Gangoh is an old village of the district Saharanpur in India. Moulânâ Rashîd Ahmad Gangohî was born in Gangoh on 6 Zul Qadah 1244 A.H (9 June 1829). He was from the lineage of Hadrat Abû Ayyûb Ansârî Radhiyallahu Anhu.
He obtained his initial education from a Miâjî of Gangoh. Thereafter he learnt Arabic and Persian under Moulânâ Inâyat Sâhib and Moulânâ Muhammad Taqî Sâhib. In 1261 A.H. he travelled to Delhi in search of knowledge. He studied some books by Qadî Ahmadud-dîn Panjâbî (رحمه الله) for a few days after which he presented himself in the service of Moulânâ Mamlûk ‘Alî Sâhib. Here he began studying with great devotion. Moulânâ Qâsim Nânotwî had already reached Delhi in 1260 A.H. and was serving Moulânâ Mamlûk ‘Alî.
After a few days, these two pinnacles of knowledge and virtue came together and remained companions until death. They stayed in the company of Moulânâ Mamlûk ‘Alî for a long period during which they studied thoroughly and mastered all the difficult works of logic just as a hafiz recites the Quran’ân verbatim. Both students became famous in Delhi for their intelligence and quick wittedness. It was for this reason that they were adored by their tutors especially Moulânâ Mamlûk ‘Alî. If they became ill, he would visit them and teach them at their residence.
It is amazing to note that Moulânâ Rashîd Ahmad (رحمه الله) only spent four years in Delhi, yet he achieved such a vast amount of knowledge. Undoubtedly he was extremely intelligent but he was also diligent. He used to be so engrossed in his studies that if someone took the food away that was placed next to him, he would not even realize it. On many occasions it so happened that whilst reading some Kitab, he slept away and in the morning he would realize that he did not have his supper.
Moulânâ Gangohî studied hadith under the final “lamp” of the Walîullâh family namely, Shâh ‘Abdul Ghanî Muhaddith Delhwî. At the tender age of 21, Moulânâ Gangohî had completed all his formal education and returned home. During the same year, he married his uncle’s daughter. Her father was his teacher and a pious saint. After Moulânâ’s return from Delhi, he had a strong desire to teach someone. Allâh Ta’ala fulfilled this urge of his in the form of Sayyid Mumin ‘Ali.
Once when his mother’s aunt fell ill, his uncle Moulânâ Muhammad Taqi (رحمه الله), who was a hakîm, attended to her but her condition did not improve. His mother’s aunt told Moulânâ Gangohî who was 22 years of age at the time that he was a learned person and should find some cure for her illness. Her remark encouraged him to study hikmat (the ancient art of medicine). After studying for a while, he formed an opinion about her illness and told his uncle about it. His uncle, knowing the youngster’s sharp-wittedness was forced to ponder and eventually expressed his ecstasy over the diagnosis which was correct and the lady recovered rapidly.
From this incident, his fame spread and people with all kinds of ailments began flocking to him from far and wide. He surpassed all the hakîms of his time and did a great service to the community. He continued practising as a hakîm until his son, Moulânâ Hakîm Mas’ûd Ahmad Sâhib qualified as an expert in the field and continued in his father’s footsteps.
On one of his journeys to Thâna Bhawan, he met the great spiritual mentor Hâjî Imdâdullâh to whom he pledged his allegiance. After taking the pledge, he began making dhikr. On the eight day, Hâjî Imdâdullâh said to him, “Miâ Rashîd Ahmad, Allâh has granted you the favour which He granted me. Now it is your duty to increase it.”
After achieving this great bounty of Allâh, he returned to Gangoh and re-inhabited the Khânqah of Shâh ‘Abdul Quddûs Gangohî which was lying desolate for more than 300 years. There he spent day and night in the remembrance of Allâh. His dedication was unsurpassed. Even during his old-age he was punctual in all his devotions to such an extent that observers used to have pity for him. He used to fast during the day and perform 20 raka’ât awwâbîn after Maghrib in which he used to recite about 2 juz (parts) of the Qur’ân. On his way home and while waiting, he used to recite several portions of the Qur’ân. At 2 a.m. he used to rise for Tahajjud. Some people even saw him performing wudû at 1 a.m. He used to occupy himself for 2 ½ to 3 hours in tahajjud salâh.
He was an imâm of fiqh and hadîth of his era. He was thoroughly versed in all subjects, but fiqh and hadîth were his specialities. He taught the monumental work, Hidâyah more than 14 times. He taught virtually all the works of the sihâh sittah (the 6 canonical works of hadîth). It is difficult to encompass all his exceptional qualities. However it would suffice to mention some of his outstanding students as a measure of his perfection. People like Sheikhul Hind, Moulânâ Mahmûdul Hasan, Moulânâ KhalîI Ahmad Sahâranpûrî, Moulânâ ‘Abdur Rahîm Raipûrî and Moulânâ Husain Ahmad Madanî received his direct tuition.
His spiritual mentor, Hâjî Imdâdullâh praises him thus, “If Allâh asks me what I have brought, then I will reply that I have brought Molwî Rashîd Ahmad and Molwî Qâsim Nânotwî.”
On another occasion he said, “Molwî Rashîd Ahmad and Molwî Qâsim Nânotwî embody all internal and external sciences. Their companionship should be sought, because men of their calibre are very rare in this age.”
When the dreadful incident of 1857 terminated, the British Government hanged or executed any person on whom it had any doubts. Consequently a warrant of arrest was issued for Hâjî Imdâdullâh, Moulânâ Qâsim Nânotwî and Moulânâ Rashîd Ahmad Gangohî. Hâjî Imdâdullâh emigrated to Makkah whilst his two disciples went into hiding. However, due to some spies, Moulânâ Rashîd Ahmad was arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Saharanpur jail. Finally, due to lack of evidence he was acquitted. The government did not harm him in the least. This was probably due to the fact that the service of Dîn was predestined for him.
He wrote Fatâwâ Rashîdîyah and several other works. Thousands of ‘Ulama and Mashâikh quenched their thirst at this well of knowledge and piety. He finally met his Creator on 6 Jumâdath–Thâniyah 1323 A.H. (11 August 1905) at the age of 79.