Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī: Defining Dār al-Islām and Dār al-Ḥarb

Some rulings of Islām change based on a person being in a Muslim-governed territory or “Dār al-Islām” or in a non-Muslim governed territory or “Dār al-Ḥarb”. What constitutes a Dār al-Islām or Dār al-Ḥarb is therefore a vitally important question of Fiqh.

In the context of British-rule in 19th century India, Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī* (1244-1323/1829-1905) provides a detailed answer to this question. There is in particular some misunderstanding over the position of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah. Hence, Mawlānā Gangohī outlines the principle used to designate a region as Dār al-Islām or Dār al-Ḥarb, clarifies the view of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah and then applies the principle to the context of British India.** A translation of his answer is provided below.

* Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī is known as Imām Rabbānī, the greatest spiritual guide, mentor, faqīh and muḥaddith amongst the senior founders of Deoband. He was born in Gangoh a city of Saharanpur district in 1829. His father, Mawlānā Hidāyat Aḥmad, was a scholar, scribe and ‘āmil, as well as a murīd and khalīfah of Shāh Ghulām ‘Alī Naqshbandī. Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī was a descendant of the famous ṣaḥābī, Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), from both his parents. On his father’s side, he was also a descendent of the famous saint, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Quddūs Gangohī. His father died when he was yet a child so his grandfather, Qāḍī Pīr Bakhsh, raised him. Even as a child he was particular about ṣalāh, which he would take care to perform in the masjid.

He began his formal education under Miyānjī Quṭb Bakhsh Gangohī, a relative on his grandmother’s side. He studied Farsi under his maternal uncle and future father-in-law, Mawlānā Muḥammad Taqī, and studied Arabic grammar under Mawlānā Muḥammad Bakhsh Rāmpūrī. Then, upon the advice of the latter, he travelled to Delhi in 1845 (aged 16) to further his education. However, a few years prior, the leaders of the Waliyullāh scholars of Delhi, Shāh Muḥammad Isḥāq, Shāh Muḥammad Ya‘qūb and others, had moved to the Ḥijāz. Thus, while in Delhi, Mawlānā Gangohī attended several circles of knowledge finding that none of them appealed to him. He then came to learn that Ustādh al-Kull Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī Nānotawī (1789 – 1851) had returned from Hijāz and brought a young relative of his (Mawlānā Muḥammad Qāsim Nānotawī) to Delhi to teach. Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī was an exceptional scholar and teacher, and a student of ‘Allāmah Rasḥid al-Dīn al-Dehlawī (d. 1827), the foremost teacher at Dehli in his time and successor to Shāh ‘Abdul ‘Azīz Dehlawī, Shāh ‘Abd al-Qādir and Shāh Rafī‘uddīn (the sons of Shāh Waliyyullāh).

Mawlānā Gangohī and Mawlānā Nānotawī (1833-1880) studied with Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī Nānotawī together, and completed all the formal sciences under him. It is reported that the two students would read complex texts like Mīr Zāhid, Qāḍī, adrā and Shams Bāzigha just as a ḥāfiẓ of Qur’ān reads his manzil to a teacher. When people supposed they were reading without understanding, Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī Nānotawī corrected them, explaining that no student under his tutelage can move ahead without understanding. (Tazkirat al-Rashīd, p. 28)

Mawlānā Gangohī then studied the rational sciences under Muftī Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Dehlawī (1790 – 1863), a student of Faḍl Imām al-Khayrābādī (author of al-Mirqāt on logic) and Shāh Rafī‘uddīn. He then studied ḥadīth under the muḥaddith, Shāh ‘Abdul Ghanī Naqshbandī (1820 – 1897), a descendent of Mujaddid Alf Thānī and a staunch adherent of Sunnah. Mawlānā Gangohī’s sanad in ḥadīth therefore goes through Shāh ‘Abdul Ghanī whose various chains are described in detail in al-Yāni‘ al-Janī. He also studied with the latter’s elder brother, Shaykh Aḥmad Sa‘īd. While at Delhi, Mawlānā Gangohī was very studious and spent very little time sleeping, eating and in other necessities (let alone in unnecessary activities).

He completed his formal education in 1850 (aged 21), upon which he returned to Gangoh where he married his cousin, Khadījah. He also memorised the Qur’ān shortly after returning from Delhi. While studying Sullam al-‘Ulūm with Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī at Delhi, Mawlānā Gangohī saw a simple man entering who was received by students and teacher alike. Mawlānā Gangohī remembers he was quite upset that the lesson for that day was cancelled because Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī insisted on hosting him. When Mawlānā Gangohī expressed his displeasure to his classmate (Mawlānā Nānotawī) the latter exclaimed: “Don’t say this, this is a great saint,” and expounded on his virtues. The guest was none other than Ḥajī Imdādullāh (1818 – 1899), the legendary spiritual master, trained by Shaykh Naṣīruddīn Dihlawī Naqshbandī and Miyānjī Nūr Muḥammad Chishtī. (Ḥajī Imdādullāh was also a relative of Mawlānā Nānotawī). Mawlānā Gangohī initially wished to take instruction from Shāh ‘Abdul Ghanī, but upon further experience with Ḥajī Imdādullāh was convinced to take the spiritual path under him. Thus, shortly after returning to Gangoh, Mawlānā Gangohī spent some time with Ḥajī Imdādullāh in the latter’s hometown, Thana Bhawan, and became one of his most renowned successors. Ḥajī Imdādullāh would say that Mawlānā Gangohī had surpassed him and he considers him to be the means of his salvation. He once told him: “Mawlawī Rashīd Aḥmad, whatever bounty Allāh Ta‘ālā had given me I have given to you – now it is your task to move forward.” (Tazkirat al-Rashīd, 1:50)

At Gangoh, Mawlānā Gangohī became occupied in teaching all subjects like Naḥw, Balāghah, Tafsīr and Ḥadīth. But from 1883 onwards (following his last Ḥajj), he taught only Ḥadīth, and would teach all the six books himself – beginning from Shawwāl and ending in Sha‘bān each year. He would spend his days in a very regimented way, engaged in dhikr, ‘ibādah, tilāwah, teaching, writing letters/fatwās and advising seekers (murīds).

Mawlānā Gangohī made three Ḥajj journeys, during which he spent time with Ḥajī Imdādullāh (who had moved to Makkah following the 1857 war) and Shāh ‘Abdul Ghanī al-Dehlawī (who had settled in Madīnah): in 1863, 1877 and 1882. The second Ḥajj was in the company of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotawī, Mawlānā Ya‘qūb Nānotawī (son of Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī and first head teacher of Deoband), Mawlānā Maẓhar Nānotawī (founder of Maẓāhir al-‘Ulūm) and other great personalities. Several miracles were witnessed on this journey. (Tārīkh Mashāyikh e Chisht, p. 266-7)

He passed away on a Friday in the year 1905, and his janāzah was led by Shaykh al-Hind Mawlānā Maḥmūd Ḥasan, one of his greatest khulafā. He was succeeded by many great and notable scholars/spiritual masters, most prominent amongst them Mawlānā Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūrī and Shaykh al-Hind. One of his well-known students Mawlānā Muḥammad Yaḥyā Kandhlewī (the father of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Mawlānā Muḥammad Zakariyyā Kandhlewī) transcribed his lectures on Tirmidhī and Bukhārī in Arabic, which were later published as al-Kawkab al-Durrī & Lāmi‘ al-Darārī. Details of his life, teachings and many accomplishments can be found in Tazkirat al-Rashīd.

** Muftī Muḥammad Shafī‘ was asked: “Is Hindustan Dār al-Ḥarb, Dār al-Islām or Dār al-Amān? Is Dār al-Amān a subset of Dār al-Ḥarb?” He responded: “At the present time, Hindustan according to our scholars is Dār al-Ḥarb. Although Dār al-Amān is not a subset of Dār al-Ḥarb, it is permissible to make a peace-agreement with those in Dār al-Ḥarb according to Sharī‘ah. In the case of a peace-agreement, maintaining peace would be necessary. Thus, if a Dār al-Ḥarb, at the time of a peace-agreement, is called ‘Dār al-Amān’, there is no problem.” (Imdād al-Muftīn, 2:745)

Zameelur Rahman

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