Anwar Shah Kashmiri
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Darul Uloom Deoband, India
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Sayyid Muḥammad Anwar Shāh ibn Mu‘az̤z̤am Shāh Kashmīrī (Urdu: سيد محمد انور شاه بن معظم شاه کشمیری; Arabic: سيد محمد أنور شاه بن معظم شاه الكشميري الهندي, Sayyid Muḥammad Anwar Shāh ibn Mu‘aẓẓam Shāh al-Kashmīrī al-Hindī; November 26, 1875 – May 28, 1933) was an Indian Islamic scholar. During his career, he taught at a number of prominent institutions, including the Darul Uloom Deoband which contains a gate named in his honor. He authored a numbers books on Islam, which were published in Arabic and Persian. He was also known for his photographic memory, where in books have written that his son says that if he was to read something briefly it would be stored in his memory for 30 years, whereas if he was to read something in detail he would remembered it for the rest of his life.
Personal life and education
Anwar Shah Kashmiri was a native of Kashmir. Shah Sahib was of a middle stature, having a fair complexion, handsome features and a wide forehead; and his eyes had a magnetic attraction.
He was born on 27th Shawwal, A. H. 1292/1875, in a respectable and learned Syed (masoodi) family. This family is considered most distinguished in knowledge and learning in the whole of Kashmir. At the age of four and a half years he started reading the Holy Quran under the instruction of his father, Maulana Syed Muazzam Ali Shah. Extraordinary geist and a matchless memory being inherent in him from his very childhood, he finished the reading of the Book of Allah and some elementary books of Persian in the brief span of one and a half years and engaged in the acquirement of the scholastic education. He was hardly fourteen years old when the unbounded passion for the pursuit of knowledge incited him to leave his native place. For nearly three years he lived in the Madrasah of Hazara and acquired ability in different arts and sciences but the fame of Deoband made him restless for further accomplishment.
Accordingly, in 1311/1893 he came to Deoband. Shaikhul Hind was then gracing the Darul Uloom through his guardianship and his knowledge. The teacher recognized the pupil and the pupil the teacher in the very first meeting. After the prescribed books he started reading the books of Hadith and Tafsir and within a few years he gained a distinguished position with fame and popularity in Darul Uloom. Then, in 1314/1896, having finished the higher books of Hadith, Tafsir and other arts, he went to attend upon Imam Rabbani Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and besides obtaining a Sanad (certificate) of Hadith, he also acquired esoteric knowledge.
After graduating from Darul Uloom he taught for some time in Madrasah Aminia, Delhi. In 1320/1903 he went to Kashmir. There, in his district, he opened a Madrasah named Faiz-e A'am. In 1323/1905 he went to perform Hajj. For some time he stayed in Hejaz where he availed himself of the opportunity of benefiting from the libraries. In 1327/1909 he came back to Deoband where Shaikhul Hind retained him. Till 1333, he went on teaching books of Hadith without taking any salary. In the end of 1333/1915 when Shaikhul Hind thought of going to Hejaz, he bestowed the honor of succeeding him to Anwar Shah. He thus graced the guardianship of Darul Uloom for nearly twelve years. Due to certain differences with the management of the Darul Uloom, he resigned from guardianship in 1346/1927 and went to the Madrasah of Dabhel in western India, where, till 1351/1932, he was busy in teaching Hadith. Raised in the Muslim faith, he left his family in 1887 and moved into the Madrasah in India. In 1889, he relocated to Deoband, where he studied at the Darul uloom. Since the Darul Uloom Deoband had no boarding facilities for students at the time, he resided in the Masjid Qaa mosque nearby, caretaking for his board. In 1894, he began studying Hadith, work he continued after graduation from the Darul Uloom in Gangoh.
The Great Muhadith
If Shaikhul Hind raised the repute of Darul Uloom in the four quarters of the globe, Imam al Muhaddithin Anwar Shah, graced the place of teaching in Darul Uloom, illuminated the world of Islam with the light of religious knowledge. In the science of Hadith he was a matchless traditionalist; in jurisprudential sciences, the greatest jurisprudent; if in conformance to the Shari'ah, he was a specimen of the ancient virtuous men, then in esoteric knowledge he was the Junaid of his time and the Shibli of the period. If his existence was the cause .of strength for the Shari'ah, it was a source of pride for the Mystic Path also. He had acquired the honor of khilafat from Imam Rabbani Rashid Ahmad Gangohi.
The Islamic world has produced very few such erudite and practical Ulama. If, on the one hand, Shah Sahib was incomparable in respect of erudition amongst his contemporaries, on the other, his person was peerless in abstinence and piety. He was a consummate commentator of the Quran, traditionalist and philosopher. The presence of even a single merit in man is not a small thing, whereas his "turban of proficiency" was beset with several rubies. The fact is that his being had caused a revolution in the world of academics. The large number of the thirsty seekers of knowledge who slaked their thirst from this "ocean of sciences" is sui generis. The flood of his academic benefaction was surging from the Middle East to China and thousand of students from India and outside India assuaged themselves from it. His disciples have fanned out in legions in undivided India, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Egypt, South Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia. During his stay in Darul Uloom, 809 students completed the Hadith Course.
From on high he had been endowed with such an incomparable retentive memory that let alone the topics and meanings, even passages with pages and lines from a book once seen would be remembered. Anything that entered his brain once through eyes or ears used to be retained and preserved forever, and during the course of a lecture he would go on giving references after references with ease. At the same time he was so much fond of reading that the treasures of all the sciences could not fill the extensive skirt of his search and assuage the thirst for knowledge. Due to his voracious, vast and versatile reading and power of memory he was as though a moving and talking library. Besides the Sihah Sitta, most books of Hadith were almost at the tip of his tongue. On being asked disquisition-demanding propositions in the search and research of which lifetimes pass away, he would answer the inquirer within a few minutes with such comprehensiveness that neither there would remain any doubt in the inquirer's mind nor would he have the need to look up in a book; furthermore, the pleasant thing was that even the titles of books with reference of their page numbers and lines were also shown. He used to speak off hand on every art and science as if all those subjects were ever present in his mind. During the course of a lecture he would go on giving innumerable references of books with utmost ease, so much so that even if there were five or ten scholiast of a book, he had by heart each passage along with its page number and line. The entire stock of Hadiths, prolix and extensive discussions regarding their soundness and unsoundness, and the ranks and positions of the narrators were on the tip of his tongue. Most manuscripts of famous libraries he had perused and they were present in his memory as if he had read them on the same day.
Then his reading was not limited to only religious sciences; on the contrary, whichever book he could lay hands on he would read it from alpha to omega at least once, and whenever any discussion started about it, he would describe the contents of the book in such a way with references that the audience used to be agape and astonished. Once a man presented the most difficult questions of the science of Jafar for solution. Shah Sahib, as usually with extempore answers, gave references of several books and told him to refer to such and such books.
Shah Sahib's memory was prodigious. Shaikh Ibn Humam's famous book, Fathul Qadeer, which is in eight bulky volumes, he had perused in such a way in twenty days that along with reading he was also summarizing its Kitabul Hajj in black and white and simultaneously was also writing answers to the objections Ibn Humam has raised against the author of the Hedaya. During the course of a lecture he once said that "I had read the Fathul Qadeer 26 years ago but, thank Allah, I have never needed so far to see it again and even today whichever topic and discussion I present, you will find very little variance if you refer to it".
This is only one incident; there are innumerable such incidents in his life.
It is also told about him that he had a Photographic memory.
In fine, as much service as he rendered to the sciences of Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh is sui generis. On many vexed questions he wrote books also. The comprehensiveness of the series of his lectures on Hadith can be estimated from the Faizul Bari, which is a long lecture on Sahih Bukhari and has been published in four bulky volumes. He had consummate skill in reasoning (darayat). Between two divergent and conflicting statements, by force of his own ratiocinative power, he used to give preference unhesitatingly to one over the other.
Besides the traditional and the rational sciences he commanded critical view of the science of Tasawwuf also. On Shah Sahib's death, Syed Sulaiman Nadwi had written in Ma'arif as under:
"His example was like that of an ocean the surface of which is calm and still but its bottom abounds with treasures of precious pearls. He was peerless in the period for his extensive Knowledge, the power of memory and the bulk, of memorised matter. He was a hafiz and discerner of the science of Hadith, high-ranking in the literary sciences, expert in the rational sciences, well-versed in poetry, and consummate in abstinence and piety; till his last breath this martyr of knowledge and gnosis kept raising the slogan of "Said Allah and said the Apostle".
Opinion of Different Ulama's About Kashmiri
In the commendation of Nafhatul Anbar Imam Al-Mujaddid Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi has remarked:
"According to me, among the many proofs of the truthfulness of Islam one is that of Hadhrat Maulana Anwar Shah's existence had there been any crookedness in Islam, Maulana Anwar Shah would have certainly renounced it".
On Hadhrat Shah Sahib's demise Shaykhul Islam Shabbir Ahmed Usmani had said in his condolatory speech that:
"Had any man of Egypt and Syria asked me if I had seen Hafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Shaikh Taqiuddin bin Daqiqul Id and Sultanul Ulema Shaikh Azzuddin bin Abdus Salam, then I could have said metaphorically: 'Yes, I have seen, because there is only precedence and subsequence of the period. Had Shah Sahib too been in the sixth or seventh century (hijri), he also would have been of their rank for being the owner of those peculiarities".
More than a dozen of his books in Arabic and Persian on different Islamic topics, consisting of extremely vexed questions, have already been published and many more are awaiting publication.
Shaykh Muhammad Yusuf Binnori, one of his extraordinary pupil has written in detail in Nafhatul Anbar about the particulars of Shah Sahib's life. This book is in Arabic. Another book is Hayat-e Anwar, in Urdu, and is a valuable collection of articles from different writers. AI-Anwar and Naqsh-e Dawam are also good biographies.
Later Life & Death
In 1933, Shah became ill and traveled to Deoband for medical care. He continued addressing students there until the day he died, 28 May 1933. On his request, his wife purchased an orchard which he had previously enjoyed visiting, and he was buried in a graveyard erected there, just opposite the Eidgah in Deoband. Subsequently, a room was constructed to house the cemetery's caretaker; this room is often incorrectly believed to have served as a study for Shah in his youth.
He began his career teaching at Madrasah Aminiyah in Delhi in 1897 before returning to Kashmir upon the death of his mother in 1901. There, he taught at the Madrasah Fay'm for three years before embarking on his Hajj to Mecca and Medina. The pilgrimage so inspired him that he determined to remain in Medina, but first determined to visit his Deoband instructor Mawlana Mahmood Hasan, who persuaded him to take a position teaching in Deoband. When Moulana Mahmood Hasan himself subsequently relocated to Medina in 1908, Shah was given his position teaching Hadith and became so known throughout India that he was respectfully dubbed Shaykh al-Hadith. For a time, he was head teacher of the school. He retained the position until 1927, when he departed along with many other teachers due to disagreement with management. Like some of the other expelled scholars, Shah felt that the school should focus primarily on religious education, remaining separate from the anti-colonial movement. After departing Deoband, Shah moved on to teach Hadith at the Madrash of Dabhel, drawing students internationally to that institution.
In 1929, the Majlis-i-Ὶlm educational academy was opened in Delhi primarily to publish Shah's writings on Islam. It remained operational until 1946. Among other topics, his books discussed Qur'an, metaphysics, the fundamental beliefs of Islam, Fiqh, zoology, politics. Shah also wrote poetry and often put his scholarly writings in that form. In addition to those works published in his lifetime and after, there were as of 2007 a number of articles and bookm manuscripts which had not yet seen print.
- Chishti, Aaliyah (2007). "Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri". In Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi. Challenges to religions and Islam: a study of Muslim movements, personalities, issues and trends. Sarup & Sons. pp. 922–944. ISBN 978-81-7625-732-9. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- Noor, Ahmad-Noor A.; Yoginder Sikand; Martin van Bruinessen (1 January 2008). The Madrasa in Asia: Political Activism and Transnational Linkages. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 978-90-5356-710-4.