Published in  
July 5, 2022

History of Indian Scholarship | Sheikh Akram Nadwi

These are running notes from a class taught by Sheikh Akram Nadwi on the History of Indian Scholarship. This is not a transcribed version of the talk but rather notes.

  • Many of the books on Uzbekistan, China etc came from India. The famous scholar, Sheikh Khalid alKurdi studied in India.

Nowadays we see many orientalists talk about reform in madrasahs without knowing the purpose of a madrasah in the first place.
The education system before the industrial revolution was very similar all over the world and people could easily fit in if they went anywhere else. A private or public school was to build the person, for memorization and student-teacher relationships. The main focus was to impart wisdom and make the student wise.
The focus of the ancient madrasah was building and to teach a general skill foundation which included reading, writing (eloquent), logic, philosophy and mathematics. For specialization, specialist madrasahs were set up.
Sciences that develop your personality – Tarbiyah. The part about virtue has been completely neglected today and the focus is completely on skills and money. Poverty was not seen as a defect in people because people had virtues and wisdom. This is the reason we don’t see poetry or calligraphy being taken up today, rather only skills that make the most money are taken up. The madrasah system invoked a system of understanding and reflections.

The reform we need is to make the madrasah have more value to the society. The language of the curriculum was Farsi, followed by Arabic which was more for the scholars or the elite.

  • Before the problem used to be hunger in general but now we have obesity. Even children knew the cure of hunger, but what’s the cure for obesity? New problems are very complex.
  • People used to be a part of the society. Today we know what’s happening miles away but don’t know what’s happening within our own family.

Why memorization? Because it is only then that you can think properly. A big part of the curriculum was memorization. You need data to be able to analyze it. The legends of old had libraries in their minds to refer. The problem is not with memorization but how to do it and then analyze what’s memorized. Another aspect used to be discussing what the students had learnt.

Before Mughal Era (932/1546)

93 A.H/712 – 83 years after the Prophet ﷺ India was under Muslims and largely till 1857 before the British took over. 93 A.H is when the Muslims came as political and military conquerors but they had been coming to India way before that as traders.

Muhammad Ibn Qassim alTaqhafi was a 17 year old nephew of Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf who at that time was the governor of Irag who had basically established the Umayyads. Basrah at times used to be called India as it was through here that people reached India. Muhammad Ibn Qassim went on to conquer Sindh, Punjab, parts of Multan, most of todays Pakistan. So basically Pakistan has been a Muslim land since about the first century of Hijrah. He wanted to keep going till he reached China but had to pause his campaign because of tensions within the Umayyads.
After this Abbasids came to power and Ismailis took power in some part of India, until Mahmud Ghaznawi came and conquered it from them. Hence saving the people from Ismaili Shia’s. A century after him we get Muhammad alGhouri, who was the first person to conquer the furthest, not just till Delhi, but all the way up to Bengal. Many dynasties kept coming to power till the Mongols in 1527.

- Firangi Mahal: Ministers, courtiers and officials for Mughal courts all over. It was more general in nature. Dars Nizami originated from Firangi Mahal in Lucknow.
- Khairabad: For specialization. They taught logic, philosophy, works of Ibn Sina and rational sciences.
- Madrasah Rahimiyyah: This was under the famous Dehlwi. Their focus was main on Hadith studies etc.

Mughal Era (932/1546)

Around 1526 Babar conquers India. He was succeeded by Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb (most pious ruler to rule India, also famous for his fatawa). These 6 were the most powerful Mughal rulers.
Aurangzeb’s rule was comprised of Fatawa plus a constitution based on Hanafi fiqh. He had the largest area under his rule. After this the splits started till in 1857 when bahadur Shah Zafar was banished.

Khaljeez was the one under whom for the very first time the whole of India came under Muslim rule. He used to call himself Iskander II (Alexander II). Muhammad Tughlaq later, again conquered these areas.
Alauddin Khilji, Muhammad Ibn Tughlaq and Aurangzeb are the only people to rule the whole of India. Their rule comprised of Afghanistan to Bengal in the East and Kashmir to the South of India. The education system of such large empires had to be strong. It is said that even before, during the Delhi Sultanate  (Pre-Mughal era), no book in Baghdad would be accepted till it was approved by the scholars of India. Every street of Delhi had a madrasah, because when the Mongols destroyed Baghdad, many people and scholars moved to India.

  • We don’t use our minds. We don’t understand the capacity and importance of our brain. Memorization is for everyone, its not something supernatural. In the process of reform we have lost a very important concept.
  • Family environment was important then and is so today also. Respect, or basically tarbiyah of the house is very important. If the foundation of the house is not strong the child will be lost.

Scholars During the Sultanate

Punjab and mostly Delhi were the centers of learning. Madrasah used to be equivalent to modern day colleges i.e. higher studies. Kuttab (Pl – Katateeb) used to be general schools or basically for primary education. Some Kuttab were so immensely large that the director of the facility had to use a donkey to get from Point A to Point B.
With Muhammad Ibn Qasim many scholars had come to India as was the norm of the armies of old.

Rabee Ibn Sabee Al Muhaddith – He was situated in Sindh. He was one of the first Muhaddiths of India. Though he’s considered a bit weak, his narrations didn’t make it to the Sahihayn (Bukhari and Muslim) but can be found in the Sunan of Abu Dawud and others. His hadiths could be graded as hasan but not sahih. He died in 160 A.H in Sindh.

Scholarship at this time was mainly around the area of Sindh and Multan, until the arrival of Mahmud Ghaznawi.

Hassan Ibn Muhammad As-Saghani (577-615 AH) – He was from a town in Central Asia. He came to Lahore and the people started calling him Al Lahori. Like Ajmer ‘Shareef’, Lahore was titled Lahor Nur (City of Light/Knowledge). He died in Baghdad and was eventually buried in Makkah. He was a specialist in the Arabic language and Hadith. He also had many works related to dictionaries. Al-Qamus by Fairozabadi is heaily based on Hassan Saghani’s works who had written the first dictionary. Even later on, Murtaza Abidi etc wrote commentaries of Al-Qamus, Taj alArus. Also famous is his commentary of Ihya Ulum adDeen of Imam Ghazali.
Mashariq ul Anwar in Hadith was also a selection of ahadith from the sahihayn to be memorized. He arranged them according to alphabetical order. The people of India got Sahihayn comparatively early.

Bahauddin Zakariyyah Multani (d 661 AH/1261) – He was originally from Baghdad. He was an expert in Qira’a, Fiqh, Hadith and Tasawwuf. He was a Khalifa of Sheikh Shiabuddin Sohravardi in Baghdad. This Sufi order spread throughout India. Multan has always been a center of learning. He was once sent a bowl full of milk to show no space was in it, so he put a rose petal on top of it and returned it.
This is when qira’a and tajweed entered into India. He had a very high isnad. He had a huge impact in Delhi, Jaunpur, Bengal etc. he worked closely or supported the state (not directly working for them) unlike the Chishti order whose thinking was the exact opposite.
There were 3 types of Madrasahs generally at this time:
1. Madrasahs sponsored by the state.
2. Madrasahs sponsored by public fund or endowment.
3. Madrasahs sponsored by teachers (personal fund).
Ex- Allawi Gujarati Ulama were from state sponsored madrashas but were NOT by default loyal to the state.

Shihabuddeen Daulatabadi (d 849/1445) – Muhammad Ibn Tughlaq wanted to spread Islam all over the land. He forced ulema and sufis to leave the capital and go out to teach. He shifted his capital to Daulatabad. It is said that Muhammad Ibn Tughlaq was heavily influenced by Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah. When Taimur Lang destroyed Delhi, many ulema left for the East. Jaunpur becomes famous. Sultan Ibrahim Sharkhi ruled from Delhi to Bengal who loved knowledge. He invited scholars and gave Shihabuddeen gold as much as his weight, such was his respect. he was known for his knowledge of Nahw.

Ali Al-Muttaqi Al-Burhanpuri (885-975) – He was located towards the South of India. He died in Makkah where he had eventually settled down. Many European and other people learnt from Indian scholars without coming to India as many ulema had settled in the land of the Haramain. He was a Sufi specialist in hadith and had his own Madrasah in Makkah. Ali Al-Muttaqi arranged Imam As-Suyuti’s work chapter-wise. It is said that Suyuti has done the world a favour and he himself has been done a huge favour by Ali Al-Muttaqi Al-Burhanpuri.
He is one of the main narrators in the Indian chain of narration as one of his student was Abdul Wahab Al-Muttaqi whose student was Abdul Haq Ad-Dehlwi who strengthened hadith studies around Akbar’s reign.

Mullah Ali Muhaimi (d 835) – Mahim is a small town outside Bombay. He was famous for his Tafsir, which was ‘Tafsir Mahimi’. It is quite unique as even before Farahi he found a connection behind the ayat (Munasibat). He used to believe in Wahdatul Wujood and wrote commentaries on the works of Ibn Arabi.

Muhammad Tahir Patthani – Al Patani from Patan, Gujarat. He studied under Ali Al-Muttaqi in Makkah. He was considered a reformer  as his people were Bohri Shia. He vowed to never wear a turban till his people were reformed. When Akbar conquered the land, he marveled at an Alim without a turban and asked him to wear it again, taking it upon himself the reform of the Bohra people. Nothing happened and when he went to take Akbar to account for his word, he was assassinated by his people.
From his works include the Pride of India, ‘Majmau Biharil Anwar’ (Dictionary of Hadith). A commentary of the Sahih Sittah which was once published by Nadwa. Another work is ‘Al Mughni fi Tashi fi Asma irRijal’ on the narrators of hadith. He also wrote ‘Tadhkhirat Al-Mawdudat’ on fabricated hadith.

Wajiuddin Allawi Gujrati (911-978/1570) – His madrasah was famous all over India and produced many Ulema. He was a Sufi scholar of the Shattari order, started by Abdullah Shattar from Central Asia. Waliullah Dehlwi was also attributed to this order. Hardly any alim at that time who wasn’t a Sufi. It was from the tradition to give Bayah. His works include, ‘Tafsir Al-Baidavi (Commentary), Commentary of Nukhbat Al-Fikr which was a work in Usul and had many commentaries on philosophy and logic.

Abdul Wahab Al-Muttaqi (d 1001) – He was a student of Ali Al-Muttaqi Al-Burhanpuri. He remained and taught in Makkah for nearly 36 years. He was known for teaching and tasawwuf training. We, Muslims didn’t have qalam (logic, rational speech/debates) till the time of Sikander Lodhi.

Abdullah tun Nabi (d 922/1516) and Azizullah tun Nabi (d 975) – They were from the Northern Frontier. They were known for their expertise in qalam and first introduced qalam into the Indian curriculum which kept evolving. Sikander Lodhi visited and respected Abdullah greatly.

Scholars During the Mughal Era

Tusq-e-Akbar: Life of Babar
Sher Shah Suri defeats Humayun in just a year time who then runs to Iran for 16 years. When the Suri dynasty weakened, the Mughals returned.
Humayun was the only king who died while reading, his bookshelf fell on him. His library is said to be of the largest libraries of the time.

Abul Faiz Faizi (954-1004/d1595) – He was a great poet, strong in literature and in the Persian language. He translated many Hindu works into Farsi. He was the one who convinced Akbar to not follow any religion, since 1000 years had passed since the death of Prophet Muhammad it was time for a new religion and this gave birth to Akbar’s Deen-e-Ilahi. Only 6 people followed this religion. Akbar’s own family did not follow this religion.
Faizi wrote a Tafsir to cleanse his name, ‘Tafsir Gair Manqut’ using only those words of Arabic with no dot. This showed his expertise in the Arabic language.

Savati AlIhlan Abu Fadhl – He reorganized the Mughal empire – taxes, writing the constitution ‘Ain-e-Akbari’. His books were used in Madrashas to teach Arabic and Persian. His tax system of revenue remained even during the British rule. He was killed on the orders of Jahangir.

Sheikh Ahmed Sarhindi (970-1034) – He was a reformer of his time. He removed the impact of Faizi and Abu Fadhl. He reformed Sufism/Tasawwuf. The concept of Wahdatul Wujood was opposed properly (refuted) by him. He knew he couldn’t harm Akbar, Faizi etc so he worked to reform the ministers by sending them powerful letters. Nearly all the ministers became his disciples and he is one of the main reasons religion was reformed in the Mughal dynasty and produced people like Aurangzeb. This was a man who reformed Sufism, Indian scholarship and Indian Islam. He was put in prison by Jahangir but later released.

  • We need Muhammad Arabi, not Ibn Arabi.
  • We don’t need fusus, we need nusus.
  • Ahl Hadith as a movement started around British India.

Mullah Muhammad Jaunpuri (d1042) – He was known for his ‘AlShams e Bazagah (A work on Philosophy) and Tafseer. It is said that only 2 people knew Arabic or wrote like pure Arabs, Mullah Jaunpuri and Waliullah Dehlwi.

Sheikh Abdul Haq AlMuhaddith (955-1052)He was the first great reformer of the Indian curriculum in North India. He wrote ‘Akhbar AlAkhiyar’ in Persian which was a biography of pious scholars till his time. His Muqaddimah of Usul Hadith is taught widely but Sheikh Akram notes it to be problematic. he relies on weak and fabricated ahadith in his works as hadith at this time was weak.

  • Why are we learning?
    “I am not sure if by learning I get closer to Allah or by learning I am going away. My only concern is that the world has seen so many great luminaries and I want to know what they say. How these great philosophers solved problems presented to them and helped the people. After this I can decide if I want to get money or a position or get closer to God.”
    This shows how we should first open and train our mind before forming an opinion or coming to a conclusion. Learn from everybody. Don’t insist on convincing people. Explain your position to them once, twice, thrice but leave the argument after that. Tell them this is how I concluded but maybe you know better or different from it.
  • Memorizing is one thing but practice is also very important.
  • Dars-e-Nizami was generally from Gujrat which wasn’t very strong. Deoband on the other hand was known for higher or advance learning with many discussions and differences of opinion. It is said that when madrasahs and Tabligh Jamat came to Gujarat, they became corrupted.

Reign of Mughal Emperors

Muhammad Zahir AlDin Babar                        932-947 AH / 1526-1540
Nasir AlDin Humayun                                        937-947 AH / 1530-1547 & 1555-1556
Muhammad Jalal AlDin Akbar                         963-1014 AH / 1556-1605
Muhammad Salam Nur AlDin Jahangir         1014-1037 AH / 1605-1627
Shihad AlDin Shah Jahan                                  1037-1068 AH / 1628-1658
Muhyi AlDin Aurangzeb Alamgir                     1068-1118 AH / 1658-1707

Shah Jahan was an arrogant emperor. He conquered Badakshan and Balkh. Aurangzeb was called Sufi as he never drunk or engaged in immoral behaviour. He was the first to establish a masjid in the Red Fort. A reformer doing Jihad against the British and Sufi practices. Scholarship actually flourished with the decline of the Mughal empire as each Nawab wanted his state to be the best.

Awadh/Lucknow gained popularity. Delhi had an amalgamation of people of all kinds of classes. Urdu as a language developed there like a common language with very few words taken from Persian and Arabic language. The society of Lucknow was considered to be more elite. The rulers and the scholars wanted to show their superiority. Hence, scholarship and poetry became even more sophisticated. Stark contrast can be seen between poetry of Delhi and Lucknow. Likewise the curriculum of Lucknow was taken to such heights that the average layman couldn’t comprehend it. Dars-e-Nizami came from this. Another curriculum that came from Lucknow was Nadwatul Ulama.

  • An advice that Ali Miyan used to give was, when speaking to the masses speak like a scholar (in terms of language), don’t adopt the common terminologies.
  • Moulana Ilyas made all Mewatis, Muslim
    Tableegh jamaat is making all Muslims, Mewatis (Mewati: Ignorant area in Delhi)

Though not many, but there were madrasahs set up and completely for women, mostly towards the South. Ibn Batuta mentions around 13 such madrasahs at the time of Tughlaq in just one town.

Razia Sultana – Ruler of India
Nawab Shah Jahan begum – Ruler of Bhopal – Bhopal was a good Muslim state helping scholarship. They sponsored Allamah Shibli Nomani’s Seerat-un-Nabi. They helped Deoband, Nadwa and many other madrasahs. She wanted to be a disciple of Gangohi. It was more open and accessible for women to study previously as compared to today where it has become more corrupt.

The only place that Ibn Sina’s and Greek medicine was developed was in India. Arabs forgot about this. We clearly see interactions of Indian scholars with Ottoman and Iranian scholars.

Mullah Abdul Hakim Sialkoti (d1067/1656) – He was a contemporary of Sheikh Masr Hindi. He was a proper teacher who produced many scholars. Twice it so happened that Shah Jahan weighed his body with silver. Originally from Kashmir, he spent time teaching and writing.

Mullah Jeevan Amethvi – His real name was Ahmed Ibn Abi Saeed. His commentary was famous on Usul alFiqh in the Hanafi madhab. His other works include
Usul As Saraqsi was authored by Saraqsi – Usul Al Bazdawi by Bazdawi –  Al Manar – All these are famous and important works in Hanafi Fiqh. Mullah Jeevan wrote an important commentary titled Nur AlAnwar. In Dars-e-Nizami after Usul AlShashi, nur AlAnwar is the highest they go.

  • For the first time centers of learning were set up where people used to come from outside to learn. All 3 were established around the ear of Aurangzeb.

Firangi Mahal

Established around 12AH. Its aim was to provide officials for Mughal empire and regional states. They provided teachers everywhere, hence they were very famous and widely accepted. They were very keen on producing written works. No madrasah can compare to their written work. Ex: Abdul Hayy in 34 years had written so much.

Started by the family of Mullah Qutubuddin Sehlvi. Sehali is a town near Lucknow. Firangi Mahal was set up by a European trader who didn’t leave any inheritor. Al Ifranju is French. Aurangzeb gave this palace to Qutubuddin’s children to console them. Mullah Nizamuddin Sehlvi established a madrasah there. A contemporary of Shah Waliullah Dehlvi who set the curriculum for it and the Mahal enjoyed importance for nearly 200 years. The Dars-e-Nizami we see today was developed by him. He included and modernized works of his contemporaries and kalam to suit the time. It was meant to be relevant to the society.

The curriculum included:
Grammar – Farsi
Arabic – Nahw and Sarf. They used Ibn Haajim Kaafiyah for Nahw. It was a very bad choice. Shibli Nomani says that it is everything except Nahw. They used Shaafiyah for Sarf.
Mullah Jami, a Sufi Iranian wrote on Yusuf-Zulekha – “Her waist is thinner than half a hair and bottom as big as mountains” – Exaggerated nonsense.
Sarf – Mizan
Munsh’aib – Different patterns
Saf Mir

Logic – Sughara
Isa Guji
Tahdeeb, its Sharh
Suluman Uloom

Philosophy – Mewadi
Shams Bazigah

Maths – Khulas AlHisab

Balagha – Mukhtasar Al Ma’ani

Fiqh – Quduri

Usul alFiqh – Nir Al Anwar

Tafsir – Jalalayn

Hadith – Mishkat

This was one of the most secular curriculums. All that was needed for the state, hence many Hindus also studied it. The medium of study was Persian. Shibli Noman comments, “The words of Jalalayn are less than the words of the Quran”. Pre-Mughal era used to teach Al Kasshaf Dimishqani which was Mu’tazali. Anything in Baidawi comes from Kasshaf. It was one of the most secular curriculum. One can only imagine how powerful Firangi Mahal would be.

Moualana Qutubuddin Shamsabadi (d1121) – Part of curriculum of Firangi Mahal and very contemporary.

Mullah Abdul Aliyy Baharul Ulum Lucknowi (d1235) - He was an ocean of sciences. Check the works by Shibli Nomani. He was a contemporary of Sheikh Abdul Aziz and passed away at the age of 83.

  • Deoband should have adopted the curriculum of Shah Waliullah Dehlvi, but rather they adopted that of Firangi Mahal. The books include Arkan AlArba’a which inspired a similar book by Ali Miyan. Complicated works came out because the scholars of Firangi Mahal had the habit of debate, criticism and refutation.

In Usul AlFiqh, ‘Fawatihur Rahmut’ is a must refer book. He was a supporter of women narrators etc. He also wrote a commentary on AlMathnawi, a commentary on Fiqh AlAkbar.

  • Iran used to be Sunni, following the Shafi’i madhab. Sheikh Sa’adi, Hafiz Shirazi etc came from there. This was till about the 9th century AH, until the Saffavid dynasty took over. In the time of Humayun and Akbar, Iranian influence increased but Shi’ism never overtook the throne.
  • The Nawab of Lucknow become Shia when it became an independent state. If you are a Sunni, you are allowed 4 wives, but if you are Shia then you are allowed 18 wives plus you are also allowed Muta’h. So one of the last Nawabs, Waiz Ali Shah had 360 rooms, each for a wife or a lady for muta’h. This was around the time of Firangi Mahal and became strong around Lucknow, Rampur etc. It did not spread much amongst the common public though. There’s a constant Shia VS Sunni clash that happens in these areas still.
  • Before Nadwatul Uloom, the only curriculum that was available was Dars-e-Nizami. Faiz-e-Aam in Kanpur is where the first gathering of Nadwa happened.
  • Sheikh Muhammad Sarhindi highly criticized the belief of Wahdatul Wujud.
  • Education in India was always free. The rich either accorded their own stay or sponsored the poor. There were many state run madrasahs.
  • Moulana Gangohi used to get students all the way from Afghanistan. The rich used to look after such students.
  • Muslims ruled for nearly 800-1000 years but didn’t learn much about the Hindus except Beiruni, who came from Central Asia. No work is equivalent to Kitab Al-Hind of Beiruni. Ulema of India knew about Murji sect even when it didn’t exist in India, but they didn’t know properly of what the Hindus believed in. Indian madrasahs have always been open to Hindus for enrollment also.

Moulana Abdul Hayy Firangi Mahali (1264-1304) – He researched further in Hadith and Fiqh producing over 100 high standard works. From amongst the Indian Muhaddithin, no one has produced as man works as him. Many of the commentaries from Deoband and Saharanpur are just copies of previous works with hardly any new contribution. Sheikh Yusuf alQardawi says most Indian commentaries are just copies except for the works of Abdul Hayy. The amount of work that he has done in just 36 years is astounding.

Madrasah of Khairabad

Khairabad is a town near Lucknow. The madrasah was known mostly for rational sciences. Moulana Fadl Imam Khairabadi (d1243), his son Moulana Fadle Haq Khairabadi (1212-1278 AH) were responsible for it.

  • A lesson we learn is that we should give people time to adjust and not be too harsh. Khairabadi was a great propagator of Ibn Sina’s Ash-Shifa and Al-Kanun. He used to play chess and teach at the same time.
  • Shah Abdul Aziz, son of Shah Waliullah was an expert of music from whom people would learn in Delhi. There was a sense of respect of differences of opinion.

Abdul Haq Khairabadi took over the madrasah, but soon after the school diminished.

Madrasah Rahimiyyah

This was the madrasah of Waliullah Dehlvi. It was established by his father Moulana Abdul Raheim Dehlvi (d1131) who was one of the authors who helped in writing Fatawa Alamgiriya.

Waliullah Dehlvi (1114-1176) – It was in this period that for the first time Hadith became central to Indian curriculum. At this time India became a leading authority in hadith throughout the world. At 17, he became an aalim and went to the Hijaz in 1143 where he learnt from the ulema of the Haramain especially from Abu Tahir Al-Kurdi Al-Madani. This teacher says that he might have taught him the wordings of the hadith but the meanings of the hadith he had learnt from Shah Waliullah instead.
Shibli Nomani says that the writings of the likes of Al-Ghazzali, Ibn Rushd and Ar-Razi etc couldn’t match the work of Waliullah. He didn’t rely on fabricated or weak ahadith. It is said that if he was born in around the first century he would have been called the Imam of the Imams and the Crown of the Mujtahideen. But sadly, Indian people did not appreciate and learn from them.

Deoband propagated against him as he took and spoke from other madhaib but liked his son instead. Interestingly, the son was not liked by their founder, Gangohi. He criticized his weak and lax methods. Zahid Al-Kawthari didn’t like Waliullah Dehlvi as these people were not thinkers but mostly ardent followers.
Though today we are proud of him, we don’t learn from him. The only madrasah that taught his works was Nadwatul Ulama, for teaching his works would mean leaving off taqleed.

Problem in knowing which opinion to follow led him to read Imam Malik’s Al-Muwatta which cleared his doubts and opened his mind. He told people to read Muwatta (via the chain of Yahya) after learning Arabic for it is the origin of hadith. Muwatta is the asl and the Sahihayn are its commentaries. According to him, knowledge shouldn’t be narrowed down but rather learn from everyone. He’s the first major defender of Ibn Taymiyyah. he told to learn the arguments of the Imams and do ijtihad of the opinions. But if you can’t, then don’t be biased towards your madhab. he says if he can’t reconcile between opinions, he looks for the stronger evidence. This cannot be done by Deoband ofcourse.

His family and sons were those who made Quranic learning very popular in the Indian curriculum.
Abdul Qadir Dehlvi did the first translation of the Quran in Urdu and is considered to be the best of his time.
Rafiuddin Dehlvi also did a translation and Abdul Aziz wrote a Tafseer in Persian. None of the sons though continued teaching Hadith. Continuity of hearing the books of hadith didn’t stay anywhere except in India at that point. Like the golden chain mentioned by Imam Bukhari (Malik-Nafih-Ibn Umar) today the same could be said of Shah Waliullah and his family.

Abdul Aziz Dehlvi had no son, so his daughter’s son Ishaq Dehlvi took reign later whose students include Nadeer Hussain Muhaddith Dehlvi, founder of the Ahle-Hadith school in India. He later settled in Makkah. The female scholarship of this family was very strong. Many Makki scholars got their sanad from Abdul Aziz Dehlvi’s daughter.

Abdul Ghani Dehlvi – He was not from the same family but from the last of the Waliullah tradition. He moved to Madinah. The last person to narrate from him was his daughter, Amatullah.

After British Rule (Post 1857)

Madrasah of Ahle Hadith

This was confined to the teachings of 2 people namely Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan (1248-1307) and Syed Nazeer Hussain Muhaddith Dehlvi . Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958), the first Education Minister of India was also part of this. Nawab Siddiq got married to Nawab Shah Jahan Begum. He invited Yemeni scholars to teach Hadith in Bhopal amongst which is Hussain Ibn Muhsin Al-Ansari Al-Yamani. He strenghtened Hadith literature in India and one of the high sanads in India  that don’t involve Waliullah Dehlvi go through him.


Established by Ahmed Rida Khan Bareilvi (1272-1340). Before Deoband and Ahle hadith most people followed Bareilwiyyah. Scholars couldn’t make much change or reform till Deoband and the Ahle hadith began.

  • “Adab Arz Hay” was a high class or elite way of greeting to distinguish from the “Assalamualaikum” used by the general people. Even in the house of Waliullah Dehlvi this was the way of greeting. Waliullah Dehlvi did a lot of reform intellectually but couldn’t do much practically. His grandson Shah Ismail Shaheed did practical reforms. Moulana R.Gangohi after that worked on reform.

Ahmed Rida Khan became a propagator of nearly all bida’h writings against Nadwa. He was a very good author in Arabic. He even got a fatwa from scholars of Haramain against Deoband.

  • If people needed sanad in Iddia, the had to learn from Nazeer Hussain Muhaddith Dehlvi who adopted the Ahle Hadith mode. The isnad of many Saudi scholars is from India. Nearly 23 scholars from the Hijaz went and studied from him.


It was established on May 30, 1867. Students came from all over the place to learn. One of its main purposes was to defend the Hanafi madhab as Ahle Hadith was picking pace in Delhi. They wanted to oppose the Bareilvi movement also. Their focus went towards preserving rather than actually thinking. Being strict to the adherence of the Hanafi madhab was very important.

Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi (1248-12997) and Rashid Gangohi – They both studied in Delhi. Also Abdul Ghani Dehlvi whose brother was a Bareilvi Sufi Master, Haji Imdadullah Makki, Sheikh of all Bareilvis. So when Deoband began defending the Sunnah, their inspiration was Abdul Ghani Dehlvi.
Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi was known for debating with Hindus and the rational sciences.
Rashid Gangohi was known for his piety and the knowledge of Hadith. He opposed the rational sciences of Firangi Mahal in Deoband’s curriculum. his will read that those who go into philosophy are not his students and studying the English language is better.


Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s madrasah, later becoming a college was focused on European learning to uplift Muslims. Deoband was one of the top of those who opposed them.

Things in India were slowly becoming Hanafi VS Ahle Hadith. When the infighting got really bad, the ulema gathered in Faiz-e-Alam in Kanpur. This gathering for unity was the first gathering of Nadwatul Ulama. This failed, so they thought to establish a school to build reformers in 1894 – Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama.

Its few objectives were:

  1. Reform of the curriculum. It should be more relevant.
  2. Emphasis on the Arabic language.
  3. Quran should be central to the learning. They started teaching Quran directly without using any commentaries.
  4. hadith system that was employed was that of Shah Waliullah Dehlvi. Some areas were detailed and some had less focus.
  5. Make less of difference of opinion in public, rather discuss and debate in the class. Shias were eventually banned.
  6. Prepare students for society, but not involved in the political system.
  7. Darul Ifta established for the ease of the believers and to give more explanations. Not like the previous Hanafi jurists whose aim was to give as less explanation as possible.
  • Letters of Allamah Iqbal to Allamah Syed Sulaiman Nadwi are worth a course on its own. Something worth looking into.
  • Most academic researches in madrasahs are not up to the mark. They can’t even reference properly.
  • Fatwa’s should be based on the earliest sources of law, not the latest fatwa collection.
  • Shawkani is one of the last big scholars. Madrasah needs to emulate these objectives or else they will die out. Good writers are not coming out of Deoband. We don’t just need lay teachers, but actual thinkers.
  • Madrasahs should provide education till atleast A levels.

These are running notes from a class taught by Sheikh Akram Nadwi on the History of Indian Scholarship. The bullet points are gems or points of benefits that the Sheikh mentioned during the course of the talk. Any mistakes that may have occurred whilst taking notes etc are my faults and should not be ascribed to the Sheikh as what follows is not a transcribed version of the talk but rather notes. I ask you to bear through my mistakes if any, cross-check points that you are doubtful about and Allah’s refuge is sought from all errors.

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