Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi

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Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi
محمد الیاس کاندھلوی
Title Hazrat Ji
Born 1885/1886
Kandhla, North-Western Provinces, British India (in present-day Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died 13 July 1944
Nizamuddin, Delhi
Nationality Indian
Denomination Sunni Islam
Jurisprudence Hanafi
Movement Deobandi
Main interest(s) Dawah
Alma mater Darul Uloom Deoband
Sufi order Chishti (Sabiri-Imdadi)
Disciple of Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri
1st Amir of Tablighi Jamaat
Succeeded by Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi

Muḥammad Ilyās ibn Muḥammad Ismā‘īl Kāndhlawī Dihlawī (Urdu: محمد الیاس بن محمد اسماعیل کاندھلوی دہلوی‎) was an Indian Islamic scholar and Sufi who founded the Tablighi Jamaat Islamic revivalist movement.

Name and lineage[edit]

He was Muhammad Ilyas ibn Muhammad Ismail, Siddiqi by lineage, Kandhlawi (of Kandhla) by birth and origin, then Dihlawi (of Delhi).

His nasab (patronymic) is as follows: Maulāna Muḥammad Ilyās ibn Maulāna Muḥammad Ismā‘īl ibn Shaik͟h G͟hulām Ḥusain ibn Ḥakīm Karīm Bak͟hsh ibn Ḥakīm G͟hulām Muḥīyuddīn ibn Maulāna Muḥammad Sājid ibn Maulāna Muḥammad Faiẓ ibn Maulāna Ḥakīm Muḥammad Sharīf ibn Maulāna Ḥakīm Muḥammad Ashraf ibn Shaik͟h Jamāl Muḥammad Shāh ibn Shaik͟h Bāban Shāh (a.k.a. Shaik͟h Nūr Muḥammad[1]) ibn Shaik͟h Bahā’uddīn Shāh ibn Maulāna Shaik͟h Muḥammad ibn Shaik͟h Muḥammad Fāẓil ibn Shaik͟h Quṭb Shāh.[2]

His mother was Ṣafīyah bint Maulāna Ẓiyā’ul-Ḥasan ibn Maulāna Nūrul-Ḥasan ibn Maulāna Abul-Ḥasan ibn Muftī Ilāhī Bak͟hsh ibn Maulāna Shaik͟hul-Islām ibn Ḥakīm Quṭbuddīn ibn Ḥakīm ‘Abdul-Qādir ibn Maulāna Ḥakīm Muḥammad Sharīf.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Muhammad Ilyas was born in 1303 AH (1885/1886) in the village of Kandhla, Muzaffarnagar district, North-West Provinces, British India (in present-day Shamli district, Uttar Pradesh, India). His year of birth can be computed by the tarikhi (chronogrammatic) name "Akhtar Ilyas" (اختر الیاس) using abjad numerals.[2]

He was the son of Maulana Muhammad Ismail and his second wife, Safiyah. Ismail was originally from Jhanjhana. After the death of his first wife he married Safiyah, a descendant of Ilahi Bakhsh Kandhlawi (1748–1831). Both Siddiqi families of Kandhla and Jhanjhana shared the same ancestry and were known for their religiosity.[2]

Ilyas was born in the house of his maternal grandmother Amatur Rahman, daughter of Maulana Muzaffar Husain Kandhlawi (1805–1866). He had an older brother, Maulana Muhammad Yahya, and an older half-brother, Maulana Muhammad. His childhood was spent partly in the city of Nizamuddin[disambiguation needed], where his father, Muhammad Ismail, was an imam and religious teacher, and partly with his maternal grandmother's family in Kandhla. In a local maktab he memorized one and a quarter ajza' of the Qur'an, and he completed memorizing the Qur'an under his father in Nizamuddin. Thereafter, he studied the elementary books of Arabic and Persian language mostly under his father.[2]

At Nizamuddin, Ilyas's further education was being neglected due to the over-fondness and busy schedule of his father and Ilyas's own excessive occupation with prayers. Therefore, Ilyas's brother, Muhammad Yahya, requested that his father allow Ilyas to come with him to Gangoh, where Yahya lived with and studied under Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. Their father agreed, and Ilyas came to Gangoh in 1896 or early 1897, where Mohammad Yahya began to teach him regularly.

At the time Gangoh was a base of many Islamic scholars and Sufis. Muhammad Yahya wanted Ilyas to benefit from this spiritual environment. Often, when scholars that were former students or disciples of Gangohi would visit Gangoh, Muhammad Yahya would stop his lessons and instruct Ilyas to sit and listen to their conversation instead.

In Gangoh, Ilyas benefited from the company of Rashid Ahmad Gangohi as well. He requested to give bay`ah (an oath of allegiance to a Sufi teacher) at the hand of Gangohi. Although Gangohi did not usually take bay`ah from children and students, he made an exception due to the exceptional merit of Ilyas. Ilyas developed a strong attachment to Gangohi, who had great affection for Ilyas as well.

At one point, Ilyas's studies had to be suspended due to severe illness. He was anxious to begin studying again, but, due to his health, was not allowed. Eventually he succeeded in returning to his studies.

In 1905, the death of Rashid Ahmad Gangohi occurred, when Ilyas was 20. Ilyas was at Gangohi's bedside at the time, reciting Surat Ya Sin. The death of Gangohi greatly affected him. He said, "Two shocks have been most painful to me. One was of the death of my father, and the other, of the death of Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi."

After, the death of Gangohi, Ilyas generally remained silent and spent most of his time in meditation. Muhammad Zakariya Kandhalvi said, "We studied elementary Persian from him those days. His practice, then, was that he sat cross legged, and in utter silence, on a coarse mat behind the tomb of Shah Abdul Quddus. We presented ourselves for the lesson, opened the book, and placed it before him, indicating with the finger where we were to begin from on that day. We would read aloud and translate the Persian verses. When we made a mistake, he would shut the book with a movement of the finger, and the lesson came to an end. It meant that we were to go back, prepare the lesson thoroughly, and, then, come again ... He used to offer nafl prayers much and often at that time. From maghrib till a little before isha', he devoted himself exclusively to nafl prayers. His age, then, was between 20 and 25 years."

In 1908, Ilyas enrolled in Darul Uloom Deoband. There he studied the Qur'an, hadith, Islamic jurisprudence, and other Islamic subjects under notable Deobandi scholars, including Ashraf Ali Thanwi, Shah Abdur Rahim Raipuri, and Mahmudu'l-Hasan Deobandi. He studied the hadith collections Sahih al-Bukhari and Jami`at-Tirmidhi under Mahmudu'l-Hasan, on whose hand Ilyas took an oath of jihad against the British. Mahmudu'l-Hasan also advised Ilyas to approach Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, a disciple of Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, for bay`ah since Gangohi had died. Thus, under Saharanpuri’s supervision, Ilyas would complete the various stages of sulook in Saharanpur.

Foundation of Tablighi Jamaat[edit]

Ilyas al-Kandhlawi became aware of the condition of Muslims in Mewat and their deviation from the tenets of Islam. Even non-Muslim historians have commented at length on their estrangement with Islam, as the following extract from the Alwar Gazetteer of 1878, written by Major Powlett, will show: “All the Meos are, now, Muslims, but only in name. Their village deities are the same as those of the Hindu landlords, and they celebrate several Hindu festivals. Holi is a season of special rejoicing among the Mewatis and they observe it like their own festivals, such as, Moharrum, ‘Id and Shab-i-Barat. The same is the case with Janam Ashtami, Dussehra and Diwali, The Meos engage the services of the Brahmins to fix the dates of marriages. They have Hindu names, with the exception of the word ‘Ram’, and their last name, often, is ‘Singh’, though not as frequently as ‘Khan’. Like Ahirs and Gujars, the Mewatis, too, observe Amawas as a holiday on which they abstain from work. When they build a well, they begin with the construction of a parapet in the name of Beeriyi or Hanuman, but when it comes to pillage, they do not show much reverence to the Hindu temples and other places of religious significance. If, on such an occasion, their attention is drawn to the sanctity of these establishments, they, unhesitatingly, says, ‘You are "Does" and we are "Meos".’ Meos are, largely, ignorant of their faith, i. e., Islam. Very few of them know the Kalima,’ and fewer still observe Namaz regularly. About the hours and rules of namaz, their ignorance is complete. This is the state of the Meos of Alwar. In the British territory of Gurgaon, the position is a little better because of the Madrassas. In some parts of Alwar, also, where the mosques have been built, the religious duties are observed to some extent. A few of them know the Kalima and offer up namaz and an attachment for the Madrassas, also, is found among them. As we have seen earlier, the initial ceremonies of marriage are performed by the Brahmins, but the real ceremony (of nikah) is performed by the Qazi. Men wear dhoti and loin-cloth. The pajamas are not worn at all. Their dress, thus, is wholly Hinduised. Even ornaments of gold are worn by men.” [3]

In the early 1920s, he prepared a team of young madrasah graduates from Deoband and Saharanpur and sent them to Mewat to establish a network of mosques and Islamic schools throughout the region.

He did not assign any name to this movement because his point of view was that, it is the duty of each and every Muslim of the world to give dawah (missionary efforts). He once said that if he had to attribute a name to his movement, it would have been Tehreek-e-Iman ("Iman movement"). The people of South Asia started calling the devotees Tableeghi. The new movement met with dramatic success in relatively short period of time, due to Ilyas' efforts. As a result many Muslims joined Ilyas’s movement to preach in every town and village of Mewat. When the first Tablighi conference was held in November 1941 in Mewat it was attended by 25,000 people, many of them had walked on foot for ten to fifteen miles to attend the conference.[citation needed]

Ilyas's followers note his dedication to dawah over all other priorities, noting an anecdote that, when visited on his deathbed by a friend, he said to him: “People out there are burning in the fire of ignorance and you are wasting your time here inquiring after my health!”[4]

Views and ideas[edit]

Replying to the question raised, viz. "Why are Muslims not granted rulership and leadership in the world?" he replied: "When we do not fulfill the commandments of Allah and refrain from the forbidden in our personal lives over which we have full control and there is no obstacle or compulsion, then how is it possible that we be entrusted with the governing of this world. It is only through the decision of Allah that the believers may be granted government on the earth so that they may seek His pleasure and establish His laws in this world. Now, when we are not doing this in the sphere of our own choice (in our individual lives), how can it be expected, when tomorrow we are given the reins of government. we shall do so?" [5]

Jannah (Paradise) is the reward of rights, i.e. one must forgo ones' rights and comforts for the sake of Allah and bear difficulties in order to fulfill the rights of others (which also include the rights of Allah). The reward for this is Jannah.[5]

The real zikr (remembrance) is that in whichever condition, place or activity a person finds himself in, he should be aware of and fulfill the relevant commandments of Allah connected therewith. I advise my friends with the same zikr putting greater emphasis on it.[5]

People have given lesser importance to their servitude (to the Creator) than their servitude and service to man. The slaves and servants of man are generally fully devoted to their employers to do the work they consider as their duty. Under the employers' instruction they run to and fro, not even concerned about their meals - whatever little comes to hand is consumed. However, when it comes to man serving his Creator, then it is based on convenience. Most of the time he will be indulging in his own desires and sometimes he takes out time to do some work for Allah. For example, he may perform salaat and give some money in charity or do some other religious work. He now believes that he has fulfilled his duty to his Creator. The real service to Allah is a continuous and fundamental one - a person should always be serving his Master. It should only be a necessity and not the object to satisfy his thirst, hunger and other needs. (This does not mean that everyone should give up their means of livelihood but the object should be that whatever one engages in, should be for the sake of Allah and for serving His Deen. As far as one's eating and drinking is concerned, these should be of a mere incidental nature (by the way) just as an employee will be doing all this while his main interest will be to do his employer's work).[5]

One day in his dua he said: "O Allah! On account of the unbelievers being Your creation, they deserve our compassion and mercy. Hence make us fulfill their rights while simultaneously make our hearts completely averse to their disbelief." [5]

Man's nature inclines faster towards despair. This is so because when one becomes despondent, he no longer regards himself responsible for making efforts and therefore remains idle. Understand it well that this is the trap of the shaytaan and nafs. To become despondent on account of lack of means and resources is a sign that you have become worshipers of these resources and that your faith in the promise of Allah and His unseen power is but little. Depending entirely upon Allah and with courage rise to the occasion and Allah will prepare the means otherwise, what can man accomplish by himself? Effort and struggle according to our full capacity is a precondition.[5]

Every part and even the end of our actions should be accompanied by acknowledgement of its shortcomings and the fear of it being rejected. i.e. every good deed by nature should be done as best as possible but in the end it should be realized that Allah's rights could not be fulfilled as they ought to be. Moreover there should be fear and anxiety in the heart that because there may be shortcomings and corruption in our efforts, they may be rejected and thrown on our faces on the Day of Qiyamat. Thus on account of this apprehension, fear and anxiety. we should cry in front of Allah repeatedly seeking His forgiveness.[5]

The owner and editor of "Al Hilal", a daily newspaper in Urdu, Hafiz Ali Bahadur Khan B.A., visited Hazrat on one occasion just before his demise, who, in spite of his extreme weakness and inability, spoke to him for about half an hour. He was very much impressed by this discussion and after reaching Bombay, in a few editions wrote about his impressions of Ilyas al-Kandhlawi's personality and significance of the work in such a way which until now was not expected to be acknowledged by any editor or leader. I received that copy of "Al Hilal" from somewhere and having read Hafiz's article, I became very happy and intended to read it to Hazrat. I took that paper with me hoping that on some appropriate occasion, I may attend to him and having seen the paper in my hand, he might himself inquire what was in my hand. I would then reply and have the opportunity to read the article to him. Contrary to hope and expectations, Hazrat did not inquire about it. After a long time I could not restrain myself and said to him: "Hazrat! On one occasion, Hafiz Ali Bahadur from Bombay came here and all thanks to Allah, he was greatly impressed. He wrote a few articles concerning our work in which he acknowledged its greatness and importance from which it is manifest that he understood it well. If permitted, I would read some of it to you."

He replied: "Molvi Sahib! What is the use of speaking about that work which was accomplished. We must see how much is still left of the work that has to be done. We must look into the shortcoming of what has been done. To what extent were there deficiencies and sincerity and how far have we lacked in having the greatness of Allah's order in mind. How much have we failed to adopt the example of our Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and in our search into the manners of practice. Molvi Sahib! To be happy at looking back without taking stock bf the above is just like a traveler who becomes happy looking back at the distance covered. Looking back should only be for the purpose of finding out shortcomings and to acquire the way to remedy them in future and to see what has to be done in the future. Don't look back at one who has understood our work and acknowledged it. Look at how many hundreds or thousands there are to whom we have not delivered Allah's words as yet and as to how many there are who, in spite of being informed and having acknowledged our work, are not taking part because of the lack of effort on our part.[5]

Advice to Dawah workers[edit]

Our workers must remember well that if their da'wah (invitation) is not accepted and instead they are insulted. They should not become despondent and frustrated. On such an occasion they should remember that this was the sunnah (established way) and heritage of the Ambiya (alayhimus salaam), especially that of our Nabi. Where does everyone get the good fortune of being belittled and degraded in the path of Allah? And wherever they are welcomed and honoured, they should appreciate this and when people listen with enthusiasm to their talks it must be considered a favour from Allah and at no time should they be indifferent to these favours. It should be considered a great favour to serve and teach these people even if they may be considered to be of the lower classes. In the Quran, we are reminded of this in the ayat:

He fumed and turned away, when the blind approached him for guidance.

At the same time one must keep a check on the deception of one's own nafs. The nafs should not consider this acceptance as its own perfection. This may lead to the fitnah (corruption) of hero worship. Therefore one should always be on one's guard.[5]

It is indeed a wrong concept that when others accept our invitation, we take it to be our success and if they do not, we consider it to be our failure. To have this idea is absolutely wrong in this path. The acceptance or rejection of the audience is their act. How can we be successful or unsuccessful by the responses of our audience. Our success is in fulfilling our task. If the audience do not accept our message, it is their failure. Why should their rejection be regarded as our failure? People have erred by regarding hidayat (guidance) as their responsibility whereas this is really the work of Allah. Our duty is only to make effort to the best of our ability. To give guidance was not even the responsibility of the Ambiya (alayhimus salaam). Of course we should take a lesson from the failure of people when they refuse to respond; that there is something lacking in our efforts and we should try to improve in the future and the same time increase our du'aas in quantity and quality.[5]

Our workers in general, wherever they go, should make efforts to visit the righteous Ulema and pious persons. The intention should only be to benefit from them and not to invite them to this work. These people are well versed and have experienced the advantages of the Deeni work they are busy with, hence you will not be able to convince them in a wholesome way that this work is of greater benefit than their other Deeni engrossments.The outcome will be that they will not accept your explanation. Once they say "NO" it will be difficult to change this "NO" to "YES". Your talk will not be heard and it is possible that you yourself will become uncertain. Therefore meet them only to gain benefit from their auspicious company. In their locality every effort should be made to stick closely to the principles of the work. In this way it is hoped that the reports of the progress of your work will reach them and draw their attention. Thereafter, if they do pay attention, you should request them to patronise and supervise you and with due reverence and respect explain the work to them.[5]

Letters from the merchants of Delhi should be sent with the jamaats which go to Saharanpur, Deoband, etc. for tabligh wherein the Ulama should be informed with utmost respect that these groups are being sent to make tabligh to the public. The Ulama should be informed that their time is very precious and if they could spare some of their time to patronise these jamaats without sacrificing their time from their official duties or that of the students, they should do so. The students should only spend time under the supervision of their teachers. Without the surveillance of their teachers, students should not be allowed to take part in this work. The jamaats should also be instructed that if the Ulama do not pay full attention, they should not criticize the Ulama in their hearts but realise that the Ulama are doing more important work than them. They are busy in Deeni academic work at night also while others are sleeping in comfort. We should blame ourselves for their lack of attention because we did not visit them enough. They are paying more attention to those who have resolved to stay in their company for several years. He then continued: Even to entertain a bad thought about another Muslim can be the cause of destruction, so to criticise the Ulama is extremely dangerous. Then again he said: The basis of our method of tabligh is to respect every Muslim and to honour the Ulama. Every Muslim. on account of Islam, should be respected, and the Ulama, on account of their knowledge, should be honoured. Then he said: Until now, our muballighs have not yet mastered ilm and zikr (knowledge and the remembrance of Allah) and this is of great concern to me. The only method is to go to the possessors of ilm and zikr so that they may do tabligh under their patronage benefiting from their knowledge and company.[5]

If one Muslim loves another for the sake of Allah or another Muslim loves him sincerely for the sake of Allah, then this love and good thought will be a great treasure in the hereafter. Those Muslims who have love for me, I hope that, Insha-Allah (if Allah wills), Allah will keep my faults covered in the hereafter. To have faith in our empty-handedness is success in itself. None will be successful because of his actions. Only by the Grace of Allah can success be acquired. Rasulullah (Sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) has said, "None will enter jannat through his actions. The Sahabah (Radhiallahu anhum) asked, "Not even you, O Rasulullah!." He replied, "Not even me except that Allah covers me with His Mercy." After relating this Hadith, Maulana started crying and caused others to cry.[5]

"If any one feels himself to be unfit for this work of tabligh, it does not mean that he must sit down. By no means, should this be so. In fact he should make an even greater effort to take part and make others do the same. In some cases, by the continuous efforts of a few incompetent people, good reaches the competent people and flowers into full bloom and according to the Hadeeth, those incompetent people receive the full rewards. "Whoever invites to good will receive its rewards and the reward of those who act accordingly. And the one who introduces a good practice in Islam will have its reward and the reward of those who practice I accordingly." (Hadeeth) So he who is unfit must strive even more. Considering myself to be unfit, I am also engrossed in this work with the hope that by my efforts, the work will reach some competent person and then Allah will bestow upon me also those high rewards for this work.[5]



  1. ^ a b Muḥammad S̱ānī Ḥasanī. سوانح حضرت مولانا محمد یوسف کاندھلوی / Sawāniḥ-i Ḥaẓrat Maulānā Muḥammad Yūsuf Kāndhlawī. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Sayyid Abul-Ḥasan ‘Alī Nadwī (n.d.) [First published c. 1947]. حضرت مولانا محمد الیاس اور ان کی دینی دعوت / Ḥaẓrat Maulānā Muḥammad Ilyās aur un kī dīnī da‘wat (in Urdu). Rā’ewind [Raiwind]: Maktabah Maḥmūdīyah. 
  3. ^ "Hazratjee Maulana Ilyas; First Ameer of Tableeghi Jamaat (RA)". 1912-10-17. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  4. ^ "The Tablighi Jamaat Movement". Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Discourses of Maulana Ilyas" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-10-27. 

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