom was Hadhrat Mawlana Muhammad ‘Ali Mongeri, founder of the prestigious Dar al-‘Ulum Nadwat al-‘Ulama in Lucknow (India). 
 The famous historian, biographer and scholar of Islam, Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Hasani al-Lucknowi (who was the father of the legendary Imam Abu’l Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi) states in his unparalleled work al-I’lam  bi man fi  Tarikh al-Hind min al-A’laam that Mawlana Fadhl al-Rahman Ganj-Muradabadi took from Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Muhaddith-e-Dehlawi the Hadith known as the al-Musalsal bi’l-Awwaliyyah and the al-Musalsal bi’l-Mahabbah. He also heard a portion of Sahih al-Bukhari  from Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Muhaddith-e-Dehlawi. The biographer states “He was the greatest [person] I have seen and the most knowledgeable of the Sunnah and ways of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of AllÁh be upon him) […] I have not seen anyone more knowledgeable than him of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.” 
 For a brief biography of Mawlana Fadhl al-Rahman Ganj-Muradabadi the reader may consult the aforementioned outstanding al-I’lam  bi man fi  Tarikh al-Hind min al-A’laam (previously entitled Nuzhat al-Khawatir), 8:1326, entry: 390 (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 1999) or, for a detailed biography, Imam Abu’l Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi’s Urdu Tadhkira-e-Fadhl al-Rahman Ganj-Muradabadi, (Karachi: Majlis-e-Nashriyyat-e-Islam). (translator)      
An earnest request from the translator:
There should remain no need to point out to the reader that Shaykh al-Hadith Imam Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi’s words regarding himself, “This useless one” and “I did not possess any knowledge”, are not to be understood in their apparent meanings. These words emanate from his sublime and sincere humbleness and selflessness. Indeed, this was, and still remains, one of the prime characteristics of the true ‘Ulama and Mashayikh. Those who knew this great Imam of the Qur’an and hadith or have studied his works (which, according to his own account in his excellent autobiography, number to no less than 110) would testify to the fact that he was an unparalleled master of all the sciences of Islam. In recognition of his incomparable knowledge of, and insight into, the sciences of Hadith, he was known across the globe with the noble title of ‘Shaykh al-Hadith’. Even today, twenty-five years after his demise, he is known in ‘Ulama circles as the Shaykh al-Hadith. In tasawwuf, he was one of the greatest masters of the last century. Toward the end of his blessed life, when his own Noble Masters had left this world, he was considered the greatest master. His contemporaries gave him the title of ‘Barakat al-‘Asr’ (the blessing of the era).  May Allah ta’ala reward him and all the Great Masters whose names have been mentioned in this brief article with the best of rewards.  
The above excerpt has been translated from Shaykh al-Hadith Imam Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi’s work Shari’at wa Tariqat ka Talazum. This excerpt is less than a page of a book consisting of 250 pages. The book was written approximately 3 years prior to the author’s demise and, in my humble view, is a ‘must have’ for all Muslims, particularly those treading the noble path of Suluk (tasawwuf). With references from the Qur’an, Hadith, lives of the Noble Companions and the Great ‘Ulama and Mashayikh, it very beautifully explains the essence, purpose and necessity of tasawwuf. It proves in an indisputable manner that the Shari’ah and Tariqah are part and parcel of the same whole – Islam; they are interdependent. If the Shari’ah deals with the outer body, then Tariqah deals with the inner spirit and essence. Authored by one who had mastered both, the book calls out to the ‘Ulama of the Western Muslim Ummah to be translated and made accessible to the English readership. This is especially so when one finds in the modern age of severe depravity and spiritual voidness hitherto unprecedented numbers of Muslims turning to tasawwuf. In their desperation for spiritual purification and solace, many sadly fall prey to human imposters and satanic traps. This book, without doubt, would serve as a beacon of guidance for the true seeker of the spiritual path and would answer many questions that constantly arise in his inquisitive mind. It would clarify many misconceptions and misinterpretations of tasawwuf that have become common in Muslim communities. Likewise, it would serve to identify the abuse of tasawwuf that has become all too widespread amongst the masses.  
The book has been translated and made accessible to the Arabic readership by the author’s student and successor, Shaykh Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hafiz Makki.  It has seen several editions in various Arab countries. The English readership awaits a satisfactory English translation from one who is versed in both Shari’ah and Tariqah or, at least, treading this noble path.     
Shaykh Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hafiz Makki’s Arabic translaton of Shari’at Wa Tariqat Ka Talazum, entitled Talazum al-Shari’ah Wa ‘l-Tariqah, was first published in the early 1980’s. It has since seen multiple re-prints in several Arab countries, including Egypt. It’s most recent edition, with a new introduction written by the Shaykh, was published last year by Maktabah al-Haramayn in Dubai. It also contains additional biographical footnotes from Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Hasani al-Lucknowi’s al-I’lam  bi man fi  Tarikh al-Hind min al-A’laam (previously entitled Nuzhat al-Khawatir) (Blog Administrator)