A collection of letters between three leading ‘ulama detailing the need and importance of establishing gatherings of dhikr in madrasahs
Consisting of letters between the Grand Mufti of Pakistan Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘, Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi and Muhaddith al-‘Asr Mawlana Sayyid Muhammad Yusuf Binnori (may Allah enlighten their graves).
Translated by Ismaeel Nakhuda
By Mawlana Muhammad Talhah Kandhlawi
The role that Islamic madrasahs have played in reviving Islam in the Indian sub-continent and in bringing about a religious awakening in the general masses is as evident as the light of day, so much so that even the existence of the madrasahs makes the enemies of Islam anxious. Hence, on the one side, madrasahs are viewed suspiciously, while on the other, within Muslim ranks, individuals are being used to sever the general masses from the madrasahs, end their confidence in the noble ‘ulama and make them rebel against them.
It is also a bitter reality that the hearts of madrasah students and teachers are becoming void of the worth and value of the precious wealth that they possess. The madrasahs — which the Akabir (may Allah have mercy on them) established to exalt religion, and guide and benefit the masses — are losing their purpose and benefit. Those whose original capital was sincerity and reliance on Allah are rapidly facing a torrent of materialism. Instead of sincerity, those who run madrasahs are daily increasing in love of the world, a desire to take power, neglect in relation to waqf property, and heedlessness with regards to their original purpose.
The mutual relations between teachers and students are growing weaker. Similar to colleges and universities, they are growing unfamiliar to each other; their bonds are weakening. Teachers feel they are only responsible for lecturing during teaching hours according to madrasah rules. Students are left unsupervised and no attention is given to their religious, moral and physical tarbiyah. On account of this, madrasah students go on strike and indulge in mudslinging. Once they formally graduate, instead of involving themselves in serving sacred knowledge, they spread evil and corruption in Muslim communities.
The reason for this in the eyes of my father, Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya (may Allah enlighten his grave), is the absence of the gatherings of dhikr in madrasahs. Because Allah Most High’s pure name is supporting the entire world, why should His name not protect the madrasahs, which have only been established to teach and propagate what Allah and His messenger said?
In his autobiography, Aap Beeti (2:748), Shaykh al-Hadith writes with much passion and pain: “My elders (may Allah enlighten their graves) would also pay special attention to the morals of students. Firstly, in those days, the respect for elders and teachers was so entrenched in students that nowadays immense grief and sorrow is felt when that is remembered. Hakim al-Ummah (may Allah enlighten his grave) was very aware of this. He writes an anecdote on page three of the Thana Bhawan print of Ifadat-e-Yawmiyyah: ‘In so and so madrassah, at one time there was such a group of Akabir that every type of exoteric and esoteric goodness and blessings existed there. At that time, the building was not so big. However, there was one thing that was great: the madrasah felt like a khanqa. In all four directions, the buzurgs could be seen. Nowadays, every type of luxury is present and everything is present plentifully. However, there is an absence of that which used to exist in the old days. It is as if the body is present without the soul. I told Muhtamim Saheb (Mawlana Qari Muhammad Tayyib (may Allah have mercy on him)) that if the madrasah, in the current circumstance, were to even progress then this progress would be like a body that bloats after having died which would be progress in size. However, when it bursts after it has bloated then its stench would not allow the people of the area and locality to come close to it.’”
My father remained extremely concerned on account of this. The thing that he considered the most effective for protection against the fitnahs of the madrasahs was, together with a strong education system, the gatherings of the dhikr of Allah. Therefore, with this in mind, he had abundant letters written to those in charge of the madrasahs. He would provide verbal encouragement, and personally travel to establish khanqas. Towards the end, Shaykh al-Hadith (may Allah enlighten his grave) seemed extremely restless and worried about this issue.
Therefore, he drew the attention of the responsible individuals of several large and important madrasahs, besides Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband, towards this. In spite of his various excuses and illnesses, and extreme weakness, he toured — in addition to a number of places in India — several countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and America, and handed the work of esoteric reformation (batini islah) to those of his murids and people of nisbah who he met, advising them to continue their work with steadfastness. All praise is to Allah, the fruits of these efforts can be seen, and today there are such madrasahs where — together with teaching and studying — the gatherings of dhikr have also been established. On account of which, the benefits of religious learning can be clearly seen.
One poignant reminder of Shaykh al-Hadith’s worry and anxiety on the topic is his correspondence with Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ and Mawlana Muhammad Yusuf Binnori (may Allah have mercy on them all). Shaykh al-Hadith drew the attention of these respected individuals towards establishing gatherings of dhikr in madrasahs. These respected individuals not only agreed to the idea but also acted upon it by organising gatherings in their respective madrasahs.
At this present time, the general situation of the madrasahs demand that Shaykh al-Hadith’s above-mentioned proposal is diligently acted upon. It is with this aim that these letters are now republished. A sincere request is made to those who run madrasahs that — for Allah’s sake — they carefully study these writings and pay serious attention in taking steps to bring their contents into action.
The letters also include a satisfactory answer to an objection that the ‘ulama often feel that because various forms of Qur’anic education, and the teaching and studying of the hadiths already take place in madrasahs, and since the atmosphere within them day and night echoes with the pure name of Allah Most High, what is the need to establish gatherings of dhikr separately under the khanqa system? In fact, some individuals feel such actions are contrary to the aims of madrasahs.
This is a voice from my heart, which is being presented with a hope that ‘Maybe my words will enter your heart.’ (Translator: this is a translation of a couplet from an Urdu poem).
May Allah ensure my words do not fall on deaf ears and may He utilise us all, in one way or another, in protecting the coming Muslim generations — such would be His grace and favour on us.
Muhammad Talhah Kandhlawi
7 Shawwal 1427
By Shaykh al-Hadith (May Allah have mercy on him)
In Karachi, a visit was first made to Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ who was ill. Feeling weak Mufti Shafi‘ lay on a bed. On seeing Zakariyya he expressed lots of happiness and for one hour Zakariyya lied next to him on a bed neighbouring his. My friends ate snacks, while the two beds remained next to each other. Mufti Shafi‘ and I were lying in such a way that this sinful one was on one bed and on the other was Mufti Shafi‘. Our heads faced each other while our legs were separate.
Mufti Shafi‘ made several complaints about his madrasah, the students, the government and that some students do not come to study, but are paid by others to come and enrol at the madrasah to cause mischief. Mufti Shafi‘ provided lots of details regarding this. Zakariyya listened to this attentively and said that these complaints are not only here — all madrasah administrators face similar problems, although specifics may be slightly different. During the student strike that we faced in 1382AH, we gained a lot of experience of people — who oppose the madrasahs; in fact they oppose Islam — paying people to join the strikes.
In my opinion, the one cure for all of this is the plentiful dhikr of Allah. When there is none to take the name of Allah Most High then the Day of Judgement will come. When the name of Allah Most High is supporting the entire world, then what is the reality of the madrasahs?
Having reached Makkah al-Mukarramah, as a reminder, I wrote separately about this subject to Mufti Shafi‘ and Mawlana Binnori (may Allah enlighten their graves). What was common in both correspondences is as follows.
- Letter Addressed to Mawlana Yusuf Binnori and Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ (May Allah Almighty Mercy Them)
With respect to the daily increase in fitnah in madrasahs, students’ lack of interest in religion, and their absentmindedness and preoccupation in worthless issues, it has come to mind for a number of years that the dhikr of Allah is something that has diminished in madrasahs. In fact, the dhikr of Allah has become non-existent. Rather, I see disgust in some regarding this line of work, an attitude that I feel is extremely dangerous. The Akabir, who laid the foundation of the sub-continent’s famous madrasahs — Dar al-’Ulum Deoband, Mazahir al-‘Ulum, Shahi Masjid Muradabad etc. — were leaders in the science of suluk. It is on account of their blessings that these madrasahs, in spite of a hurricane of opposition, continue to operate.
For several years, I have been conveying this topic orally and in written form to those connected to madrasahs, their administrators and the Akabir. It is my view that it would be more beneficial and effective if the likes of your respected selves pay attention to this. To an extent I have been successful in my intentions at Mazahir al-‘Ulum and, in respect to Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband, I have presented my views to Qari Muhammad Tayyib on numerous occasions, both verbally and in writing. I have also drawn the attention of those madrassah administrators who are connected to me. The daily increase in fitnah in madrasahs is something that causes one great distress. I feel it is only through the plentiful dhikr of Allah that the madrasahs can be protected from fitnah. When there is none to take the name of Allah, then the world will come to an end. When the pure name of Allah Almighty has so much power that on its account the entire world exists then the poor madrasahs, in comparison to the entire world, is not even like a drop in the sea. The connection that the pure name of Allah Most High has in these madrasahs continuing to exist and remaining safe is clear. The huge number of people of nisbah and dhakirin, who remained in all of the madrasahs during the time of our Akabir, is a fact that is not hidden from you. It is now clear how dhikr has diminished in them. Rather, if I were to say that if pretexts and excuses are used in madrasahs to oppose this pure name, then my saying such according to my experience would not be incorrect.
Because of this, it is my wish that a number of dhakirin remain in every madrassah. Our Akabair have also opposed students indulging in dhikr and I am also not in disagreement. However, there should definitely remain in the madrasahs a number of dhakirin — from those students who are nearing the end of their studies, or have graduated, or are connected to yourselves or the Akabir — according to a rota system and the madrasahs should make arrangements for their stay. I also do not like placing the responsibility of arranging food on the madrasahs. One or two people from among the elders of the madrasahs should take the responsibility of arranging food or draw the attention of sincere friends, who are not connected to the madrasahs to provide food for just one of the dhakirin each in the same way that the food of the students used to be arranged in the old days. However, the madrasahs’ administrators should take the responsibility of providing the dhakirin with accommodation, which should be within the madrasahs. The gatherings of dhikr should be arranged in a way that students, and people sleeping and studying are not troubled.
As long as this lowly one was in Saharanpur such people came in large numbers. As my guests, organising their food and drink was my responsibility. However, they used to reside in the madrassah’s guesthouse, something that was organised by the madrassah’s administrators. These individuals would come and go. After dawn prayers they would engage in dhikr at my home for a least one hour. In my absence I have heard that through the efforts of dear Talhah there are at least around twenty to twenty-five people every day in the gatherings — even though the number of dhakirin was not the same as when I was there. At the time when I was in at Saharanpur, the number would reach hundred to one hundred and fifty. I have heard that when I was away, the number would be forty to fifty on Fridays after ‘Asr prayers. Guests coming from abroad would number over ten or twelve. May Allah Most High greatly reward dear Maulwi Nasir al-Din (may Allah protect him). He would arrange the food from my bookstore.
Likewise, it is my wish that two to four dhakirin remain continuously in each madrassah. There is hope they will remain safe from internal and external fitnah. If not, as we move away from the time of the Akabir, internal and external fitnah will continue to increase.
This lowly one does not have a habit of writing or delivering speeches. If the likes of yourself (Mawlana Binnori) or the likes of Mufti Shafi‘ were to write with further clarity what my heart feels, then maybe the importance of this topic will grow among those responsible for the madrasahs. Around 100 benefits of dhikr have been mentioned in this lowly one’s book Fadail-e-Dhikr, quoting Hafiz Ibn Qayyim’s book Al-Wabil al-Sayyib, in which many ways of remaining safe from Satan have been mentioned. The Satanic effect is the root of all fitnah and corruption. If you were to listen to that topic from Fadail-e-Dhikr then that would support what I have mentioned above.
Finally, my writing is not capable of making an impression on madrasah administrators. If you were to rewrite my request in a much more forceful way and send it from yourself or from me then perhaps it would have an effect on someone. You know of the beginnings of Dar al-‘Ulum, Mazahir al-‘Ulum and Shahi Masjid more than I and of those people of nisbah and men of dhikr who founded them. It is on account of their blessings that these madrasahs continue till this day. This sinful one is deeply in need of your supplications, especially for a pleasant ending, as I am sitting with my legs dangling in the grave.
Written by Habib Allah
30 November 1975
- Response from Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ (May Allah have mercy on him)
Our Respected Master Shaykh al-Hadith (May Allah enable us to benefit from his lengthy life with ‘afiyah),
Al-Salam ‘alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh,
Your kind letter arrived quickly without one having any inclination or thought about its coming. It was so detailed that one is left astonished. However, the truth is that for a long time all of your actions appear as miracles and wonders. May Allah Most High keep them remaining and lasting for the benefit of His creation. My sight is not good enough for reading and writing. I have repeatedly listened to your dear letter having made my friends read it to me. In my heart, I felt I should write your noble words with a bit of explanation and detail, and have them widely published. However, my health is not such that I may dictate words to others. May Allah create in me some strength and will so that I may complete this work. Your favour and kindness has always been. It is as if this dear letter has enchanted me. May Allah Most High benefit us from your faydh.
This lowly one has listened to the complete mentioned section of Fadail-e-Dhikr. A title and the contents have come to mind. If Allah makes it easy, then I shall publish the subject with an explanation. Otherwise, I will publish Shaykh al-Hadith’s dear letter as it is. This will also insha Allah be very beneficial. There is one thing that is surprising. This time, having suffered a second heart attack and having stayed in hospital for two weeks, when I returned home, in spite of immense weakness certain thoughts came to mind very strongly that had escaped me for about three years.
I suffered my first painful heart attack in Rabi‘ al-Thani 1392AH. Having recovered, I still felt despondent about living and on account of this there was something that used to repeatedly come to mind regarding the affairs of Dar al-‘Ulum. When it became necessary to take a step to rectify something, my nafs would say: “You’re dying now. There is no time to do something new. Those that will be responsible after you, they will take a look themselves and will do it.” Because of this helpless situation a lot of work was left undone. Now, following the second heart attack — when all of the doctors were also feeling despondent and Allah Most High granted me a second life — a strong thought comes to mind that: “Whatever ill you see in Dar al-‘Ulum, you should, until the last breath, spend whatever strength Allah Most High has given you in rectifying them. Results are not the responsibility of the slave. You must do your work according to your ability.”
The second thought that comes to mind is that I see the students at Dar al-‘Ulum, rather the teachers and all of those connected to the madrasah, slacking in attending prayers with congregation. It is as if the importance of prayers is escaping their minds. On account of this, I shall now separately gather all teachers and students, and tell them to attend prayers in congregation. The first step I have taken with my own household, who were lazy in this respect. I have bound them and all of my household that if they were to make qada any of their prayers then they would need to give one rupee in sadaqah, and four anna if they miss congregational prayers.
Alhamdulillah, this prescription has proven successful at home. However, I still do not have strength to gather students and teachers and address them. I am hoping that insha Allah in a few days time this will also be achieved. After receiving Shaykh al-Hadith’s dear letter, there are some dhakir and shaghil individuals who are connected to me and who have been saying from before that they would like to stay at Dar al-‘Ulum for some time and engage in dhikr and shughl, and who I have been turning away by providing excuses about my illness and lack of time. Now, alhamdulillah, this work has begun. Pray that Allah Most High grants success. From among my sons, there are two who are ‘alims. This lowly one has sent both of them to Dr ‘Abd al-Hayy for their exoteric and esoteric rectification, and to learn dhikr and shughl. I have done this because this work seems difficult at home. They both present themselves there (at Dr ‘Abd al-Hayy’s gatherings). However, they have not developed as much passion as there should be. So far, some work has begun. Make special du‘a for them both that Allah Almighty grants them the accordance to tread in the steps of their pious elders.
Thursday 14 Dhu ’l-Hijjah 1395AH
- Response from the Shaykh al-Hadith
Noble and Respected Mufti Shafi‘ (may Allah increase your excellence),
After the customary salam,
At this time, having eagerly waited, your dear letter, dated 14 Dhu ’l-Hijjah 1395AH, reached me on 24 Dhu ’l-Hijjah according to local Hijazi moon sighting. I was deeply anticipating receipt of your letter. I have experienced great pleasure and peace from your precious letter, and that your respected self has also felt the same, and that my humble petition has been the catalyst. This lowly one has, for several years, been dependent on others to have my correspondence read to and written for me. I am deeply pleased that you will write my thoughts with extra explanation and detail. That will, surely, prove more beneficial. My writings are incoherent, and without a beginning and an end. I have no practice in writing and in orating. I also made a request that if your respected self were to write in light of this topic then this would prove more beneficial.
This lowly one has, from childhood, yearned to listen and read my Akabir’s stories. Perhaps I have written before that as Ashraf al-Sawanih, Asir-e-Malta, Mawlana Miyan’s Hayat-e-Shaykh al-Hind were published I would read them each in a single night. When I was healthy and young, remaining awake the entire night was easy. Now my dependency on others and illnesses worry me deeply.
You have heard the section in Fadail-e-Dhikr — a title and the body text have also come to your respected self’s mind. I am deeply pleased by this. This will prove greatly beneficial.
With regards to what your respected self has written about the despondency that you felt after the first heart attack, I am not of the same opinion. I feel that in this weakness and old age, and during the feeling of hopelessness from life, you should definitely begin whatever good thoughts come to mind so that they may be a noble example for successive generations and be a source of guidance. It is my view — and this is with great vigour — that those who have seen the Akabir or remained in their company should, as much as they can, present the Akabir’s life — like a text — to coming generations who have been deprived from their sight so that in the least they may remain familiar with that environment. I am in agreement with the view that your respected self has entertained after the second heart attack. Whatever has been learned from the elders should, whether there is relevance or not, be presented — in written or spoken form — to those that come after.
The penalty you have fixed for missing prayers (qada) is very apt. Stringently implement this and ask whether they are paid or not. After you, they will become leaders, in place of yourself. This is something that is also stressed in the hadiths.
I am deeply pleased with the news that you have begun to gather dhakirin at Dar al-‘Ulum. May Allah Most High bless this and make it a means for goodness.
It is excellent that you have assigned your two sons to Dr ‘Abd al-Hayy. However, [for them to benefit there is a] condition that they love and revere Dr ‘Abd al-Hayy from their hearts. You should also make sure that they remain diligent in acting on Dr ‘Abd al-Hayy’s instructions and have reverence for him. One particular illness in maulwis is that — due to a sense of arrogance caused by their knowledge — they have little reverence for anyone who is not greater than them. With regards to this, tell these young ones that Rashid and Qasim pledged bay‘ah to Haji Imdad Allah (may Allah have mercy on them), and that when people objected individually they answered according to their statuses. Mawlana Gangohi answered, “We had more knowledge. However, the fire that existed in Haji Imdad Allah did not exist in us.” Mawlana Nanotwi replied, “He is not an ‘alim, rather he is a maker of ‘alims.”
I have been unable to write on this topic. You must, however, have understood it yourself. This sinner heartfully prays for these two young ones. However, for them your prayers are more effective and so is your supervision. May Allah Most High grant you plenty of strength and health; people have benefited immensely from your fuyud and blessings. I pray to Allah that your sons do not find hurtful what I have written. I shall write something that is even more stern and which is a famous saying of my father’s that I have heard a hundred times and which has been tested on me. He used to say, “Sahibzadegi ki sur bohowt deyr se nikalti he.” (Translator: The last bit of haughtiness in being the son of someone important leaves extremely late). On account of this he would also needlessly physically discipline me in gatherings. The situation with my beloved uncle was such that — in spite of him being my uncle, teacher and delegated shaykh (Translator: In that Mawlana Ilyas had been delegated to supervise Shaykh al-Hadith’s suluk) — I would become shy in front of him. Despite all of this he would sometimes scold me in a group. Once Mawlana ‘Abd al-Qadir Raipuri (may Allah have mercy on him) said to him, “Hadrat, I cannot see a reason to be upset. Was someone impolite?” My beloved uncle replied, “At the end of the day, I am also his uncle. I do it deliberately so that vanity does not overwhelm him on account of him being a shaykh.” My Akabir have tried immensely in rectifying me. However, it is said that the dog’s tail, having been kept in a pipe for twelve years, was taken out crooked (Translator: This is an Urdu saying referring to how the dog’s tail, which by nature curls, was kept in a straight pipe for several years to make it straight. However, on coming out it remained crooked as ever). Now, there is no one destined to keep me in check. While writing this, lots of these stories come to mind. I am remembering lots of examples of this. However, my heart and mind are incapable of writing about this, nor does time permit. Many stories like these have been mentioned in Aap Beeti.
Written by Habib Allah
26 December 1975
- Response from Mawlana Yusuf Binnori (May Allah have mercy on him)
As I have mentioned above, I wrote to both Mufti Shafi‘ and Mawlana Binnori a similar letter. Mawlana Binnori wrote in response to my letter:
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
9 Muharram al-Haram 1396AH
Respected Master, The Pride of This Age, Shaykh al-Hadith (may Allah Most High raise his ranks and shower us with his blessings),
Al-Salam ‘alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh,
Since reaching Karachi I have been intending to write a humble request. However, I have been unable to do so. On the one hand there is a swarm of jobs to do and on the other an abundance of laziness. The Almighty has granted you an ability to be well organised. You are able to do everything on time. I have been deprived of this blessing. May Allah have mercy. Amin.
Beloved Muhammad gave me your blessed letter. Rather, he read it to me and I read it twice myself. I went to Dar al-‘Ulum to visit Mawlana Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘. I also mentioned this there. He said it was discussed in a conversation. There was a shura meeting for teachers at Madrasah ‘Arabiyyah Islamiyyah. Your blessed letter was read out in this gathering and we deliberated on it and how to act on the contents. The issue is obvious. The benefits that come from the blessings and radiance of dhikr are also clear and in remedying this I have always said that every madrasah should definitely have a khanqa.
Our Akabir — who were the embodiment of sincerity and connecting to Allah (ta’alluq ma‘a Allah) — are in no need of introductions. One would subconsciously receive such tarbiyah from their lecturing and teaching, and their strength of nisbah would have such an effect that after lessons it would feel that a dhakir had just left i‘tikaf.
Without a doubt the age of those who were accomplished has ended and, so, such methods are needed. May the Almighty grant ability to bring this into action as quickly as possible.
An Important Question
However, one question that springs to mind is that the religious sciences and the teaching of religious books all come under — if one is bestowed with sincerity and pure intent — the dhikr of Allah. If the dhikr of Allah, Allah forbid, was to be done with ostentation (riya) then it would be futile, but rather a source of punishment. However, if at an institute there is a department dedicated to teaching the Qur’an, and children are busy learning and memorising the Holy Book — and Alhamdulillah, there are such madrasahs where innocent children, many of whom have left their homes, are night and day, without a doubt twelve hours a day, busy reciting the Qur’an. Their aims, Alhamdulillah, are lofty and they are sincere — then will this form of dhikr not substitute the dhikr of the dhakirin? If this system was to continue like this then it would, Alhamdulillah, be a rather good substitute. It is obvious that during the time of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) the silsalahs and tariqahs did not exist, rather what existed was the recitation of the Noble Qur’an at different times, adhkar and supplications, the Prophet’s holy company (suhbah), and the prayer of the night etc. Apparently, if something of this sort were to be established then maybe this would, on the whole, act as a substitute. Yes, it is also correct that [this type of] dhikr be secondary and a system for dhakirin [to engage in dhikr] according to the way of the shaykhs of tariqah could perhaps be deliberately developed. These are some thoughts that come to mind.
Anyway, I am in need of further guidance. I am deeply remorseful at my deficiency. If only I had customarily reached completion [of suluk] then — only for the purpose of benefiting and helping others — I would be able to initiate the well-known silsilahs. In this way, a khanqa could also have been established. It is well known that students usually never pay attention to their tarbiyah and islah during their studies. This is something extremely dangerous. When teachers are not the bearers of this strong nisbah of contentment, students are oblivious of the need to spiritually rectify themselves, there is no adherence to the different types of dhikr and supplications, the era is one of fitnah, the situation on each step is one of huffat al-nar bi ’l-shahawat (translator: hellfire is surrounded with desires) then there is no remedy apart from the plentiful dhikr of Allah. I am in need of your special supplications and spiritual attention (tawajjuh). I am upset at the time that has been wasted. I am always worried at having indulged in useless pursuits.
Wa ’l-Salam (with the utmost respect and a seal of musk)
Muhammad Yusuf (may Allah forgive him)
- Reply from Shaykh al-Hadith (May Allah have mercy on him)
The Noble Master Mawlana Muhammad Yusuf Binnori (may your nobility increase)
After the customary salam,
After a lengthy wait, the registered mail arrived after ‘Isha on the night of 20 January. I know a great deal about your preoccupations and you are courageous to complete so many jobs at one time. These include political and academic preoccupations and a number of journeys. I feared that my letter might have got lost. It would have been reassuring if dear Muhammad (may Allah protect him) had sent a message with someone coming here that it had reached you. You have done good to have my humble request read out at your shura meeting. All those respected individuals have in the least heard its contents.
May Allah allow it to enter someone’s heart. It has been about two years since Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘’s letter arrived. He wrote that he very much liked the section on teachers and staff in my Aap Beeti and that he had gathered all his teachers and staff and diligently had this section read out. I learnt from dear Muhammad’s letter that you have given my letter for printing in Bayyinat together with your introduction. I remember writing in my humble request that it would, insha Allah, prove more beneficial if you were to write the contents in your own words. There is no humility or sense of dissemblance in what I say. My writing is incoherent, and I possess no skill in speaking or writing.
Each letter of what you have written regarding the Akabir is true. I remember well the face of many Akabir. Since the time of Mawlana Gangohi (may Allah sanctify his secret), I have had a lot of opportunity to see the Akabir. Without exaggeration, spiritual light (nur) emanated from his face and remaining in his company for a few days would lead to one automatically developing an attitude of respecting religion and loving of Allah. With regards to Mawlana Gangohi (may Allah sanctify his secret), I have seen many non-‘ulama who having given bay‘ah would not miss tahajjud prayers. I also have seen some non-‘ulama who if a recently graduated maulwi was to say something irregular in his speech would come and ask about it.
Close to Nagul is a village the name of which I cannot remember at this time. My friends tell me this story has been mentioned in Aap Beeti. A person used to live here who I used to call Shah Ji. Every Friday, regardless of whether it was cold, hot or raining, he would walk from Nagul and pray Jumu‘ah prayers with Mawlana Gangohi. Having participated in Mawlana Gangohi’s gathering after Jumu’ah, he would leave before ‘Asr and reach home after ‘Isha. Shaykh al-Hind’s story is well known that on every Thursday evening after teaching he would walk to Gangoh and would leave Gangoh after ‘Isha or at Tahajjud time on Saturday and arrive at Deoband in the morning to teach. These sights are before me and make my heart yearn.
Answer to the Question
The objection you have raised is absolutely correct. However, together with the consequent, if the antecedent is heard then that would be everything. The teachings of the Qur’an and hadith are very lofty and everything is in them. What can compare with them?
However, since the time of the Followers (Tabi‘un), an abundance of spiritual maladies turned the attention of the shaykhs of that age towards these remedies. Similar to physical illnesses, the physicians of each age have developed new medicine for new illnesses. Likewise, the physicians of the soul have developed medicine and cures to remove rust from the heart. I have seen such individuals who after graduating from the dawrah became people of nisbah. The effect of the Noble Prophet’s (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) sight was such that the heart’s dirt would be removed. The Noble Companions (Sahabah) (may Allah be pleased with them) have admitted themselves that they had not even shook the soil from their hands but felt a difference in their hearts.
The example of this powerful effect has been found in many individuals within the Ummah. Hence, there are many among the people associated with Hadrat Sayyid saheb (may Allah have mercy on him) who were granted ijazah when they gave bay‘ah. You are probably more aware of this than me. At the gathering of Mawlana Miyan (may Allah enlighten his grave) many stages would be traversed during the recitation of the Qur’an. However, those things are in need of one being able to powerfully make effect and the other to be able to be completely affected — traits that cannot be found at every place. If this is found at a place then there is no need for dhikr and shughal. These tariqahs etc. are various types of remedy, just like allopathic medicine, Unani medicine, homeopathic medicine etc., which the physicians of the body have developed through experience.
Likewise, the physicians of the soul have also, through experience or from the Qur’an and hadith, developed cures for the maladies of the heart. It is my view that the Qur’an and hadiths are like energising medicines and herbal medicine. However, a person who needs to first clear his stomach will initially be given diarrhoeal medicine. Otherwise, these powerful doses would, together with a weak stomach, be harmful rather than beneficial.
You write you are in need of further guidance. What guidance can I give you?
(Translator: Shaykh al-Hadith then writes a Persian couplet, the translation of which is as follows). I am myself lost, what type of guidance can I provide?
Because students nowadays, as you have also written, preoccupy themselves with useless pursuits instead of involving themselves in the recitation of the Qur’an, in fact some of them have reached the level of raising objections and being proud. On account of this — to create love for the Qur’an, hadiths and Allah Most High — it is necessary that respected individuals like yourself develop a programme. In the past, every person was worried about his self-rectification (islah) and would himself seek physicians to cure his illnesses. Now, people have become so estranged from the maladies of the heart that they do not even consider an illness to be such. What can I say? I am also incapable of expressing myself and consider it disrespectful to bring something into writing regarding these guests of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). All of those in charge of the madrasahs have plenty of experience of this; instead of performing prayer with congregation and with takbir-e-ula they miss congregational prayers by wasting their time smoking and drinking tea. It is only to Allah that one can present one’s grievance.
You have clarified in your letter what my heart feels. The “deficient” like yourself are much loftier than us who are “accomplished”. My purpose was to draw the attention of yourself, Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ and others from those who are the remnants of the Salaf towards this line that if this point of view remains in your minds then this would be even better. My incoherent writings are not worthy of publication. If you respected individuals would — through quality management and constructive opinions — devise a plan to in the least instil respect and love for the Qur’an and hadiths in the hearts of the students of the Arabic madrasahs then there is hope for rectification (islah) to a great extent. Otherwise, you are seeing that the studying and teaching of the Qur’an and hadiths are being opposed with student strikes.
(Written by Habib Allah)
20 January 1976
- Second Reply from Mawlana Binnori (may Allah have mercy on him)
3 Safar 1396AH
Respected Master, The Blessing of This Age, Shaykh al-Hadith (may Allah almighty increase his blessings and goodness),
Al-Salam ‘alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh,
Blessed and pure greetings from Allah,
Your respected letter honoured me and made me grateful. As is my habit, I have been delayed in responding. This shortcoming has now become a habit. Alhamdulillah, this [fault] is in my writing but not in the condition of my heart. Your previous blessed letter was published in Bayyinat with a brief introduction. Where would the barakah of the impact of your writing be in my narrating your words into my own with an explanation? On account of this, I felt it appropriate to publish those words as they are and, on account of respect for you, was unable to comply with your orders. I am only able to write with the help of others — what ability do I have in writing Urdu?
May Allah reward you for favouring me with a detailed response, which included many issues and gave me and others the opportunity to benefit. However, my master, my aim was absolutely not to question the benefit of the dhikr, actions, shughal, meditation and struggles of the tariqahs, silsilahs and mashayikh. Alhamdulillah, my heart is at rest that there are remedies to the ailments of the hearts and that there is no escape from not adopting them. If there are no illnesses then the spiritual nourishment that the Prophet (may Allah bless and grant him peace) has suggested and made fard are the ingredients for cure, there is no need for more. The purpose of the doubt was only that the blessings and anwar of the dhikr of Allah could be derived from lessons in the Qur’an, and its memorization and recitation. They are not the remedies of the hearts of students. Without a doubt, for this, there is a need for particular methods of remedy.
Because of this, I have suggested that with each educational institute there should be a khanqa for those students who graduate to become affiliated with and stay at for some time. It is thanks to Allah that in line with your will dhakirin are being gathered and congregational gatherings of dhikr have been arranged. This will commence this week, insha Allah.
Some students go to Makki Masjid each Thursday night. This year, thirteen students who are graduating have made intention to spend a year in Tabligh and have given their names for this. There are many who intend to spend forty days. Insha Allah, if both your supplications and tawujjuh remain, we will be able to compensate for what has passed. Mawlana Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ had your second letter read out in a gathering of several teachers. They listened attentively. He is contemplating acting on your suggestion.
I have dragged out these few lines with much haste and with a confused heart so there may remain no further delay.
Muhammad Yusuf Binnori
- Response from Shaykh al-Hadith (May Allah have mercy on him)
Respected Master Mawlana Muhammad Yusuf Binnori (may Allah increase your loftiness),
After the customary salam,
Your respected letter, dated 3 Safar, reached via registered mail, and so has the copy of Bayyinat in which you published this sinner’s letter. I had written that my letter not be published as it is and that you, rather, write my letter in your own words with further detail. This request was not simply out of humbleness; rather, I aimed to demonstrate my inability to write and orate. However, I have learned from your respected letter that you have, out of love, published it as it is. May Allah Most High make this affection a means for both of us to advance in religion.
It was very pleasing to learn that your respected self has, on the suggestion of this sinner, initiated a khanqa. May Allah bless it and make it beneficial. If someone has expressed support or criticism of my writing, then please inform me. Have any other madrasahs turned their attention towards this?
I have desired this for several years and have been making plans regarding this. However, attention towards dhikr has now been decreasing, and because students — since the time of the Akabir — have been kept away from this, its importance has most generally decreased from their minds. It is still my view that students be kept away. However, the need to have a system for it in madrasahs is increasing. Mufti Shafi‘ diligently said labbayk to this and has pledged to begin. If, through your good efforts, the system of dhikr was to begin then it is my view that this would end many types of fitnah.
Maulwi ‘Abd al-Razzaq’s letter arrived from Egypt from which I learned he is busy translating Fitnah-e-Mawdudiyyat. He sent a booklet to Shahid asking for references of the hadiths contained therein. Dearest Shahid is writing a letter. Books are hard to get by here; in fact, the majority of them are Egyptian prints. Because of this there is a delay in finding these references. All of the pages in my manuscripts are numbered. However, they are old publications; I studied and taught using them, and they are the ones I am fond of. My Abu Dawud is that one which my father (may Allah have mercy on him) used to study under Mawlana Gangohi (1312AH). It is a very old copy. He taught from it and it then came to me. In spite of the new publications being very clear, I feel comfortable with these books that are very old. New books are as strange to me as lead printing is in the Arabian lands. May Allah Most High, through his kindness, increase your respected self in health and strength, and take as much work as possible that would attract His happiness and joy.
(Written by Habib Allah)
16 February 1976
- Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi (1898-1982) — a descendant of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) — was born in the town of Kandhla, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Shaykh al-Hadith is most notably remembered for his contribution to the study of hadith, and as the author of the Fada’il series and the eighteen-volume commentary of Imam Malik’s Mu’atta, entitled Awjaz al-Masalik. He began his basic studies under his father, Mawlana Muhammad Yahya Kandhalwi, under whom he also memorized the Qur’an. He studied Persian and elementary Arabic books under his uncle Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas, the founder of the Tablighi Jama‘at. He also studied hadith in Mazahir al-‘Ulum Saharanpur, firstly from his father and then his shaykh, the renowned hadith master, Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri.
After completing his academic studies in 1335 AH, Shaykh al-Hadith was, at the age of twenty, appointed a teacher of the elementary books of the Dars-e-Nizami at Mazahir al-‘Ulum. He soon progressed to become senior lecturer of hadith at the behest of his guide and teacher Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, and taught the first half of Sahih al-Bukhari twenty-five times, the complete book sixteen times and Sunan Abi Dawud thirty times. Shaykh al-Hadith taught hadith at Saharanpur until 1388 AH when he developed cataracts.
A proficient writer, Shaykh al-Hadith authored over one hundred works both in Arabic and Urdu. His works have gained overwhelming acceptance throughout the world, so much so that his Fada’il series has been rendered into dozens of languages. He was also solely responsible for writing the subject of his shaykh’s commentary of Sunan Abi Dawud, Badhl al-Majhud, and commenced writing his magnum opus, Awjaz al-Masalik at the age of twenty-nine.
Some of his other famous works include his footnotes to Lami‘ al-Darari (an Arabic commentary of Imam al-Bukhari’s Sahih by Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi), Al-Abwab wa ‘l-Tarajim li ‘l-Bukhari (an explanation of the chapter headings of Sahih al-Bukhari), Juz Hajjat al-Wida wa Umrat al-Nabi (an Arabic commentary on the detailed accounts of the farewell Hajj of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace), and Khasa’il-e-Nabawi Sharh Shama’il-e-Tirmidhi (an Urdu commentary of Imam al-Tirmidhi’s renowned Al-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyya).
Shaykh Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi described Shaykh al-Hadith in the following words: “He was of medium height, heavy-set, and handsome with a fair, rosy complexion. He was extremely vibrant, never lazy, light-hearted, smiling, cheerful and friendly. He often jested with his close friends and acquaintances. We saw in him wonderful character and forbearance as well as rare humility, and, above all, his personal qualities were always governed by his deep faith and sense of contentment.”
Shaykh al-Hadith became a murid of Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri in 1333 AH (1915 CE) and was granted khilafah in 1344 AH (1925 CE) in the blessed city of Madinah. He also had the fortune of remaining in the company of senior scholars such as Mawlana ‘Abd al-Rahim Raipuri (died 1338 AH/1920 CE), Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (died 1362 AH/1943 CE), Shaykh al-Islam Mawlana Husayn Ahmad Madani (died 1377 AH/1957 CE) and Mawlana Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir Raipuri (died 1382 AH/1962 CE). Shaykh al-Hadith is also renowned as a prominent Sufi shaykh of the Chishti-Sabri-Imdadi Tariqah. His khalifahs include the third amir of Tabligh Mawlana In‘am al-Hasan Kandhalwi, Mufti Mahmud Hasan Gangohi, Mawlana Yusuf Ludhyanwi, Mawlana Muhammad Talhah Kandhalwi, Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hafiz Makki, Mawlana Yusuf Motala, Mawlana ‘Abd al-Rahim Motala, Sufi Iqbal Madani, Mawlana ‘Aziz al-Rahman Hazarwi, Mawlana Ibrahim Pandor, Dr Isma‘il Memon, Mawlana Shahid Saharanpuri, Mawlana Hashim Patel, Mawlana Bilal Bawa and others.
Shaykh al-Hadith died in the blessed city of Madinah in 1982. His funeral prayer, which was attended by thousands, was performed in the Prophet’s Mosque after ‘Isha prayers. He was buried in the shade of the Green Dome in al-Baqi‘ close to the resting places of the Ahl al-Bayt and his murshid, Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri. [↩]
- Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ Deobandi (1896-1976), the first Grand Mufti of Pakistan and a khalifah of Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi, was one of the eminent scholars who lectured and served as Grand Mufti of Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband.
Born in Deoband, he commenced Qur’anic studies at the age of five. He studied Persian under his father, Mawlana Muhammad Yasin Deobandi, and secular subjects under his uncle. He graduated aged twenty-two and was appointed to teach the lower levels of the Dars-e-Nizami course at Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband, soon progressing to the higher levels. He taught at Deoband for twenty-seven years and served as the Grand Mufti of India prior to partition.
In 1943, Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ resigned from Dar al-‘Ulum due to his involvement in the Pakistan movement. When Pakistan came into existence, he migrated to Karachi. He established Dar al-‘Ulum Karachi in 1951 on the pattern of Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband, regarded today as the biggest private institute of higher Islamic education in Pakistan. His two sons, Mufti Muhammad Rafi‘ ‘Usmani and Mufti Muhammad Taqi ‘Usmani are currently rectors, chief muftis and senior professors of hadith and Hanafi fiqh at the institute.
A prolific writer, Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ wrote around three hundred books on various Islamic and literary subjects, his last being the immensely popular Urdu exegesis of the Qur’an entitled Ma‘arif al-Qur’an, which was completed four years before his demise and subsequently translated into English. Besides his literary masterpieces, Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ broadcasted the tafsir of the Qur’an on Radio Pakistan for a number of years.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ attained a high rank in Tasawwuf. He initially offered his bay‘ah to Shaikh al-Hind Mawlana Mahmud al-Hasan in 1920. After Shaykh al-Hind’s demise, Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ continued the spiritual path for twenty-years under Hakim al-Ummah who granted him ijazah. Under Hakim al-Ummah’s supervision, he produced a number of outstanding works. Mawlana Jamil Ahmad Thanwi states that Hakim al-Ummah had such reliance on Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘’s juristic acumen that he would even consult him in his personal matters. Hakim al-Ummah once said, “May Allah lengthen the life of Mufti Saheb, for, I achieve two joys due to him. Firstly, I obtain knowledge from him and secondly, I have the satisfaction of knowing that, after me, there are people who will continue my work”.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ died on October 6, 1976. Over 100,000 people attended his funeral, which was led by Dr. ‘Abd al-Hayy ‘Arifi, also a senior khalifah of Hakim al-Ummah. [↩]
- Mawlana Sayyid Muhammad Yusuf Binnori (1908-1977), a descendant of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), was born in the village of Mahabatabad near Peshawar. A authority in hadith, Mawlana Binnori studied at Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband and graduated from Madrasa Ta‘lim al-Din, Dabhel, where he studied hadith under Imam ‘Allamah Sayyid Anwar Shah Kashmiri, becoming one of his most famous students.
He received his primary education from his father, Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Binnori, and maternal uncle. He studied in Peshawar and then travelled to Kabul. In 1927, he enrolled at Deoband where he studied for two years before moving to Dabhel, where he completed the Dawrah Hadith under Imam Kashmiri and Shaykh al-Islam Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani, the author of Fath al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih al-Imam Muslim.
After graduation, Mawlana Binnori remained in the service of Imam Kashmiri. He then lived for a few years (1930-1934) in his hometown of Peshawar until asked to teach hadith at Dabhel. He remained shaykh al-hadith at Dabhel until the creation of Pakistan. He then went to the Dar al-‘Ulum in Tando Allah Yar and then came to Karachi where he founded Madrasah ‘Arabiyyah Islamiyyah, New Town.
During his first Hajj, he offered bay‘ah to Mawlana Shafi‘ al-Din Naginwi Makki (the khalifah of Haji Imdad Allah Muhajir Makki). After Hajj, Mawlana Binnori travelled to Cairo to supervise the printing of Imam Kashmiri’s commentary of Imam al-Bukhari’s Sahih, Fayd al-Bari and Imam al-Zayla‘i’s Nasb al-Rayah. During his stay there, Mawlana Binnori contributed articles about Deoband and its elders to Egyptian journals. It was during his stay there that Mawlana Binnori developed close contacts with leading ‘ulama in Egypt, including ‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari.
On his return to India, Mawlana Binnori visited Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi who became very impressed by him and later included him among his mujaz-e-suhbah.
The mawlana was known for his proficiency in writing. He possessed a unique style, and wrote easily on every subject without tiring. At times after writing, he did not need to re-read his articles. He was more proficient in Arabic than Urdu.
‘Allamah Mufti Muhammad Taqi ‘Usmani writes: “Mawlana Binnori’s (may Allah mercy him) personage was so heart soothing, enlightening, and full of beauty and solemnity that including all his particulars in a short article is difficult. His figure was the bodily memory of his shaykh, ‘Allamah Sayyid Anwar Shah Kashmiri. The science of hadith was his speciality in which it is difficult to find his second. However, like his shaykh, he was a treasure of information in every knowledge and science.”
His most popular work is the splendid six-volume Arabic commentary on the Jami‘ of Imam Abu ‘Isa al-Tirmidhi entitled Ma‘arif al-Sunan. Allah Most High took great work the mawlana in refuting false (batil) sects, and he was heavily involved in the Khatm al-Nubuwwah movement. It was through his work and the work of a few other leading ‘ulama that the Pakistani government was obliged to declare the Qadianis a non-Muslim minority.
‘Allamah Mufti Muhammad Taqi ‘Usmani writes that the mawlana would not be able to remain silent from commenting on the views of those who in the explanation of the Qur’an and hadith adopted an understanding that was different from the way of the majority of the Ummah. “Mawlana would remain particularly worried that the maslak (school of thought or way) of the ‘ulama of Deoband did not become contaminated by incorrect views, and that in terms of politics, the ‘ulama of Deoband’s unity and cooperation with someone is not taken to mean they are [necessarily] in agreement with [all] the views of that person.”
This pillar of sacred knowledge died of a heart attack while attending an Islamic Shari‘ah conference in Pakistan on 3 Dhu ‘l-Qa‘dah 1397. [↩]