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Hujjat al-Islam Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi

Founder, Darul Uloom Deoband (1832-1880)

Brief Introduction 
Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi or Nanautvi (1831-1880 CE) was the most influential Islamic philosopher theologian in Indian subcontinent after Imam al-Hind Shah Wali Allah of Delhi. He was the last bearer of the intellectual legacy of Shah Wali Allah. Al-Nanawtawi is revered as a Mujaddid and having a title Hujjat al-Islam stands on the third step in the process of Islamic revivalism after Mujaddid Alf-Thani and Wali Allah of Delhi. Al-Nanawtawi the founder of the most influential Islamic intellectual revival movement at Deoband in the Indian subcontinent, studied under Abdul Ghani, the only intellectual successor of Wali Allah of Delhi in the 19th century. According to Fuad Shahid Naeem,

Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautvi was a very important scholar, intellectual figure, and Sufi, of his time. He is the most famous for founding, along with Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, the influential madrasah at Deoband that has become one of the most important religious institutions of Sunni Islam, …Maulana Nanautvi is known in three capacities in which he wrote and taught: one, as a scholar of the religious sciences; two, as an intellectual figure who took upon himself the task of defending traditional Islam intellectually, largely through theology (kalam) and philosophy (falsafah or hikmah), against Muslim and Hindu modernism as well as Christian missionary work; three, as a Sufi master. (Fuad Shahid Naeem, The 'Ulama of the Indian Subcontinent at the Rise of the Modern Age: Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanvi and His Response to Modernism,) pp. 30-31.

Birth and Education
Al-Nanawtawi was born in 1831 in the environs of Saharanpur in Northern Indian province of Uttar Pradesh; there is an old village, Nanawta (Nanota), reputed for producing men of high caliber. Imam Muhammad Qasim Nanawtawi’s lineage can be traced back to the first Caliph of Islam Amir al-Mauminin Abu Bakr Siddiq (R. A.). 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.

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. Shah Abdul-Ghani Mujaddidi was then gracing the Seat of knowledge of Shah Wali Allah. From him he acquired the science of Hadith; during his student-days the fame of his acuteness, knowledge and learning, comprehension and discernment had become widespread.

Imam’s contemporary Syed Ahmad Khan, the Founder of Aligarh Muslim University sees acuteness, knowledge and learning, asceticism and piety, understanding and discernment in the persona of Imam al-Nanawtawi during student days, he writes,

"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 alike to Maulawi Muhammad Ishaq, rather superior to him in certain things.”

Fair for God-Consciousness at Shahjahanpur
A dangerous conspiracy hatched by the English government was to provoke the Hindus against the Muslims. The Muslims had once had Political importance and supremacy in India. The English now, under their policy, pushed up the Hindus and brought down the Muslims. When the Hindus advanced in the economic and political fields, the English prompted them towards the path of religious superiority and prepared them to break lance with the Muslims, and provided the opportuni­ties for this that the Hindus pole Mize with the Muslims openly.

Then, on May 8, 1876, a "Fair for God-Consciousness" was held at Chandapur village, near Shahjahanpur (U.P.), under the auspices of the local Zamindar, Piyare Lal Kabir-panthi, under the management of Padre Knowles, and with the support and permission of the collector of Shahjahanpur, Mr. Robert George. Representatives of all the three religions, Christian, Hindu and Muslim, were invited through posters to attend and prove the truthfulness of their respective religions. At the suggestion of Mawlana Muhammad Munir Nanawtawi and Ilahi Bakhsh Rangin Bareillwi, Al-Imam Nanautawi, accompanied by his disciple Mawlana Mahmood Hasan, Mawlana Raheemullah Bijnori and Mawlana Fakhrul-Hasan, reached the fair. Besides Al-Imam Nanawtawi, Mawlana Abul Mansoor Dehlawi, Mirza Mujid Jullunduri, Ahmed Ali Dehlawi, Mir Haider Dehlawi, Nau'man bin Luqman and Rangin Bareillwi also parti­cipated. All these Ulama delivered speeches at this fair, causing the desired effect. In repudiation of the Doctrine of Trinity and Polytheism, and on affirmation of Divine Unity (Monotheism), Al-Nanawtawi spoke so well that the audience, both those who were against and those who were for him, were convinced.

The famous lectures Al-Nanawtawi delivered during the Fair of God Conciousness held in Shahjahanpur were published later under the title Taqrīr Dil Padhīr and Mubahithah-e Shahjahanpur. His opponents have praised his method of polemical discussion and his command on Islamic religious philosophy and theology. For Instance, Priest Frank has written,

“I will not say, whether he (Al-Nānawtawī) has said truth, but if the faith was metter of lectures, then we would have professed faith of Islam based on his lectures.” WāqiÑah Maylah Khudā Shanāsī (Events of Fair of God Concisousness), (Meerut: MaÏbaÑ ÖiyāÒī, 1876), p. 41. 

One newspaper writes: ­
"In the gathering of 8th May of the current year (1876), Muhammad Qasim gave a lecture and stated the merits of Islam. The Padre Sahib explained the Trinity in a strange manner, saying that in a line are found three attributes: length, breadth and depth, and thus Trinity is proven in every way. The said Maulawi Sahib confuted it promptly. Then, while the Padre Sahib and the Maulawi Sahib were debating regarding the speech, the meeting broke up, and in the vicinity and on all sides arose the outcry that the Muslims had won. Wherever a religious divine of Islam stood, thousands of men would gather around him. In the meeting of the first day the Christians did not reply to the objections raised by the followers of Islam, while the Muslims replied the Christians word by word and won”

Next year this "fair" was held again in March, 1877. This time Munshi Indraman Moradabodi and Pandit Dayanand (d. 1882/1301), the founder of the Arya Samaj, also participated. Dayanandji spoke in San­skritized Hindi. Padre Knowles had called one Padre Scot also. Al-Imam Nanawtawi's speeches were delivered on Theism, Monotheism, and inter­polation in Religion and he proved claim of Islam very successfully.
Al-Imam Nanawtawi, participating both the years in the said fair, frustrated the Christians conspiracy. On this occasion, Prof. Muhammad Ayyub Qadiri, writing in Mawlana Ahmed Hasan Nanawtawi's biography, says that:

"One thing specially deserves deliberation here that the fair for God consciousness at Shahjahanpur was held consecutively for two years with announcement and publicity, throwing in a way. A challenge to the religion of Islam and yet one does not find a clue to any interest the Ulama of Bareilly and Badaun, the two districts so near, almost conti­guous to Shahjahanpur, may have evinced in this fair."

The Polemic at Roorkee
In polemics Imam Al-Nanawtawi’s lectures at Shahjahanpur were published in several series and forms of books. Al-Nanawtawi was engaged in polemical dialectics with Christian and Hindu critics of Islam. During the famous discussion at Shahjahanpur he was engaged with two Christian priests Knowlis and Walker, while his Hindu opponent was Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Al-Nanawtawi has challenged him for open discussion in Roorkee but Saraswati did not agree for an open discussion. According to Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi,

“Far are the replies, Pundit chose his way, sitting on a bullock cart he departed rapidly.” (Al-Nānawtawī, Qiblah Numa, Delhi: 1907, p. 2)

Later Al-Nanawtawi replied Saraswati’s objection on Islam. He wrote Qiblah Numa and Intasar al-Islam. Before composing these two aforementioned books, Al-Nanawtawi exchanged numerous letters with Saraswati. These letters are mentioned in the biography of Dayanand Saraswati. The quality of the contents and language of these letters can be guessed by the remarks of Saraswati in his reply. Saraswati writes,

“The letters of yours, which I received yesterday, were of such quality in the contents and language that I felt it beyond wisdom to reply you without a thorough consideration and muse.” (Lakshman, Jivan Charitr Maharishi Swami Dayanand, (Lahore: Union Steam Press, n. d. p. 532.)

Al-Nanawtawi’s Qiblah Numa is one of his most complicated philosophical and theological compositions. This is a reply to Saraswati’s objections against facing towards Ka’bah during prayer.
Thereafter, Panditji reached Meerut and there too he adopted the same manner. At the request of the Muslims of Meerut, Imam Al-Nanawtawi went to Meerut. There also Panditji did not agree to have a debate, So, Al-Nanawtawi, gave replies to his objections in a forceful speech he delivered in a public meeting at Meerut. 

Reformative Movement for Widow Re-Marriage
Bringing into currency the re-marriage of widows is also a glorious social and reformative achievement of him. Until the end of the thirteenth century Hijri the re-marriage of widows was considered very reproachful. People used to feel its disgracefulness but no one had the courage to put an end to it. By the laudable efforts of Syed Ahmed Shaheed, Shah Muhammad IsmaiI Shahead Dehlawi, Mawlana Mamlook Ali Nanawtawi, Mawlana Muzaffar Husain Kandhlawi, Mawlana Muhammad Ahsan Nanawtawi and Al-Imam Muhammad Qasim Nanawtawi, the re­marriage of widows came very much into vogue. Al-Imam Nanautawi, making his widowed sister, who was much older than himself and had become quite old, prepared for re-marriage, broke up this disgraceful custom in such a way that now no one knows that such a custom once prevailed here.

Participation in the Fight for India’s Freedom
After the despotic fall of Muslim Mughal Empire of India, Al-Imam Nanawtawi actively participated in armed struggle against British colonialists. Taking manly part in the battle for independence in 1857, he captured the tehsil of Shamli in Muzaffarnagar district but the corrupted political atmosphere prevailing at that time did not let him advance further from Shamli. This incident of re-counter at Shamli is so well-known that it needs not to be repeated here. He changed the policy. Al-Imam Nanawtawi realized that this is the time to protect the faith of Muslims from corruption, ignorance and deviation. Instead fighting with sword against British colonialism the most important duty is to protect the faith of millions of downtrodden Muslims of Indian-subcontinent. Thousands of Ulama had been hanged by the cruel British colonialists and British Government had provided all possible support to the Christian Missionaries to convert mainly Muslims to Christianity.

Deoband Movement and the Establishment of Darul Uloom Deoband
After the failure of 1857 CE revolts in India against British Imperialism the most important and very first educational movement arose under the leadership of young Nanawtawi. The failure of the mutiny compelled few Islamic revivalists “to turn to other options for safeguarding their spiritual and religious tradition(s).” In 1866 CE Al-Nānawtawī founded Madrasa Islamia Deoband at the age of 35. This school was aimed to bring the change in the social, political, economic and religious conditions of the Indian Muslims. At present his School known as ‘Dar al-Ulum’ or Darul Uloom Deoband is one of the most significant Schools of Thought in the Islamic world. Most probably this is the most powerful and influential School of Thought in the present Muslim world.

The Constitution of Darul Uloom and Famous Eight Principles
The time when the Darul Uloom Deoband, was established, the old Madaris (seminaries) in India had almost become extinct, and the condition of two or four that had survived the ravages of time was not better than that of a few glow-worms in a dark night. Apparently it so looked at that time as if the Islamic sciences had packed up their kit from India. Under these circumstances, Imam Al-Nanawtawi and his God-fearing fellows through their inner light sensed the imminent dangers. They knew it too well that nations have attained their right status through knowledge only. So, without depending upon the government of the time, they founded the Darul Uloom, Deoband, with public contributions and co-operation. One of the principles that Hujjat al-Islam Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi proposed for the Darul Uloom and other religious Madaris is also that the Darul-Uloom should be run trusting in Allah and with public contributions for which the poor masses alone should be relied upon.

In this constitution Hujjat al-Islam Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi has shown that the following principles should be the fundamentals for the establishment of seminaries:-
  • The first fundamental is that the functionaries of the Madrasah, as far as possible, always have an eye to the augmentation of the donation. 'Make an effort and also persuade others to do the same'. The well-wishers of the madrasah must always keep this thing in mind.
  • The well-wishers of the madrasah, as far as they can, should endeavor for the continuous supply of food to the students; rather, for increasing the number of students.
  • The counsellors of the Madrasah should always bear in mind that the Madrasah should acquire will-being and excellence, and no one should be unyielding in one's opinion. God forfend! If it comes to such a pass that the counsellors consider opposition to their own opinion and their subscribing to the opinions of others unpalatable, then the foundation of the Madrasah will become shaky. In short, a counsel from the bottom of one's heart in season and, in its context, the excellence of the Madrasah must always be kept in mind. There should be no sticking to one's guns out of bigotry; hence it is necessary that the counsellors should on no account be hesitant in expressing their opinions, and the eudience should always hear them with good faith; i.e., it might be contrary to the opinion of some, it would be accepted with heart and soul. And for the same reason the Vice-chancellor (Muhtamim) also must necessarily seek the counsellors' advice in all important matters, whetter they be the regular counsellors of the Madrasah of any intelligent, knowledgeable visitor who may be a well-wisher of the Madrasahs. Over and above this, it is also necessary that if the vice-chancellor due to some reason, does not chance to consult all the counsellors but may have taken counsel from a proper quorum of them, one should not feel displeased for not being consulted. A counsellor, however, can of course take exception if the vice-chancellor may not have consulted any one.
  • It is a very necessary thing that all the teachers be of the same humour (Mashrab), and neither presumptuous like the other religious divines of the time nor be after insulting each other. God forbid! if such a turn comes to pass, this madrasah will be plunged into hot waters; it will be imperilled.
  • The fixed syllabus already prescribed or to be prescribed later through some other deliberation should always be completed; otherwise the madrasah will, firstly, not have good strength, and even if it does get good strength, it will be useless.
  • So long as there are no regular means of income for this madrasah, it will go on like this, if it please Allah, provided we pin our faith in Him. But if some assured income is obtained, e.g., a fief or a commercial establishment or the promise of a staunch man of means, then it seems that this state of fear and hope which is the source of our appealing to Allah will slip off our fingers, divine succor will cease and mutual disputes will ensue among the functionaries.
In short, a destitution of sorts should always, be kept in mind.
  • The participation of the government as also that of the affluent appears to be very harmful.
  • The donation of such people who can afford as much as they can and do not expect fame from it seems to cause more prosperity (Barakah). On the whole, the donor's good faith appears to be the provision for greater durability.

From Wali-Allahism to Qasimism
The reform movement led by Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi was characterized as theological and socio-religious. Exceptionally some scholars count that his movement had political ambitions for the sub continental Muslims.  Al-Nanawtawi’s Deoband movement is characterized as ‘Muslim conservatism’ which was meant to “secure political independence and freedom for religion and culture.” Some believed that Al-Nānawtawī’s Dar al-Ulum merely “attempted to foster traditional religious imaginaries.” But the reality is that the Deoband movement of Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi began to revive Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah; it strongly opposed non-Islamic elements in Islamic culture and society; thus this movement brought a massive revolution of self-assertion in the Muslim community. According to John F Burns, “Deobandism” “has inspired modern revivals of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Nānawtawī’s Deoband movement was forcing Muslims to revert towards their crude and very fundamental religious roots; it had very slight reservations for worldly benefits and gains. It was directly associated with the Islamic Ideological School led by Imam al-Hind Shah Wali-Allah in 18th century Mughal India. According to Atiq Ahmad Bastawi “Hujjat al-Islam Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi prolonged Wali-Allah’s movement. The fundamental elements in the Qāsmi thoughts are derived and benefited from the thoughts of Shah Wali-Allah Dihlawi.” In other words,

In the integration of these three elements, the legal, the intellectual, and the spiritual, Nanautvi personifies both the essence of Sunni scholarship in the later centuries, especially in the Indian Subcontinent, as well as the foundations of the school of Deoband, which has often been called reformist or puritanical, but which, in reality, finds its roots in these three elements, and which largely follows an interpretation of the Islamic tradition that has its origins in Shah Wali Allah. (Fuad, p. 31).

In fact, it was the process of renaissance of the Wali-Allahi School. Later Qasmiyat became synonymous to Wali-Allahiyat.  

Influence of the Ideology of Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi
Darul-UloomDeoband, founded by Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi, is developed as the major seat of Islamic theological learning in Asia. It brought massive social, religious, educational and political impacts in the lives of millions of the Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. Al-Nanawtawi’s reform movement led Muslims to their religious identity and induced irrevocable fundamentalist Islamic ideology amongst the Muslims. Deoband’s influence became greater than any other movement throughout the Indian history. The institute developed and founded by Al-Nanawtawi in Deoband emerged as one of the most influential ‘school of thought’ in Sunni Islamic world. The intellectual movement of Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi and his disciples were later shaped in a systematic school of thought. These thoughts developed many other reform movements in the Muslim world. The world’s biggest Islamic propagation movement of TablighiJama’at came out of the Deoband movement. The most powerful religious-cum-political organization Jami’atUlama-e Hind is the outcome of the Deobandi thoughts. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board is also an outcome of the Deobandi school of thought. This makes Al-Nanawtawi one of the most influential Islamic revivalist figures in Indian subcontinent.   

Literary Contribution of Al-Nanawtawi
Al-Nanawtawi was a philosopher theologian. He wrote in Arabic, Farsi (Persian) and Urdu. His writings are considered of great value in philosophy and theology. He was engaged in religious dialectics and polemics with Hindu and Christian missionaries. His works are categorized in philosophy of religion, Islamic jurisprudence and polemics.

There are numerous literary works available of Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi. All his works are eruditely written and most of his work published during his lifetime. The works are said of high academic quality. A few reviewers have written that his works match the works of Al-Ghazali. Few reviewers of his works believe that he is the founder of modern religious philosophy and modern intellectual dialectics in the Asian Islamic world. The language Al-Nanawtawi used is full of philosophical and logical terminologies, thus, becomes too difficult to understand by a common reader. He uses philosophical, theological and rational method for proving his claims. The most dynamic part in his writing is that neither he supports his claims from the early philosophical gnomic nor does he cite from any book. He puts the foundation of his discussion on pragmatic philosophy and sensory capacity. Throughout the discussion his claims emulates the philosophy of the Holy Quran. If his writings are searched with great care the researcher will find that Al-Nanawtawi has translated the whole paragraph of the Quran philosophically and logically and yet his addressees are unaware of this fact. 

A Brief introduction of Qasimi Literature
One of the most voluminous works for introducing the literature of Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi is done by Nurul Hasan Rashid Kandhalwi. Hasan has collected unpublished, original letters, treatises and epistles hand written by Al-Nanawtawi himself.  There are one hundred and twelve available treatises of Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi. All of them are published.  These treatises are available in nine of Al-Nanawtawi’s and nine of other scholars’ books. Out of one hundred twelve fifty six, fifty four and two are in Urdu, Farsi and Arabic respectively.

In addition, in his treatises and letters written to different people and scholars, most of them were published later in the form of books; in these letters he exchanged the views with Sayyid Ahmad Khan and refuted his ideas. For replying the inquiries from other scholars he answered some jurisprudential issues, for instance, usury and mortgaged property, profits from the mortgaged land cultivation, difference between theft and illegal occupation including punishment, an answer to an inquiry about inheritance and an investigation about an animal slaughtered for other than Allah and clarification of some condition set for slaughtering. He supported the twenty rakah of Tarawih rationally and theoretically, furthermore, Al-Nanawtawi provided the jurisprudential opinion related to Friday’s congregational prayer and recitation of Fatihah behind the Imam during prayer. He also discussed taqlid (strictly following one of four Sunni jurisprudential schools) in detail. In one of his treatises he also explained the reasons prohibiting copulation during the period of a woman’s menstruation. 

On political issues he wrote to his contemporary Ahmad Said and discussed the necessity to support Turkey during the war between Turkey and Russia.

In mysticism he wrote on Wahdat al-Wujud wa al-Shuhud, also he emphasized on training and behavior (tarbiyat wa suluk). The imagination of the Shaykh, but Al-Nanawtawi rejects the belief of master’s (Shaykh) attention on the disciple (murid) from far and Shaykh’s imagination by the disciple. Al-Nanawtawi set an order of piety, knowledge and practice, and investigated the meaning of Bid’ah and Sunnah.

In philosophy Al-Nanawtawi’s letters are based on his research on compound and constituents and further investigation about a compound containing sub-categories, he also wrote precise points regarding the possibility of a precedent and prior to it Al-Nanawtawi investigated means of qualities. The treatises of Al-Nanawtawi further illustrate his investigation of self (Tahqiq Nafs), the wisdom behind heart’s location on the left side and in a separate treatise he explains the wisdom behind ablution. Al-Nanawtawi in one of his letters to Abdur Rahim explains one reason of allocation in the natural system of God.  He also wrote on the importance of knowledge. In the Quranic philosophy he wrote a treatise to support the superiority and finality of Muhammad’s prophethood based on the verse ما كان محمد ابا احد من رجالكم ولكن رسول الله و خاتم النبيين (Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah). There is exegesis of the verse هل نجازي الاالكفور (never do We give (such) requital except to such are ungrateful rejecters) and an answer to an inquiry related to the Quranic term al-mauminin. There are also explanations of few miscellaneous verses. He answered the doubts on the verses خالدين فيها ما دامت السموات و الارض   (they will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure).

In Islamic doctrines and beliefs he wrote on prescience and a research on hearing capability of a deceased (Sama Mawta). Al-Nanawtawi believed in the life of the Prophet after death and wrote Hayat al-Nabi. He explained prophets’ innocence and no commitment to any sin and mistake including a lengthy discussion on the issues of miracles (maujizat) performed by the prophets. He discussed Islamic decree on the faith and disbelief (Iman wa al-kufr) of Yazid. On the comparative beliefs of Sunni and Shiite he wrote answers of twenty eight questions raised by Shiites. He also gave his opinion on Tusi’s arguments on the twelfth Imam. He also explained the reasons of loud recitation of Quran in three prayers.

Books Authored by Al-Nanawtawi
Ab-e Hayat (published: AH 1298, 1313, 1355 and CE 1905),
Ajwibah Arba’een (pub: AH 1291, 1402 and CE 1895),
Al Ajwibah al Kamilah fil-Usul al Khamilah (pub: n. d. and AH 1322),
Al Dalil al Muhkam ala Qiratul FatiÍah li al-Mu’tam (pub: AH 1302, 1308, 1321 and n.d.),  
Anwar al-Nujum (Urdu translation Qasim al-Ulum, pub: AH 1394)
Asrar-e Qurani (pub: AH 1304, 1321, 1334 and CE 1952),
Baraheen-e Qasmiyah (pub: AH 1384, 1387),
Guftugu-e Madhhabi (pub: AH1293, 1300, 1328 and n. d.-5 ed.),
Hujjat al-Islam (pub: AH 1300, 1308, 1321, 1346, 1357, 1359 and n. d.-3 ed.),
Hadiyatul-Shiah (pub: AH 1284, 1301, 1321 and n. d.),
Haq al SariÍ fi Ithbat al-Tarawih (pub: n. d.)
Intabah al-Muminin (pub: AH 1284, 1319, 1330),
Intasar al-Islam (pub: AH 1298, 1307, 1314, 1319, 1322, 1348),
Jawab Turki ba Turki (pub: AH 1297 and n. d.-2 ed.),
Masabih al-TarawiÍ with Urdu Translation (pub: AH 1290, trans. AH 1368),
Mubahithah-e Shahjahanpur (pub: AH 1299, 1334 and n. d.- 2 ed.),
Munazirah-i Ajibah (pub: n. d.),
Qasaid-e Qasmi (pub: AH 1309, 1360 and n. d.),
Qasim al-Ulum (collection of his epistles and treatises) (pub: AH 1292 and n. d.)
Qiblah Numa (pub: AH 1298, 1315- 2 ed., 1325 (1907), 1345 and n. d.)
Tahzir-al-Nas (pub: AH 1291, 1309-2 ed., 1329, 1344, 1385-2 ed., and CE 1939, 1984, 1987 and n. d.-2 ed.),
TasfÊyah al-Aqa’id (pub: AH 1298, 1304, 1353-2 ed., and CE 1902 and n.d.),
Taqirr Dilpazir (pub: AH 1299, 1319, 1346, 1417 and CE 1901 and n. d.)
Taqrir IbÏal Juzu la Yatajazza (pub: n. d.),
Tatammah ×ujjat al-Islam (pub: 1298 AH and n. d.),
Tawthiq al Kalam fil insat Khalaf al Imam (pub: AH 1302, 1308 and n.d.),
Tuhfah Lahmiyah (pub:  n. d- 3 ed., and AH 1312, 1322, 1326, 1330, 1332),

Al-Nanawtawi’s Service to the Hadith
Maulana Ahmad Ali Saharanpuri had begun the work of emendation and writing scholium on Bukhari commanded by his teacher Shah Muhammad IsÍaq of Delhi. This work was enormous, erudite and highly intellectual and needed utmost care within the guidelines and principles set by Muhaddithin. Because the work was large, therefore, Ali included Al-Nanawtawi in this task and asked him to write the scholium. At that time Al-Nanawtawi was a young man of 20 years, and several scholars doubted his capability to carry such an important task. But when Ali produced a sample of Al-Nanawtawi’s work to them they realized his command on Hadith.

Another important work associated to Al-Nanawtawi in Hadith literature is his discussion on the hierarchical position and classification of the Books of Hadith. This is included with the principles of critical study of the Hadith literature. In fact, this work is a further elaboration and clarification of the work of Imam al-Hind Shah Wali Allah of Delhi, which he mentioned in his Hujjatullah al-Balighah.

In Hujjatullah Wali Allah has done a unique classification of the books of Hadith. In Indo-Pak subcontinent amongst the Sunni Islamic scholarship this unique classification has a great importance for the systematic study of Hadith. Al-Nānawtawī has contributed a detailed description and further clarifications on this classification. This clarification is an answer to the questions raised by Shia scholars against this classification.

Ubaydullah Sindhi and Zafar Ahmad Thanawi acknowledged Al-Nanawtawi’s discussion of great importance. They saw it as one of the most commendable contribution of Ubaydullah Sindhi, in Hadith literature; according to both of them, none has better understood Wali-Allah’s classification of the books of Hadith other than Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi and it is the most praiseworthy further addition to the work of Wali Allah. Sindhi writes,

Shah Wali Allah’s classification has been mentioned by Shah Abdul Aziz with more elaboration in his Ujalah Nafi’ah. But in both of the books this discussion is instinctive. Both of the writers have not mentioned any rational and logical arguments, they only relied upon the theories of the authentic early scholars. In the beginning this was sufficient for my mental satisfaction, but I was aspirant for further clarifications and elaborations. By chance I was reading Hadiyatul Shiah authored by Shaykh al-Islam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi; in this book he has well established Shah Wali Allah’s classification with logic. Thus the critical study of Hadith literature, which was established by Shah Wali Allah, became more prolific for us.  (Ubaydullah Sindhi, Shah Wali Allah awr unka Falsafah, (Lahore: n. p., 1964), p. 127)

Zafar Ahmad Thanawi praises in the following words,

The way Mawlana (Al-Nanawtawi) has discussed the hierarchical position and classification of the Books of Hadith and the principles of critical study of Hadith literature in his book Hadiyatul Shiah it sounds that none has understood ×ujjatullah al Balighah’s discourse more than him. (Zafar AÍmad Thanawi, “Silsilah-i Shah Wali Allah ki Khidmat-e Hadith,” Ma’arif, v. 53, no. 5, (p. 350).  

Furthermore, in his Intabah al-Muminun Al-Nanawtawi has answered an inquiry and has done a research to explain the quintessence of the Hadith قيل يا رسول الله من نومر بعدك  (It is said O’ Messenger of God! whom should we assign as our leader after you). He has discussed two narrations based on their logical meanings in accordance of the traditions of Muhaddithin, اين كان ربنا قبل ان يخلق الخلق  (Where was our Lord before He created the creation) narrated by Abu Razin, and من لم يعرف إمام زمانه مات  (who does not recognize the Imam of his time, died…). In addition Al-Nanawtawi has done harmonization (taÏbiq) between the two narrations of Abu Dawud, المكاتب عبد ما بقي عليه من مكاتبة درهم (the Mukatab (who purchases his freedom) remains a slave even if he owes a dirham from the price of his freedom and اذا اصاب المكاتب حداً او ميراثاً ورث بحساب ما عتق منه  (if Mukatab faces a punishment or inherits, he will inherit according to the number of shares that were set for freeing him). Also there is a research associated with Al-Nanawtawi related to Hadith Mutashabah - كان في عماء  (…was in blindness). All the above mentioned discussions are the reply to the inquiries from the contemporary scholars of Hadith.

Al-Nanawtawi’s Method of teaching Hadith:
Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi is the founder of “the distinctive features” and methods of teaching Hadith in Indian subcontinent. Till thirteenth century of Hijrah in Indian subcontinent the four jurist explanations were considered sufficient amongst the Islamic scholars. The most important part, which Al-Nanawtawi played, is that to bring the Hanafi jurist explanations under the cover of the Hadith. Zafar Thanawi writes,

Mawlana (Al-Nanawtawi) used to say with great confidence that I take the responsibility to prove Abu Hanifa’s statements in accordance of the Hadith, but I am not responsible for the analysis done by the jurists. (Zafar Al-Thanvi, in Nur p. 350)

Later this method developed by Al-Nanawtawi and his distinguished disciple Mahmud Hasan became a process of “affirmation and preference for Hanafite jurisprudence.” This method is not possible to be avoided now by any institution of Hadith in the entire Indian subcontinent.

Islamic Religious Philosophy of Al-Nanawtawi
In Islamic religious philosophy Tahzir al-Nas authored by Al-Nanawtawi has great importance. In addition Al-Nanawtawi wrote another book MunaÐarah Ajibah as an explanation of Tahzir. Both of these books are the masterpieces in modern Islamic philosophy. In fact, this was not written with the purpose of publication. This was a personal letter. It was written to his contemporary scholar Mohammad Ahsan Nanawtawi for answering his question about narration of Ibn Abbas related to seven earths. Ahsan himself was a theologian, logician and philosopher. Therefore, Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi has used rich philosophical and logical arguments in this letter. But without informing Al-Nanawtawi Ahsan published the letter considering it a great work in the area of Islamic religious philosophy. Al-Nanawtawi did not like its publication. After publication this book became a piece of religious philosophical discussion in the academic circles. Even the people of less philosophical understanding became to participate in the discussion and they misunderstood the real gist and philosophy of this book. Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi wrote,

I never realized that nobody will understand these contents, and I never thought it will be published. I have a habit to reply to colleagues. For replying to Maulwi Muhammad Ahsn’s inquiry as per my old habit I wrote him a letter and later also added an excursus. But God knows, for what reasons he published it, and I have to face such blames. (Al-Nanawtawi, Tanwir al-Nabras ala man Ankara Tahzir al-Nas, in Nur, p. 550)

Al-Nanawtawi’s Illustrious Disciples
Shakhul Hind Maulana Mahmud Hasan Deobandi was the most illustrious disciple and student of Al-Nanawtawi. He learned science of Hadith from Imam Al-Nanawtawi. In 1289AH he graduated under Al-Nanawtawi. Shakhul Hind performed Hajj with his teacher and montor, Al-Nanawtawi in 1294AH. After performing Hajj Mahmud paid allegiance to Al-Nanawtawi’s spiritual mentor Imdadullah Muhajir Makki. Shaykhul Hind Maulana Mahmud Hasan led freedom struggle during the British Rule in India, he was jailed in Malta. He was the founder of Jamia Millia Islamia (Central University of New Delhi), initiator of Khilafat Movement and founder of Jami’at Ulama-e Hind; he left many books and treatises including his famous Urdu translation of Quran with the commentary of his disciple Shabbir AÍmad Uthmani. Mahmud was the first bearer of intellectual legacy of Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi. Through him most of the eminent Deobandi Ulama trace back their roots to Al-Nanawtawi.

Another important and illustrious disciple and student of Al-Nanawtawi was Maulana Fakhrul Hasan Gangohi. Fakhrul Hasan collected treatises, letters and writings of Al-Nanawtawi and paid special attention towards their publication. Fakhrul Hasan also served Hadith literature. He wrote scholium on Sunan Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah.

The third name of Al-Nanawtawi’s important student is Maulana Ahmad Hasan Amrohi. He also got permission of Hadith narrations from Al-Nanawtawi’s teacher Ahmad Ali Saharanpuri, Abdul Ghani Mujaddi and Abdul Rahman Panipati.

Other than these students there were also several disciples and students of Al-Nanawtawi.  

Great Qasmi Intellectual Dynasty
At Deoband Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi reinstated the great intellectual legacy of Imam Shah Wali Allah of Delhi.

After the termination of the Waliullahi School in Delhi, Allah SWT protected the knowledge, faith and Islamic scholarship through Imam Mohammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi and his outstanding Islamic intellectual successors. In fact, it was a transforming process from predecessor great intellectual dynasty to the succeeding another great intellectual dynasty. The enemy of Islam viewed that the Wali-Allahi School is perished and they will be able to fulfill their desires to eliminate the Islamic identity of the Muslims of Indian subcontinent. They believed that Muslims of Indian Subcontinent have been cutoff from Islamic roots, traditions and knowledge. But against their wishes Allah SWT has kept alive Wali Allah’s intellectual and spiritual influences. This is immortal. It was only a transformation from Delhi to Deoband. Imam Al-Nanawtawi did not establish any new school of thought in Deoband; it was merely a renaissance of the great intellectual and spiritual legacy of Imam Wali Allah of Delhi. Being the last bearer of the Great Waliullahi Intellectual and spiritual legacy al-Nanawtawi brought it in Deoband; it was reestablished at Deoband in form of Darul Uloom Deoband.

After the successful reestablishment of Waliullah’s school in Deoband Qasmiyat (Qasimism) became synonymous to Waliullahiyat (Waliullahism).

The Great Qasmi Intellectual Dynasty, which begins from Hujjat al Islam Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi, his eminent son Hafiz al Din wa-al Millah Muhammad Ahmad (former Rector of Darul Uloom Doeband), his august grandson Hakimul Islam Maualana Muhammad Tayyib (Former Rector of Darul Uloom Deoband) and great grandsons Khatibul Islam Muhammad Salim Qasmi (Rector of Darul Uloom Deoband waqf at present), outstanding Islamic orator Maulana Muhammad Aslam Qasmi Muhaddith, is known the most influential intellectual dynasty of Indian subcontinent, which replaced the intellectual dynasty of Imam Wali Allah of Delhi.

Al-Nanawtawi was the founder of the Deobandi thought and school, his august son was the architect of the university, Ahmad was the Rector of his father’s Darul Uloom for around 40 years. He served Darul Uloom as the second longest serving rector in the history of DU. He was titled Shamsul Ulama, which he refused to adopt. Ahmad got fame throughout the nation because of his being son of Imam Al-Nanawtawi and the Chief Mufti of Hyderabad. He assumed the title of Chief Mufti of Hyderabad thus gained a warm royal support to Darul Uloom Deoband. In fact, only during his rectory Darul Uloom became Darul Uloom Deoband. He was the one who developed Darul Uloom as a university. During his rectory major magnificent buildings especially Darul Hadith wa Tafseer were constructed. These buildings are the icons of Darul Uloom Deoband. His period of rectory was full of educational development. Several research projects on Tafseer, Hadith and Fiqah were carried out during his rectory.

Al-Nanawtawi’s grandson Hakimul Islam Maulana Muhammad Tayyib Qasmi brought Darul Uloom Deoband on the peak of its opulence and prestige. Tayyib is known as the “Second Architect” of Darul Uloom Deoband. He was the Rector of his grandfather’s Darul Uloom for 54 years. The outstanding orator, prolific writer and Islamic thinker Muhammad Tayyib (longest serving rector in the history of Darul Uloom, rectory period 1929-1983) traveled almost the whole world to introduce the services of Darul Uloom Deoband. The centenary celebration (Ijlas Sadsala) in 1980 is known as one of the most outstanding works done by Muhammad Tayyab, which brought Darul Uloom Deoband on the peak of its prestige and reputation. This was Mohammad Tayyab, known as Hakimul Islam, led Darul Uloom on the peak of its glory and opulence. At present the world famous Darul Uloom Deoband owes everything to Hakim ul Islam for his outstanding rectory and 54 years of services.

Maulana Muhammad Salim Qasmi now is the only surviving theologian and Islamic scholars who directly links entire Deobandi scholarship to the early generations of the great Ulama of Deoband. Salim Qasmi is only surviving disciple of Hakimul Ummat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi. Due to his being student of Al-Thanawi through only two mediators in between one can trace his intellectual roots to Al-Nanawtawi directly.

Al-Nanawtawi was suffering from asthma. Only in the age of 48 in 1880 after the fourteen year of the establishment of Darul Uloom Deoband Al-Nanawtawi passed away. He was buried near his school in Deoband in a private orchard, which later became popular as the Qasmi Graveyard. Thousands of common Muslims and hundreds of great Ulama and Saints are buried around Al-Nanawtawi in this graveyard.