Nawab Muhsin al Mulk enjoys an outstanding rank among the associates of Sir Sayed. He became his successor, developing and establishing the mission initiated by Sir Sayed. His actual name is Mahdi ‘Ali and his lineage meets up with the famous twelver sayeds. One branch of this family went to Ottawa and lived there. Mahdi ‘Ali’s father, Mir Damin ‘Ali, was of the sayeds of that family and although deprived of worldly affluence, he was still considered one of the nobles of the town. Mahdi ‘Ali’s mother’s lineage linked with a family of sayeds whose educational legacy came down many generations. Accordingly, Muhsin al Mulk’s maternal grandfather, Molana Mahmud ‘Ali, was a great scholar who was first the Head Chairman and later elevated to being the Minister of Tonk district.
In this poor, yet knowledgeable family, Nawab Muhsin al Mulk was born in 1837 (1253 A.H) in Ottawa. He was sent to the maktab in his childhood, where he acquired his primary Islamic education. Due to his remarkable intellect, effort and determination; in a short span of time he reached such a height of scholastic capacity that he began frequenting the lessons of great scholars, thus completing his course at the age of eighteen. On one hand, he performed exceptionally well in the science of Persian oratory and literature, while on the other hand he acquired certificates in Arabic, Arabic literature, hadith and tafsir. He did not officially study English, but due to his zeal and enthusiasm he learnt as much that he was able to read and fully understand the English newspaper.
He was hardly eighteen years of age when he took up a governmental position in order to assist his father in earning. He worked as a clerk in an office in lieu of 10 rupees per month. Owing to his hard work, capability and intelligence, he grew very quickly until he assumed the high post of Deputy Collector. He was so proficient in his work that the high ranking majors and officers began revering him. Not only this, in fact the government gifted him with a robe and the Collector praised him in these words:
I can openly declare that there is no one more intelligent, capable and honest in the UP province than Muhsin al Mulk.
His remarkable competence became so famous that the army general offered him a distinguished position. He therefore moved to Hyderabad Deccan in 1874 and earned a monthly salary of 1200 rupees. He attained an outstanding rank in affluence and nobility. It is famous regarding his financial dealings:
Mahdi ‘Ali accomplished that work in Deccan which Todar Mal accomplished in India in the time of King Akbar and Lieutenant Governor Mister Thomson accomplished in UP. Owing to his superb planning, the government became affluent and the populace were happy and content.
His services were recognised to this extent that he was chosen as Revenue Secretary in 1876 and Financial and Political Secretary in 1884, and awarded titles as Muhsin al Dowlah, Muhsin al Mulk and Munir Nawaz Jang by the royalty. 3000 rupees per month were stipulated as his wages. He travelled to England around this time and met with Prime Minister Gladstone. Plots were devised against him in 1893 due to which he resigned in order to save his life, settling on 800 rupees pension per month and travelled to Aligarh. There he met the late Sir Sayed and began community service and administration of the college. Sir Sayed passed away in 1898. He was then elected as secretary of the college. He remained in this position and worked tirelessly and diligently for the success and development of the Muslims. In his time, the battle between Urdu and Hindi raged. He openly supported Urdu.
Amir Habib Allah came to India in 1906 and was warmly welcomed at Aligarh College. Amir was astonished and amazed at the college’s administration. He thus awarded the college with 20 000 rupees and stipulated a yearly amount as well. In short, in Muhsin al Mulk’s time the MAO College was financially established and its authority, awe and honour was confirmed. Muslims were given political rights and their political stance was recognised.
However, the tireless struggles and exertions which Muhsin al Mulk endured to raise the nation to this pedestal weakened his physique and health, and he was afflicted with different sicknesses. His diabetes worsened. In this condition he went to Shamlah and made efforts to expand the rights of Muslims living there. It was here that he met Viceroy and other officials. It was in September 1907 that he travelled to Shamlah and in October his sickness intensified. Viceroy commanded his special doctor to tend to him, but who can cure the sickness of death? His final moments approached and on the 8th of Ramadan 1325 corresponding to the 16th of October 1907 he journeyed to meet the Almighty. Many have composed couplets regarding the date of death.
محسن الملک آہ ز دنیا برفت خلق شد از رحلتش اندوہ گیں
سال وفاتش شدہ ملہم زغیب انجمن آراۓ بہشت بریں
Muhsin al Mulk has left this world.
His departure has grieved the creation.
The year of his demise as inspired from the unseen association
The ideas of the lofty paradise: 1325 A.H
Muhsin al Mulk opened his eyes for the first time in a poor home. Thus, he was forced to work at a very tender age. But the intelligence awarded to him by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala raised him to a lofty pedestal. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala favoured him with unimaginable wealth, seated him on a high pedestal, awarded him with grand titles and placed his love in the hearts of the people. His was an embodiment of piety, love and sympathy for people. He made serving the community the object of his life. No arrogance or fame crept into his heart in his entire life. He was kind and sincere to everyone, but would display a special type of informality, sincerity and love to his society and regarded helping them as his duty. The bulk of his income was spent on the poor, needy, orphans and widows. He stipulated allowances for many people in such a undisclosed way that besides Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, and the giver and taker, no one knew about it. Hence, the amount of people he was helping was unknown as long as he remained in Hyderabad. However, when he resigned and left, his beneficiaries began crying and mourning due to which their large number was identified.
When he began residing in Aligarh, his wages decreased considerably. Notwithstanding this, he did not close his hand of generosity but left it unrestricted, just as before, only to close upon his demise.
All his acquaintances recognised and were full of praise for his exceptional qualities and traits. His character was impeccable to such an extent that his foe found not a blemish therein. Accordingly, Nawab Surur Jang who openly opposed him during his stay in Hyderabad wrote these words about him in his book, My Life:
He was merciful and had confidence. His words were sweet and effective. He was prepared to display kindness to everyone and his subordinates remained loyal to him right until his death.
It is famous about Urdu poets, and this has a lot of truth, that they praise affluent people in their greed for gifts and rewards. However, there is an exception to this. Dagh Dehlawi enjoyed every type of honour in Hyderabad and had no ulterior motive from Muhsin al Mulk. Nevertheless, his outstanding qualities forced him to say:
مہدی کو اگر خیر زماں کہتے ہیں یا محسن الملك ان کو یہاں کہتے ہیں
زیبا ہے کہیں محسن عالم اے داغ جو چاہیے کہنا وہ کہاں کہتے ہیں
If they say that Mahdi is the best of his time
Or they say he is the benefactor of the nation
It is proper. O Dagh! Even the benefactor of the universe
Can be claimed by whoever wishes to proclaim
This praise is untainted and these words are the product of the poet’s emotions.
The service Muhsin al Mulk provided to his people was unadulterated and not for fame. He remained restless for the progress of his people and spent the major portion of his life pursuing this objective. Hence, in his last sickness he travelled to Shamlah for the advancement of the people and made efforts to increase the rights of Muslims. For this reason, he met with Viceroy and other officials. The burning desire in his heart for the progress and success of his people had an effect on others as well.
He had a great concern for Islamic education. His studying career began with Islamic education. Therefore, he understood it to be of vital importance that all the citizens receive Islamic education from childhood, because the effects it has on the heart and mind have a lifelong effect. He did not consider it a waste of time like the bright thinkers of today. He understood that this was the best and most effective way for a person to tread the straight path and to maintain balance in his life. This does not mean that he considered secular education as redundant and superfluous. The major portion of his life was spent in systemizing MAO College where secular education is taught and after which young Muslims can enter the domain of life.
Although Muhsin al Mulk began working in an office just after completing his studies and earning at a tender age, he remained engrossed with knowledge. The strong attachment to reading books which he developed in his young days remained till death. He studied so extensively that his intellectual reputation was recognised to be higher than his contemporaries. His writings testify to his deep knowledge. The subject matter and manner of deduction in his work Tahdhib al Akhlaq depicts his profound knowledge. He had a passion for Islamic knowledge but did not restrict himself to this circle but deeply studied other religions as well. Thus, Molana Dhaka’ Allah writes regarding him:
An outstanding quality of Molana Mahdi ‘Ali is that he was actually an expert in religion. He was not only acquainted with the different sects of Muslims like Sunni, Shia, etc. but was aware of the realities of the religions of the world. He spent a considerable amount of his time studying English books to acquire the knowledge of the religions of the world and spent his own money to get some books translated. The history of all religions was on his fingertips just as his own religion. He established the superiority of Islam over other religions with full knowledge. He made efforts to remove all the doggedness and corrupt ideologies of the Muslims using the Qur’an, hadith and statements of ‘ulama’ as proof.
The outcome of him studying different religions in depth is that at the age of 23 he renounced the Shi’i creed and became a staunch Sunni. He writes in the foreword of Ayat-e Bayyinat:
I am a million times grateful to my Allah, the Majestic and Great, that I am one of those fortunate few who out of hope for their salvation, soundly contemplated upon the doctrines of both creeds thus finding the religion of the Ahlus Sunnah in conformity to Divine Speech; and the Imamiyyah creed contrary to it. I did not regret forsaking the creed of my forefathers, separating from my family and folk and abandoning the beliefs of the Imamiyyah scholars — who are wolves in sheep’s skin — and entered into the true religion of the Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah.
Nawab Muhsin al Mulk began his writing career when he began working. His first book was Milad Sharif, which was printed in 1860. He wrote two books during his studies regarding law, viz. Qanun Mal and Qanun Fowj Dari.
After resigning from Hyderabad, he began writing exclusive articles as a journalist in Sir Sayed’s magazine Tahdhib al Akhlaq. The articles published in this magazine together with being religious and historical also display his foresight and deep knowledge. Ram Babu Saksina writes regarding his articles:
Most of the articles in Tahdhib al Akhlaq written by his pen are religious and historical, whose actual objective is only to make the contemporary Muslims — who are in an abyss of humiliation and destruction — gain success in every field, i.e. intellectually, morally and politically by following in the footsteps of their righteous forefathers. There is no doubt that all these articles depict his deep knowledge, foresight and sound nature.
Besides these articles, many of his books such as Ayat-e Bayyinat, Kitab al Muhit wa al Suq, Taqlid awr ‘Amal bi al Hadith and Majmu’ah Taqadir have been published. Ayat-e Bayyinat enjoys the highest rank among them. In fact, the truth is that the reputation of the author is on account of this book.
What necessitated the writing of Ayat-e Bayyinat? Listen to the answer from the author himself:
Since my friends, colleagues, brothers and family are still on their previous creed (Shi’ism) and deem me as deviated, I present those rational proofs to them which made me loathe their creed, and reproduce those evidences which showed me the veracity of the religion of the Ahlus Sunnah; thus convincing me to accept it. For this reason I write this book, to extol the virtues of the Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah. May Allah allow my friends to have an unbiased look at it and discard their false beliefs. Amin.
I heard that when Nawab Muhsin al Mulk forsook the religion of his forefathers and accepted the religion of the Ahlus Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah, people made a big hue and cry about it. Some people asked his family the reason for his change of beliefs, and they were told:
Mahdi ‘Ali’s knowledge of religion is limited and inadequate. Accordingly, some people managed to convince him and brought him on to their path.
Muhsin al Mulk then learnt about these accusations. He thus wrote this book to remove these misconceptions. He mentions emphatically:
I did not change my religion due to insufficient knowledge. In fact, a deep study of religions obliged me to take this step.
Ayat-e Bayyinat had just arrived into the public domain and there was a huge uproar over it, since he exposed many discrepancies and incongruities of the Shia and made many objections against them therein. The opposition understood it to be of vital importance to answer him. His one colleague wrote a response in two voluminous books. He named it Ayat-e Muhkamat, on the rhythm of Ayat-e Bayyinat. The truth is that the voluminous nature of this book was due to a whole load of unnecessary drivel and large script. An objection would appear on one page under “He said” and the next page will have the response. And those very same puny and pathetic narrations were mentioned in the response which had already been debunked. If one has a look at the layout and manner of substantiation in both books, then it seems like the author of Ayat-e Muhkamat wrote the book merely out of annoyance.
Ayat-e Bayyinat is a unique masterpiece in its field after Tuhfah Ithna ‘Ashariyyah. In Tuhfah, much information has been gathered about the Ithna ‘Ashariyyah (Twelvers) and other Shia groups, which is definitely precious, but the approach of this book is explanatory and illustrative. Contrary to this, Ayat-e Bayyinat’s style is controversial and debated. A picture has been painted out by the brush of a man who is well acquainted of all the details and finer points and who made a deep study of both creeds, understanding the discrepancies and incongruities in the Shia creed. Such points have been mentioned in this book which people are generally unaware of. For example, the ruling of Tinah, learned people could not fathom the belief which is related to this. Muhsin al Mulk has not only made the masses aware of it but further exposed various astonishments and incredulities related to it.
The style of the book is captivating. Displays of seriousness, honour and impression is evident everywhere therein. Many solid proofs are furnished either to support or to debunk. Although the subject matter of the book is religious discussions yet it is free from dryness and monotony. In fact, at some places the author adopts a more humorous and sarcastic approach, thus enhancing its beauty.
This book is a golden gift to debaters and a precious book to study for others. It is important for everyone to read this book conscientiously and carefully to freshen his iman and strengthen his beliefs. If it is studied properly then definitely the chances of deviating from the straight path are scant.
Janab Thana’ Allah Siddiqi
KarachiBack to top