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Ulama Of Deoband

The Compassion of Muftī Muhammad Shafī rahimahullāh

  • Muftī Muhammad Shafī rahimahullāh fell seriously ill during the blessed month of Ramadān. Anyone in his position, ill during Ramadān and sensing the end is near, would have longed to pass away in the blessed month, for the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said:

When Ramadān arrives, the doors of Jannah are opened and the doors of Jahannam are closed.”

His illness was so severe that it was expected that he would pass away during Ramadān, but it was not to be. After the month had passed, Muftī Shafī rahimahullāh told his friends that during his illness he prayed to Allāh ta‘ālā not to give him death in the month of Ramadān. The reason for his prayer was fear that his death would cause inconvenience to his friends and well-wishers during the blessed month.

Shaykh-al-Hind rahimahumullāh and his Simple Lifestyle

Shaykh Mahmūd-al-Hasan rahimahumullāh, commonly known as Shaykh-al-Hind, had earned great fame throughout India. Subsequently an ‘Ālim from Ajmer, Shaykh Mu‘īn-ad-dīn Ajmerī rahimahumullāh, decided that he would travel to Deoband to visit him. Reaching Deoband by rail, he informed a dog-cart driver that he wished to meet Shaykh-al-Hind rahimahumullāh. (Although acclaimed with the title of Shaykh-al-Hind throughout the world, in Deoband he was simply known as the Big Shaykh.) The driver ascertaining that the newcomer wanted to meet the Big Shaykh, drove him up to the door of Shaykh-aI-Hind rahimahumullāh.

It was the hot season at the time, and when Shaykh Ajmerī rahimahumullāh knocked a man in a vest and loincloth answered the door. The guest said. ‘I have come from Ajmer to meet Shaykh-al-Hind. my name is Mu‘īn-ad-dīn.’

‘Please come in and sit down,’ came the reply. After being seated the guest said, ‘Go and inform Shaykh Mahmūd-al- Hasan that Mu‘īn-ad-dīn Ajmerī has come to meet him.’

The man said, ‘You have arrived at a very hot time of year,’ and proceeded to fan the guest. After some time, Shaykh Ajmerī rahimahumullāh made his request again. The man replied, ‘Indeed I shall inform him,’ and went in, only to return with a meal. The guest again said, ‘Brother, I have not come here to eat but to meet Shaykh-al-Hind. Introduce me to him.’

‘Please eat,’ came the reply, ‘You shall very soon meet him.’

Shaykh Ajmerī rahimahumullāh ate and drank until finally he started to get angry. ‘I’ve been telling you over and over again but you just won’t go and inform the Shaykh!’ he retorted.

Thereupon the man said, ‘The fact is there is no Shaykh-al- Hind residing here, however Mahmūd (i.e. Shaykh-al-Hind) is the name of this humble one.

Shaykh-al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā’s rahimahullāh Zeal for Hadīth

Shaykh-al-Hadīth, Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā rahimahullāh mentions that he and another student were studying hadīth from his father, Mawlānā Yahyā rahimahullāh. The two of them had made a pact that they would not miss a single hadīth from the teacher nor would they study a single hadīth without wudū. Now, if anyone of the two needed to be excused for a while to see to their natural needs, he would nudge the other and leave. The other would then raise questions on the hadīth under discussion until the other would return.


Shaykh-al-Hadīth, Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā rahimahullāh says that after this had happened a few times my father caught on to what we were doing. Once, when my friend got up and went, I questioned, “‘Allāmah Ibn Al-Humām rahimahullāh says in Fath-al-Qadīr that …” Upon this my father said, “For how long will I argue with your Ibn Al-Humām rahimahullāh? Until your friend returns, listen to a story.” From then on it became my father’s rahimahullāh habit that whenever one of us had to go, then whilst waiting for the other he would enlighten us with beneficial stories of the pious.

Shaykh-al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā’s rahimahullāh Value of Time

The intense dedication towards religious work and the value attached to time by Shaykh-al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā rahimahullāh can be gauged from the fact that on occasions the respected Shaykh rahimahullāh would not even realise that he has not eaten. It was only when some 30 hours would pass since his last meal and when the effects of hunger would begin to manifest as weakness that Shaykh-al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā rahimahullāh would remember that he had not had food. His commitment to his work was one of the reasons that he received the special attention of the pious.

In his autobiography, Shaykh-al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā rahimahullāh narrates how he would pay regular visits to Thānā Bhawan for the printing of Badhl-al-Majhūd. He would receive the final draft by Zuhr time and he would need to submit the edited version before leaving in the evening. Thus, the respected Shaykh rahimahullāh would sit in a corner of the masjid reviewing the texts thoroughly until ‘Asr time. The public lectures delivered by Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī Thānwī rahimahullāh would also take place in Thānā Bhawan at this time. Hence, Shaykh-al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā rahimahullāh would feel great deprivation at not being able to attend due to the demands of his research.

On one occasion Shaykh-al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakariyyā rahimahullāh mentioned this feeling to Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī Thānwī rahimahullāh and said, “People come from far and wide to benefit from you. Yet this unworthy one, despite being in close proximity, is unable to benefit from your lectures.” In reply Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī Thānwī rahimahullāh commented, “Do not worry. Even though you are not in my company I am in your company. I continue to watch you and greatly admire your dedication. Indeed, this is the manner through which work is accomplished.”

Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī’s rahimahullāh Value of Time

Dr ‘Abdul Hay ‘Ārifī rahimahullāh narrates regarding his mentor Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī Thanwī rahimahullāh that:

‘In the eyes of our respected Shaykh rahimahullāh, time held great value. It would appear that Allāh ta‘ālā had made valuing time part of Shaykh’s rahimahullāh nature. He would ensure that each second was spent efficiently and his eyes would always be on the clock. Shaykh rahimahullāh would follow a strict timetable, fulfilling each allocated action at its appointed time. It is through this strict discipline that Shaykh rahimahullāh was able to produce a great treasure of scholarly works and deliver priceless advices which continue to be a means of guidance.’

Once, Shaykh-al-Hind (The Shaykh of India) Mawlānā Mahmūd Al-Hasan rahimahullāh visited Shaykh ‘Ashraf ‘Alī rahimahullāh. Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī was a student of Shaykh-al-Hind Mawlānā Mahmūd Al-Hasan rahimahullāh and held him in such high regard that he would refer to him as Shaykh-al-Ālam (The Shaykh of the World). It so happened, that Shaykh-al-Hind Mawlānā Mahmūd Al-Hasan’s rahimahullāh visit overlapped with the time that Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī rahimahullāh had scheduled for writing. With great politeness, Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī rahimahullāh mentioned to his teacher that this was the time he had allocated for writing and requested permission to fulfil this routine task.

Shaykh-al-Hind Mawlānā Mahmūd Al-Ḥasan rahimahullāh happily granted him permission. Even though the visit of his teacher entailed that Shaykh Ashraf ‘Alī rahimahullāh did not feel like writing, he did not forgo his regular practice. Thus he wrote a few sentences and once again returned to benefit from the company of Shaykh-al-Hind Mawlānā Mahmūd Al-Hasan rahimahullāh.

Humbleness of Shaykh I’zāz ‘Alī rahimahumullāh

Muftī Muḥammad Shafī‘ rahimahumullāh relates an incident of Shaykh I‘zāz ‘Alī rahimahumullāh:

“Once, we set off from Deoband on a journey with our teacher Shaykh I‘zāz ‘Alī, known in Darul ‘Ulūm Deoband as ‘Shaykh-al-adab’ also accompanying us. When we reached the station there was still some time for the train to arrive. Shaykh I‘zāz ‘Alī said, ‘It is mentioned in a tradition that when going anywhere on a journey, someone should be appointed amīr, therefore we should appoint our leader also!’

Because we were the students and he the teacher, we said, ‘There is no need to select an amīr, a ready-made amīr is already present.’

The Shaykh asked. ‘Who?’ We replied by saying. ‘You are the teacher and we the students.’

The Shaykh remarked, ‘So you wish to appoint me as the amīr!’ We replied, ‘Yes of course, who else other than you can be the amīr?’ The Shaykh said, ‘Very well, but all the orders of the amīr have to be obeyed because the meaning of amīr is one whose orders are obeyed.’

When the train arrived the respected Shaykh lifted all the luggage of his travelling companions, some he bore on his head and some in his arms, and started  walking, We said, ‘O Shaykh, what is this injustice you are doing? Let us lift it!’ The Shaykh said, ‘You have selected me as amīr, now you have to obey me – let me lift the luggage.’ So saying he carried all the luggage on to the train.

Thereafter, throughout the journey whenever any difficult or strenuous job would arise, he would personally see to it, and if we objected the Shaykh would immediately say, ‘Look, you made me amīr and an amīr must be obeyed! Therefore obey the amīr!’

Making him our amīr turned out to be very hard on us.”

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