The Distinction of Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband

Muftī Muḥammd Shafī‘ (1897 – 1976) narrates the following statement from his father, Mawlānā Muḥammad Yāsīn Deobandī (1865 – 1936) [1], about his experience at Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband in the late 19th century:

“I witnessed such a period at Dārul ‘Ulūm [Deoband] when, from the headmaster to the lowest teacher, from the chancellor to the caretaker and servant, all were great possessors of a permanent bond [with Allāh] (ṣāḥib-e-nisbat) and friends of Allāh (awliyā’ullāh). At that time, Dārul ‘Ulūm felt like an institute of learning in the daytime and a Khānqāh in the evening. The sound of remembrance and recitation [of Qur’ān] could be heard from most rooms until the end of the night. This, in reality, was Dārul ‘Ulūm’s mark of distinction – which made it stand out from all the madrasas in the world.” (Mere Wālid e Mājid, Idārat al-Ma‘ārif, p. 62) [2]

[1] Mawlānā Muḥammad Yāsīn Deobandī, a descendent of the great and noble ṣaḥābī, ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), was born in Deoband, one year before the founding of Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband. His great-grandfather, Ḥāfiẓ Karīmullāh, had moved to Deoband some hundred years previously. He studied at Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband and then served as teacher of Farsi and Arabic for over forty years at the Dārul ‘Ulūm. His teachers include Mullā Maḥmūd (the first teacher at Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband and student of Shaykh ‘Abdul Ghanī Dehlawī), Mawlānā Muḥammad Ya‘qūb Nānotawī (Deoband’s first headteacher), Sayyid Aḥmad ‘Alī Dehlawī (under whom he studied the rational sciences) and Shaykh al-Hind Mawlānā Maḥmūd al-Ḥasan Deobandī. His students include some of the famous early graduates of Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband, like ‘Allāmah Shabbīr Aḥmad al-‘Uthmānī (1885 – 1949) and Sayyid Aṣghar Ḥusayn Deobandī (1877 – 1945). He was most influenced by the teachings of Mawlānā Muḥammad Ya‘qūb Nānotawī (1833 – 1884) and the spiritual guidance of Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī (1829 – 1905), and was very attached to the latter. For details on his life, see Muftī Muḥammd Shafī‘’s Mere Wālid e Mājid.

[2] Sayyid Aṣghar Ḥusayn Deobandī (1877 – 1945), one of Shaykh al-Hind’s most prominent students and a saintly and respected teacher at the Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband, explains: “The best generation of Dārul ‘Ulūm Deoband was the era of Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muḥammad Qāsim Nānotawī Ṣāḥib (Allāh have mercy on him) and his peers. In this blessed era, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Rasḥid Aḥmad Ṣāḥib, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Aḥmad ‘Alī Ṣāḥib, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muḥammad Maẓhar Ṣāḥib, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muḥammad Ya‘qūb Ṣāḥib and Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Rafī‘ al-Dīn Ṣāḥib, men of sanctity and accomplishment, were present, and the spirit of Dārul ‘Ulūm kept on moving forward from their effusions and blessings. By divine decree, according to the prophecy of the truthful and trusted [Prophet] (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), ‘Knowledge will not be taken by snatching [it from people’s hearts] but knowledge will be taken by taking [the lives of] the ‘ulamā’,’, this generation little by little, started to leave this world, and one after another, all peers came to an end, and the second generation arose for the guidance of Allāh’s creation and to support and move the Dārul ‘Ulūm forward. Allāh (Exalted is He) made Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Maḥmūd Ḥasan Ṣāḥib Shaykh al-Hind, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Khalīl Aḥmad Ṣāḥib, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Raḥīm Ṣāḥib Rāipūrī, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Ṣiddīq Aḥmad Ṣāḥib, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Ḥāfiẓ Aḥmad Ṣāḥib, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muftī ‘Azīz al-Raḥmān Ṣāḥib, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Ḥabīb al-Raḥmān Ṣāḥib and others, Allāh have mercy on them, and Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Ṣāḥib, may his blessings remain, a means of guidance for creation and the advancement of the Dārul ‘Ulūm. By demand of divine decree and will, this generation too, having completed their given tasks, have started to leave at their appointed terms.” (Quoted in Mere Wālid e Mājid, p. 22-3)

Zameelur Rahman

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