Ahmad Raza Khan of Bareilly There is no dearth of such versatile personalities who have benefited the world with their knowledge, wisdom, innovative ideas, intelligence and insight. Imam Ahmad Raza Khan was one of such illustrious personalities of Islam. He was born in Bareilly (India) on 14 June 1856 (10 Shawwal 1272). His forefather, Saeed Ullah Khan, migrated along with King Nadir Shah from Qandhar, a city ofAfghanistan, to India and settled in Delhi in the seventeenth century during the period of Mughal Emperor Sultan Mohammad Shah. They occupied high offices under the Mughal Empero-rs but later generations took to religious devotion and spiritual mediation. Traveling from Lahore to Delhi, they finally settled in Bareilly, a town in North India, in the present state of U.P. (Utter Pardesh).
Both his grandfather Maulana Raza Ali Khan (d. 1282/1866) and father, Maulana Naqi Ali Khan (d. 1297/1880) were among renowned and distinguished ulema and Sufis of their times. Maulana Naqi Ali wrote more than thirty books. One can imagine the magnitude of his knowledge from a single fact that one of his treatises, a commentary of a short Quranic Sura (chapter), is spread over more then four hundred pages.
One is surprised and left only to praise Allah Almighty when one learns that Imam Ahmad Raza had completed his academic curriculum when he was of 13 years 10 months and 5 days of age. A savant and omniscient of his caliber is difficult to match. He acquired his education mostly from his learned father but later also obtained certificate of authority in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and Hadith from the following renowned scholars and ulema: Syed Shah Al-e Rasul of Marehra (d. 1296 /1879), Shaikh Syed Ahmad Zaini Dahlan Shafai Makki (d. 1299/1881), Shaikh Abdur Rahman Siraj Makki (d. 1301/1883), Shaikh Husain bin Saleh Makki (d. 1302/1884) and Shah Abul Husain Ahmad Nuri Mian (d. 1324/1906). His certification of authority in the field of Hadith con-tains the names of great scholars such as: Shah Wali Ullah Dehlvi (d. 1174 /1762), Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlvi (d. 1239/1824), Maulana Abdul Ali Farangi Mahali (d. 1235/1820) and Shaikh Abid Sindhi Madani (d. 1257 /1841).
On the counseling of Maulana Abdul Qadir Badayuni, Imam Ahmad Raza along with his father visited Shah Al-e Rasul of Khanqah-e Barkatia, Marehra District Etah, UP India. He was initiated into Qadiri sufi order by Shah Al-e Rasul and was also immediately appointed as one of the deputies (khalifa) of his spiritual director. He was also authorized to initiate the seekers of spirituality in thirteen other sufi orders.
Imam Ahmad Raza Khan wrote on variety of subjects which have been classified under more than fifty distinct branches of Science and Art. The numbers of his books treatises, notations and explanatory commentaries have been estimated to be over a thousand, many of which (about more than one third) still remain unpublished. Following scholars have tried to compile the list of his books at different stages of time after his demise: Allama Zafar ud-Din Bihari (d. 1382/1962), Professor Dr. Muhammad Masud Ahmad, Syed Riasat Ali Qadiri (d. 1413/1992),
1. Zafar ud-Din Razavi, Maulana, Hayat-e Alahazrat (1938), vol. 1, Karachi: Maktaba-e Razavia, 1955, p. 1.
2. Zafar ud-Din Razavi, Hayat-e Alahazrat (1938), p. 2.
3. Zafar ud-Din Razavi, Hayat-e Alahazrat (1938), pp. 5–6; Muhammad Masud Ahmad, Dr., Hayat-e Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi, Karachi, 1999; Maulana Rahman Ali, Tazkira-e Ulama-e Hind, Persian, 1913.
4. Imam Ahmad Raza, Al-Ijazat-ur Ridavia li Mabjal-e Bakkat-ul Bahia (1323), printed in Risail-e Razavia, vol. 2, Lahore: Maktaba-e Hamidia, 1976, p. 305.
6. Imam Ahamd Raza, Al-Ijazat-ul Matina li Ulama-e Bakka wal Madina (1324), printed in Risail-e Razavia, vol. 2, Lahore: Maktaba-e Hamidia, 1976, p. 347; Maulana Abdul Hay Lucknawi, Nuzhat-ul Khawatir, vol. 8, Hyderabad Deccan, 1390/1970, p. 38.
7. Abdul Mujtaba Razavi, Maulana, Tazkira-e Mashaikh-e Qadiria Razavia, Banaras: Academy Mashaikh-e Qadiria Razavia, 1989, p. 399.
8. Imam Ahmad Raza, Al-Ijazat-ur Ridavia li Mabjal-e Bakkat-ul Bahia (1323), p. 301.
9. Allama Sharif-ul Haq (d.1420/2000) told me this in a gathering at Marehra in October 1999.
10. Muhammad Masud Ahmad, Dr., Imam Ahmad Raza: reflections and impressions, Mauritius: Sunni Razvi Society, p. 40.
11. Maulana Abdul Hay Lucknawi, Nuzhat-ul Khawatir, vol. 8, p. 39–41.
12. Muhammad Masud Ahmad, Dr., Hayat-e Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi, Karachi, 1999, p. 53.
13. Badar ud-Din Ahmad Qadiri, Maulana, Imam Ahmad Raza aur Unke Mukhalifin, Gujrat Pakistan, p. 373
Imam Ahmad Raza had a remarkable quality of fast reading with understanding and spontaneous writing with message and meaning. But above all the most important characteristic of his personality which earned him a distinction among men of letters and scholars of reputation during his time and even today was his resolute faith in Allah Almighty and com-mitted love for His last Prophet Muhammad (Alllah’s durud and salaam upon him). It was this love of the Holy Prophet which has reflected in every aspect of his life, every angle of his thoughts, and every line of his writing. It was the light of this pure shinning love which illuminated his personality as a beacon of light for the Muslims world over.
His fame as a scholar of Islamic learning rests on his three distinguish-ed works written in Urdu and partly in Arabic these are: Urdu translation of the Holy Quran titled as Kanz-ul Iman fi Tarjumat-ul Quran (1330) that was completed in 1910 and was published from Muradabad in 1912; his collection of selected religious poetry in the praise of Allah and His last Prophet titled as Hadaiq-e Bakhshish (1325); and his collection of judicial opinions namely Al-Ataya-un Nabavia fil Fatawa-ur Ridavia divided into 12 volumes each containing one thousand pages. The collection has later been published in a modern style by Raza Foundation Lahore in 33 volumes. Ridavia is a glaring example of his command over all branches of Islamic studies, and old and new sciences. His adroitness in juristic matters is manifested in this compendium of his legal decrees, which won worldwide acclaim. Ulema of different denominations have paid rich tribute to the acumen of Imam Ahmad Raza Khan as a great Islamic think-er. Abul Ala Maududi a renowned scholar from Pakistan acknowledges his scholarly skill in the following words.
I have great regard for the high standard of scholarship of Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan. In fact, he possessed in-depth knowledge of religion. His scholarly talent is acknowledge-ed even by those who do not agree with him on many issues of faith and Fiqh.
Similarly, Maulana Abdul Hay Lukhnawi (father of Shaikh Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi) an eminent scholar of his time had all praise for the finest qualities of scholarship manifested in the works of Imam Ahmad Raza. According to him:
He (Imam Ahmad Raza) was not only a well read and informed great scholar but also a prolific compiler and writer. There is no parallel to his acute insight in the Hanafi Fiqh. His judicial opinions as given in Kifl-ul Faqih-il Fahim fi Ahkam-e Qirtas-id Darahim (1324) are a testimony to this effect. He had masterly knowledge of Mathematics, Physics, As-tronomy, Astrology etc. In fact, he was a man of versatile learning. During his stay at Makka Sharif and Madina Sharif (1323/1906), he wrote several treatises and gave ver-dicts to some questions received from various scholars. They were dumb stricken to
see his vast knowledge on the books of Fiqh and disputed dogmas, his quick writing
The above and other reflections and impressions of scholars of the subcon-tinent and the two sanctuaries is a sufficient proof that Imam Ahmad Raza was equally recognized as an authority in Fiqh even by the ulema and scholars of both the holy places of Islam. His reputation as Grand Mufti reached far and wide. He used to receive questions and problem cases from all over the world pertaining to day-to-day life and even on the most modern aspects, such as banking, paper money, insurance, political and social issues, new inventions etc. At times, the questions piled up to more than 500 in numbers.
His translation of the Holy Quran, Kanz-ul Iman, is an exemplary one in Urdu literature. This translation is perhaps the only translation which was written without consulting related books
and prior preparation. It is in consistence with the most trustworthy commentaries of the predecessors and reflects committed path of the doctors of authority. The translation conforms to the sound principles laid down by the experts of the Quranic interpretations. It is novel in fluency and smoothness of expression and is free from the use of colloquial and slang. Kanz-ul Iman helps in getting acquaintance with the style of speech of the holy lines and identifies the distinctive expressions of the Holy Quran. The most important and strik-ing feature of the translation is that it upholds the gloried and exalted beliefs about Almighty Allah and the greatness and holiness of His Prophet (Allah’s durud and salaam upon him). On the one hand, it fulfils the needs of common Muslims for better reading and understanding the message of the Holy Quran written in-between the sacred lines, and on the other hand, it provides key to savants and Sufis who ponder in the holy book which open vast vistas of knowledge and gnosis.
Because of these qualities, demand for Kanz-ul Iman is ever growing. Even those who oppose Imam Ahmad Raza on the basis of faith and Fiqh are publishing and selling copies of this translation. Kanz-ul Iman has been translated into many local and foreign languages such as Persian, English, Dutch, Turkish, Bengali, Sindhi and Pashto. Many writers have written commentaries and explanatory notes on it. Up till now at least 50 treatises and booklets have been published on the salient features of Kanz-ul Iman in Urdu and Arabic. Dr Syed Jamal ud‑Din Aslam, the visiting professor at Al-Hayt University Jordan has written an article on the comp-arative study ofKanz-ul Iman which has been published from Karachi. Professor Dr Majeed Ullah Qadiri has written his doctoral dissertation on the comparative study of Kanz-ul Iman with other selected Urdu translat-ions of the Holy Quran. His thesis is the most comprehensive and provides in-depth study of the qualities and peculiarities of Imam Ahmad Raza’s translation of the Holy Quran.
Imam Ahmad Raza’s poetical collection Hadaiq-e Bakhshish (1325) is a testimony of his poetry genius. Dr Abdul Naim Azizi and Dr Siraj Ahmad Bastavi have written Ph.D. thesis on his poetry. Dr Hazim Muhammad Al-Mahfuz and Dr Husain Mujib Misri of Al-Azhar University have translated Hadaiq-e Bakhshish (1325) into Arabic prose and poetry respectively. Dr Hazim also compiled his collection of Arabic poetry and named it Basatin-ul Ghufran.
There is a long list of scholars who have paid rich tributes to his religious poetry. Dagh Delhvi, Dr Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Dr Muhammad Masud Ahmad, Dr Iftikhar Azami, Nazir Ludhyanvi, Allama Shams Barelvi, Akhtar-ul Hamidi, Hasrat Mohani, Hafeez Jalandhari, Hafeez Taib, Dr Farman Fatehpuri, Dr Aslam Farrukhabadi, Dr Jameel Jalibi, Dr Najeeb ud-Din Jamal, Shan-ul Haq Haqqi, Iftikhar Arif, Maulana Kausar Niazi, Ihsan Danish, Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi. Dr Inam-ul Haq Kausar, Rais Amrohi, Dr Hazim Muhammad Al-Mahfuz, Dr Husain Mujib and many other renowned scholars and literary personalities from Arab and non-Arab countries are among the admirers of Imam Ahmad Raza’s poetry.
One may imagine the impact of the versatile personality of Imam Ahmad Raza from the fact that research works at Ph.D. and M.Phil levels are being conducted in 25 different universities world over. 25 scholars have completed their research works out of which seven obtained doc-torate degrees whereas the rest got masters and M.Phil degrees. An equal number of scholars are in process of submitting their research papers in various universities. Research work has since started in Egyptand other Arab countries after Asia, Europe and America. Dr Hazim, a teacher at Al‑Azhar University, has written a bookAl-Imam-ul Akbar Al-Mujaddid Muhammad Ahmad Raza Khan that has been published from Lahore in 1998. Maulana Mushtaq Ahmad Shah Azhari and Maulana Mumtaz Ahmad Sadeedi have obtained their M.Phil degrees from Al-Azhar Uni-versity on “Imam Ahmad Raza as an Islamic jurist” and “Imam Ahmad Raza Khan as a poet of Arabic literature” respectively. Maulana Syed Jalal ud-Din of Bangladesh is writing his M.Phil thesis from the Cairo Univer-sity on “Imam Ahmad Raza Khan as the reformer and the condemner of innovation”.
Imam Ahmad Raza is the only personality in the Islamic World about whom research work is being conducted for last 30 year world over not only by individual scholars but also by renowned institutions. Among them are Markazi Majlis-e Raza Lahore, Idara-e Tehqiqat-e Imam Ahmad Raza International Karachi, Raza Academy Mumbai, Majma-ul Islami Mubarakpur, Sunni Razvi Society Mauritius, Raza Foundation USA, Alahazrat Foundation Chittagong, Raza Academy UK, Raza Academy Durban are a few institutions.
As regards the individuals who have done research on the personality and achievements of Imam Ahmad Raza, the list is very long as it contains the names of highly qualified and esteemed personalities of the South Asian subcontinent, America, Holland, Britain, South Africa, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. But if we may single out only one personally without prejudice to anyone else who has single handedly produced research articles and contributed to advance research work by others especially in international universities, he will be no other than Dr Muhammad Masud Ahmad who had at his credit 35 long years of services as an academician. The number of books written by him exceeds 100, which include research paper treatises and monographs. Out of these, at least 20 books and 40 articles are about the works and achievements of Imam Ahmad Raza. Besides these, he has written innumerable forewords almost on all import-ant books written with reference to the works of Imam Ahmad Raza and some Islamic books. Dr Masud Ahmad was one of highly qualified and well-read scholars of the subcontinent. He had vast knowledge of Islamic literature and in-depth study of Quran, Hadith, History, Political Science, Economics, Biology and Criticism. He was well versed in modern research techniques and style in four languages: Arabic, Persian, Urdu and English. His style of writing was simple, systematic and logical and his arguments were appealing. He has presented the fact in such a way that without hurting the feelings it goes to the heart of the reader. The greatest beauty and quality of his writing is its readability. His literature on Imam Ahmad Raza has paved the road towards modernly educated circle, and teachers and students of colleges and universities, at home and abroad. This has helped greatly in understanding the personality, thoughts and achievements of the great genius of the East, Imam Ahmad Raza Khan. That is why Dr Muhammad Masud Ahmad has been highly admired by the literary circles and he is reputed as expert of research on Raza.
In sum, Ahmad Raza Khan was such an illuminated and versatile personality who has enlightened every aspect of modern Muslims. He lived a life as a leader and guide for South Asian Muslims. He lived a life as a leader and guide for the Muslim World. He guided the Muslims to the Path of Allah\&s beloved ones and tried to restrain them from being astray. He breathed his last on 28 October 1921 (25 Safar 1340) at the time of Friday prayer’s call (Azan).