One of the most esteemed personalities in the History of Islam
By Mufti Sa’id Ahmed Palanpuri rahimahu Llah
His name was Muhammad Qasim. His historic name was Khurshid Hussain. His father’s name was As’ad ‘Ali and his grandfather’s name was Sheikh Ghulam Shah. His entire lineage is as follows:
Muhammad Qasim — the son of As’ad ‘Ali — the son of Ghulam Shah — the son of Muhammad Bakhsh — the son of ‘Ala’ al Din — the son of Muhammad Fattah — the son of Muhammad Mufti — the son of ‘Abdul Sami’ — the son of Molana Muhammad Hashim.
His lineage links up to Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
He was born in 1248 A.H (1832) in the town of Nanawta. He passed away on Thursday 4 Jumada al ula 1297 A.H (1879) after Zuhr Salah. To Allah do we belong and unto Him shall we return.
His hometown was Nanawta, which is a populated town. It is situated twelve miles east of Deoband, fifteen miles south of Saharanpur, nine miles west of Ghangoh, and seven miles north of Delhi.
His ancestral grandfather, Molana Muhammad Hashim rahimahu Llah, was very close to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Molana Muhammad Hashim rahimahu Llah settled in Nanawta and in so doing transformed it into an Islamic town. It was in this town that his progeny flourished and it was from this very town that the radiant star, Molana Muhammad Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah, shone forth.
During his childhood, he saw a dream which his grandfather interpreted to mean that Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala will grant him abundant knowledge and he will become a well-known personality. His intelligence, prowess, courage, quick thinking, broad mindedness, and diligence stood out from his childhood days and he was always first in his class. He had an affinity for poetry from an early age and would write some of his stories in rhyming verse.
His primary education began in the Madrasa of Nanawta. He then studied Arabic under Molana Muhtab ‘Ali rahimahu Llah in Deoband. Impressed by Molana’s wisdom and deep insight, Molana Muhtab ‘Ali rahimahu Llah gave him the title of “‘ilm ki Bakri” (goat of knowledge), a reflection of his constant pursuit of knowledge. He then studied for a short while under Molana Muhammad Nawaz in Saharanpur. He then went to Delhi in the company of Molana Mamluk ‘Ali rahimahu Llah in 1259 A.H, where he began studying Kafiyyah (an intricate book on Arabic grammar) and completed his studies in five years. He studied hadith under Molana Shah ‘Abdul Ghani Mujadidi rahimahu Llah. After arriving in Delhi, he began excelling at such a rapid pace that none could keep up with him; he could read intricate books of philosophy just as a hafiz can recite a portion of the Qur’an.
While residing in Delhi, he also sought spiritual reform from Molana Haji Imdad Allah al Thanwi al Makki rahimahu Llah and began his efforts of self-purification.
Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had made Molana an awe-inspiring personality because of which many people lacked the courage to address him, even though he was a light-hearted person with exceptional character. He preferred to be alone and from an early age and would prefer remaining silent. This is another reason why people would think twice before engaging in a conversation with him. He was extremely generous and big-hearted, who took pleasure in entertaining guests and acts of hospitality. His wife was the same as he was, and even more so, such that she was the one who inspired his generosity. He would say, “My generosity is the result of Ahmed’s mother (i.e. his wife).”
His condition for many years was such that if any person addressed him as “Molwi” then he would not reply, but if he was addressed by his name then he would be pleased. He disliked being praised and was uncomfortable with it. He was informal with everyone and kept a relationship more of friendship than as a teacher with his students. He disliked being referred to as ‘Molana’ and would say, “This title has spoilt everything, if there had not been a necessity, I would have remained hidden, such that no one would have known of my existence.”
During his days as a student, he saw a dream that he was standing on the Ka’bah and thousands of rivers were flowing from it. His teacher, Molana Mamluk ‘Ali rahimahu Llah interpreted this to mean: “Knowledge will spread from you abundantly.”
On one occasion, his mother complained to Molana Haji Imdad Allah rahimahu Llah about his unemployment and lack of income, on which Haji Imdad Allah rahimahu Llah laughed and said:
This man is about to become such that he will have hundreds of attendants. He will attain such fame that his name will be known across the world. You complain of poverty when Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala is going to grant him a thousand-fold more, such that he will be better than those who are employed.
His mother lived to see this prediction come true.
Haji Imdad Allah rahimahu Llah also said about him:
People of his calibre used to be found in the early years of Islam, now for years to come, we will not see another.
After completing his studies, he took on the responsibility of editing at the Ahmedi publications company in Delhi. During this time, Molana Ahmed ‘Ali Saharanpuri (who added the footnotes to Sahih al Bukhari) tasked Molana with adding the footnotes to the last five or six chapters of Sahih al Bukhari, which he fulfilled to perfection, each footnote taken from reliable books and nothing from his own opinion.
Later Jihad was declared against the British but due to difficulties faced at that time, the Muslims were not victorious. As soon as the British had gained complete control of the country, they issued a warrant for his arrest. He remained hidden for a few days and then departed for Hajj and by the time he returned an official pardon had been announced.
After returning from Hajj, he began acting as editor for Munshi Mumtaz ‘Ali in Meerut, while at the same time teaching. It was during this time that the foundation for Darul Uloom Deoband was laid. After a little while, he went to Deoband and saw to every aspect of the Madrasa. He taught all the books with no reservation and would render such a commentary that none had ever heard nor seen. He expounded amazing facts in each subject; reconciling differences of opinion and explaining each law in detail. The effects of his teachings remain to this day.
He performed his first Hajj in 1277 A.H and during the journey, in the month of Ramadan, he memorised the entire Qur’an and recited it in Tarawih salah. He performed his second Hajj in 1285 A.H and the third in 1294 A.H. Upon return from this Hajj his illness began, which proved to be fatal.
He had two sons: Molana Muhammad Ahmed rahimahu Llah (former principal of Darul Uloom Deoband) and Muhammad Hashim rahimahu Llah. He also had three daughters.
He had numerous students but the most famous are:
Aside from these three illustrious personalities, Molana rahimahu Llah had many more students; however, the sacrifices and services of his other disciples and students have not been recorded, even though he treated them all equally.
The accomplishments for which he is most famous are three:
We will now highlight his achievements in each of these fields.
In 1274 A.H (1857) when the British had taken control of the entire country and the Mughal dynasty came to an end, Islam and Muslims became a target, and it was the Muslims who suffered the pain of the piercing claws of the British most. The reason for this is that the dynamic of the relationship between the Muslims and the British was that of conqueror and conquered, usurper and usurped, victory and defeat.
Those ‘Ulama’ who were rendering services to din during the rule of the Mughal dynasty, did so either receiving a wage or assistance from the royal court and as such lived in relative ease. A few ‘Ulama’ also rendered services in their own private capacity; teaching, tutoring and lecturing in their own localities. However, after the British took over, there no longer remained any assistance from the government in the form of wages or financial assistance. Poverty and impoverishment created an entirely new challenge and slowly the traces of the glory of Islam began to dwindle, as the ‘Ulama’ now became occupied with their own livelihood. What was to happen to the future of Islam? This was a vital question.
However, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says in the Noble Qur’an:
وَالَّذِیْنَ جَاهَدُوْا فِیْنَا لَنَهْدِیَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ
And those who strive for Us, We will surely guide them to Our ways.
Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala inspired all the saints at the same time with the idea that the only way of protecting din and Islam is to now establish Institutes using public funds. This meant that those ‘Ulama’ who until this point in time were rendering services to din in their own private capacity will now have to join together and work collectively. One of the benefits of this would be that the Institute would see to their basic needs and as a result they would be able to serve din with no worry of having to earn a livelihood. Another benefit of this would be that if any scholar, out of necessity or for any other reason, were to abandon his responsibilities then another would take his place. The garden would continue being watered even if the gardener were to change. “Public funds” is general and not from a particular person and as such work would continue whilst relying upon the funds of the general public. They would not depend upon the wealth or donations of the government, wealthy, or those in authority which meant the Institute would suffer no harm if a select few refused to assist the Institute; as the loss suffered on account of them would be borne by another. In addition, the general public who will assist the Institute will not try to influence it in any way. If funds are taken from a particular individual then the life and death of the Institute is dependent upon that very one person. Another harm of this is that true reliance in Allah will not be gained, as opposed to when a person has no one else to rely upon except Allah. The third most harmful aspect of relying upon the funds of a particular individual is that he will have the ability to influence policy and what is taught in the Institute.
On account of this inspiration, ‘Ulama’ began opening Institutes across India but there still remained a few who did not understand this inspiration or the true reality of it. Thus, they continued their efforts of din on their own and just as a roof cannot stand without a pillar, their services too did not last very long and slowly they became preoccupied with earning a living and their services to din came to an end. A few of them did indeed build Institutes but disliked asking from the general public and so remained dependent upon specific individuals or the government. As a result, these Institutes either had to close due to lack of finance or inevitably became government institutions.
It is a great favour of Allah that not only did these ‘Ulama’ understand the meaning of this inspiration but also understood its importance and true reality. It is without a doubt that Molana Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah understood its importance more than all and in fact wrote it out for us, which is preserved to this day. He wrote:
The principles on which this Institute (Darul Uloom Deoband) and others like it will operate.
This makes it clear that these principles are not only stipulated for Darul Uloom Deoband but for every Institute relying on public funds. Let us examine numbers 6, 7, and 8 of these principles.
6) As long as this madrasa will not have any fixed income then, Allah willing, it will be run with attention turned towards Allah. If it will attain a fixed income, such as rental, trade, or government grants then the attention will be turned away from Allah and reliance upon Allah will fade. In this way divine assistance will stop, infighting will begin, and we will find ourselves becoming dependent.
7) Assistance from the government and influential people is harmful.
8) There is more blessing in the funds attained from the general public, who do not seek any favour in return. In essence it is the general public whose intentions are nobler.
These principles should be read over and over again and pondered over deeply; one will then see how true this inspiration was. Nevertheless, as a result of this inspiration the ‘Ulama’ began to establish Institutes based upon these principles and now almost a century later, we are forced to admit that if they had not done so then Islam would have faded into non-existence in India.
Molana Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah used his influence to establish the building of various Institutes and in his short life managed to build four.
All of these Institutes were founded by Molana but it is the good fortune of Darul Uloom Deoband that Molana became its supervisor and maintained it, as Deoband was his second hometown. All the illustrious personalities from Deoband such as Molana Haji ‘Abid Hussain rahimahu Llah (first principal of Darul Uloom Deoband), Molana Rafi’ al Din rahimahu Llah (second principal of Darul Uloom Deoband), etc., all had a close relationship with Molana Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah. After 1857, Deoband became his true home town, which had already been predestined, and he took up permanent residence in Deoband and saw to all the needs and requirements of the Darul Uloom. The other Institutes founded by Molana did not receive the same favour and as a result could not reach the same level as Darul Uloom Deoband. Today this Madrasa has grown into a huge firm tree providing fruit to the entire world.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century a time of difficulty began for all Muslims in India when it became a battleground for the British. The rule of the Mughal Empire ended and the Muslims were now faced with many threats, both internal and external. However, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala sent such individuals who fought these threats and succeeded in keeping the pillars of din standing. Molana Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah is the leader of this group of illustrious individuals. Just as he began the establishment of Islamic Institutes so too did he begin fighting all external and internal threats. When the British decided to take control of India by force of the sword, Molana fought them back at Shamili. When the British began attacking all religions in India, specifically the din of Islam, it was Molana who combated them, earning the gratitude of not only the Muslims but the Hindus as well. In the fair of Chandapur (in the district of Shah Jahanpur) the Hindus were singing his praises. They too acknowledged Molana’s intelligence, prowess, and ability to debate, and would flock to gather around him from afar, as the threats posed by the British affected all Indians.
The British then changed their game plan and tried to attack the Muslims from the rear, preparing a small group of Hindus to oppose the Muslims and Islam. Molana fought back this threat head on as well.
The British then adopted a new plan, establishing schools appearing to teach Islam but in actual fact were enforcing British teaching. This was a cunning plan and a well-placed web, but Molana saw its true nature and saved the Muslims from its snares.
The British then thought of another plan and created a small group from among the Muslims to oppose the majority. Molana thwarted their plans in this as well. In essence, Molana fought whatever plot the British could devise, setting the standard for all future ‘Ulama’ that it is compulsory upon them to fight against all forms of mischief and threats to Islam.
With the arrival of western education in India, Molana saw the change in the mindset of the people; people were no longer satisfied with narration alone but wished to know the wisdom and secret behind each law. This is why Molana began substantiating each law of din and his books comprise more of logical reasoning than narration. This change in the mindset of the people was first perceived by Molana Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Delhwi rahimahu Llah (1114 A.H-1174 A.H), which is the reason for his authorship of his famous book, Hujjat Allah al Balighah, in which he presented the wisdoms behind each tenet of din.
After Shah Waliullah rahimahu Llah, it was Molana Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah who rendered services in this direction. The services of Molana Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah differed from that of Shah Waliullah rahimahu Llah in three aspects:
The same can be said for both Molana Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah and Shah Waliullah rahimahu Llah that their knowledge was more inspired than derived only from books. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had granted both of them a great share of inspired knowledge.
Whatever the case, Molana Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah wrote a number of books to guide this Ummah, which can be divided into three categories:
All of these books were easy, even though the subject matter extremely weighty. The method of elucidation was not just simple but extremely so, such that any person is able to derive benefit from it.
Another person, who most probably resided in Rampur, also raised objection to Tahdhir al Nas. Molana Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah also replied to his objections and a written copy of this can be found in Palawaddah. The student of Molana rahimahu Llah—Molana Ahmed Hassan Amrohawi rahimahu Llah—also wrote a reply to his objections. A written copy of it can also be found in Palawaddah. It was this very book which Ahmed Radha Khan Barelwi misquoted and misinterpreted, in his propaganda against Molana Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah. However, as the saying goes:
Whoever tries to blow out the flame ignited by Allah,
Will burn his beard but the flame will not be extinguished.
All these are in Farsi. The letters, one to seven, have been translated by Molana Qari Tayyab rahimahu Llah, which have been published in the twelfth volume of Al Qasim. It has been presently edited and simplified by Professor Anwar al Hassan Sherkoti, now Pakistani, and published under the title of Anwar al Nujum. Unfortunately, I have not been able to read this as yet.
These were the difficult books of Molana Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah and how true was the statement of Molana Qari Tayyib rahimahu Llah regarding them:
The wisdom of these books is like a huge and fertile country, which contain all the necessities of life, having no shortage of provisions or treasures. It has all the required modes of transport but the road to this country is hidden and very difficult to travel. There are no signs which make traversing this road easier nor any indications through which one can perceive the fertility of the land and take benefit from it. Apart from a select few, none possess any knowledge of this country or know of the road to it. Without a doubt the wisdom and knowledge of Molana Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah is like this country and because of the lack of signs, hints, necessary directions, footnotes, tables of contents and translations, even the general ‘Ulama’ cannot benefit from it, let alone the common masses.
These are the books wherein the wisdom of Molana Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah glimmers like pearls. Molana Qari Tayyib rahimahu Llah writes in praise of this wisdom:
The introduction to his books comes naturally such that the most important points glare one in the face. Every discussion is substantiated and well-laid out such that it appeals to the mind and its intricacies easily understood. In addition, Molana’s step by step method of explanation removes all doubts and misgivings in a clear and manifest manner such that thousands of other similar aspects are resolved, even if it is related to a different chapter. All these aspects are solved by his systematic approach and, in fact, many doors of knowledge and understanding are opened to the heart. A person is forced to accept that this aspect of Shari’ah is so logical and within reason that it seems as if that is the only natural conclusion.
In the words of Molana Muhammad Yaqub rahimahu Llah (first head teacher of Darul Uloom Deoband):
Molana Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah had a philosophical mind, which is why such deep concepts came naturally to him and as a result when discussing various laws of Shari’ah, he would do so from a philosophical point of view, resulting in not only that one aspect being resolved but thousand others like it. In so doing, the wisdom of his philosophical view became apparent.
Nevertheless, bringing various laws of Shari’ah under one logical principle and extracting intricate laws from this principle or to gather various aspects and laws of Shari’ah and extract one principle that governs them all, was unique to the knowledge of Molana rahimahu Llah.
What is even more astonishing is that generally logic and reasoning relates to the derivation of laws and not hadith. It can be said that this law is logical or within reason but it is very difficult to say the same regarding a hadith; that it is within reason and logic dictates that this be the ruling. However, according to Molana Qasim Nanawtawi rahimahu Llah even the narrations in hadith were not beyond reason and logic. His deep insight saw the logic and reason within narration just as he saw the logic and reason within the various laws of din. For example, according to Molana the Ka’bah being situated where it is today, it being the first House of Allah, the building of al Masjid al Aqsa forty years after the Ka’bah, even the distance between the Ka’bah and al Masjid al Aqsa, which is approximately two hundred and fifty or three hundred miles, all fall within logical reasoning and are not mere historic facts or coincidences. The details of this can all be read in his book Qiblah Numa.
 Molana Shah ‘Abdul Ghani Mujadidi — the son of Abu Sa’id — the son of ‘Aziz al Qadr — the son of Safiyy al Qadr — the son of Muhammad ‘Isa — the son of Saif al Din — the son of Muhammad Ma’sum — the son of Ahmed (Mujadid Alf-e Thani). He is the author of Inhaj al Hajah fi Hal Sunan ibn Majah. He was born in Delhi (1235 A.H) and passed away in Madinah (1296 A.H).
 They are known as Hassanayn-e Thalathah, i.e the three Hassans.
 This was all taken from Sawanih-e ‘Umri by Molana Muhammad Yaqub Nanotwi rahimahu Llah, who was among the first teachers of Darul Uloom Deoband.
 Surah al ‘Ankabut: 69.
 Mukatab: A slave with whom an agreement has been reached upon dispensation of a fixed sum in exchange for his freedom.
 This was at the time that the book was written but now I have managed to obtain and read it. The author has made a splendid effort but this book has not been solved as yet and an intricate book such as this cannot be understood by mere translation. Thus, much work still remains to be done in this regard.
 The introduction of Anwar al Masabih, page 15, 16
 Hikmat-e Qasimi page 20-22.
 Hikmat-e Qasimi, pg. 22, 23.Back to top