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Shah Waliullah

Shah Waliullah

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Published by: usmnrd on May 08, 2008
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Shah Waliullah
 Jamil Ahmad 
 Dr. Iqbal, the poet of the East, has charcterized the celeberated MughalEmperor Aurangzeb as tarkashi maa raa khudangi akhareen (the last arrow inthe quiver of Muslim power in India). The anti-Islamic forces which hadraised their head during the reign of the irreligious Emperor Akbar and later found their champions in Jahangir and Dara Shikoh, were, to a great extent,checked by Aurangzeb, the most honest, conscientious and able Muslimmonarch that ascended the throne of Delhi.With his passing away in 1707 started the political chaos which later culminated in the distintegration of the Muslim power in the subcontinent.This political disintegration which was the result of spiritual confusionencompassed the socio-economic spheres also. Aurangzeb's successors weretoo weak and incapable of facing the rebellious forces emerging on all hands.At such a critical period of Muslim history was born Shah Waliullah, one of the greatest religious thinkers produced by Muslim India who contributedimmensely to the reintegration of the structure of Islam.Shah Waliullah was born in 1703 AD four years before the death of Aurangzeb. His grandfather, Sheikh Wajihuddin, was an important officer inthe army of Shah Jahan who supported Prince Aurangzeb in the war of succession. His father, Shah Abdur Rahim, a sufi and an eminent scholar assisted in the compilation of "Fataawa-i-Alamgiri"---the voluminous code of Islamic law. He, however, refused an invitation to visit the Emperor anddevoted his energies to the organization and teaching at `MadrassaRahimia'---a theological college which he had established and which, later, played an important part in the religious emancipation of Muslim India and became the breeding ground of religious reformers and `Mujahids' like ShahAbdul Aziz, Syed Ahmad of Bareli, Maulvi Abdul Haiy and Shah IsmailShaheed. Writing about the teachings of Shah Abdur Rahim and his brother,Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi observes: `The essence of the teaching of the two brothers was the effort to discover a path which could be traversed together  by the Muslim philosophers (the Sufis and the Mutakallims) and the MuslimJurists (Faqih).'Shah Waliullah received his early education from his illustrious father, whowas his teacher as well as his spiritual guide. Being a precocious child with aretentive memory he committed the Holy Quran to memory at an early age of 7 years. On the death of his father in 1131 AH when he was hardly 17 yearsold, he started teaching in his father's `Madrassa-i-Rahimiya' and carried on
 
the work for 12 years when he left for Arabia for higher studies. He was a brilliant scholar; during fourteen months' stay in Makkah and Madina, hecame into contact with the oustanding teachers of Hejaz. His favouriteteacher was Sheikh Abu Tahir bin Ibrahim of Madina, from whom heobtained his Sanad (Degree) in Hadith. The Sheikh was an erudite scholar, possessing encyclopaedic knowledge; Shah Waliullah benefitted much fromhim too and speaks highly of his piety, independence of judgement andscholarly talents.During his stay at Makkah, Shah Waliullah had a dream in which the HolyProphet (sws) commanded him to work for the organization and emancipationof the Muslim community in the subcontinent. He, therefore, returned toDelhi on July 9th, 1732 and started his work in real earnest. His was an uphilltask in a period when Muslim India was passing through the most critical phase of its history and its entire social, political, economic and spiritualfabric was torn to pieces. On his arrival in Delhi, he started training pupils indiverse branches of Islamic learning and entrusted them with the missionarywork of enlightening people with the true nature of Islam. He embarked uponthe task of producing standard works on Islamic learning and, before hisdeath in 1762, completed a large number of outstanding works on Islam.He rose to be a great scholar of Islamic studies, endowed with saintlyqualities. So great was his dedication to work that according to his talentedson Shah Abdul Aziz: `...he was rarely ill and once he sat down to work after Ishraq (post-sunrise prayers) he would not change his posture till midday'. Hewas a real genius, an intellectual giant who set himself to the mission of educating the misguided Muslim masses with the true spirit of Islam. His wasthe task of the revival of Islam in the subcontinent which had been cloudedwith mystic philosophy and to bring it out in its pristine glory. He was ahumble devotee to this cause, who resisted all temptations of personal glory.His activities were not confined to spiritual and intellectual spheres only.He lived in troubled times and witnessed during his lifetime about a dozenrulers occupying the throne of Delhi. Endowed with a keen political insight,he observed with deep anguish the breaking up of Muslim power in thesubcontinent and wrote to leading political dignitaries like Ahmad ShahAbdali, Nizam ul Mulk and Najibuddaula to stop the rot which had set in the political life of Muslim India. It was on account of his call that Ahmad ShahAbdali appeared on the field of Panipat in 1761 and put an end to theMarhatta dream of dominating the subcontinent.Shah Waliullah was a prolific writer. It is in the realm of Islamic learningthat he made a lasting contribution and within a period of 30 years producedmore than 50 works of outstanding merit, both in Arabic and PersianLanguages. Some of these are still unsurpassed in the whole domain of 
 
Islamic literature. His most valuable service to the cause of Islamic learningwas that he codified the vast store of Islamic teachings under separate heads.Both in thought and prediction, his works occupy an outstanding place. As areformer and as a propounder of theories dealing with socialism, he may beconsidered as the forerunner of Karl Marx.His works may be classified into six categories. The first deals with theHoly Quran. It includes his translation of the Holy Book into Persian, theliterary languages of the subcontinent of those times. According to him, theobject of studying the Holy Book is `to reform human nature and correct thewrong beliefs and injurious actions'. The second category deals with Hadith,in which he has left behind several works including an Arabic and PersianCommentaries on "Mu'atta", the well-known collection of the traditions of theHoly Prophet (sws) compiled by Imam Malik. He attached great importanceto this collection of traditions by Imam Malik, even greater than those of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim. He is an outstanding Muhaddith(Traditionist) and links of all modern scholars of Hadith in the subcontinentmay be traced to him. Foremost among these modern Traditionalists was hisson and successor Shah Abdul Aziz and Syed Murtaza Bilgrami. ShahWaliullah wrote a number of books and pamphlets dealing with Hadith. Thethird category deals with `Fiqh' or Islamic Jurisprudence, which includes"Insaaf-fi-bayaan-i-Sabab-il-Ikhtilaaf" which is a brief but a very interestingand informative history of the Islamic Jurisprudence of the last five centuries.The fourth category deals with his works based on mysticism. The fifthcategory pertains to his works on Muslim philosophy and Ilm-i-Kalam. Healso wrote a pamphlet on the principles of Ijtihad (independent interpretation)and Taqlid (conformity). In his "Principles of Ijtihaad" he clarifies whether itis obligatory for a Muslim to adhere to one of the four recognized schools of Islamic Jurisprudence or whether he can exercise his own judgement. In theopinion of Shah Waliullah, a layman should rigidly follow his own Imam buta person well versed in Islamic law can exercise his own judgement whichshould be in conformity with the practice of the Holy Prophet (sws). But themost outstanding of all his works "Hujjat-Ullah-il-Baalighah" which dealswith such aspects of Islam that are common among all Muslim countries. Inits introduction he observes: `Some people think that there is no usefulnessinvolved in the injunctions of Islamic law and that in actions and rewards as prescribed by God there is no beneficial purpose. They think that thecommandments of Islamic law are similar to a master ordering his servant tolift a stone or touch a tree in order to test his obedience and that in this thereis no purpose except to impose a test so that if the servant obeys, he isrewarded, and if he disobeys, he is punished. This view is completelyincorrect. The traditions of the Holy Prophet (sws) and consensus of opinion

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