[PINNED ] – A Critique of I’la al-Sunan & its Principles of Shaykh Zafar Ahmad Uthmani Thanwi – [Part 1] – Shaykh Irshad ul-Haq al-Athari

A Critique of I’la al-Sunan & its Principles of Shaykh Zafar Ahmad Uthmani Thanwi


 Shaykh Irshad ul-Haq al-Athari

Compiled, Translated and Annotated

Abu Hibban & Abu Khuzaimah Ansari



This Article discusses

The idea of compiling hanafi books of Hadith to support the Madhab
Did Mawlana Anwar Shah co-author Athar al-sunan & Shaikh Abdur Rashid Rebuttal of this Claim
The oppression of Mawlana Zafar against Mawlana Sanbhali for opposing the hanafi Madhab
Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi on the bigoted stauch fanatical muqallidin
Shaykh Mahmud Hasan on Mawlana Ashraf Thanwi and his incompetence 
The View of Scholars regarding I’la al-sunan



The Jawameh, Masanid, Sunan and Ajza and others are from amongst the treasures of Hadith for the Muslim Ummah collectively,  as well as having fundamental roles in that all of the scholars have adhered to them in every era. They have benefited from them with regards to their understanding and comprehension. However It is also a known fact that some of our hanafi scholars have been overwhelmed with the constant reminder and thought that such books contain less narration in support of their madhab. Thus, they attempted to compile and collate ahadith in support of their madhab in order to alleviate this problem to such an extent that they wrote books such as Sahih Bihari instead of Sahih Bukhari and Hanafi Bulugh al-Maram instead if Bulugh al-Maram.

In the Indian subcontinent the first person was most probably Maulana Shaikh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlavi who authored Fath al-manan fi ta’id madhab an-nu’man based on the methodology of Mishkat of Chapters of Fiqh under which he collated ahadith. Wherein he criticised the opinion and positions of the other jurists and gave precedence to the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah with great fervour and effort.

Allamah Muhammad bin Ali Zahir Ahsan ‘Shawq’ Nimawi A’zimabadi also attempted to fulfil this vacuole and thus authored Athar as-sunan and explanatory notes to it titled as at-Ta’liq al-hasan, which he mentioned himself in his book Radd al-sakin which was printed in 1312H from Qaumi Press in Lucknow. It contained an advertisement and an announcement as follows, in great fervour and effort.

It is known that Mishkat and Bulugh al-Maram are first taught in the subject of Hadith and their respective authors belonged to the Shafi’i madhab. Most of the Hadith they contain are in support of the Shafi’i madhab and contradict the hanafi madhab. This leads to the teachers becoming ghayr muqallid and most of the students become very disheartened with the hanafi madhab after reading these books of Hadith. When the time comes for the six books of Hadith their minds become even more changed. The hanafi scholars have not authored any such book as a teaching primer which contains ahadith from the various books of Hadith which support the hanafi madhab, so these poor student have nothing to study as a primer (from the perspective of the hanafi madhab) and thus why should their beliefs remain as they are and why should they not become Ghayr muqallid under the current circumstances. These are some of the reason and thoughts why this poor servant authored a book of Hadith called Athar as-Sunan. The intent is to collate and compile the ahadith from the well established books of Hadith as well as from rare books in the Arab and non Arab world and then cite their respective chains in the marginal footnotes.”

[Trans Note: Shaykh Abdur Rashid Fawqani, the son of Shaykh Nimawi has also cited the statement above in his al-Qawl al-hasan (p.14)]

Allamah Nimawi has cited such adverts in some of his other works with regards to Athar as-sunan. He completed it up to the book of prayer in 1313H. [Trans Note: Shaikh Abdur Rashid Fawqani in his al-Qawl al-hasan has referenced most places and books where Shaykh Nimawi talks about his Athar al-sunan, End of Trans Note]

[Trans Note: Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Guddah has confirmed this reason as well as mentioning some other divergent points, he obviously defends the view of the hanafi madhab being hadith and report orientated but the reality is far from this, as it will come clear from the writings, He, Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Guddah says,

“The reason for compiling this immense beneficial book is what occurred in the course of this century when a group of people in some cities of India arose, before the partition of Pakistan, calling themselves “Ahl al-Hadith,” claiming that the school of the Hanafi masters, which is the school of the majority of Muslims in those large and expansive lands, conflicts with the Prophetic hadiths in many issues, just as they claimed also that the Hanafi masters prefer analogy over the noble hadith, and just as they denied also taqlid of the four Imams (Allah be pleased with them) that are followed, and they lengthened their tongues with respect to Hanafi jurisprudence and more specifically with respect to the jurist of this nation Imam Abu Hanifah.

Outstanding scholars from those Indian lands arose to challenge these deviant beliefs and they falsified these claims through many well-researched hadith-related works. They explained in these (works) the reliance of the Hanafi masters in their jurisprudence and their school on the noble hadiths, and that they prefer the noble hadith and even weak hadith over analogy, and that analogy with its conditions is from the proofs which must be acted upon, and in drawing evidence from the Sunnah and relying upon it, the Hanafis are not less than other than them from the Imams, if not stronger than other than them in relying on hadith and narration.” Translation taken from (Link Below) from I’la al-sunan 1:4) End of Trans Note]

Shaykh Irshad ul-Haq continued and said,

It must be duly noted that Mawlana Muhammad Anwar Shah Kashmiri wrote in Nayl al-farqadayn that he helped and co-authored Athar as-sunan. Allamah Nimawi’s son, Mawlana Abdur Rashid Fawqani wrote with regards to what Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri wrote in Nayl al-farqadayn that he co-authored the book with him when he said, “I assisted/aided (him to write it) with him.”  In that, while Allamah Nimawi was writing Athar as-Sunan, he would send part by part to me and thus in this regard I was the co-author.

[Trans Note: One can see the words of Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri from the scan below from the Nayl al-farqadayn (p.56)


Nayl al-farqadayn (p.56)

The claim of Mawlana Anwar Shah co-authoring Athar al-sunan has been reproduced by the Deobandi’s and affirmed by Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Guddah by him reproducing the words of Shaykh Binnouri in his Tarajim sittah min fuqaha al-alam al-islami, he says

Mawlana Muhammad Zahir Ahsan al-Nimawi (d. 1322/1904), Allah have mercy on him, the famous hadith-scholar, author of Athar al-Sunan, would seek assistance from Shaykh (Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri) with regards to the ambiguities of hadith, by correspondence through letter-writing. He would seek help from him while writing his book Athar al-Sunan and he would present to him what he had written piece by piece. This is what I heard from the revered Shaykh (himself), Allah have mercy on him. He said in his book Nayl al-Firqadayn: “The deceased Shaykh (al-Nimawi) while writing that book would send it to me piece by piece, until I became an aide therein; and I added many things to it after him.” The Shaykh, Allah have mercy on him, at that time was a youth whose reputation was not (yet) manifest to the people while the hadith-scholar al-Nimawi was an experienced scholar, and in spite of this, this was his (manner of) interacting (with ‘Allamah Kashmiri), and this shows his intellectual humbleness and his estimation of men. Allah raise both their statuses. (Tarajim Sittah min Fuqaha al-‘Alam al-Islami, p. 29)

Taken from the translation of Muzammil Husayn from HERE

Abul Hasan Hussain Ahmad has also reproduced this on this website See HERE and presents the same assertion as claimed by Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Guddah, Mawlana Binnouri and Shaikh Anwar Shah himself in his Nayl al-farqadayn, all of which have been cited above. The irony and the sad state of affairs is that on the very same page (link above) Abul Hasan Hussain Ahmad talks about the Qawl al-hasan and this alleged triumph, he perhaps actually forgot to look at the contents of al-Qawl al-hasan

Abul Hasan Hussain Ahmad shares a digitised edition  (link above) of  Shaykh Abdur Rashid Fawqani’s al-Qawl al-hasan in which he answers, clarifies and rebuts the claim of Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri regarding his assistance in co-authoring Athar al-sunan, Shaikh Abdur Rashid also cites reasons and gives examples as to why this is an incorrect notion. It is embarrassing to reproduce assertions and then the very same book you share rebuts and refutes the very same claims you present! I am sharing two scans here which show the refutation and rebuttal of the claim of Mawlana Answar Shah Kashmiri, while the avid reader can refer to the link above to download the complete book

al-Qawl al-hasan (p.19)

al-Qawl al-hasan (p.23)

End of Trans Note]

Shaykh Irshad ul-Haq continues,

Shaykh Abdur Rashid Fawqani said this is incorrect because when the book was written i.e. the period it was written in, Allamah Kashmiri was still a student as he graduated in 1312H from seeking knowledge of the various sciences. It is however possible that some parts of Athar as-sunan may have been sent to Allamah Kashmiri after it was completed, where he offered his advice and suggestions. (al-Qawl al-hasan p.19.24)

It is also interesting to note here, that one of the foremost students of Allamah Kashmiri, Mawlana Muhammad Anwari of La’ilpur expressed his sorrowful anger at the clarification of this reality by Mawlana Abdur Rashid and wrote in one of his letters, 

“You did not even control yourself from expressing derogatory remarks about your illustrious venerated father in his praise and nor did you reflect upon ‘do not speak ill of the dead except with their goodness.’ You advocated and took full charge against Shah Kashmiri which will not result in anything except pleasing the opponents.”

This letter is 2 pages which Mawlana Abdur Rashid answered it in 6 pages, in which he further clarified his stance and position with more clarifications and evidences, that during the time Athar as-sunan was authored, Allamah Kashmiri was a student. However when he (Anwar Shah) was appointed as a teacher in Delhi, he (Mawlana Nimawi) might have sent his research to him after 1313H and sought his opinion in draft form. We found this letter and the response to the earlier letter which Mawlana Abdur Rashid penned himself in an edition of al-Qawl al-hasan. We thought it was appropriate to correct and clear the misunderstanding that was suggested in the passage of Nayl al-farqadayn and hence the reason to mention this here.

It was also for this reason (i.e. a book of hadith supporting the hanafi madhab) that Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi authored ‘Ihya as-sunan’ but it’s manuscript was wasted/lost before it even went to print. It is most probable that Mawlana Thanvi realised the need for such a book due to Athar as-sunan. It is mentioned in the letter of Mawlana Abdur Rashid Fawqani which we cited earlier, that he said,

“Mawlana Muhammad Sahul of Bhagalpur who was the Principle of Madrassah Shams al-Huda in Patna, Aziamabad, mentioned to directly to me, “We were sitting in a gathering of Shaikh ul-Hindh Mawlana Mahmud Hasan in Deoband when someone said that Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi is writing a book in the same way that Athar as-Sunan was written. When Shaikh ul-Hindh heard this he said “Mawlana Ashraf Ali is also my student but he cannot write (a book) like Athar as-Sunan.” 

So this was the opinion and thought of the respected teacher about his foremost student and thus we are not in a position to add anything further to this.

After a period of time when Mawlana Thanvi thought about this idea again, he authored ‘Jam’e al-athar’ which was a compilation of narrations supporting his Hanafi Madhab, however this could not progress beyond the chapters of Salah and so only this was published. Thereafter he authored ‘Tab’e al-athar’ which was essentially explanatory notes to his ‘Jam’e al-athar,’ in which he attempted to reconcile and clarify mutually contradictory ahadith according to his capability, both books were published in approximately 1315H from Matba’a Qasimi in Deoband.

Then in approximately 1331H he realised both books were very small and brief and were only up to the discussion of the Chapter of Salah, thus the need to have a book on the compilation of Ahadith in Fiqh in support of the hanafi madhab on all of the various differences and discussions. He thought such a book should be precise, concise, explanatory and comprehensive with regards to the narrations and their understanding contained therein. He also thought he would not be able to complete such a task alone by himself and thus passed this mammoth task on to Mawlana Ahmad Hasan Sanbhali.

As Mawlana Ahmad Hasan progressed with this task, Mawlana Thanvi would also progressively review and revise the work and if he felt the need to change anything he corrected it. So this method continued up to the book of Hajj and the book was called ‘Ihya as-sunan.’ Later, when Mawlana Sanbhali reviewed and revised the book he altered a lot of things to the extent that he even changed the corrections of Mawlana Thanvi so much so that the original and initial criteria and methodology of writing the book changed. (Ie compiling hadith supporting the hanafi madhab and reconciling the hadith with the madhab) 

After the first volume was printed Mawlana Thanvi stopped any further publishing of the book due to the numerous gross errors and mistakes because the original guideline and methodological reason the book was being authored were not upheld. So he then passed the task on to Mawlana Zafar Ahmad Uthmani Thanvi.

The first thing Mawlana Zafar Ahmad Uthmani Thanvi did was to write and publish a clarifying supplement on the first volume published by Mawlana Sanbhali and his gross errors which was called, ‘al-Istadrak al-hasan a’la ihya as-sunan.’ Thereafter, Mawlana Uthmani took on the task from the beginning until the end when he finally completed the book, which was published by Idarah al-Quran al-Ulum al-Islamiyyah Karachi with the name of I’la as-Sunan in 16 volumes. 

It must be noted sometimes when Mawlana Uthmani says in I’la al-Sunan “Some people say (Qala Ba’dun Nas)” he mentions the position of Mawlana Ahmad Hasan Sanbhali from ‘Ihya as-Sunan’ and refutes it with great vigour and rancour. In fact in the introduction of the second edition of ‘Ihya as-Sunan’ Mawlana Thanvi writes about the methodology and position of Mawlana Sanbhali that,

“To the extent that he altered the book from its initial methodology and changed its original purpose and intent.” (Muqaddimah I’la al-sunan pg.25)

Meaning, the original manhaj or methodology of the book was the defence of the hanafi madhab but Mawlana Sanbhali continued to support and conform to the position of the muhadithin (ie scholars of hadith) and changed the original and main purpose of the book. It is such audacities of Mawlana Sanbhali that Mawlana Uthmani had to write in one instance,

“May Allah destroy him” (I’la al-sunan 7:94)

Mawlana Sanbhali said concerning the report “There is no Jumu’ah or tashriq except in urban cities/towns” (TN transmitted in Musannaf Ibn Shaybah, Nasb al-Rayah, Fath al-Bari) that Abu Ishaq Sabi’i narrated it and he became forgetful, to which Mawlana Uthmani replied, 

“Oh to wonder what a waste of literacy, did you weaken the Hadith just because of Abi Ishaq al-Sabi’i?” (I’la al-sunan 1:1)

Rather he writes in the introduction to I’la al-sunan,

“When I say ‘some people said in their ‘Ihya’ or If I only say ‘some people say’ then I intend by this the author of ‘Ihya al-sunan’ ie Al-Sanbhali, in this book of his he has brought some intricate allegations on the hanafi’s and some of the salaf based on hatred, enmity, ignorance and gross errors and thus I have answered them.” (Qawaid ulum al-hadith p.472)

Meaning that Sanbhali rebelled against the hanafi madhab and thus Uthmani, had to quite frankly answer him in a hostile way. Such instances will be highlighted as we move through this treatise, inshaAllah. 

Allamah Zahid Kawthari writes about ‘I’la al-sunan,’

“I tremble at (the phenomenon) of this compilation and the organisation (of this book)” (In the commendation of I’la al-sunan p.5).

[Trans Note: This is what Shaykh Abd al-Fattah al-Guddah cites from Zahid al-Kawthari in his muqaddimah to the I’la al-sunan)

To such an extent that Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi said this is such a great achievement that has come from the saintly Imdadiyyah Thana Bhavan and one cannot find any other examples like it from other institutes in India. This achievement is the collation and compilation of ahadith which support and conform to the madhab of Imam Azam Abu Hanifah. (Introduction to Qawaid ulum al-hadith p.11)

He further said that if only ‘I’la al-sunan’ had been compiled and produced from the Saintly Imdadiyyah Thana Bhavan, then this alone was sufficient for its virtue and to karamah (ie miracle) (introduction to Qawaid ulum al-hadith p.12).

We have scrutinised this book in the following pages and have concentrated on the principles and rules used by Mawlana Uthmani to authenticate and weaken ahadith. We will look at how the Mawlana uses these principles and also the times he remains silent on narrations from ‘Kunz al-a’mal’ and ‘Jama al-fawaid’. How he grades narrations in Musnad Imam Ahmad as acceptable when the narrators have been declared to be weak and abandoned by most of the scholars of praise and criticism. How at times he renders a narrator to be contentious on account of the words of a single scholar of Hadith and how such a narrators Hadith is hasan. How at times it is said, tadlis and Irsal of narrators of the first three generations are unproblematic and harmful according to the hanafi’s and then when their narrations oppose the hanafi madhab, their tadlis becomes problematic and renders their report to be weak! To the extent that if narrations of outright liars and fabricators supports the view of the hanafi madhab, there is an overwhelming level of defence of them and the benefits of why the narrations have been cited!

They have adopted such means and measures of making tawil of the authentic ahadith that it makes one remember the letter Mawlana Thanwi wrote to Mawlana Gangohi wherein he said,

“Most of the common Muqallidin are so bigoted and staunch that if they come across an Ayah or Hadith contrary to the view of their Mujtahid it does not settle in their hearts and rather they develop feeling of rejecting it in their hearts. Then they turn to tawil, however far fetched it may seem even if the other evidences are far stronger and even if the evidence of the Mujtahid in this issue is not beyond the realms of Qiyas. These people will not necessarily have the urge in their hearts to make tawil but in order to champion and promote the superiority of their madhab, they believe making tawil is obligatory and they cannot accept from their hearts to reject the statement of the Mujtahid for the authentic clear Hadith.” (Tazkirrah al-rashid 1:131)

All the way from Imam Razi to Shaykh Shah Ismail Shahid (InShaAllah), all the scholars have taken the Muqallidin to task and shared their experiences and thoughts about them, which we will gloss over due to its extent. 

You will see InshaAllah, in making tawil of authentic Hadith even the companions were not spared. The narrations Umm Sharik Ansariyyah RadiAllahu Anha, the famous female companion were totally abandoned and rejected by declaring her to be unknown! The narrations of Ai’shah RadiAllahu Anha were overlooked by declaring her to be woman folk! The Hadith of Abdullah ibn Abbas RadiAllahu Anhuma and Ibn Zubair RadiAllahu Anhu were sidelined by saying they were younger companions.

All of the details concerning this are to follow InShaAllah at their respective place. Other people of knowledge have shared their views and thoughts about such oversight dismissive injustice in I’la al-sunan. Hence the learned author of ‘Ruwat al-hadith allazina sakatu alayhim, aimah al-jarh wat tadil bayna al-tawthiq wal tajhil’ Shaykh Adab Mahmud Al-Hamsh said,

“This book (ie I’la al-sunan) has been printed in 21 volumes with 3 introductions and it has with it severe errors and shameless accusations” (See the footnote of Ruwat al-hadith p.27)

Likewise the Muhaddith of Madinah, Shaykh Hamad al-Ansari said,

“As for the book (I’la al-sunan) it is riddled with fabricated narrations and the evidences used are overwhelmed with narrations which are weak and fabricated.” (Al-majmua fi tarjamah al-allamah al-muhaddith al-ansari 2:726)

This highlights the reality of this book. One must also remember most of the principles and rules applied in I’la al-sunan are found in its introduction which has been printed separately and it’s known as Inha al-sakan, which was later republished with the verification of Shaykh Abu Guddah as Qawaid ulum al-hadith. Shaikh al-Arab wal-Ajam Sayyid Badi al-Din al-Rashidi wrote an academic answer and scrutinised this book which is called Innama Al-Zakan, which was later researched and revised by Shaykh Salah al-Din Maqbul as Naqd qawaid ulum al-hadith. Shaykh Salah al-Din Maqbul quite rightly said,

“It is Qawaid and principles of the hanafi principles but to call it Qawaid ulum al-hadith is somewhat far fetched, it should not be called Qawaid ulum al-hadith but rather it should be called Mahazil (a depravity on) ulum al-hadith.”

My Shaikh and Ustadh al-Hafiz al-Muhaddith Muhammad Ghondalwi also refuted and highlighted the mistakes in Inha al-sakan in its marginalia and this edition was with Shaikh Fathi Makki. I had also copied the whole of Innama al-zakan to benefit from it along with the intention of publishing it just like I published (Shaykh Badi al-Din) Jala al-Aynayn (bi takhrij riwayat al-bukhari juz raf al-yadain) however Shaykh Salah al-Din Maqbul preceded me in this noble task. 

In this critique we have also benefited from Naqḍ Qawaid fi ulum al-hadith and our subject is the methodology used and the application of the hanafi principles and rules in dealing with Hadith and narrators. This critique is based on the first 8 volumes of of I’la al-sunan and if Allah gives us guidance and blessings we shall analyse the remaining volumes. With the will of Allah most of the principles and rules used by Mawlana Uthmani in I’la al-sunan have been generically mentioned in this book which highlight and elucidate his methodology and therefore one can surmise from this the affair of the rest of the book.

(I’la al-sunan fil mizan – a critical analysis of the well known book on hanafi methodology, p.25-34)


Check Also


Answering Abul Hasan Hussain Ahmed & Gibril Fouad Haddad Pertaining To The Narration of Abu Ayoob al-Ansaari (RadhiAllahu Anhu) – Volume 1

Compiled, Translated & Annotated Abu Hibban & Abu Khuzaimah Ansari   In this book we have …


[Sharh Muwatta Imam Malik – Shaikh Zubair Ali Zai] – Hadith No.147 –:– Fasting Whilst Travelling Is An Option

Itihaf ul-Basim Fi Tahqiq Muwatta al-Imam Malik [Talkhis al-Qabisi] Riwayah Abdur Rahman ibn al-Qasim Tahqiq, Takhrij, …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *