Spiritual Connection between the Awliyā’ of Deoband and ‘Allāmah Ibn ‘Ᾱbidīn al-Shāmī

The great recent Ḥanafī jurist of Shām, ‘Allāmah Ibn ‘Ᾱbidīn (1783 – 1836), was connected to the Naqshbandī spiritual line via his teacher, Mawlānā Khālid al-Naqshbandī, a Kurdish-Damascene spiritual master. Mawlānā Khālid al-Naqshbandī (1779 – 1827 CE) spent some time in India where he became a disciple and successor (khalīfah) of Shaykh Ghulām ‘Alī al-Dehlawī (1743 – 1824 CE), the foremost successor of Mirzā Maẓhar Jān-e-Jān (1701 – 1781), whose spiritual chain reaches Mujaddid Alf-e-Thānī. (Shaykh Ghulām ‘Alī al-Dehlawī is also known as Shaykh ‘Abdullāh al-Dehlawī). Ibn ‘Ᾱbidīn describes Mawlānā Khālid al-Naqshbandī as “the unique imām, the noble, committed and matchless scholar, Ḥaḍrat Sayyidī Shaykh Khālid, who has spent his efforts in benefitting [Allāh’s] slaves, and guiding them towards holding fast to the profession of Tawḥīd, such that he became the pivot (quṭb) of the gnostics in all places and the absolute refuge of the aspirants (murīdīn), and the clear and manifest Naqshbandī Ṭarīqah became famous through him in all Islāmic lands…” (Majmū‘ah Rasā’il Ibn ‘Ᾱbidīn, 2:284)

The father of Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī (1829 – 1905) –  the spiritual and scholarly fountainhead of Deoband –, Mawlānā Hidāyat ‘Alī (d. 1836), was, like Mawlānā Khālid al-Naqshbandī, a disciple and spiritual successor (khalīfah) of Shaykh Ghulām ‘Alī. (Tazkirat al-Rashīd, 1:17)

Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotawī (1833 – 1880) and their peers studied ḥadīth under Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī al-Dehlawī (1820 – 1897 CE). Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī al-Dehlawī was a direct descendent of Mujaddid Alf-e-Thānī, and his spiritual teacher was his father, Shaykh Abū Sa‘īd al-Dehlawī (1782 – 1835), who was recognised as the foremost disciple and successor of Shaykh Ghulām ‘Alī. Mawlānā Gangohī also studied under Mawlānā Aḥmad Sa‘īd al-Dehlawī (1802 – 1860), the elder brother of Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī, and the foremost spiritual successor of their father.

Mawlānā Gangohī had reverence for all his teachers – like Mawlānā Mamlūk al-‘Alī al-Nānotawī (1789 – 1851), Muftī Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Dehlawī (1790 – 1863), Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī and Shaykh Aḥmad Sa‘īd – and would at times break into tears when remembering them. However, he felt most attached to Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī. Shaykh Aḥmad Sa‘īd was more emotionally and spiritually overcome (maghlūb al-ḥāl), while Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī was a man of caution, piety and simplicity. (Tazkirat al-Rashīd, 1:33) Mawlānā Gangohī’s initial inclination was to take Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī as his spiritual teacher (shaykh), but eventually decided upon the famous spiritual master, Imdādullāh Muhājir al-Makkī (1818 – 1899), who was a relative of Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotawī. (Tazkirat al-Rashīd, 1:42)

The second chancellor of Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband (after Ḥājī ‘Ᾱbid Ḥusayn), Mawlānā Rafī‘ al-Dīn Deobandī (d. 1890), was spiritual successor (khalīfah) of Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī al-Dehlawī. The first grand muftī of Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband, Mawlānā ‘Azīz al-Raḥmān Deobandī (1859 – 1928), was spiritual successor of Mawlānā Rafī‘ al-Dīn. From all his students, Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī al-Dehlawī felt most attached to Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānotawī and Mawlānā Rafī‘ al-Dīn Deobandī. (Tazkirat al-Rashīd, 1:30)

Zameelur Rahman

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