10 Radiant Scholars of Ahl al-Hadith; Ahl al-Bid’ah Wished Were Never Born!
Imam Muhammad Fakhir Za’ir Ilabadi
Compiled, Translated and Annotated
Abu Khuzaimah Ansari
His full name is Muhammad Fakhir and known as Za’ir, the son of Shaikh Muhammad Yahya. His title is as ash-Shaikh al-Alim al-Kabir al-Muhaddith Muhammad Fakhir bin Muhammad Yahya bin Muhammad Amin al-Abbasi Ilabadi. (Tazakirrah Ulama Mubarakpur (p.140)
Hence is Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir bin Shaikh Muhammad Yahya Ilabadi. (Sarwar Azad (p.212), Nafah at-Tayyib (p.70), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.334)
He had two brothers, one was Shaikh Muhammad Tahir Ilabadi who was a reputable scholar of the Din. His maternal grandfather was Shaikh Muhammad Afzal Ilabadi, whose lineage could be traced back to Abbas (RadhiAllahu Anhu).
So we find that Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir was from a family of learning who valued and gave Islamic education great importance. The family were known amongst the people for their knowledge and attachment to the sacred Islamic sciences.
From an early age Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir started learning from his father, grandfather and older brother and benefited greatly from them. It led him to acquire knowledge quickly and thereby becoming highly proficient and competent in the sacred Islamic sciences. (Sarwar Azad (p.212), Nafah at-Tayyib (p.70), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.335), (Tazakirrah Ulama Mubarakpur (p.140)
A Brief Overview of his Family
(1) His father; Shaikh Muhammad Yahya Ilabadi
He was a major scholar of his day and the author of Ma’athir al-Kiram praised him by saying,
“He was an ocean of knowledge in the sciences, once that sent waves of this knowledge resounding with the people and he authored a number of books and treatises.” (Ma’athir Al-Kiram (2:218)
He had three sons,
(i) Shaikh Muhammad Tahir
(ii) Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir
(iii) Shaikh Shah Muhammad Hasir Afsali
All three sons and father were keen poets and enjoyed poetry.
(2) His grandfather; Shaikh Muhammad Afzal Ilabadi
No detailed information could be obtained regarding his biography.
(3) His brother; Shaikh Muhammad Tahir Ilabadi (b.1110H – d.1143H)
He was the older brother of Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir, he was a person of knowledge and virtue, Shaikh Muhammad Ra’is Nadwi said about him,
“He was upon the Salafi Madhab and an Imam of the Ahl al-Hadith just like his brother as we find from his writings.” (Tarikh Ahl al-Hadith Hindh p.193)
Shaikh Abdul Hayy al-Hasani said he was well aware and acquainted with the Madhabs of the Salaf and Khalaf and that his brothers sought knowledge from him. (Nuzhah al-Khawatir (6:332-333 no.615)
Seeking the Knowledge of Hadith from Shaikh Muhammad Hayat Sindhi [1163H]
Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir studied with Shaikh Muhammad Hayat Sindhi in the year 1149H when he travelled to the 2 sanctuaries and visited Madinah. At the time Shaikh Ghulam Ali Azad Bilgirami was also studying with Shaikh Muhammad Hayat Sindhi and hence both were of similar stature in terms of their sittings. (Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.339-340), Taqsar Junud al-Ahrar Min Tazkar Junud al-Abrar (p.115).
Shaikh Fakhir studied and read Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim on Shaikh Muhammad Hayat Sindhi to the extent that he gained great credibility and heights which conjured up immense love for Hadith in his heart, such was the case that he became rigid and firm on the Quran and Hadith his whole life. (Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.339), (Tazakirrah Ulama Mubarakpur (p.141)
Shaikh Muhammad Hayat Sindhi also gave him Ijazah for the two Sahihs as well as other books. (Nuzhah al-Khawatir (6:349), Sarwar Azad (p.213), Nafah at-Tayyib (p.71), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.335), (Tazakirrah Ulama Mubarakpur (p.141)
Under the Tutelage of Shaikh Ghulam Ali Azad Bilgirami
Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir studied with Shaikh Azad Bilgirami, as another beneficial point it is sufficient to note that Shaikh Shah Waliullah Dehlavi also studied under Shaikh Azad Bilgirami, meaning that Shaikh Azad Bilgirami was a teacher of both of them however their period of study was different. (Sarwar Azad (p.213+), Itihaf an-Nabula (p.406-407), Ma’arif (22:339)
His Stay in The Two Blessed Sanctuaries
Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir had special love for the 2 blessed lands and hence for the purpose and intent of seeking and consolidating his knowledge he remained there for a few years. During this period, he performed 2 Hajjs. After returning to India, he intended to perform his third Hajj in the year 1154H and whilst he set out, some goons captured him near Surat and stole all of his belongings except his books and eventually gave him a ride to the city of Surat. (Sarwar Azad (p.214), Nafah at-Tayyib (p.71), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.335), Nuzhah al-Khawatir (6:349)
He attempted to perform Hajj again in the year 1156H and whilst travelling by ship, the journey was short lived due to ship wreck. Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir ended up residing in Bandar Faha for a few days and then eventually reached his destination of Hijaz safely in the same year and then finally returned back to India in 1159H.
In one of his journeys to Hajj he returned with an edition of Sahih Muslim, which was copied by Mawlana Ruh al-Amin Khan, which is preserved in Habin Ganj library. (Ma’arif (23:91-92), Nuzhah al-Khawatir (6:349), Sarwar Azad (p.214), Nafah at-Tayyib (p.71), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.335, 340).
After seeking the traditional knowledge and sciences he began to teach his students with great vigour and fervour. He was known to have reached the status of being a Muhaddith at a very young age and thus a large number of people benefited from his knowledge and understanding.
This can easily be deduced and understood from the fact that when Shaikh Mirza Mazhar Jan Janan sent Shaikh Qadi Thanullah Pani Pati to study with Shaikh Shah Waliullah Dehlavi, he later sent him to Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir to seek knowledge of Hadith and its sciences. This clearly shows Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir was a great scholar of Hadith of his era and was highly proficient as a Hadith master.
From his students were his two sons,
(1) Shaikh Qutb ud-Din (1187H)
(2) Shaikh Muhammad Ajmal (1236H)
(3) Shaikh Qadhi Thanullah Pani Pati (1225H)
(4) Shaikh Murtaza Bilgirami (al-Zabidi) (1205H)
(5) Shaikh Ghulam Haidar Khan Kakawri (1252H)
(6) Shaikh Ghulam Safdar Khan (1283H)
(7) Shaikh Abu Ishaq Lehrawi (1234H)
(8) Shaikh Muhammad Nasih
(see Mashahir Kakawri (p.300), Tazkirrah Ulama Mubarakpur (p.140), Siratul Bukhari (p.37-38).
Shaikh Qutb Al-Din bin Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir (b.1138H – 1187H)
He was the Shaikhs eldest son, and was often responsible for teaching the people as well delivering regular lessons, he essentially took over his father’s role in teaching, more so when his father would travel to perform Hajj. He has been mentioned with great virtue with regards to his command of the various sciences and disciplines, especially the knowledge of Fiqh and its principles ie Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh and other areas of learning. He died while he travelled to Makkah to perform Hajj and was thus buried there. He also authored some books. (Nuzhah al-Khawatir (6:235-236 no.437).
Shaikh Muhammad Ra’is Nadwi said about him,
“He was upon the way of his father and uncle, on the Madhab of Ahl al-Hadith.” (Tarikh Ahl al-Hadith Hindh p.192)
The affect of Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir on his students was so profound that it was manifest in their writings. This was more so in adhering and abiding by the ahadith and rejecting any form of blameworthy and rigid staunch Taqlid which is prevalent with the muqallidin.
An example of this is what Shaikh Qadhi Thanullah Pani Pati said in his will, in that Surah Fatihah is to be recited after the first takbir and opening supplication even though he is famously attributed to the hanafi madhab. (Wasiyat Nama printed with Majmu’a Wasaya Number 4 (p.146).
Shaikh Abu Ishaq Lehrawi (1234H)
Shaikh Abu Ishaq Lehrawi authored a book on raising the hands in the prayer titled, ‘Nur Al-Aynayn Fi Ithbat Raf ul-Yadain.’ This maybe an addendum to his Shaikh work or his own personal work and Allah knows best.
It is said about him that he was exemplary and unmatched in speaking the truth and being vocal in this and he spent a large part of his life strictly following the Quran and Hadith and adhering to the Sunnah.
He says in one place in his book, ‘Nur Al-Aynayn Fi Ithbat Raf ul-Yadain’,
“When I have obeyed and followed the Messenger of Allah ﷺ I am totally unconcerned with the statements of Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Sufyan ath-Thawri and Imam at-Zuhri.” (Tarajim Ulama Hadith (p.383), Tazkirrah Ulama Mubarakpur (pg.142), Siratul Bukhari (p.37-38)
He was firm and strong in adhering to the Quran and Sunnah and thus vehemently abhorred grave worship and so he willed that he was to be buried next to Shaikh Abdul Latif in Burhanpur. This was due to the fact it was only his grave that was not venerated and worshipped. Hence, according to his wish he was buried next to Shaikh Abdul Latif.
His Status and Position
Imam Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir was a mujtahid, a Salafi and not a muqallid. We find by looking at his books that he was undoubtedly an Ahl al-Hadith and refrained from doing Taqlid of anyone. He was a mujtahid in his own right and this supported by the statement of Shaikh Abdul Hay al-Hasani which is to proceed.
Allah blessed Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir with a great station and status.
Shaikh Muhammad Ra’is Nadwi said about him,
“He studied with numerous teachers and began teaching at the tender age of 20. He achieved the title of Shaikh. He then went to Haramayn Sharifayn in 1149H to perform Hajj and Umrah. He visited The Prophets Masjid and eventually sought knowledge of hadith and other disciplines from the Shaikh of the Shaikhs, Muhammad Hayat Sindhi and eventually returned back to his native land. He would visit Haramayn Sharifayn numerous times.” (Tarikh Ahl al-Hadith Hindh (p.195)
Imam Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan said about him,
“The Author of Risalah Najatiyyah of Shaikh al-Fazil Al-Muhaddith Muhammad Fakhir with the title of Za’ir Ilabadi.” (Ittihaf an-Nabula (p.84) Also refer to Intiqad at-Rajih (p.84), Taqsar Junud al-Ahrar Min Tazkar Junud al-Abrar (p.115).
At another instance Shaikh Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan said,
“He detested venerating the holy men ie the pirs and he would write in refutation of them. He would encourage adhering to the Quran and Sunnah. It is sufficient testimony for Shaikh Muhammad Fakhirs trustworthiness and uprightness that Shaikh Mirza Mazhar Jan Janan and Shaikh Ghulam Ali Azad Bilgirami bore witness to his great virtue, immense noble character and extensive knowledge.” (Nafah at-Tayyib (p.72)
Imam Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan said at another place,
“He was the Imam of the Imams of the followers of the Sunnah in India and he was from amongst the Shaikh of the Shuyukhs from the major and well known scholars.” (Taqsar al-Junud al-Ahrar (p.115).
Shaikh Ismail Salafi said,
“It is apparent from the authors poems that he was a fearless caller to Tawhid and the Sunnah, and at the same instance he would rebuke the customary staunch bigoted Taqlid. This would inevitably lead to some harshness but nonetheless he was very intelligent and the scholars would respect him highly.”
Shaikh Azad Bilgrami said,
“Shaikh Mirza Mazhar Jan Janan said, “I have seen many notable people but after 11 hundred years I saw the likes of Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir and I found him to conform and agree with the Quran and Sunnah.” (Ma’athir al-Kiram Fi Tazkirrah Ulama Bilgiram (2:218), (Sarwar Azad (p.218), Nafah at-Tayyib (p.72), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.337)
He further writes,
“He (ie Shaikh Mirza Mazhar Jan Janan) would would visit me with respect but with Shaikh Fakhir he was even more respectful and humble.” (Ma’athir al-Kiram (2:218).
He further writes,
“Shaikh Mirza Mazhar Jan Janan would go to visit Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir Ilabadi himself which was not the norm for him.” (Ma’athir al-Kiram (2:218)
Shaikh Qadi Thanullah Pani Pati praised Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir with the following words,
“Ash-Shaikh al-Ustadh Muhammad Fakhir al-Muhaddith Rahimahullah said that it was unlawful to make a masjid next to a grave whilst deducing from the Hadith of Abi Lahaij in Sahih Muslim.” (Tafsir Mazhari (6:23)
Shaikh Qadi Thanullah Pani Pati undoubtedly, was a non staunch open minded Hanafi Scholar searching for the truth such that the current day Hanafis would not bat an eyelid except to shun and ostracise him and label him as a pseudo Hanafi as the word pseudo is often used and accustomed on the tongues of the bewildered retractors. So despite this Shaikh Thanullah Pani Pati would would still have great respect for him despite him being an Ahl al-Hadith.
Whereas in our times it is the total opposite and the present day Hanafis have left the teachings and mindset of their forefathers and abuse the Ahl al-Hadith. (Refer to Nur us-Sunnah (p.5-6)
Mawlana Abdul Hayy al-Hasani said,
“Ash-Shaikh Al-Alim Al-Kabir Al-Muhaddith Muhammad Fakhir bin Muhammad Yahya bin Muhammad Amin Al-Abbasi al-Salafi Ilabadi, one the well known and famous scholars.” (Nuzhah al-Khawatir (6:349 no.641)
He goes onto say,
“All the people were agreed in praise of him and his noble characteristics, he was someone who was referred to in such affairs. He did not restrict himself to only one specific madhab nor did he do taqlid of anyone in the affairs of the Din rather he followed the texts of the Quran and Sunnah and did Ijtihad which he was well qualified and capable to do.” (Nuzhah al-Khawatir (6:350)
Qadi Atthar Mubarakpuri said,
“He was a major Muhaddith of his era.” (Tazakirrah Ulama Mubarakpur (p.140)
Shaikh Muhammad Ra’is Nadwi said,
“…We can see just from the titles of his books that it is apparent he was Ahl al-Hadith and upon the Salafi Madhab, he would openly say he was an Ahl al-Hadith and would spread the Manhaj of Ahl al-Hadith…..In summary, this Imam of the Ahl al-Hadith of the twelfth century, who was accepted and praised by whose who were not from the Ahl al-Hadith. The Imam was an outspoken, formidable and fervent propagator of the Madhab of Ahl al-Hadith, coupled with the fact that he was accepted by both the Ahl al-Hadith non Ahl al-Hadith, thus it is not impossible a large group of the muqallidin did not adopt and change to the Madhab of the Ahl al-Hadith due to the arduous efforts of this Imam of Ahl al-Hadith.” (Tarikh Ahl al-Hadith Hindh p.196)
Allamah Azad Bilgrami’s (1294H) Praise for Imam Muhammad Fakhir.
Allamah Azad Bilgrami wrote a poem in Farsi on the death of Imam Muhammad Fakhir’s in respect of him and said,
“He was known as Za’ir (in the poets circles) and his name was Muhammad Fakhir, the son of Shaikh Muhammad and the grandson of Shaikh Muhammad Afzal Ilabadi, and we empowered the three, he assumed the role of the Musnad of his elders. In doing so he was very noble, virtuous and reached a high rank as well as having lofty characteristics.” (Sarwar Azad (p.212), Nafah at-Tayyib (p.70)
An Expert Master in the Sciences
He was an excelled master in the Islamic principles and far ahead in the sciences of texts and their comprehension from his counterparts, this was also applicable to some of the scholars prior to his era.
Imam Muhammad Fakhir excelled and was a specialist in Hadith and its various sciences as well has having the rank of a mujtahid in issues of fiqh ie jurisprudence.
Writings and Works
Imam Muhammad Fakhir authored a number of treatises. The Hanafite biographer, Shaikh Abdul Hayy said,
“He authored a number of books in spreading the Sunnah.” (Nuzhah al-Khawatir (6:350)
some of them are
(1) Risalah Najatiyyah Dar Aqa’id Al-Hadithiyyah
Some of the scholars referred to this book as Risalah Najatiyyah Dar Aqa’id Al-Athariyyah. There is probable cause for this as Imam Muhammad Fakhir authored this book on the methodology Ahl al-Hadith and hence the Athari creed. It has only been printed twice and Walillahil Hamd we have published it for a third time.
(2) Nur as-Sunnah
(3) Qurratul Aynayn Dar Ithbat Raf ul-Yadain
(4) Manzumah Safar as-Sa’adah
(5) Mathnawi Dar Ta’rif Ilm Al-Hadith
(6) Farsi Diwan
(7) Nazam Ibadat Safar as-Sa’adah
(Refer to Itihaf an-Nabula (p.84, 406), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.337-338)
Mawlana Abdul Hay Al-Hasani mention a further two books
(8) Durrah at-Tahqiq Fi Nusrah as-Siddiq
(9) Manzumah Madah Ahl al-Hadith
(Nuzhatul Khawatir (6:350)
As we have already mentioned some scholars referred to this book with two equally interchangeable names. This classical 12th century text on Salafi creed was authored by Imam Muhammad Fakhir when he had to reside in Chittagong in Bangladesh for between 3-4 months in the year 1161H ie 3 years before his death. The original book is preserved in Mawlana Abdul Ghani al-Baqi’s library in Dinajpur in Bengal.
This treatise as also mentioned before is based purely on the Salafi Creed and Manhaj and hence the Quran and Sunnah and it is from Imam Muhammad Fakhir last works. One can gauge the importance and significance of this book from the fact that Imam Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan translated the book from Farsi into Urdu as Farsi was the original language it was written in.
Imam Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan produced a summarised transation and included it in his book ‘Al-Mu’taqad Al-Muntaqad’ which was printed in the year 1305H from Matba’a Al-Ansari in Delhi. Furthermore, he included the whole book in Farsi in the beginning of another book, ‘an-Nahj Al-Qubul Min Shara’i ar-Rusul.’
This shows the importance of the status of Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir, if a great scholar of the likes of Shaikh Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan summarized his book and reproduced them in his books of Aqidah, it for sure shows his status and calibre.
Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir was an accomplished poet in Arabic and Farisi. Shaikh Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan summarised Shaikh Muhammad Fakhirs poems in his two books, ‘Nafah at-Tayyib’ and ‘ar-Rawdh al-Khasib’
Thi book is pertaining to the prayer which is to be performed in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah. The importance of this book can be deduced from the words of the great scholar of Hadith, Shaikh ul-Hadith Muhammad Isma’il al-Salafi when he said, students should be taught this book in the beginning in the Ahl al-Hadith Institutes. (Muqaddimah Nur as-Sunnah (p.6)
Qurratul Aynayn Dar Ithbat Raf ul-Yadain
This book is authored in poem form in Farsi. Imam Muhammad Fakhir addressed the issue of Raf ul-Yadain in a scholarly manner and proved the raising of the hands in the prayer and refuted the weak evidences for not raising the hands.
Shaikh Muhammad Ra’is Nadwi said,
“Most of Shaikh Muhammad Fakhirs books were in poetry form. He died and was buried in Burhanpur in Maharashtra. We can see just from the titles of his books that it is apparent he was Ahl al-Hadith and upon the Salafi Madhab, he would openly say he was an Ahl al-Hadith and would spread the Manhaj of Ahl al-Hadith.” (Tarikh Ahl al-Hadith Hindh p.196)
The Scholars of During Imam Muhammad Fakhirs Era
Imam Muhammad Fakhir was calling to the the Quran and Sunnah without Taqlid and adhering to the Salafi Manhaj at a time when the people and the scholars of the era were engrossed in Taqlid or the madhahibs. It also shows the status of Imam Muhammad Fakhir as well as his call based on the notable and praiseworthy scholars that were around during his era, it includes the likes of
(1) Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab (1114H-1206H)
(2) Shaikh Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1114H – 1176H)
(3) Shaikh Muhammad Hayat Sindhi (d.1163H)
(4) Shaikh Qadi Thanullah Pani Pati (1145H – 1225H)
(5) Shaikh Abul Hasan Sindhi (d.1138H)
(6) Shaikh Abdullah Salim al-Basri (d.1134H)
(7) Shaikh Ibrahim al-Kurdi (d.1145H)
(8) Shaikh Murtaza al-Zabidi Bilgrami (1145H – 1205H)
(9) Shaikh Muhammad Isma’il bin Amir San’ani (d.1182H)
(10) Shaikh Muhammad bin Ahmad Saffarini (d.1188H)
It is also very plausible that he may have met Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab during his visits to Makkah and Madinah.
When Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir Met Shaikh Shah Waliullah Dehlawi
There is also a well known incident when Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir met Shaikh Shah Waliullah Dehlawi. The incident mentions that once when Imam Muhammad Fakhir visited Delhi, while praying he said Amin loudly in the prayer in the Jamia Masjid. This was a disturbing event in Delhi. The general people because angry and began to oppress Imam Muhammad Fakhir to the extent they were on the verge of beating him. Imam Fakhir explained to them that this was established from the Sunnah and if you were to go to any of your major scholars of Hadith they will affirm this.
In the end they took Imam Muhammad Fakhir to the gathering of Shaikh Shah Waliullah Dehlawi and mentioned the incident to him. So Shaikh Shah Waliullah told the people that this was also established from the Sunnah and the people were silenced. Thereafter Imam Muhamamd Fakhir said to Shaikh Shah Waliullah what don’t you tell these people openly what the Sunnah is.
To which Shaikh Shah Waliullah replied that if I was to tell these people openly about such issues how would I have saved you today. Meaning that the people were so engrossed and staunch in the Hanafi madhab and fixed in their ways that they failed to accept anything else. (Taqsar al-Junud al-Ahrar (p.115), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.339), Mawj Kawthar (p.63) of Shaikh Muhammad Akram)
In 1164H Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir prepared for Hajj again but became very ill, he had just reached the town or Burhanpur when he breathed his last and returned to our creator on the 11th Dhul Hijjah 1164H. Shaikh Azad Bilgirami expressed his sorrow and sadness at the demise of Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir. (Ma’athir al-Kiram (2:218), Sarwar Azad (p.218), Nafah at-Tayyib (p.72), Tarajim Ulama Hadith Hindh (p.336)
This formidable Imam of the Ahl al-Hadith, spent his very short life in spreading Tawhid and the Sunnah, reprimanding grave veneration, grave worship and blind taqlid. Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir spent almost quarter of a decade in calling to adhering to the Quran and Sunnah in an era which was filled with ardent bigoted hanafi muqallids, who were ferociously vicious and violent. The legacy of this Imam of Ahl al-Hadith who was upon the Madhab of the Salaf still remains as radiant and bright as ever around the globe even after 250 years.
The existence of this impressive Scholar of Ahl al-Hadith, his efforts and struggles are a testimony and a tremendous rebuttal of the modern madhabists who claim the Ahl al-Hadith are a new sect.
May Allah have mercy upon Shaikh Muhammad Fakhir and forgive his sins, Amin