Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi

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Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi
2nd Amir of Tablighi Jamaat
from 1944 to 1965
Preceded by Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalwi
Succeeded by Inamul Hasan Kandhlawi
Born 20 March 1917 (1335 Hijri year)
Died 1965 (1384 Hijri year)
Era 20th Century (modern era)
Occupation Islamic scholar
Religion Islam
Denomination Sunni
Jurisprudence Hanafi
Movement Deobandi
Main interest(s) Basic principles and practices of Islam, Dawah
Notable work(s) Spreading the word of Tablighi Jamaat all over the world (especially in the Indian subcontinent), Hayat Al-Sahabah, Muntakhab Ahadith, Six Points, Amani Al-Ahbar Fi Sharh Ma'ani Al-Athar
Alma mater Mazahir Uloom Saharanpur
Disciple of Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi

Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi (Arabic: مولانا محمد يوسف كاندهلوي ‎‎) also known as Hadhratji (1917–1965) was an Islamic scholar in pre/post-independence India, who became the second ameer of tablighi jamaat.[1]

Early life[edit]

He was born to a notable family of scholars and was exposed to an environment of piety at a young age. He memorized the Quran at the age of ten and continued to study Hadith and the Islamic sciences. He had a deep connection with the scholars of the time, and was himself recognized as one of the great scholars of the time. After his father, Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi died in 1944, he was appointed the 2nd Ameer of Tablighi Jamaat by the Shura (consultative body of religious leaders). He spent a lot of his time and effort in Tabligh as well as scholarly writings. His two most famous books are: Hayat Al-Sahabah ("The Prophet's Companions' Way of Life") and the four volumes of Amani Al-Ahbar Fi Sharh Ma'ani Al-Athar, which is an annotation of a major work by Imam Ahmad Al-Tahawi. He wrote the books Hayatus Sahabah and Muntakhab Ahadith. These books were recently discovered by Muhammad Saad from Yusuf's book library. Muhammad Yusuf died at the age of 48 in Lahore.[1][2]

Family lineage[edit]

The paternal and maternal families of Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi come together in Hakim Muhammad Sharif Khan who was a Sunni physician of some importance originally from Uzbekistan. He had migrated to India and was a physician to the Mughal emperors Shah Alam II (ruled 1759 – 1806) and possibly to his son Akbar II (ruled 1806 – 1837). Then the family traces their lineage back to the first caliph Ameer-ul-Momineen Caliph Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (573 – 22 August 634). These two families were residing in the villages of Kandhla and Jhinjhana in Uttar Pradesh, India. They were famous for their religiousness, knowledge and piety.[2]

Childhood and early education[edit]

Muhammad Yusuf was born in such an environment in which the attainment of piety was the purpose of the entire family. The whole family was ingrained with spirituality and nearness to Allah. It was a family of religious scholars, Huffaz (memorisers of Quran), and Sufis. Memorizing the Quran had been the common practice of all men and women of this family. The women of the house used to keep themselves busy in the recitation of the Quran, prayers, studying of religious books and remembrance of Allah.

As a young boy, Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi showed a promising future. Indeed, he completed the memorization of the Qur'an when he was only 10 years of age. He then completed his primary education and studied Hadith, starting with the six main authentic collections, under the supervision of his father. He then undertook a more specialized study of Hadith under the distinguished scholars of Mazahir Uloom Saharanpur, a specialized school which placed particular emphasis on the study of Hadith, and trained its students in the art of Islamic advocacy. During his attendance at this school, he particularly benefited from studying under the supervision of Sheikh Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi, one of the top scholars of Hadith in the Muslim world in the twentieth century. He graduated from this school at the age of 20, in 1936 (1355 AH).[3]

The training and education Yusuf had at his home was similar to the training of the Muslim women in the time of Prophet Muhammad. Each woman of that household was ready to give up her son in the service of Islam. The stories of the companions of Prophet Muhammad had replaced the fairy tales in those homes. The lesson of the heroic freedom movement of Syed Ahmad Barelvi Shaheed (1786 – 1831) and Shah Ismail Shaheed (1779 – 1831) had become so common in those homes, that when Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi wrote the detailed biography of Syed Ahmad Shaheed, Ilyas Kandhlawi did not find anything new in that biography.

Muhammad Yusuf memorized the Quran at the age of ten, from Hafiz Imam Khan Mewati. It was a blessing and a bounty of Allah on Yusuf that right from the very beginning, the elders of that time had great concern and interest in him. Syed Ahmad Faizabadi, the elder brother of Syed Husain Ahmad Madani, sent an honorary degree to Yusuf commemorating his memorization of the Quran.

Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, who was the Khalifah of Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and the teacher of Ilyas Kandhlawi and Zakariya Kandhlawi, had great affection for the young Yusuf Kandhlawi. Although, Yusuf was about ten years of age at the time of Saharanpuri’s death, they had still shared tremendous love among themselves. Yusuf would call Saharanpuri as “abba” (father in Urdu). One time, Yusuf had refused to eat bread cooked by the servant of Saharanpuri and insisted on eating bread baked by Saharanpuri himself. Saharanpuri then went in the kitchen and cooked the bread with his own hands and fed Yusuf with his own hands as well.

Dedication to Tableegh and Arabs[edit]

It was his father, Sheikh Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi, who established an organization dedicated to Islamic advocacy. Its members devote a good portion of their time to travel and educating Muslim people in their faith, trying also to explain Islam to others. This organization is well-known as Tableeghi Jamaat, or Jama’at Al-Tableegh, with members in many countries of the world. An important aspect of this organization is that it does not concern itself with politics in any way. It is dedicated to Islamic propagation and advocacy.

Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi began his scholarly career in teaching and writing. However, after consulting several scholars and figures of the Tableegh, his father entrusted to him the leadership of Tableegh as he could sense his own approaching death. Al-Kandhlawi dedicated himself to this task which practically filled every day of his life. He traveled all over the Indian subcontinent giving lectures and speeches and holding study circles advocating a return to the pure faith of Islam, which should be implemented in people’s lives.[4]

Al-Kandhlawi believed that the Arabs must always take the leading role in Islamic advocacy, because they were the people chosen by God for this task as He revealed His final message in their language. Therefore Yusuf Kandhlawi was keen to spread his efforts and the Tableeghi work to Arab countries.

He also realized that the best centers to spread this work were Makkah and Madinah, regularly visited by the pilgrims from all over the Muslim world.

Therefore, he gave particular attention to educating Indian and Pakistani pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia, speaking to them at the ports of Bombay and Karachi, before embarking on their journey.

He would teach them the proper way of performing their pilgrimage rituals, and educate them in the need for Islamic advocacy. Thus, he was able to form groups of advocates from the pilgrims. These groups undertook the task of speaking to other pilgrims in the Grand Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. This generated interest among pilgrims of other countries who approached al-Kandhlawi to send groups to their areas. He responded to their requests and the Tableegh work began to take roots in several Arab countries. "In the 20th century era, Tablighi Jamaat has been the most successful Muslim revivalist movement."[4]

Al-Kandhlawi traveled a great deal to promote the Tableegh work of Islamic advocacy. He made numerous trips to Pakistan where he held heavily-attended events, which contributed to the Tableegh organization taking strong roots in that country. His first pilgrimage was in the company of his father, before he took over the Tableegh. In his second pilgrimage, undertaken in 1954, in the company of Sheikh Husain Ahmad Madani, a famous Hadith scholar, he met many Saudi scholars and discussed with them the issues and problems of Islamic advocacy and propagation. He made his final pilgrimage one year before his death, in 1964, where he held an endless series of meetings with scholars from all over the Muslim world, and was keen to meet as many Saudi scholars as possible. [2]

Scholarly work[edit]

Despite his total dedication to the Tableegh work, which took much of his time, Al-Kandhlawi was able to write, and his writings reflect his broad knowledge, particularly in Hadith and the history of Prophet Muhammad and his companions. Two books feature more prominently among his writings. The first is Amani Al-Ahbar Fi Sharh Ma’ani Al-Athar, which is an annotation of a major work by Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tahawi, a famous Egyptian scholar who lived much earlier. The book is in four large volumes.

However, his book Hayat Al-Sahabah, which may be translated as "The Prophet's Companions' Way of Life", has earned wide acclaim and has become essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the Islamic way of life or to explain Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims. In this book, Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi collects reports mentioned in books of Hadith, history and biographies about Prophet Muhammad and his companions.

It highlights the aspects related to Islamic propagation and advocacy. It thus reflects life at the time of Muhammad's companions, and shows their manners, feelings and thoughts in different situations. The book was published in Arabic in three volumes many times over by different publishers. More recently, it has been published, with annotation, in four large volumes, with two introductions by two highly reputable scholars, Syed Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi, and Sheikh Abd Al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah. [2]


In 1965, Al-Kandhlawi made a long trip both to former East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (Pakistan), where he traveled throughout the country, giving a long series of lectures and speeches, and holding a continuous series of meetings, with people from all strata of Pakistani society. Although he was not feeling well at the start of his trip, he continued with his heavy schedule, paying little attention to his deteriorating health. On the final day of his trip, he was scheduled to give a major speech in Lahore, and although he was too ill to give such a speech, he felt that he could not let people down.

But the speech took its toll on his health. On finishing the speech, he was immediately taken to a hospital. But he died on his way there, at the age of 48. His body was airlifted at night to Delhi, where his funeral was attended by tens of thousands of mourners.[2]

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