Ml. Qasim Nanotwi


Monday, 15 October 2007 14:47

He is amongst the last gleaners of the Waliullahian harvest of knowledge. He was born in 1248/1832. In the environs of Sdaharanpur there is an old village, Nanauta, reputed for producing men of high caliber. It was from this productive mine that this unique jewel of the first water came out whose scintillating knowledge illumined and made resplendent the academic and religious assemblies in the later half of the 13th century Hijri.
Primary education he received at his native-place after which he was sent to Deoband where he read for some time in Maulawi Mahtab Ali's primary school. Then he went away to his ma­ternal grandfather at Saharanpur where the latter was practicing as a pleader. In Saharanpur he studied the elementary books of Arabic gra­mmar and syntax under the instruction of Maulawi Nawaz. At the end of 1259/1843, Maulana Mamlook Ali took him to Delhi. There he began the Kafia and read other books. Thereafter he was admitted to the Delhi College but he did not take the annual examination. Mau­Iana Muhammad Yaqub Nanautawi writes: ­

"My late father got Maulawi Sahib admitted to the Government Arabic Madrasah and said: 'See Euclid yourself and do exercises of ari­thmetic. After some days, it was talked about that Maulawi Sahib had seen all the ordinary discourses and had completed the exercises of ari­thmetic. Munshi Zakaullah brought some questions, which were very difficult. On solving them Maulana became very well known. When the annual examination drew near, Maulawi Sahib did not take it and left the Madrasah. All in the Madrasah, particularly the head-master who was the principal English teacher, regretted this very much".

Before entering Delhi College, he had read books of logic, philo­sophy and scholastic theology like Mir Zahid, Qazi Mubarak, Sadra, Shams-e- Bazigha under the instruction of Maulana Mamlook Ali at the latter's house. In the end, he joined that study-circle which then posse­ssed a central position in the whole of India with regard to the teaching of the sciences of the Quran and Hadith. Hadhrat Shah Abdul-Ghani Mujaddidi was then gracing the Masnad of knowledge of Shah Waliullah. From him he acquired the science of Hadith; during his student-days, it­ self the fame of his acuteness, knowledge and learning, comprehension and discernment had become widespread.

Hadhrat Maulana Nanautawi's illustrious contemporary, Sir Syed, has expressed his impressions of the farmer's acuteness, knowledge and learning, asceticism and piety, understanding and discernment during student days in the following words: ­

"The people thought that after Maulawi Muhammad Ishaq no man like him in all those qualities was to be born, but Maulawi Muhammad Qasim has proved by his consummate righteousness, religiosity, piety, abstinence and humili1y that, through the education and training of this city of Delhi, Allah has created another man a like of Maulawi Muhammad Ishaq, rather superior to him in certain things.

"There are many people alive who have seen Maulawi Muhammad Qasim receiving education at Delhi at a very young age. He had studied all the books under the late Maulawi Mamlook Ali. From the very beginn­ing the signs of piety, abstinence, virtuousness and devotion to God were apparent from his ways and manners and the following couplet was per­fectly applicable to him: ­

'Over his head through his intelligence was shining the star of loftiness'.

"During the period of prosecuting studies, even as he was well-known and reputed for his intelligence, keenness of mind, understanding and dis­cernment, he was equally well spoken of by men of learning and accom­plishments for his virtuousness and devoutness. Maulawi Muzaffar Hussain Sahib's company had inclined him very much towards conformance to the prophetic Sunnah and top grace of the company of Haji Imdadullah had made his heart into a top-ranking heart. He himself conformed to the Shariah and the Sunnah and tried his level best to make people also conform to the Shariah and the Sunnah. Nevertheless he was always anxious about the weal of the Muslims. It was through his efforts that a very useful Madrasah for imparting the education of religious sciences was established at Deoband and a very fine mosque was built. Besides this, through his effort and endeavor, Islamic Madrasahs were established at other places too. He did not at all wish to be a mysta­gogue, a spiritual preceptor, and yet, thousands of people in India, parti­cularly in the northern and western districts, believed in him and considered him their spiritual leader.

"As regards controversial questions some people were displeased with him and he too was displeased with some, but as for as we understand we cannot impute any action of Maulawi Muhammad Qasim, whether it be of displeasure with anyone or of pleasure, to egoism, obduracy and an­tagonism. All the works and deeds that he performed were purely for God's sake and with an eye on the recompense of the hereafter; and he used to follow whatever he considered true and right.

Both, to be dis­pleased or to be pleased with anyone, were for the sake of God. Maulawi Muhammad Qasim did not consider any man good or bad due to his per­sonal relations but because a man does bad works or speaks bad things, he considered him bad for the sake of God. The question of love for the sake of Allah' and 'aversion for the sake of Allah' was peculiar to his treatment. All his habits were angelic. We all used to cherish sincere love for him, and such a man who may have passed his life with such virtuo­usness is indubitably worthy of utmost love.

"In these days all people admit and perhaps those people too who dissented from him in certain open questions might be admitting that Maulawi Muhammad Qasim was a matchless man in this world. His rank in knowledge in those days may perhaps be less than that of Shah Abdul Aziz to some extent; otherwise in all other things it was superior. In humility, virtue and simplicity, if his rank was not higher than that of Maulawi Muhammad Ishaq, it was, not inferior either. He was realty a man of angelic habits and celestial disposition, and the world's being bereaved of the existence of such a man is the cause of extreme sorrow and regret for those who survive after him".

After the completion of his education, Maulana Nanautawi took up as a means of livelihood the work of correcting the press at Matba-e Ahmedi, Delhi, which was then owned by Maulana Ahmed Ali Muhaddith Saharanpuri. In those days, at Maulana Ahmed Ali's instance, he also wrote a scholium on the last few portions of the Sahih Bukhari.


Hadhrat Nanautawi has played a great part in developing that method of affirmation and preference for the Hanafite Mazhab (method, creed) and that style of sifting and explanations, which are today the distinc­tive feature of the Darul Uloom Deoband, and are also current and in use more or less in the lessons of Hadith in the Arabic Madrasahs. Till the middle of the thirteenth century Hijri only the translation of Hadith and the stating of the four methods (mazahib-e arba'a) was considered enough; but when the Hanafites were accused by the Ahl-e Hadith very emphatically that their method was not in accordance with Hadith , Hadhrat Shah Muhammad Ishaq and some of his learned disciples paid attention to the affirmation and superiority (tarjih) of the Hanafite method. In Darul Uloom Deoband Hadhrat Nanautawi, Hadhrat Sheikhul-Hind and other Ulama developed it to such on extent that today no teaching institution of Hadith of repute is to be found devoid of it.

From Hadhrat Nanautawi's lectures only those students could benefit adequately who were themselves talented, intelligent and sharp-witted and, moreover, might have already read the book with close attention. Hadhrat Nanautawi's geist, maturity of vision and power of argumentation can be estimated on the whole from his books. His statement was that "all the commandments of the Book and the Sunnah are wholly rational; however, the intellect of every person cannot have access there". Hakim Mansoor Ali Khan Muradabadi, who is amongst the well-guided pupils of Hadhrat Nanautawi, writes in his Mazhab-e Mansoor about the peculiarities of his teacher's giving lessons and lectures as under: ­

"The fact is that whenever Hadhrat Nanautawi proved any important and difficult proposition to be contrary to the mosses concepts, great men of light and learning used to be amazed and astonished. The commandment, which looked absolutely without any argument and demonstration used to look perfectly rational after his lecture. Great men of knowledge and learning would not dare to say anything against me arguments put forth by him".

The following statement of Hadhrat Shaikhul-Hind has been men­tioned in the Arwah-e Salasa; he says: ­

"I used to attend Hadhrat Nanautawi's lecture after having read Hadhrat Shah Waliullah's books and would ask him those things which used to be very difficult in the Shah Sahib's books. And what used to be the lost answer in Shah Sahib's books, Hadhrat (Nanautawi) would mention it first. I have experienced this thing several times".

During the incipient period of Darul Uloom Deoband he taught Euclid for some days in the Chhatta Mosque. During teaching whenever he felt it necessary to explain a figure to the students, he would draw the figure with his finger, without the help of instruments and explain it to the students, although he had studied mathematics and Euclid in Delhi College by himself, without the guidance of any teacher. Hadhrat Nanautawi's lecture generally used to be within the four walls of the Printing presses and was attended by particular person only. The grace of his teaching produced such a party of accomplished, Ulama like Hadhrat Shaikul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan Deobandi, Maulana Ahmad Hasan Amrohi, Maulana Fakhrul Hasan Gangohi, etc. the example where of is not to be seen after Hadhrat shah Abul Ghani's time. And then he established the system of religious sciences through the central educational institution like the Darul Uloom Deoband , which now, due to its variegated quality, is the greatest seminary in Asia.

Some peculiarities of Hadhrat Maulana Nanautawi's teaching-work are very important. A great one among them is that he never made it a means of earning his living. Due to not being rich, he, of necessity, adopted a service for earning his livelihood, but, instead of the educa­tional line, he sought a job of collation and emendation of books in a press; and then, contrary to the general wont, instead of increment in pay, he used to insist on decrement, and used to be content with such little pay, a mere pittance, on which he could subsist with great diffi­culty, He never agreed to take more than ten, fifteen rupees as pay. The highest post during the time that could be given to an Indian could be his --- as Maulana Muhammad Yaqub has said --- 'at the slightest wink of his eyes'; as such, many of those who were his contemporaries during the educational career and were far inferior to him in academic ability had been appointed on high government posts in the education department, but he never approved of accepting an educational service. His father possessed a small plot of cultivable land and was cherishing the hope that when the son would become a religious doctor after com­pleting education, he would get a job of reasonable salary. When Maulana's contemporaries were appointed to good posts and he did not show any inclination towards service, his father felt very sorry and told, by way of a complaint, Hadhrat Haji Imdadullah: "This was my only son on whom I had pinned many hopes. If he earned something and did service, our poverty would be removed. God knows what you have done to him that he is not willing to take up a job", Haji Sahib listened and held his peace then, but later on sent him a word: "You complain of narrow circumstances. Allah Most High will give him so much even without service that he will be better off than in service, and holders of high posts, will take pride in serving him".

The method of the Ulama of the former times was different from the system of teaching and learning the Arabic sciences, Madrasahs and cliquism that prevails and is current nowadays. Generally the Ulama, sitting in their homes and mosques, used to teach purely for the sake of Allah; and for earning their livelihood they either took to commercial dealings or used to pass life trusting in Allah. Very often it also happened that the Ulama who did no business for livelihood and engaged themselves in teaching, trusting in the Providence, were given reasonable stipends from the government of the day. The courage and perseverance and contentment of the heart with which Hadhrat Nanautawi, inspite of severely unfavorable circumstances, maintained this precious practice (lit., thing, effects) of the predecessors behaved him only. Hadhrat Haji Sahib used to say about him: Formerly sometimes there used to be such people; now they do not happen to be since long".

After having completed his educational career, Hadhrat Nanautawi, as a means at Livelihood, adopted the job at collating and emending of books in Matba-e Ahmadi, Delhi, and this remained the means of earning till the end. Along with emendation, the practice of teaching also continued. Besides the Sihah Sitta, he also used to teach Masnavi-e Maulana Room and other books, but the teaching work was done, instead of in a Madrasah, inside the four walls of printing presses or a mosque or a house, where particular students only used to sit respectfully.


Independence from want, humility and meekness were to such a degree in his disposition that he never used the peculiar style or dress of the Ulama - the gown and the turban. He used to feel much em­barrassed by veneration. He used to say: "This nominal knowledge spoilt me otherwise I would have marred, my condition so much that none would have known that a man named Qasim was at all born". He used to keep off generally from those matters in which there could be a chance of being conspicuous.

In 1277/1860 he went for Hajj and on return from there he took up the job of collating books in Matba-e Mujtabai, Meerut, and remained attached to the same press till 1285/1868. Meanwhile, he again hap­pened to go for Hajj, and thereafter he joined Matba-e Hashimi, Meerut. During this period, the occupation of teaching continued but he never liked service in any Madrasah. The author of Sawanh-e Makhtutah has stated: ­

"It is a fact known to all that the Madrasah Islami of Deoband was founded and developed by him only, and what a small government it is, this establishment; but he never took advantage of anything. In the incipience, the members of the council requested him to accept teacher ship in this Madrasah and in return for it a meager salary, but he did not accept and at no time, by any manner or method, tolerated to have even a grain from the Madrasah. Although day and night, he used to be busy in the good management of the Madrasah and engaged in teaching. If perchance he wrote any of his letters with the pen and inkpot of the Madrasah, he would immediately pay one Anna to the treasury of the Madrasah.


Hadhrat Nanautawi's greatest and most glorious achievement is the revivifying of an educational movement for the renaissance of religious sciences in India and the formulation of those guiding principles for the religious schools on which their survival depends. Through his atten­tion and persuasion, religious Madrasahs were started at different places, like Thana Bhawan (Dist. Muzaffarnagar), Gulaothi (Dist. Buland Shahar), Kerana (Dist. Muzaffarnagar), Danapur (Dist. Buland Shahar), Meerut, Moradabad, etc. Most of them still exist, rendering educational and religious services in their vicinity.

Shoulder to shoulder with the English power, Christianity too had risen high in India and prodigious efforts had been made to convert the people of India, particularly, the Muslims, to Christianity in every possi­ble way. With the support and co-operation of the Company bases of Christian preaching and organization were established throughout the length and breadth of the country, and after the revolution of 1857/ 1274, this system received further; impetus and expansion. Padres began to impeach and impugn Islam and the Prophet of Islam (Allah's peace and blessings be on him) in markets, fairs and common gatherings. When Hadhrat Nanautawi, during the period of his stay in Delhi witnessed this situation, he also ordered his pupils to stand like that in the bazaars to give sermons and repugnant and repudiate the padres. One day he himself, without introduction and giving out his name, reached a gathering and, breaking lance with Padre Tara Chand, repulsed him publicly in the bazaar. Thereafter he came to be introduced with the famous polemic of Islam, Maulana Abul Mansoor Nasirddin Ali Dehlawi (d. 1320/1902). This event took place between Rabiul Awwal, 1292, and Jamadiul-thania 1292. This was the period when Hadhrat Nanautawi was staying in Munshi Mumtaz Ali's Matba-e Mujtabai, Delhi.