Books and Documents

Islamic Personalities (08 Jun 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Shah Waliullah Renewed Islam in Eighteenth Century India with Ideas That Were Progressive and Even Revolutionary For His Time

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

08 June 2019

Shah Waliullah was one of the most important Islamic personalities in the 18th century India. He lived during the Mughal era and witnessed the rule of ten Mughal rulers from Aurangzeb to Shah Alam Sani.

During his time India was going through economic, social and moral crises. The Mughal court, particularly during the rule of Mughal Shah Rangila, had become a centre of song and dance. The Muslim community was largely illiterate and unaware of their religious legacy. Many un-Islamic practices had crept into it. Since the system of religious education was not organised, Muslims were largely unaware of the teachings of Quran and Hadith.

Shah Waliullah was born and brought up in a religious household. His father Abdur Rahim was a religious scholar and one of the editors of Fatawa-e- Alamgiri compiled during Aurangzeb's rule. He also ran a Madrasa in his house. He received his primary education from his father and a religious scholar called Haji Sialkoti. After that he went to Hijaz (now Saudi Arabia) for pilgrimage. During his stay after pilgrimage, he learnt Deen from Abu Tahir Mohammad bin Ibrahim Madani of Madina and Mufti of Makkah Tajuddin Hanafi. He also learnt Quran and Hadith from Shaikh Wafdullah. He received a certificate in Mawatta Imam Malik.

Coming back to India, he resolved to spread the knowledge of Quran and Hadith among general Muslims. During his period and before him the Quran was only received and learnt by heart. The knowledge of Hadith was also minimal. The translation of Quran in Urdu or Persian was not available. In fact, reading the translation of Quran was considered a sin. Therefore, the Quran was either kept in houses for recitation on special events or used to draw fal.

Shah Waliullah started teaching in his father’s Madrasa Rahimiya. Soon the reputation of the style oh his teaching spread far and students from far off places started coming to his Madrasa. This rendered the place insufficient. When the Mughal king, Mohammad Shah heard about the Madrasa, he donated a Haweli for it and the Madrasah shifted in the grand building. The Madrasa became a big centre of Islamic learning.

Shah Waliullah wanted to teach students Quran with its meaning. So he Translated Quran into Persian, the language of the masses. He taught students Quran with Persian translation and then Tafseer-e-Jalalayn. Hadith, history and Fiqh was also taught here. But the conservative religious circle of his time vehemently opposed the idea of teaching the translation of the Quran. According to the ulema of the time, reading or teaching translation of the Quran was a sin, a Bid'at (innovation in religion). They accused Shah Waliullah of misleading Muslim youth and declared him Wajib ul Qatl (deserving death). After that one day when he was coming out of Masjid Fatehpuri, some goons led by a mullah tried to assault him but he managed to wriggle out of the place unscathed.

Inspired by him, his sons Shah Rafiuddin and Shah Abdul Qadir later translated the Quran in Urdu. Thus, Shah Waliullah opened the door to translation and exegesis of Quran in Indian languages and started the tradition of intellectual research work on the Quran.

Shah Waliullah did not subscribe to the idea of four imams and four sects. His opinion was that all the religious issues of the Muslims should be resolved in the light of Quran and Hadith. The opinions of the four imams should be consulted only for reference and corroboration. Therefore, while resolving an issue, he would sometimes accept the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa and on other occasions he would agree with the opinion of other imams. He opposed the division of the Ummah in four sects. He would say that the Muslims should not obey those dry headed ulema who stick to one imam and abandon Sunnah. This led ulema to brand him Ghairm U Qallad.

Shah Waliullah tried to remove the difference between the Hanafi, Ahle Hadith and other sects by writing well researched articles pointing out the flaws in their ideology in the light of Quran and Sunnah.

Another important contribution of Shah Waliullah to the Islamic thought is that he declared Sufism to be the soul of Islam. According to him, Deen had two aspects: outer and inner. The outer aspect represented dogma and religious practices and the inner aspect was Sufism. He divides Islamic mysticism into four periods. The first period was the era of the holy prophet pbuh and his companions. The second period is marked by the period of Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi. He gave a distinct form to Sufism by laying down its principles. The third period begins with Abu Sayid bin Abil Khair and Kharqani. In this period, Sufism became an altogether different way of devotion and submission to God. Trance, meditation and other spiritual exercises were resorted to as a means to achieve spiritual realisation of the Supreme Reality from which the universe has emanated. But till this period Sufis were not aware of the terms like Wahdat ul Wujud and Wahdatush Shuhud. Their devotion was based on love of God not on fear of God.

The fourth period of Sufism started with Ibn-e-Arabi or sometime before him. His philosophical treatise called Fusu sul Hikam gave birth to the philosophy of Wahdat ul Wujud in Islam. After that Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi presented the philosophy of Wahdatush Shuhud. Sufis in this period discussed these two terms and tried to understand the concept of the unity of existence.

Therefore Shah Waliullah believed that Sufism was the inner stream of Islam and the holy prophet pbuh and his companions were Sufis of the first order.

And last but not the least, Shah Waliullah believed that the period in which he lived was not an appropriate time for jihad with sword. He was not in favour of jihad with sword. He believed that it was more necessary to wage jihad against oneself first. He also believed that the Ummah should be first taught their Deen and be made aware of their duties as Muslims.

Therefore, we can say that Shah Waliullah renewed the Deenof Islam in India with ideas that can be considered progressive and even revolutionary for his time. He made remarkable contributions to the spread of Quranic wisdom, moving it from mere rote learning to learning with understanding.


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/s-arshad,-new-age-islam/shah-waliullah-renewed-islam-in-eighteenth-century-india-with-ideas-that-were-progressive-and-even-revolutionary-for-his-time/d/118828

New Age IslamIslam OnlineIslamic WebsiteAfrican Muslim NewsArab World NewsSouth Asia NewsIndian Muslim NewsWorld Muslim NewsWomen in IslamIslamic FeminismArab WomenWomen In ArabIslamophobia in AmericaMuslim Women in WestIslam Women and Feminism


  • Arshad sb,
    You can only say that the Sufis also follow Islam but cannot say that the Quran supports Sufism. If Sufism is pure Islam and nothing else, why does it have a separate and distinct existence? There is therefore no question of the Quran supporting Sufism without reservations.
    Islam and the Quran are not based or founded on any 'ism but is the pure Deen of Allah. The Deen of Allah may have spawned many 'isms but even then there cannot be a reverse claim. It is upto these other 'isms to prove that they are in conformity with the Deen of Allah and even if they do so successfully, they are only copies. Why should I be satisfied with a copy when the original is available?
    I am not against Sufism. I only speak out against their fraudulent claims. If they have explained any term or meaning well, bring it out. How have they for example, explained the "wajaha" of Allah? Wajaha is used as metaphor and face is its literal meaning is what everyone knows. No matter how wajaha is explained, the fact remains that "There is none like Allah". So, when there is none like Allah, how can you explain the wajaha of Allah? It is best to recognize that it is used as a metaphor and leave it at that because unless you have seen Allah, you will never know what it is. The Quran discourages from speculation when the truth is beyond you. It is enough to know that you will get to experience the presence of Allah in the Hereafter, if you are admitted to Heaven.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 6/19/2019 3:55:31 AM

  • My sentence was 
     "ghat me baitho aur kafiron ke paur paur Kato yahan tak e would maghlub hokar jizya den." Kind of verses. 
    Mr Naseer Ahmad omitted the phrase "kind of verses" and said that I mosquoted the verse. I did not qoute any verse from the Quran. If I had done I would have qouted it correctly and given the verse number. I meant there are verses that exhort Muslims to kill the kaffir and mushrik. It was in the context that he had in the earlier comment said that sufism is not mentioned in the Quran. I had said that then if we should believe what is mentioned in the Quran then we should believe in the verses that exhort Muslims to kill the kuffar. We do not because we take the context as well. Similarly, the ternm sufism is not mentioned in the Quran, agreed but when we take into consideration various verses that exhort us to utter the name of Allah and remember him morning and evening (again I am not qouting the verses because I know I am not discusssing Quran with novices), verses that preach compassion, non violence, equality etc which the sufis religiously follow, we can say that  the Quran supports Sufism. I am surprised why Mr Naseer Ahmad is so much opposed to sufism, a community which has served humanity and Islam greatly. Mr Naseer Ahmad calls Imma Ghazali a fraud. He may do so given his vast knowledge. I do not have the temerity to do so being a humble student or Quran. He asks what kind of contribution Sufis had made in the understanding of the Quran. Sufis spread the message of Quran through their practices and behaviour. They did not explain to the polytheists of India the meaning of the Mishkatul Anwar verse but treated them with compassion, love and help. Their mystical debates were only within their circle of sufis not with the common public. And nowadasys, Mr Naseer Ahmad promotes his articles in his comments a la read my this article to understand that topic or that article to understand this verse. There are a number of verses in the Quran which can be best explained from a sufi point of view and there are many terms that can only be understood when discussed or explained from a sufi point of view like Haqqul Yaqin, Ilmul Yaqin Aynal yaqin , shahid Mashhud, shuhud, Wajhullah (translators translate it as face of Allah which is wrong).

    By Arshad - 6/19/2019 12:15:54 AM

  • QUOTE: Shah Waliullah Renewed Islam in Eighteenth Century India with Ideas That Were Progressive and Even Revolutionary For His Time
    UNQUOTE: My respect for Shah Waliullah Dehlavi but his progressive ideas mislead his own sons, half of them were affected by the very progressive wahhabi influences that made many crores of wahhabis out of their pristine SUNNIYAT, so Shah Sahebs efforts were controversial. He didn't believe that the moon was cut off into two, but held it will be cut off during the last hour. This stand too is very controversial as every thing would be broken to pieces in the lost hour, so what is the new in his stand? Rather, this is the total denial of the MU'JAZAH of Rasoolullah Sallallahu A'laihi wa Sallam.
    Sultan Shahin and his neophytes are known to deviate from the original Islam, don't mind them and reject their progressive deviant ideas to save your own skin in the AAKHIRAH.

    By Qaseem - 6/10/2019 9:52:29 PM

  • "ghat me baitho aur kafiron ke paur paur Kato yahan tak e would maghlub hokar jizya den."

    There is no such verse in the Quran. Do not blaspheme the Quran. Show some respect by quoting it accurately if you wish to quote it. If this is a perverted version of verse 9:29, then read the following article to understand it and correct your beliefs about it.  

           The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) From the Qu’ran (Part 6): The People of the Book and Jiziya

     You can believe in Sufism or any other ism but the question is what does it have to do with Islam. In what way does it add to it or has contributed? Be specific. Have the Sufis given us a better understanding of the Quran through their “mystical knowledge”? Cite one good example if you can. They have given us false myths such as about an Alam-e-Arwah and passed it on as knowledge received directly from the Prophet to explain verse 7:172! I don’t blame them for their inability to explain correctly because the correct explanation for the verse is found in modern genetics but I blame them for making a fraudulent claim. You will find the correct explanation of the verse in my article:

    The Quran, Islamic Theology, Philosophy and the Sciences – On Soul and the Creation of Man (Part 2)

    Imam Ghazali’s treatise on the verse 24:35 Mishkat ul Anwaar is another fraud as his explanation contradicts the very next verse 24:36. I do not blame him for his inability to explain as it is a difficult verse to explain but I fault him for being a fraud. Surely, he must have known that his explanation contradicts the very next verse. The treatise is however one of the finest examples of how even falsehood can be made to appear very deep, beautiful and refined. So much for all the inner knowledge and wisdom of the Sufis. Has any Sufi or non-Sufi scholar explained well the many adjurations in the Quran? Why have they failed to do so with their deep mystical knowledge?

    There is no mystery or mysticism to the understanding of the Book. What it requires is uncompromising honesty and integrity and a sensible approach. 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 6/10/2019 8:02:21 AM

  • There are many things that are not mentioned in Quran but we believe in them. Again there are many things that are many things that are mentioned in the Quran but we say that they are not applicable to our times. For example halala is not mentioned in the Quran, that is the term but we believe in it. Again sufi or sufism is not mentioned in the Quran but descendants of the prophet or sahaba believed in it . If we should not believe in sufism because it is not mentioned in the Quran then we should believe in qital and "ghat me baitho aur kafiron ke paur paur Kato yahan tak e would maghlub hokar jizya den." Kind of verses. Shah Waliullah did not coin the terms Wahdatul Wajud and shahud. He mentioned the theoretical aspect of modern sufism. And the case of inner and outer Islam is not presented by Muslim Sufism, the entire Upanishad professes this belief. According to Upanishad knowledge is of two kinds: para Vidya and apara Vidya. The religious practices yagya, puja,upvas etc are called apara Vidya and spiritual knowledge that leads to divine realisation is called para Vidya. Even apara Vidya is called avidya as it does not lead man to divine realisation. It only gives man the feeling of belonging to a religion. So spirituality or in other words mysticism is considered the real soul of every religion.
    By Arshad - 6/9/2019 8:25:39 PM

  • Neither the Quran nor the ahadith have the concept of Wahdat al wujud or wahdat al shuhud or of Sufism. So what do we make of Shah Waliullah who is obsessed with what is neither found in the Quran or Sunna or the ahadith?

    Yes, there is an inner part and an outer part but there can be no outer part without the inner which is why both belief and deeds are important and without the right beliefs, the right deeds are difficult. The test of  a person is however based on his deeds or behaviour and not on his inner beliefs which is why a just, truthful and generous person will enter Heaven irrespective of his beliefs and a tyrant will be flung into Hell irrespective of his beliefs.

    I am not a Sufi but I am able to find a common denominator uniting all good people which Shah Waliullah and every other Sufi failed in achieving.

    In the ultimate analysis therefore, there is no difference between the Sufi, the Salafi and the Wahhabi. They are all bigots and therefore enemies of Islam's Universalism and Humanism.

    The common people are far better than these ideologues.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 6/9/2019 8:15:57 AM

  • mr. arshad,
    whatever he was or could have been, mr. waliullah was never a friend of the idolaters and polytheists of the sub-continent.

    the argument rests there.

    By hats off! - 6/9/2019 6:40:27 AM

  • Mr hats off, while judging Shah Waliullah, one should also consider the fact that he wrote around 1750 AD when in India even Persian and Urdu translations were not available. He learnt Islam from scholars of Arab and he inherited the extremist ideas from them. So we can reject his extremist ideas by branding them ideas of 1750. But after he developed his own understanding he presented ideas which were ahead of his times and for which he was declared wajibul qatl. No alim except Qadianis say that jihad is not practical today. Today he would have called a Qadiani not Salafi by our ulema. Ulema of deobandi did not heed his advice and declared jihad against the British once century later without proper ground work and without taking Hindus together and paid the price. Shah Waliullah,s thought evolved overtime and he thought in Indian perspective.  Wecan reject his ideas that are inherited by extremist Arab ulema of 18th or earlier centuries and accept the progressive ideas which don't go down well even with most so-called ulema of today who reject Sufism and support ISIS. Taliban and Al Qaida. 
    By Arshad - 6/8/2019 7:51:23 PM

  • this waliullah was a hindu hater of the first order.
    he strived for the arabization of indian converts and put the local converts firmly under the control of persian, arabic and other infiltrator converts.
    his contempt and hatred of the idolaters and the polytheists were what made him most famous and endeared him to the average exploitative ruling ashrafia.
    if he were alive today and were spewing out his pet theories, he would be known as a salafi or wahhabi.

    By hats off! - 6/8/2019 8:02:32 AM

Compose Your Comments here:
Email (Not to be published)
Fill the text
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the articles and comments are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of NewAgeIslam.com.