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Al Furqaan

Jihad: Shah Waliallah

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The Jihad Movement In India

"http://forums.gawaher/index.php?showtopic=8262"]Jihad: Islam In India Part 1: Historical Background[/url]

 

Shah Waliallah (1703-1762 A.C.) was the greatest Muslim scholar of the 18' century in India. His services to the Indian Muslims are of a unique significance. It was he who ushered in an era of a new awakening among the Muslims. His revolutionary ideology based on the pristine teachings of Islam, revived new hopes in the Muslim community. His greatest contribution was the translation of the Qur’an into Persian. It can be said to be one of the most fundamental work done by a Muslim scholar during the one thousand years of Islamic existence in India. He went to Arabia to perform Hajj and got in touch with the eminent scholars of Hadith to have a deeper insight in to Islamic learning. He was the contemporary of Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab Of Najd (1703- 1792) who later launched his revolutionary and reformative movement of return to the pristine Islam. Both might have come into contact during his stay in Arabia but there is no documentary evidence to support it.

 

On his return, he embarked on his mission of reform and regeneration, with a new fervor and vigour. He translated the Qur’an in 1735-36. A new dawn of Islamic awakening was heralded by the translation. Persian was the state language and was commonly spoken. Now every one, who was able to read and understand Persian, could have a direct access to the meaning of the Divine revelation. The monopoly of the conservative theologian, who believed that the Qur’an could not be translated in to any other language because no mortal was competent to comprehend the esoteric meanings of it, came to an end. They were furious and charged him with blasphemy. An attempt was also made on his life but he escaped. Shah Waliallah continued to express his radical views through his speeches and writings. He analysed the causes of the decline of Muslim ascendancy in the country, and blamed the political system, economic exploitation of the farmers and the masses. He criticized the royalty, the nobility, the theologians and the Sufis for the deplorable state of affairs. He forwarded letters to the court nobles reminding them of their duty towards their nation and the country and urged them to take steps to reform and revitalize the decaying political system. He particularly contacted Nizamul Mulk, a very influential and astute noble of the empire. But his attempts to introduce reforms were frustrated by the royalty and those of vested interest. Nizamul Mulk was disappointed and had to leave Delhi. He went to Hyderabad.

 

The conditions were worsening day by day. Political anarchy, corruption and exploitation had taken the entire country in its grip. Social evils were rampant. Sikhs, Jats, Rohillas and Marathas had taken up arms against the Mughal Empire. Their plundering had ruined the population. There was no refuge from their pillage and onslaughts.

 

Mughal emperors were a plaything in the hands of their nobles. There was no hope of recovery or reform. Shah Waliallah had been passing through an ordeal. There was no one to come to his rescue. The pangs of a moribund system, the crumbling social structure, the morbid mentality of the ruling class, the mortal indifference of the spiritual luminaries, this somber scenario had been tormenting his soul. In his desperation he turned to Ahmad Shah Abdali and sought his intervention to restore peace and order in the country. The Afghan king came with his mighty army. The Marathas suffered a crushing defeat in 1761 and their dream of capturing power in Delhi was shattered (1). [see next page]

 

Shah Waliallah wanted to eliminate sectarian differences among the Muslims and unite them on the basis of pristine teachings of Islam. He himself was from among the Hanifts. His father Shah Abdul Rahim was an eminent scholar of his time and was one of the members of the board of theologians who had been assigned the task to compile "Fatwa-e-Alamgiri". (Comprehensive religious decrees based on the Hanafi jurisprudence.)

 

But Shah Waliallah was an erudite scholar and competent to sort out the propositions on the analogy and precedents enshrined in the volumes of Ahadiths. He did not confine himself to a particular school of jurisprudence as he himself was a jurist (Mujtahid). He was liberal in his approach and adhered only to the Qur’an and the precepts of the messenger of Allah (PBUH) and wanted the Muslims not to be rigid in their following of the sectarian jurisprudence. His epoch making book 'Hujjatullah-el-Baligha' is an encyclopedic work on various Islamic points. Here his dynamic approach and pragmatic views portray him as the greatest thinker of his time, and there is no denying the fact that the 18th century had not produced any other towering personality like him. He was next only to Shaikh Ahmad of Sarhind (Mujaddid Alf-e-Sani) who had died more than a hundred years ago. Like his predecessor he also fought against the social evils, upheld the truth even putting his life in jeopardy. But the Shaikh had the misfortune that there was no one to carry on his mission. With his passing away his mission also faded away. But the Shah had the blessings that his illustrious sons kept the standard of his mission flying. His erudite scholar son Shah Abdul Aziz was the true successor to his great father. Born in 1746 A.C., he adorned the seat of his father at the age of seventeen. The country was passing through a turbulent period. The Mughal Empire had virtually collapsed and the British were now the supreme political power. Indians, particularly the Muslims were groping in the dark. There was no ray of hope for them. Their hostility towards the East India Company, their hesitation to reconcile with the new educational and academic changes, the tornado of the Christian missionaries having full support of the colonial authorities, and the worst of all, the shattered economy had ruined them completely. Not only in Delhi, but everywhere in the sub-continent, the Muslims had been facing the same problems. The British had, already swallowed Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Mysore fell in 1799 when Tipu Sultan attained martyrdom fighting for his country. The colonial rulers' unsaturating hunger for more land by annexing Indian states or subjugating the native rulers through the Subsidiary System, had precipitated the crisis. Unlike the previous Muslim rulers the Turks, Afghanis and the Mughals, the British had not severed their links with their homeland. They had been ruling over India from London. It was for the first time in the Indian history that the country was being ruled through remote control. The company officials were appointed by the directors of East India Company in England. They obtained their orders in policy matters from them. They plundered the territories under their control and the looted wealth was sent to the British Isles. Never the Turks, Pathans or the Mughals exported India's raw material to Central Asia or Afghanistan, their original homeland, to import it later in the form of manufactured items to earn exorbitant profits. This exploitation had shattered Indian industry. The craftsmen, the traders, the manufacturers, all were economically ruined. They could not easily get raw material because it was being exported to Europe. They could not sell their manufactured items in the bazaars because they could not compete the British traders who controlled the Indian markets. The foreign rulers levied heavy taxes to discourage Indian manufacturing industry. This plundering had exasperated all sections of the society and they had been seething with an uncontrollable passion of rebellion. Shah Abdul Aziz was a teacher and preacher, a socio-religious reformer. He had been closely watching the fast changing political contour of the country. He knew well that the Mughal Empire had lived up to its normal life and now it was destined to die a natural death. But he was not prepared to accept the European traders as the rightful rulers of India.

 

Apart from capturing political power, the British had unleashed the Christian missionaries to proselytize Indians. They challenged the scholars of other faiths, particularly the Muslims to polemical bouts. They cast aspersions on Islam and the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Bible was translated into Urdu and other regional Indian languages and was being distributed gratis. The missionaries were particularly inducing the Muslim masses towards Christianity, as they knew that the Muslim being the people of the Book (Ahl-e-Kitab) like the Christians, had many things common in their belief. They venerate Christ and Mary. They recognize the Bible as one of the divinely revealed scriptures, so they could be easily seduced to embrace Trinity. Since the missionaries represented the dominating political power, they could use their temporal clout also.

 

The Muslims were thus faced with formidable challenges, political as well as spiritual. They had been defeated in the political field. But they were stronger and invincible in the spiritual ambit. Muslim theologians were alive to this challenge. Shah Abdul Aziz's younger brothers Shah Abdul Qadir and Shah Rafiuddin, the illustrious sons of Shah Waliallah, translated the Qur’an into Urdu, yet another epoch making achievement. The Persian translation of the Qur’an by Shah Waliallah had provided a free access to the meaning of the Divine Scripture to the scholars and the literate. Now the Muslim masses had an opportunity to understand what the Qur’an means and what it demands from the believers. Translating the Qur’an into Urdu was the most effective strategy to counter the attacks by the missionaries. Now a comparative study of the Qur’an and the Bible was not confined to the scholars only but even a layman who could read Urdu, was able to find out the difference between the two scriptures; one declaring in clear and unambiguous terms that Allah is one. He is absolute and eternal, neither He begets nor He was begotten. There is no one equal to Him. The plain and simple monotheism rejects all the beliefs and theories of more than one God. Trinity could not overwhelm monotheism. The Muslims who had been misled by the unscrupulous Sufis and obscurantist theologians to call the saints (Aulia) besides Allah, or beseech Allah through the deceased saints, were now more conversant with the pristine teachings of Islam and the meanings of monotheism. Shah Abdul Aziz had universalised the teachings of Hadith. Himself the greatest scholar of the subject, he taught Hadith in his Madarsa. Students from every nook and corner of the sub-continent, from Central Asia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China and other remote regions converged on him braving the hazards of the long journeys. Thousands of people attended his discourses. It was in fact a far-reaching policy based on prudence. He was aware of the fact that the so-called intellectuals, spiritual luminaries and the nobles of the Muslim community were nothing but deadwood. The gigantic problems faced by the community could only be solved by involving the masses. Spiritual regeneration was the first and the foremost stage of his multi-faceted strategy. Islamic renaissance as envisaged by his father, had to be materialized through mobilising the entire community. The enduring chaos of more than one century had a disastrous effect on the masses. A complete overhaul, spiritual and temperamental, was necessary to raise an army of disciplined and dedicated believers to challenge the colonial forces. He had revived the pristine spirit of Islam and the Muslims had awakened after a long slumber of negligence. Shah Abdul Aziz's nephew Shah Ismail, son of Shah Abdul Ghani (the youngest son of Shah Waliallah) was a prodigy, a versatile genius. He was an erudite scholar, a prolific writer, a great orator, a gallant soldier, a crusader against social and religious evils and an able military commander. He delivered his sermons in the market places, at the steps of Delhi's Jama Masjid and other places. He exhorted the people to adhere to the pristine teachings of Islam. He condemned heretic deeds and un-Islamic customs prevailing in the society. Celebrating death anniversaries of the saints, begging their mercy or invoking Allah's blessing through them, was un-Islamic and against the very spirit of the pristine monotheism of Islam. His book Taqwiatul Eiman' is the most important and the first in Urdu on this subject, which became the manifesto of the Wahhabi movement. So great an orator he was that he held his audience spellbound. His preaching aroused strong feelings among the masses to return to the pristine teachings of Islam. This infuriated the conservative circle of the degenerate Muslim society. The Sufis and theologians who were opposed to his reformative mission petitioned to the Mughal king. Shah Ismail was summoned to the royal court. He was however, able to convince the king of the objectives of his mission. Now the antagonists approached the British resident of Delhi and clamoured against Shah Ismail. They told him that if he was allowed to carry on his campaign, it might create serious law and order problem in the city. The resident prohibited his public discourses. Shah Ismail went to the resident and gave a detailed account of his activities and the positive results the campaign had produced. Since there was nothing objectionable in his activities, the resident revoked his earlier order and Shah Ismail again embarked on his mission. So eager he was in the dissemination of the message of reform and spiritual regeneration that he even went to the locality of the prostitutes. As almost all women in the immoral profession were Muslims, he delivered a sermon where in he warned them of the divine punishment they were liable to undergo for their depravity. Then he gave a horrifying account of the eternal torment in the world hereafter. So forceful was his description and so awe inspiring was the picture he painted that all the women wept bitterly and some of them even collapsed. Shah Ismail then changed the course of his discourse and described the superiority of repentance. Don't be dismayed of Allah's mercy. He is Forgiver. Merciful and Beneficent. He will forgive all the sins if one turns to Him in repentance. Now so appealing and soothing was his preaching that all the prostitutes repented there and then and vowed not to tread the path of perversion again. The young ladies got married and the old ones took to manual labour to earn their livelihood.

 

Once he was invited to the royal court by the Mughal king. He put forward the condition that he will not follow the customary practice of paying respect to the King but will greet him according to the Islamic way of salutation. The King conceded and he went to the riyal court and delivered his sermon there.

 

Shah Muhammad Ishaq, the grand son of Shah Abdul Aziz was also an erudite scholar who adorned the seat of his grandfather when he passed away in 1823 A.C. Shah Abdul Aziz admiring the erudition and merits of his nephew and the grandson, happily recited the Qur’an verse

(Praise be to the one who blessed me in my old age, with Ismail and Ishaq.)

 

Maulana Abdul Haie, son-in-law of Shah Abdul Aziz was also a reputed scholar. All these eminent theologians were the torchbearers of the revolutionary mission of Shah Waliallah.

 

When the British army entered Delhi in 1803 A.C., it was a formal proclamation of the end of the Mughal rule. The Muslims underwent a new mental torment. The fragile emotional link with the past glory that the Mughal rulers' existence in the Red Fort had been sustaining so far was now severed. liven the shrinking empire, which spread from 'Delhi to Palam' only, was now no more. Delhi the capital of India was still the seat of the Mughal emperors who once ruled the sub-continent. The East India Company had its headquarters at Calcutta and even after occupying the entire country, the capital, Delhi was not under their control, and they could not boast to be the rulers of India. But now the situation had changed altogether. The capital of India had been occupied by the enemy, the infidels, and with the fall of the capital, the whole country was deemed to have come under their occupation. The Muslim scholars were faced with the question as to whether India was a country of the enemy (Darul Harb)? There were conflicting views on the point. Those having sympathy with the British argued that the new rulers had not interfered in the religious affairs of the Muslims. The Muslims were free to offer their congregational prayers in the Masjids. Their madarsas had been functioning without any interference from the new rulers. Even the Mughal emperor had not been forced to abdicate. It was nothing but to circumvent the facts. Those who had an insight and understood the implications of the new dispensation, did not agree to it.

 

Shah Abdul Aziz was the most competent scholar to say a final word on this controversy. After considering the issue with circumspection, he issued the decree, defining the condition of Darul Harb, and leaving no doubt or ambiguity that India was no more a country of the Muslims (Darul Islam) after the political ascendancy of the Christians. This was the first ever fatwa against the colonial rule in India. The significance of this fatwa was that it gave an indirect call to the Indian Muslims to fight against the colonial occupation and get India liberated or migrate to any other independent Islamic country (1).

 

Shah Abdul Aziz's fatwa had made it absolutely clear that India was no more Darul Islam. In many cities the Muslims abolished the congregational Friday prayer under the edict of the jurists. In Calcutta two prominent Muslim theologians Maulvi Muhammad Wajid Al Quzat Fazlur Rehman abstained from offering the Friday prayer.

These were the circumstances when the cry of Jihad (fight to liberate the homeland) rent the air. Shah Ismail had already been preparing himself for this mission. He had excelled himself in archery, sharp shooting, swimming and horsemanship. His forefathers were not soldiers but great scholars as he himself was. But he was a born soldier, a warrior, a revolutionary to the core and also an ardent socio-religious reformer. He had done the spadework for the movement later to be known as the 'Wahhabi Movement'. Syed Ahmad of Rai Bareilly (1786-1831) belonged to a family of Sufis. He was not a scholar. He came to Delhi and took Bai'at at the land of Shah Abdul Aziz. But he was not interested in the studies and went to Tonk and joined as a soldier. The Nawab held him in esteem and valued his advice. He was more a spiritual guide than an army officer. He was against the British sovereignty over the state. But when the Nawab accepted the terms and signed an agreement with the British surrendering his independence, Syed Ahmad left service and went to Delhi in 1816. There he started his mission of spiritual guidance. Maulana Abdul Haie, son-in-law of Shah Abdul Aziz, and erudite scholar took Bar at at his hand. Then Shah Ismail and Shah Muhammad Ishaq nephew and grandson of Shah Abdul Aziz respectively took 8ai"at and were initiated into his order. The initiation of these eminent scholars and the scions of the illustrious family of Shah Wahiallah came as a great surprise to all. People were amazed to know that these towering personalities had taken the Bai'at ' °*-!J' of a person far inferior to them. However, Syed Ahmad was now recognised as the most eminent spiritual leader in Delhi. People came to him to be initiated into his order. But, he was not an orator. Shah Ismail and Maulana Abdul Haie accompanied him on his tours. They compiled his exhortations into a volume in Persian entitled "Sirat-e-Mustaqeem" (The right path).

 

In another fatwa Maulana Abdul Haie, candidly declared Calcutta (Bengal) as the country of enemy.

 

The empire of the Christians from Calcutta to Delhi and the countries adjacent to Hindustan proper (North west provinces) are the country of enemy (Darul Harb) for idolatry (Kufr and Shirk) is everywhere current and no recourse is made to our Holy Law. Whenever such circumstances exist in a country, the country is a Darul Harb. It is too long here to specify all conditions but the opinion of all lawyers agree in this that Calcutta and its dependencies are the country of the enemy. (p-105)

 

Next: Syed Ahmad

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