Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Shah Wali Ullah

In the eighteenth century, Islam in the sub-continent was faced with menacing problems. Sectarian conflict, low moral of society, poor understanding of the Holy Quran, general ignorance of Islam as well as political conflicts were the prevailing situation. These were valid grounds for fearing that political disintegration would be followed by religious collapse. Due more than anything else to the activities of Shah Wali Ullah and his family, the worse condition can be prevented, moreover, an era of religious regeneration was inaugurated.

Shah Wali Ullah Ibn Shaikh Abdur Rahim Ibn As-Shahid Wajihuddin Ibn Mu’azzam Ibn Mansur Ibn Ahmad Ibn Mahmud Dahlavi was born on Feb 21, 1703 A.D., at Delhi. His father was a Sufi and theologian of great repute. Shah Wali Ullah received his early education under his father, and later he taught at his father’s Madrasah Rahimiyah for twelve years. He left for Arabia in 1730 A.D., for higher studies, where he obtained his sanad. At the time, Muslims in India were divided into many sects and groups. When he was in Hijaz he decided to reinterpret Islam, to popularize Islamic values among the Muslims, and to present Islam in rational manner.

In order to reform the creed and call to the Quran, he translated the Holy Quran into Persian language to be understood by the people in the subcontinent. His writings of all school of thought, to understand their viewpoint, then wrote comprehensive volumes about what is fair and just and worked out a system of thought, belief and values, providing a spiritual basis for national cohesion.

His other reformative efforts were to propagate hadith and Sunnah and integration of fiqh with hadith, to reinterpret the Islamic shariah and exposition of the wisdom underlying hadith and Sunnah. Thus he recommended the application of ijtihad against blind taqlid, and interpreted Quran and hadith in the context of times. He elucidated the theory of caliphate and its basic characteristic. In this regard he refused the view of the Shi’ite.

During the era of confusion before the decline of Mughal Empire, Shah Wali Ullah played a leading role. He kept himself engaged in literary pursuits and religious reform unmindful of his surroundings as if everything normal, though Delhi was almost continuously being ravaged by the Marathas, Jats, Sikhs and invaders. He encouraged the Mughals and their nobles to get rid its disruptive elements and even preserved its independence against the British.

Shah Wali Ullah directed his teachings towards reorienting the Muslim society on the basis of social justice and removing inequalities and iniquitous distribution of wealth. He established several branches of his school at Delhi for effective dissemination of his ideas. In his book “Hujjat Allah al-Balighah”, he pinpointed the cause of chaos and disintegration of the Muslim society. They were pressure on public treasury, the emolument given to various people without doing any service to the state, heavy taxation on peasants, merchants and workers. According to him, a state can prosper only if there were light and reasonable taxes.

He wrote open letters to:

· Mughal rulers, to give up their corrupt and inefficient practices.

· Soldiers, for forgetting to inculcate within themselves the spirit of Jihad.

· Artisans, workers and peasants, reminded them that on their labors the economic prosperity of the state depends.

· The Emperor, to teach a lesson to the Jats threatening the Mughal Empire and also wrote to him not to give jagirs to mansabdars, who were not loyal to the state.

· Masses, to be conscious of their duties and not to indulge in the accumulation of wealth.



He wrote to Ahmad Shah Abdali to give up the life of ease, draw the sword and not to sheath it till the distinction is established between true faith and infidelity. His efforts resulted in Maratha debacle at the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali and Najibud Daula in the third battle of Panipat in 1761 A.D.

Shah Wali Ullah’s teachings created a new awareness of the present dangers and what the future had in store for the Muslims of the subcontinent. This was a psychological preparation for the revolution of 1857-58 A.D., after which turned Muslims mind to new remedies.

One of the distinctions enjoyed by Shah Wali Ullah was that he had been blessed by God with sons and successors who kept burning the torch lit by him. His sons and successors propagated his mission that innumerable treatises written on the correct teachings of Quran and Sunnah. These writings created an enthusiasm among the people for the study of religious branches. His three gifted sons named Shah Abdul Aziz, Shah Abdul Qadir, Shah Rafi’uddin, carried ahead the reformatory endeavors of Shah Wali Ullah.

Shah Abdul Aziz translated Quran into Urdu, after 50 years of the Persian translation by Shah Wali Ullah, when the Urdu language had started to replace the Persian. He completed the exegesis of his father from Surat al-Maida to the thirteenth verse of al-Hujurat.

According to Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, the renovatory endeavors of Shah Abdul Aziz can be divided into five categories:

1. Popularization of the message of the Quran through its exegesis in order to reform the popular creed of the masses by creating a direct link between them and the scriptures.

2. Promoting the study of hadith by making arrangements for its teaching and preparing teachers for its further diffusion.

3. Controverting the heterodoxical Shi’ite creed by exposing the conspiracies designed by them.

4. Revival of Jihad in order to prepare Muslims to safeguard their freedom.

5. Grooming a group of such persons who could carry on his reformatory works in the future.

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