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Shaikhul Hind Mahmood Hasan Deobandi

(d. 1920)

Early Life and Education
Service of Knowledge from the Rampart of Darul Uloom Deoband
The Beginning of the Struggle for the Independence of India
Herald of New Era in Freedom Struggle and Birth of Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind:
Foundation of Jamia Millia Islamia (Modern Central University in New Delhi)

Shaikhul Hind was the first ever pupil in Darul Uloom. It is about him that it has been said that the student who first of all opened the book before the teacher, it was Mahmood. Shaikhul Hind was born in 1268/1851 at Bareilly where his august father, Shaykh Zulfiqar Ali, was attached to the government education department. Primary education he acquired from his uncle, Shaykh Mehtab Ali, who was a famous divine. While he was reading Qaduri and Sharh-e-Tehzib, Darul Uloom came to be established, and he entered it. After completing the course of Darul Uloom in A.H. 1286, he lived in attendance on al-Imam Mohammad Qasim Nanawtawi and acquired the science of Hadith. Thereafter he studied certain higher books of different sciences under the instruction of his august father; and in 1290/1873, he received the "turban of proficiency" at the auspicious hands of al-Imam Nanawtawi. During his student career itself he was counted amongst the distinguished pupils of al-Imam Mohammad Qasim Nanawtawi, who used to show special affection to him. As such, in view of his high academic and mental capacities, the elders choice fell upon him for the teaching position in the Darul Uloom, and in 1291/1874, he was appointed as the fourth teacher from which post he gradually progressed and got promoted to the post of the principal in1308/1890.

Like his external knowledge and learning his interior was also rich. In 1294/1877, he acquired the honor of performing the Hajj in the company of his revered teacher al-Imam Mohammad Qasim Nanawtawi. In the holy city of Makkah al Mukarramah he also received the honor of vowing allegiance to Hadhrat Haji Imdadullah (may his secret be sanctified). A big caravan of Ulema had been formed in this pilgrimage journey in which, besides al-Imam Nanawtawi, preeminent Ulema like Imam Rabbani Shaykh Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi, Shaykh Muhammad Yaqub Nanautawi, Shaykh Muhammad Mazhar Nanawtawi, Shaykh Muhammad Munir Nanawtawi, Hakim Ziauddin Rampuri and Shaykh Ahmed Hasan Kanpuri were in the company. Totally there were nearly one hundred men in the caravan. Shaikhul Hind had also had khilafat from Hadhrat Haji Imdadullah Mahajir Makki. The salary of the principal in those days in Darul Uloom was Rs. 75/- but he never took more than Rs. 50/=the remaining Rs. 25/= he used to contribute to the fund of the Darul Uloom. Due to his great academic personality the number of students had gone up from 200 to 600. During his tenure 860 students completed the course of Hadith.

Illustrious and Eminent Pupils of Shaykhul Hind Mahmood Hasan
The educa­tional grace of Shaykhul Hind prepared a group of famous and illustrious Ulema like al-Mujaddid al-Millat Hakimul Ummat Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Imam al-Muhaddithin Syed Muhammad Anwar Shah Kashmiri, Shaykhul Islam Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, Shaykh Ubaydullah Sindhi, Shaykh Mansoor Ansari, Shaykhul Hadith Hussain Ahmed Madani, Mufti-e-Azam Mufti Kifayatullah Dehelwi, Shaykh Syed Asghar Hussain Deobandi, Shaykhul Hadith Syed Fakhruddin Ahmed, Shaykh Muhammad Aizaz Ali Amrohi, Shaykhul Hadith Muhammad Ibrahim Balyawi and Maulana Syed Manazir Ahsan Gilani (may Allah have mercy on all of them).

Comparative Study of Four Mazahib
As regards the Shaikhul Hind’s circle of teaching and its peculiarities, Shaykh Mian Asghar Hussain has stated: ­

"Seeing his circle of teaching, the circle of Hadith of the pious ancestors and great traditionalists used to come before the eyes. The Quran and Hadith were on his tongue and the practical methods (Mazahib) of the four Imams he had by heart, and the statements of the Companions and Followers (Tabe'in), and Mujtahids were safe in his memory. While lecturing neither the veins of his neck swelled nor did the mouth foam, nor he would make his lecture obtuse and incomprehensible by the use of abstruse words. He would use such light and easy words in idiomatic Urdu and speak with such fluency and fervor that it would seem as if a river was overflowing. It is no hyperbole. Thousands of those who had seen him are present (to testify) that the same man of spare frame, unassuming, skeletal, frail man of God who looked an ordinary, meek student in the rows of prayer, used to appear on the seat of teaching while lecturing as if he was a lion of God who was proclaiming truth with all the force and grandeur at his command. There was no hoarse high-pitch in his tone but intelli­gible, audible voice easily reached up to the door of the Madrasah. There was not a scintilla of pretence and affectation in his tone but God Most High had endowed his speech with effect and his talk used to be cogent so that the hearer would rise up after being convinced that what he was saying was true.

"Many talented, intelligent and shrewd students who, after having attended upon and deriving benefit from different teachers, used to come to Hadhrat Maulana's presence, and, on getting satisfactory answers to the searching of their hearts and hearing the imports and lofty topics of the Quranic verses and the prophetic Hadiths, would bow their head in submission and admit that no other person had such knowledge and such a research scholar was not there in the world.

"In open questions he used to describe the practical methods (Mazahib) of the Three Imams (Allah's mercy be on them) rather of other Mujtahids also and used to quote arguments also briefly, but when Imam Abu Hanifa's turn came, there used to appear expansion in Maulana's heart, liveliness on his face, fluency in his speech and fervency in his tone. He would go on stating argument after argument, witness after witness, and context after context; there would be no pause in speech and he would give preference to the great Imam's Mazhab in such a way that the right-minded and the just would rock with admiration. Presenting corner and far-fetched Hadiths of different topics he would prove the purport thereof in such a way that it would sink into the heart and the audience's heart would bear testimony and would see with their eyes that he was right.

"Inspite of all the respect and reverence to the Imams of Islam and admission of their accomplishments had become an inseparable part of his teachings. He would himself lecture in such a manner and would clearly instill that all the practical methods of the Mujtahid Imams are true, reasoned through and ratified by the Book and the Sunnah, that to find fault with them is the cause of misfortune and rudeness towards them is the cause of loss.

"He had had a special attachment to Imam Bukhari amongst the traditionalists and to the Great Imam Abu Hanifah amongst the Mujtahid Imams".

Shaykh Ubaydullah Sindhi writes: "1 read Maulana Muhammad Qasim's Hujjatul-Islam under the instruction of Hadhrat Shaikhul Hind. Sometimes, while reading the book, I used to feel as if knowledge and faith (Iman) were descending upon my heart from on high".

The First World War had not begun yet but its portents had begun to appear. The British Government had begun a cold war against the Ottoman Empire and day by day the situation was growing more and more delicate, so much so that the dreadful flame of war blazed up in 1914/1333. This was a period of great restlessness and anxiety for the Shaykhul Hind. The ideal of the Indian National Congress till then had not proceeded beyond the demanding of rights. Such were the circumstances that compelled Shaykhul Hind to launch a revolutio­nary movement; he prepared a plan to overthrow the British Government through an armed revolution. As you proceed further it will be known that it was a very well organized plan.

The period of 1330/1911 was a very calamitous period for the world of Islam. The European powers had decided through a secret pact to make a short work of the Turkish Empire. The implementation of this pact began with Italy’s invasion on Tripoli, which was then a part of Turkish territory; France usurped Morocco and the Christian states of Balkan began a series of attack upon the Turks. It was wholly British politics that was working behind the scene. These events were very disquieting for every sympathetic Muslim. The way the English and other European nations were up in arms and at war with the Turks and had resolved to obliterate them from existence, had extremely provoked the Muslims sentiments, and as such Anglophobia was on the increase. At this time great ferment and frenzy were prevalent among the Indian Muslims. The Muslims of the whole world used to consider the Ottoman caliphate as the bulwark of Islam and they used to look upon it with respect and reverence. Its monarchs were called with, the titles of Khalifatul Muslimin (the Caliphs of Muslims) and Khadimul Harmayn al-Sharifayn (the Servant of the Holy Sanctuaries).

Armed Revolution and Khilafat Movement
During this time Shaykhul Hind had prepared a plan on a large scale to finish off the English paramount power in India through an armed revolution for which he had chalked out a well-organized programme. A large group of his disciples and colleagues who had fanned out in India and abroad was striving ardently and with temerity to put into action his prepared plan. From amongst his disciples, Ubaydullah Sindhi, Muhammad Mian Mansoor Ansari and many other disciples were participating, having devoted all their lives to implement the Shaykhul Hind's political and revolutionary programme. It was a very organized movement, which made the atmosphere in the whole of India favorable for future freedom. This work had been started at two fronts, one inside the country and the other outside; preparation for an armed struggle was going on at both the fronts.

The general idea prevalent then was that it was not possible to eject the English from India without might, and since weapons had been seized from the Indians, it was thought necessary to obtain foreign help and assistance in the supply of arms and soldiers to make the war of independence. In this connection Shaykhul Hind first of all looked at Afghanistan; the borders of India and Afghanistan touching each other, it was easiest to get help and weapons from there. Along with this help could also be taken from the free trips inhabiting the border of India, and hence the free territory of Yaghistan had been made the center for the soldiers.

Shaykhul Hind Mahmood Hasan established rapport with those Ulema of the North West Frontier Province who had been students in the Darul Uloom. The plan was to spread a network against the English from Afghanistan to India and then, at an opportune time, the united and organized might of India and the free tribe was to launch an attack upon British India and, on the other hand, a war of independence was to be started in the whole country. It was his belief that it would be such a situation, which the English would not be able to face.

Since it was necessary to take help of foreign governments also in freeing India, he ordered Ubaydullah Sindhi to go on a special mission to Kabul, sent Muhammad Mian Mansoor Ansari to inculcate jihad in the free tribes, and himself embarked on a journey to Hejaz to obtain help from the Turks. The English meanwhile were at war with Germany. The synopsis of the details given officially regarding the movement of "the Silken letters" in para 164 of the report of the Rowlatt Committee is as follows: -­

"The events of Silken letters were discovered in August 1916/1344. This was a plan that had been proposed in India with the idea that disturbance be created on the north-western border on the one hand and, on the other, bolstering it up with the uprising of the Indian Muslims, the British Government be put to an end. To put this proposal into shape a man named Maulawi Ubaydullah crossed the north-western border in August, 1915/1333, with three of his companions. Ubaydullah was formerly a Sikh, who had later on become a Muslim. He acquired religious education in Deoband. The greatest personality among, those people whom Ubaydullah had influenced were that of Maulana Mahmood Hasan who had been a principal of this institution for a long time. Ubaydullah wanted to start a universal Islamic movement against the British in India through the graduate Ulema of Deoband. Secret meetings used to be held at Maulana Mahmood Hasan's house. It is said that some men of, the northwest border also used to participate in them. On September 8, 1915/1333, Maulana Mahmood Hasan left India and reached Hejaz. The important objective of both Ubaydullah and Maulana Mahmood Hasan was to simultaneously cause an aggression on lndia from outside and stir rebellion in India itself. Ubaydullah and his friends first contacted the fanatical India party of fighters (Mujahidin), and then they reached Kabul. There Ubaydullah met the Turk-German Mission. After some days his Deobandi friend, Muhammad Mian also joined him. This man had gone to Hejaz along with Maulana Mahmood Hasan from where he bad come back in 1916/1334, having obtained a proclamation of jihad which Maulana Mahmood Hasan had taken from the Turkish commander in chief of Hejaz, Ghalib Pasha. This document is known as "Ghalib Nama". Muhammad Mian distributed its photocopies on the way in India and among the frontier tribes.

   "Ubaydullah and his companions had prepared a plan of a provisional government at the dissolution of the British government. According to this plan, a man named Mahendra Pratap was to be the president. This man was an ardent Hindu of a respectable family. In the end of 1914/1332 he had been given a passport to go to Switzerland, Italy, France, etc. He went straight to Geneva and there he met the notorious Hardayal, who introduced him to the German consul. From there he came to Germany and was sent on a special mission to Kabul. Ubaydullah himself wanted to be the home-minister of India and Barkatullah to be the prime minister. Barkatullah was a friend of Krishna Verma and a member of the American Ghadr Party.

   "In the beginning of 1916/1334 the members of the German Mission having failed in achieving their objective went away from Afghanistan but the Indian members stayed behind. On behalf of the provisional government they sent letters to the governor of Russian Turkestan and the Czar of Russia, requesting them to Part Company with Britain and to extend help in putting an end to the British ru1e in India. These letters bore Raja Mahendra Pratap's signature. The letter to the Czar of Russia had been written on a gold tablet. The provisional government had also made a suggestion to establish connection with the Turkish government. To achieve this end Ubaydullah wrote a letter on July 9, 1916/1334 to Maulana Mahmood Hasan. Along with it there was a letter from Muhammad Mian Ansari in which there was a mention of the dissemination of the Ghalib Nama and the proposal for the establishment of a provisional government and an army under the name "Hizbullah". It had been suggested to mobilize this army from India. The function of the provisional government was to establish unity with the Islamic government. Maulana Mahmood Hasan had been requested to convey all these events to the Ottoman government. These letters have been written on yellow silk".

    "There was a complete and arranged outline of the Hizbullah in Ubaydullah's letter. The center of this army was to be established at Madina. Maulana Mahmood Hasan himself had to be its commander in­chief. Secondary centers under local commanders were to be established at Constantinople, Tehran and Kabul. Ubaydullah was to be the comman­der at Kabul. The names of three patrons, twelve generals and several high military officers are given in this list. These "Silken letters" have come into the hands of the British government. On account of the informations given in these letters some precautions were considered nece­ssary. In 1916/1335 Maulana Mahmood Hasan and tour of his companions were apprehended by the British government. They are at present war prisoners under British surveillance the signatory of the Ghalib Nama, Ghalib Pasha is also a war prisoner. He has confessed that he has signed the letter, which Mahmood Hasan's Party had put before him".

Political Journey of Shaykhul Hind to Hejaz and His Detention in Malta 
The Shaikhul Hind, in order to make his scheme successful, despite his old age, undertook a journey to Hejaz in 1333/1915. Meeting the Turkish governor of that region, Ghalib Pasha, and Anwar Pasha, the then minister of war of Turkey, he settled certain important matters. From Hejaz, via Baghdad and Baluchistan, he wanted to reach the independent tribes of the Frontier when suddenly, during the Great War, Sharif Hussain, the ruler of Makkah, at the instance of the English officials, apprehended him and handed him over to them. This arrest along with his companions took place on 23rd Safar, A. H. 1335. Along with the Shaikhul Hind, Shaykh Hussain Ahmed Madani, Shaykh Uzair Gul, Hakim Nusrat Hussain and Maulawi Waheed Ahmed were also arrested. From the holy Makkah they were taken to Jeddah where they were kept in detention for nearly a month. On 18th Rabiul Awwal, A. H. 1335/January 12, 1917, they were taken on board a ship to Suez, and then from there to Malta, which was then considered the safest place in the British Empire for the prisoners of war. Statements were taken from Shaikhul Hind and his companions. Among the questions put to them during the course of recording their statements, the following three were important:-

(1) What was the purpose of your meeting Ghalib Pasha and other Turkish ministers in Madina?
(2) Why have you evaded signing the fatwa anathematizing (takfeer) the Turks?
(3) The details of Maulana Ubaydullah Sindhi's political activities in Afghanistan were asked.

On this side enquiries were made from the Shaikhul Hind's collea­gues in India. In short, this chain of enquiries continued from Zi-qa'da, A. H. 1334 (September, 1916) for over a year complete details of which are given in Safar Nama Asir-e Malta and Naqsh-e Hayat. He was kept in detention at Malta along with his companions for three and a quarter years. After the war was over he got the permission to return to India and on 20th Ramazanul Mubarak, A. H. 1338/1920, he stepped on the shore of Mumbai. After reaching Deoband he first of all went to Darul Uloom and then went home.

As soon as he reached India, he joined the Khilafat Movement. He issued a fatwa of Non-cooperation against the British Government, which engendered great agitation in the country. After the discovery of the Shaikhul Hind's project, although the movement of the Silken Letters had apparently died down to all intents and purposes, his passion for liberty had not admitted any diminution. On his reaching India the British government, through various means, tried to incline him to withdraw from politics but he rejected all their means. Disembarking from, the ship at Mumbai he met the late Maulana Shaukat Ali and other members of the Khilafat Committee, Maulana Abdul Bari Farangi Mahalli from Lucknow and Gandhi ji from Ahmedabad came and met him in Mumbai, Talks were held with other leaders also, Shaikhul Hind, with the Khilafat Committee and the Jamiatul Ulema-e Hind, joined the movement for the freedom of the native land and thus the scheme of an armed rebellion for the inde­pendence of India came to an end.

The preface writer of Shaykh Ubaydullah Sindhi's Zati Diary (Personal Diary) has written that:

"Shaikhal-Hind's party had had the same position in the First World War which Azad Hind Fauj and Azad Hukumat-e Hind have had during the course of the Second World War. Even as the present activities after the war are in fact the developed form of the rebellious struggle during the course of the war, the political struggle of the Khilafat Movement (from 1919/1338 to 1922/1341) was also a developed form of the activities of the Shaikhul Hind's party and his colleagues, If Subhash Chandra Bose bears the palm for the activities of the Azad Hind, the center of activities after the First World War was Shaikhul Hind himself. His political activities began from 1905/1323 and were a part of that programme which Maulana Ubaydullah Sindhi remembers as Shah Waliullah's political movement".

During the First World War, after the defeat of the Ottoman Caliphate, the Khilafat Movement started in India with great vigor and vehemence; this was in fact the beginning of an organized effort on a great scale for the freedom of the country before which the country wide politics of the Indian National Congress had been eclipsed. At that time Mohan Das Gandhi gave proof of his extraordinary political statesmanship and farsightedness. Sensing the delicacy of the grave conditions of the situation, he joined the Indian National Congress with the Khilafat Committee as a result of which the national movement of India became so strong and vigorous that it became difficult for the English rulers to sustain India. The effect of this joint and united struggle was that India covered the stages of freedom very speedily and within the period of 27 years only the country became free.

To overlook or ignore this important turn in the history of the struggle for the independence of India is not just. Had Mohan Das Gandhi not joined Congress and the Khilafat Committee at that time, it would not have been easy at all for India to cover the stage of freedom so quickly.

In November 1919, the revolutionary Ulama under the leadership of Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan, on the occasion of the Khilafat conference held at Delhi, resolved to constitute a new organization for carrying on non-violent freedom struggle in cooperation with fellow countrymen. The organization was designated as ‘Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’. Mufti-e-Azam Mufti Kifayatullah was elected as the first President. The establishment of the organization was a decisive turning point in their revolutionary movement. They gave up armed struggle and chose non-violent struggle and adopted non-co-operation. That strategy eventually led to freedom of the country.

When the Shaikhul Hind, after his arrival in India, joined the Khilafat Movement and issued a fatwa for non-cooperation with the British, it produced such stir and excitement in the country that the people became intent upon closing down even the Muslim University, Aligarh. Shaikhul Hind was very ill at the time and yet he went to Aligarh in this state of illness and inaugurated the Jamia Millia Islamia (which later on shifted to Delhi) on October 29th 1920 (16th Safar, AH. 1339) "in the Jama Masjid of Aligarh. The significant political address he delivered on this occasion would always remain memorable in the political history of India.

A remarkable exploit of Shaikhul Hind is this that through his efforts Aligarh and Deoband began to be seen on one platform and the distance between the two was very much reduced. In short, besides knowledge and learning and asceticism and piety, he had had consum­mate skill in politics and statesmanship also. Although after his return from Malta his health had deteriorated and the physical faculties had weakened due to old age, he vehemently participated in political works. The disposition could not bear this heavy stress and strain and mean­while he undertook the journey to Aligarh. After returning from there when his condition became alarming, he was taken to Delhi to be treated by Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari. Hakim Ajmal Khan was also participating in treating him, but the promised hour had come; he departed to the eter­nal realm on 18th Rabiul Awwal, A. H. 1339 (November 30, 1920).

The bier was brought to Deoband and next day this treasure of learn­ing and accomplishments was concealed, near his mentor and teacher al-Imam Mohammad Qasim Nanawtwi’s auspici­ous grave, from the eyes of the world.

Besides innumerable divines and scholars amongst his disciples, the Urdu translation of the Holy Quran, Adilla-e Kamila, Izahul Adilla, Ahsanul-Qura, Jahdul-Maqal, AI-Abwab wal-Tarajim, various fatawa and political addresses are his authorial remains.

Biographical details regarding him are found in the following books: ­

(1) Hayat-e Shaikhul Hind by Maulana Mian Asghar Hussain Deobandi.
(2) Naqsh-e Hayat by Maulana Syed Hussain Ahmed Madani.
(3) Asir-e Malta by Maulana Syed Hussain Ahmed Madani.
(4) Tazkira-e Shaikhul Hind by Maulana Aziz al-Rahman Bijnori.
(5) Tehrik-e Shaikhul Hind by Maulana Syed Muhammad Mian.