[Biography] – The Allamah and Muhaddith of this Era, Shaykh Hafiz Muhammad Ghondalwi (d.1405H/1985) – Some Memories; Some Observations – Shaykh Irshad ul-Haq Athari

Translated and Annotated
Abu Khuzaimah Ansari

(This biography from is Maqalat Irshad ul-Haq Athari, 4:369-403, which I have very slightly adapted)

[tn. introduction: This a very brief biography of Shaykh Hafiz Muhammad Ghondalwi by his astute and perceptive student, Shaykh Irshad ul-Haq Athari. We find that the true people of knowledge have lofty, praiseworthy and beautiful character which is in accordance with the true teaching of Islam. Despite their vast knowledge, you will find them in them humility, modesty and taqwa. This should be a lesson for all aspiring students of knowledge. Seeking fame, status, and using titles which are not befitting for you, is not from the way of the Salaf, and is in fact a dangerous disease of the heart. Do not be amazed with the little knowledge Allah has given you, and never consider yourself above your brothers]

If a person is born with the qualities of knowledge and acting upon it, insight, virtue, truthfulness, zuhd, taqwa, honesty, integrity, intelligence and other qualities then we say this is the likes of Hafiz Muhammad Ghondalwi who died in Ramadhan 1405H corresponding to 4th June 1985 on a Tuesday to meet his creator and left behind thousands grieving his loss.

The Shaykh was unwell for a while and it was during this period that I had the opportunity to meet him every so often. The last occasion was during the last days of Sha’ban (of that year) when his situation worsened and so I went to enquire regarding his health. He was unable to hear and all that remained was an acquaintance, and so I returned home in a state of sadness and grief. People would ask me concerning the Shaykh and I would say to them May Allah wish good for him as his health situation is bad and worrying. Thereafter, after a period of 4 months of illness the Shaykh passed away.

The writer of these words sought knowledge and benefitted from the Shaykh in 1968. Liyaqatpur was my native area and in 1963 I completed the beginner level books from the local deobandi madrassah Qasim al-Ulum. My teachers advised me to go to Jamia Rashidiyyah in Sahiwal or Khayr al-Madaris in Multan (the madrassah of Mawlana Khayr Muhammad Jalandhari) however Mawlana Mufti Abdur Rahman of Kehraurpaka advised me to go al-Jamia al-Salafiyyah in Faisalabad, this was not because he was an Ahl al-Hadith but rather because his friend Shaykh Sharifullah Khan was teaching there, who was considered an expert teacher of the Ma’qulat. So eventually with my father’s permission I enrolled at al-Jamia al-Salafiyyah. However, Shaykh Sharifullah Khan had left al-Jamia al-Salafiyyah in 1962, nonetheless he was replaced by his student, the teacher of the scholars, Shaykh Hafiz Muhammad Abdullah Budhiyamalwi.[1] After completing the middle level education I went to Gujranwala to Jamia Islamiyyah Chah Shahan in my last year and this is when I had the opportunity to attend the lessons of the Shaykh (Muhammad Ghonadalwi)

The Lessons

In my brief life I’ve had the opportunity to attend the lessons of various Shuyukh and teachers of the era but the prestige I experienced in Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi’s lessons I never experienced elsewhere. We had read about the special care and attention Imam Malik would undertake to deliver his lessons, while first performing Wudu, combing his hair, use Kohl and perfume himself, wear fine clothes and then teach, then our Shaykh would also do the same. He would always arrive on time. As soon as he would enter the masjid he would offer 2 rak’ahs for Tahayyatul Masjid and then focus on his lesson on hadith. One day there was torrential rain and the days were very cold, some us assumed that today the Shaykh won’t come and the lesson will be cancelled, however one our friends came running and told us while he was in a state of shock that the Shaykh is coming, so we all scurried and the Shaykh as per his norm, entered the Masjid and prayed his Tahayyah. Mawlana Muhammad Ali Muslim Chima mentioned to me that before the Shaykhs residence in Abadi Hakim Rayy he would travel from Ghondalwala every day by bicycle, we never ever saw him to be late, even once. One day the Shaykh generally mentioned that it has been five (5) years (in the teaching post) and it is Allah’s blessing that I have never been late for Madrassah, not even one day. Alas, where do we find people who fulfil their obligations with such responsibility nowadays.

After the Tahayyatul Masjid he would sit in his position with great care composure and begin his lesson. The Shaykh had so much respect and reverence for hadith that even after one and a half hours he would remain sitting calmly in the same position and would at the very least just move his feet up and down, despite tiredness due to age, which is a natural affair. There was no possibility at all of him lying down on a pillow (due to the respect of hadith). During the lesson if he needed to scratch himself somewhere he would not stop saying the beloved words of Qala Qala Rasul Allah…. He would respond to the Salam and and say Walaykum Asalam to whoever was attending the lesson. He would turn to the guest as soon as he would finish his lesson, greeting them with a smile and then ask them how they were, thereafter address their reason for coming.

The Shaykh’s Qualities

With Allah’s infinite blessings, he had a remarkable memory and vast knowledge. Shaykh Muhammad Ishaq Bhatti wrote the truth when he said:

“His mind and memory were remarkable and without match. The affair of vast knowledge was as such that when he would talk about a matter, all the discussions and information pertaining to that matter would be put forth and nothing would be missed while his speech was articulate and continuous, there was no hesitancy or stuttering in his speech (when delivering ilm).”[2]

Many of his students have verified the veracity of his memory and presented ample testimonies which can be read in the special edition of al-I’tisam, vol.38, issues 1-2. In this regard you may read the testimony of Shaykh Muhammad Ashraf Sandhu, he writes:

“Shaykh Hafiz Abdullah Amritsari’s memory and recollection was such that he had complete mastery over all books of Ulum and Fiqh. We observed regarding very difficult issues that when he needed to open a book to refer to an issue, then he would be at the right place straight away. This was also the affair with Shaykh Hafiz Muhammad Ghondalwi, that whatever book he consulted, the themes and context would be completely preserved and accurate.”[3]

The result of this powerful memory was that when he would speak, it would be as if he was turning the pages and reading from the book and there was no feeling that he was slowing down or having difficulty in what he was teaching. He would teach the basics of Sahih al-Bukhari for example, the difference between the Quran and hadith, the difference between Sunnah and khabar, the authority of hadith, the preservation of hadith, the writing of hadith, the categorization of the books of hadith, a summary of the life and times of Imam al-Bukhari, the importance of Sahih al-Bukhari and its authority, likewise and similarly the authority khabar al-wahid, the specification of khabar al-wahid and issues of apparent contradiction which would last approximately 15-20 days.

Minhatul Bari

He would talk about apparently conflicting narrations and then mention that according to the Shafi’yyah the first stage is reconciliation (Tatbiq/Jam’) and if that was not possible then declaring one to be nasikh and the other mansukh and again if this was not possible then they would try to show one as being rajih and the other marjuh (one has precedence over the other) and if all of this was not possible then the ruling from both reports would be dropped. With the Ahnaf the first stage was abrogation (naskh), then giving precedence to one report over the other and then the last stage of trying to reconcile between the two reports (Tatbiq/Jam’).

While mentioning this he would say that in one instance Mawlana Anwar Shah Kashmiri says that doing tarjih has precedence over tatbiq because taking the rajih position is in line with the human natural disposition. However, at the same time he says and holds the view that it is permissible to specify the Qur’an (made takhsis of) by the Sunnah, whereas this is in reality from the angle of tatbiq and it is absolutely clear and manifest that the Quran is rajih.

Likewise, according to the Hanafiyyah specifying the Sunnah with the Sunnah and specifying the Quran with Mutawatir hadith and vice versa is permissible and they do not look at the strength of the evidence in this regard. He further said, (i.e. Shaykh Ghondalwi said) that it is amazing that Mr Kashmiri in this discussion of Usul holds the position of the Hanafiyyah to be correct, in that tarjih is the first stage compared to tatbiq but the various statements of Imam Abu Hanifah contradict this view of the Hanafiyyah. He (Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri) said in Kitab al-Ghusl (in his explanation of Sahih al-Bukhari, Faydh al-Bari) that:

Know that different reports which have been transmitted from our Imam on a single issue (i.e. Abu Hanifah), then the general position of our Mashaykh is to give one report tarjih first and to take the manifest report and leave the rare or uncommon report but I do not take this view. This is especially the case when the rare or uncommon report is supported by hadith, then in such instances I take that report without caring that it is a rare or uncommon report. This is because any reports from our Imam, May Allah have mercy on him (despite being rare) it is not possible that he did not have evidence from the ahadith or anything else and so if we find the hadith agrees with his report, then we take it. Yes, and if there is disparity between the views of the Mashaykh, tarjih is a possibility due to differences between them and sometimes reconciliation between their statements may defy the purpose of the difference. This is because there is no option other than tarjih contrary to the differences that emanate from a single person, when reconciliation has precedence. This is because the principle is that there should not contradictions in the statement of a single individual and therefore reconciliation should take precedence before making tarjih. It is strange that when our people see apparently contradictory ahadith, they try to reconcile them but when they find differences in statements of the Imam they take up the position of tarjih first and leave the method of reconciliation. I like that the contradictory statements that have from our Imam to be first reconciled provided there is no evidence established against this.[4]

You clearly see his words (i.e. Anwar Shah Kashmiri’s) and then in the introduction[5] he gives tarjih precedence over reconciliation but then on the other hand when there are differences in the views or statements of a person,  he holds that reconciliation has precedence over tarjih.

In summary Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi would deliver some introductory lessons for a number of days before teaching al-Bukhari. During his lessons he would not only suffice with explaining why the hadith was under the relevant chapter heading, clarification of the juristic points from the hadith, discussions on the controversial issues, a clarification and explanation of the difficult words, but he would also, while treading the path of the scholars of hadith, present brief biographies of the narrators in the chain.

For example, during the explanation of the first hadith in al-Bukhari, regarding the point of “Hadathana al-Humaydi” Imam al-Bukhari transmit the hadith from his famous teacher, Imam Abdullah bin al-Zubayr al-Humaydi al-Qurayshi al-Makki, who in turn was the student of Imam al-Shafi’i and of al-Qurayshi lineage. Imam al-Humaydi collated his narrations as a Musnad which has been printed in two volumes. Imam al-Bukhari, by transmitting from Imam al-Humaydi intended to show revelation began in Makkah and thus transmitted his first hadith from his Makki Shaykh. Likewise, and similarly, since Imam al-Humaydi was a Qurayshi and due to the Prophets Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam’s words, “Begin with the Quraysh” he transmitted his hadith.

Since Imam al-Humaydi was Imam al-Shafi’is student, the student like his teacher was also critical of Ahl al-Rayy. Since Imam al-Bukhari had severely criticized Imam Abu Hanifah and some of the hanafi scholars said that Imam al-Bukhari’s criticism of Imam Abu Hanifah was due to the influence of Imam al-Humaydi and his other teacher, Nu’aym b. Hammad, whereas this is incorrect. Imam Muslim and Imam al-Nasa’i also criticized Imam Abu Hanifah, so were they also influenced by Imams al-Humaydi and Nu’aym b. Hammad? There is another al-Humaydi who is famous and he is Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad b. Abi Nasr, who collated the (biographies) of the narrators of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim and he was the student of Imam Ibn Hazm.[6]

The second narrator in the chain is Sufyan and there are two famous scholars of hadith with this name. One is Sufyan al-Thawri and the other was Sufyan b. Uyaynah. They were the contemporaries of Imam Malik and from the most trustworthy scholars of hadith in Makkah. Imam al-Shafi’i said:

“If it were not for Malik and Ibn Uyaynah knowledge in Hijaz would have departed.”

Ibn Uyaynah like Imam Malik was from the Taba Tabi’in and I remember him vividly saying this part that he read the footnotes of Mawlana Ahmad Ali Saharanpuri (Hanafi) who referred to him as “Makki al-Tabi’i” and then said he made a mistake. So he would introduce the narrators comprehensively.

One of the characteristics of the scholars of hadith is that they also sought knowledge from people who were lower (in knowledge or younger) than them in status without any hesitation which led to a specific category in the science of hadith, ‘the narrations of the senior from the junior’. No matter how many amazing qualities a teacher has, he is still a human at the end of the day and who is free from error or mistakes? Imam Abdullah b. Mubarak said: “Who is safe from error.”[7] So if a teacher makes a mistake and then his student corrects him in the gathering then the Muhaddith wont feel any anger nor have animosity for the student because the fundamental aim is serve knowledge without any inkling for fame. Our Hafiz was also an example of these qualities. Hence, once during the lesson on Sahih al-Bukhari we were going over Kitab al-Manaqib and we got to the hadith of Anas RadiAllahu Anhu pertaining to the mi’raj. Sharik b. Abdullah narrates from Anas RadiAllahu Anhu and while discussing the hadith, Shaykh Hafiz Muhammad Ghondalwi said:

“Sharik b. Abdullah made a mistake in this hadith, he was unable to preserve the wording of the narration due to his weak memory. When he became the Qadi of Kufah his memory deteriorated and changed. Other than changing the chronology of the explanation and the details he presented for, ‘thumma Haddathana Fatadli’ the scholars of hadith have criticized this.”

When he finished speaking I gathered my courage and said, Shaykh this is not Sharik b. Abdullah al-Nakha’i al-Qadi but in fact it is Sharik b. Abdullah ibn Abi Nimr because Imam al-Bukhari did not take any narrations from Sharik Qadi.[8] However Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi disagreed and said the individual was Sharik Qadi. However, I still gathered courage and expressed the same view and then the Shaykh stayed quiet.

The next day as per usual the Shaykh after reciting the khutbah addressed me and said:

“What you were saying yesterday is correct the narrator is not Sharik Qadi but rather it is Sharik b. Abdullah bin Abi Nimr, who is truthful but he made mistakes and the scholars of hadith have criticised some of the wordings of this narration.”

One can learn the open mindedness of the Shaykh from this example and an expansive readiness to accept the truth.

While explaining the ahadith under the “Bab Halwatul Iman” (The Chapter on the sweetness of Iman” he said the reality of Iman and its sweetness is something physical and something that one can also feel when one has hatred and dislike for sins, his soul is refreshed (tr. This means he feels his Iman increasing) which causes nur to flourish on the individual due to righteous actions on a truthful believer and therefore sometimes he smells something foul on evil sins and something fragrant due to good deeds. The Shaykh went on to present numerous evidences for this and also mentioned the narration of Jabir b. Abdullah RadhiAllahu Anhu that he was with the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam when a foul smell arose so the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam said:

“Do you know what this foul stench is? This is the smell from the mouth of the people who backbite the Muslims”

Likewise, the hadith:

“When a person lies the angels due to his lying, move away from him.”

So I asked the Shaykh is it possible that can happen even now, i.e. being able to smell the fragrance or a foul smell due to deeds. The Shaykh replied the Companions would also experience this which was due to the favours and blessings of Allah upon them. So, if a person maintains a strong powerful link with Allah he would perhaps also experience this.

Another incident is what is mentioned by Muhammad Rafiq, when I saw him I told him that I was studying with Shaykh Hafiz Muhammad Ghondalwi and upon hearing his name he was pleasantly surprised. So I asked him if he knew him and he replied very well. Then he mentions that he used to live in Sheikhpura and during the night he would hear a sound in the drains which would increase day by day. We called many people to recite but nothing worked. Then someone advised us to get Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi to do ruqyah, so we bought him to our house and he stayed the night and then when leaving in the morning he advised us to disperse some water throughout the house on which he had recited. This not only helped with the problem but we also smelt roses on the house for three days, so he is indeed a great scholar and sitting with him is an indispensable treasure.

Another incident which the Shaykh narrated to us was something that occurred during his teaching spell in the Islamic University of Madinah. There was a person who would have severe pain in his back which would start suddenly. The Shaykh instructed him to come to him when the pain arose. So one day he came and the Shaykh put his hand on the pain and informed the person the pain was due to the effect of magic. So the Shaykh did ruqyah on him for a few days and Allah cured him. So I asked the Shaykh how did he know magic was done on him. The Shaykh replied that when I put my hand on his back I could smell a foul stench and I realized this was due to the effect of magic.

Under Kitab al-Ilm, in the chapter to fix duties in rotation for learning knowledge Imam al-Bukhari cites the hadith of Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu that briefly talks about the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam divorcing his wives. The Shaykh went onto say that Allamah Shibli Nu’mani expressed the view the hadith indicates the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam had divorced his wives but this was only a false rumour and that Hafiz ibn Hajr said this false rumour was perhaps spread by a hypocrite, Shibli Nu’mani thus concludes, that narrations in that period were fabricated based on the analogical reasoning (qiyas) of the narrator and therefore the narrations must be scrutinised to see how much of he narration was based on the qiyas of the narrator.[9]

While discussing this Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi said this was a historical event during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam and irrespective of the type of rumours, everything must be investigated. Allah says: “When a fasiq comes to you then verify.” (Surah al-Hujurat:6)

The Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam had exemplary interactions with his wives but despite this he separated from them for a month. It is also possible that a hypocrite may have spread this rumour, however this has no connection whatsoever with the Ahadith of the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam but just one incident. The same incident was investigated by Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu and the reality of the issue became clear. The Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam separating from his wives for a month, is something which is established. Qiyas or the rumour is only connected to the understanding of the narrator that the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam divorced his wives and then to form a principle that there is analogical reasoning in the Prophetic Ahadith by a narrator is totally incorrect.

Then the Shaykh went onto discuss (the issues with) Allamah Shibli’s interpretation and understanding of narrations.[10] The Shaykh also said Shibli also rejects the hadith of Qartas (i.e. the hadith of the paper and inkwell during the last days of the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam), he claims it was only narrated by Abdullah b. Abbas RadhiAllahu Anhuma when he was young.[11] Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi explained, this view of Allamah Shibli is incorrect because Abdullah b. Abbas RadhiAllahu Anhuma narrated the incident during the era of the companions and numerous students narrated it from him and when it was not denied or rejected by a single one of them is a reality of its authenticity and just because only one companion transmits a narration does not cause it to be spurious. Abdullah b. Abbas RadhiAllahu Anhuma also narrated the hadith of talaq and likewise Umar RadhiAllahu Anhu narrated the hadith, actions are by intentions and no other companion narrates this hadith.

The summary of these points is that Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi did not only rely on the books explaining al-Bukhari and other books of hadith but that he was also aware of the disease of the hadith rejectionists in the subcontinent. He also authored two specific books against the hadith rejectionists.

While discussing a mutual issue between a hadith transmitted by Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi said:

There are five types of kissing:

1) The kissing of Rahmah, when a parent kisses their child, like the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam kissed Hasan, Hussayn and Fatimah RadhiAllahu Anhum

2) The kissing of greeting, like when Muslims meet each other which is the practice in the Arab lands

3) The kissing of compassion, when children kiss their parents

4) The kissing of desires, when a husband and wife kiss.

5) The kissing of love i.e. family, when a brother kisses his brother.

In the chapter of writing Ahadith the first hadith Imam al-Bukhari mentions is the hadith of Ali RadhiAllahu Anhu which mentions his sahifah, which contains the hadith: “A Muslim must not be killed for disbeliever.” Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi said while discussing this hadith that the 3 Imams, Malik al-Shafi’i and Ahmad issued their legal edicts in conformation to this hadith. However, Imam Abu Hanifah was of the view that if a Muslims kills a dhimmi then the Muslim shall be killed in retaliation. Allamah Kashmiri has defended the Imam and after a long discussion he presents the following four answers.

1) In the hadith the disbeliever that is referred to is a combatant.

2) This hadith is in relation to stopping the blood spilt in the days of ignorance.

3) The ruling concerning the life of a dhimmi is the same as a Muslims.

4) During the sermon of the conquest of Makkah the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam announced the laws of retribution for the killing of a Muslim and the dhimmi.

These four points that are provided in answer are far fetched and incorrect.

1) Explaining that the disbeliever in the hadith is a war combatant is an extremely superficial point because the blood of a combatant is permissible irrespective anyway. In fact this understanding is in relation to an attribute and Allamah Shawkani has explained that this understanding is also unreliable according to the hanafi scholars themselves.[12] 

2) Restricting the hadith to the blood of the people of ignorance is a claim that is without evidence and specifying or restricting something without evidence or proof is impermissible.

3) The dhimmi is terms of his life is not equal to that of a Muslim, Allah says: “The people of the fire and the people of Jannah are not equal.” (Surah al-Hashr:20) he also said: and never will Allah give the disbelievers over the believers a way” (Surah al-Nisa:141)[13] and what has been transmitted by Ali RadhiAllahu Anhu: “The Muslims are equal in their retribution of blood.” Therefore, saying the dhimmi is equal to the Muslim in terms of the sanctity of life is incorrect.

4) During the conquest of Makkah thinking the Muslims and the dhimmis were being addressed in wrong in the first place because the disbelievers are not permitted to enter Makkah and Mr Kashmiri himself, the incident he refers to he says the person was not a dhimmi but rather a someone who fell into the ruling of a dhimmi.

The point being, the Shaykh was mindful of the various explanations of Bukhari from Fath al-Bari, Umdah al-Qari as well as Allamah Kashmiri’s notes, Faydh al-Bari and at times he would vehemently express his views when needed. Sometimes he would answer Mr Kashmiri and the Shafiyyah.

Once I asked the Shaykh:

“Did you meet ever Allamah Kashmiri and have a discussion with him? He replied no, “I never met him, however, once he came to a conference organized by Mawlana Abdul Wahid and in those days an Arab student of knowledge used to study with me. So the student visited Mawlana Kashmiri and discussed some issues of aqidah with him. After his discussion with the Mawlana, any issues the student didn’t understand, he would come and ask me (and I would clarify them to him). So, this coming and going to Mawlana Kashmiri continued for a few days. In the end while leaving him, the student said to him (i.e. Mawlana Kashmiri):

لولا الشيخ محمد جوندلوي لأضللتني

“If it were not for al-Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi, you would have misguided me.”

The Shaykh as a Mufassir

I also benefitted from the Shaykh while he explained and translated the meaning of the Qur’an. First the Shaykh would begin with discussion the issue of the Qur’an being the speech of Allah which would be followed by explaining the difference between the Quran and Hadith, defining the knowledge of tafsir, the methodology of tafsir, tafsir via transmitted reports and tafsir through opinion as well as other sciences like reason for revelation etc. Once I asked which tafsir was better, he replied if Mawlana Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi had completed his tafsir it would have been unrivalled.

Our Hafiz and Shaykh was also expert exegetist of the Quran in addition to being a great Muhaddith. I heard from some of the teachers in al-Jamia al-Salafiyyah that when the Shaykh was teaching there, he would deliver lessons on the Quran after the morning prayer and he took 10 months just on Surah al-Fatihah. While at al-Jamia Islamiyyah in Gujranwala, the Shaykh would deliver the Khutbah in Masjid of the Jamia. Shaykh Isma’il al-Salafi was also alive at the time and his sermons were also extraordinary on a range of issues and also include guidance on the socio-political issues which would also be published in al-I’tisam magazine. However, despite this I would pray behind Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi and I would be eager to know what the subject of the khutbah would be each week. The reader will be astonished to know, as I was, that the Shaykh spent almost a whole year explaining the ayah “He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself And mentions the name of his Lord and prays.” (Surah al-A’la: 14-15) in his Friday sermons every week.

The Shaykh would say while detailing the requirements of the person who explains the Quran that: “It is necessary for an explainer of the Quran to have the following requirements, to have the correct belief accompanied with the correct intention, having knowledge of hadith and its sciences, the language of the Quran and that he should have comprehensive understanding of Imam Raghib’s Mufradat al-Quran. He must know Sarf, Nahw, the meanings, the knowledge of fiqh and its principles, speculative rhetoric and the knowledge of the variant methods in recitation, so that Allah’s aids him in his explanation.”

It can be said without any hesitation that Shaykh Hafiz Muhammad Ghondalwi possessed all these qualities and requirements. He would explain the ayah, “You Alone we worship and you alone we ask for help (Surah al-Fatihah: 4) in a way that the listeners would be astounded. He would explain in detail the meaning of worship, the difference between worship and habitual norms or customs, why and how Allah should be worshipped and the reasons for worship. In this regard he would explain the difference between worship and obedience and refute the ideas of Allamah Mashriqi and Mawlana Mawdudi, who would say that establishing Allah’s law (on earth) was in essence and in reality worship and that the prayer, fasting and zikr were merely part of a training course.

The Shaykh also clarified the difference between worship and obedience and also refuted the ideology and principles of Mawlana Mawdudi in a specific book titled, Tanqid al-Masa’il which is printed. The book does not have the publication date, but it seems to be around 1957ce, this was when Mawlana Mawdudi deviated from his methodology of da’wah all of a sudden, and he would describe the first method of da’wah as the way of the Prophets. Thereafter, contrary to the first method, when he adopted the scientific method of da’wah, aiming for success and reformation with elections and leadership as a policy, which he declared to be prohibited and impermissible before.

The people of knowledge know, with this (new) decision and policy of his, 70 of his close allies left him, some of whom were considered the pivotal central core of Jamat Islami. It has been a few years his previous associates refuted him, i.e. Mawlana Mawdudi’s understanding of worship, which include the likes of Mawlana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi in his “Asr Hadhir Mein Din Ki Tafhim wa Tashrih” (The Understanding and Explanation of the Religion in Current Times) and Mawlana Manzur Ahmad Nu’mani’s “Mawlana Mawdudi Ke Sath Meri Rafaqat ki Sarghazisht Awr Ab Mera Mawqif” (The History of my Association with Mawlana Mawdudi and My Position on him Now) only when Mawlana Mawdudi’s book, “Quran Ki Char Bunyadi Istalahain” (Four Fundamental principles of the Quran) started to emerge in the market. However, our Shaykh Hafiz Muhammad Ghondalwi sensed the danger way earlier and comprehensively refuted him in his Tanqid al-Masa’il and warned the nation from the dangerous ideas of Mawlana Mawdudi. May Allah give him a great reward, Amin. I wish to expand on his more but this is not the place for this, however, the avid reader can refer to Tanqid al-Masa’il.

The Shaykh said regarding the reality of ghulu while explaining the ayah “do not commit excess in your religion” Surah al-Nisa:171 that Allah and his Messenger established the limits for the affairs of the Din and therefore exceeding that does not entail reward but rather it entails punishment. Exceeding the prescribed limits in the Din is ghulu and excessiveness. If this excessiveness is in belief, transactions, in places and situations it is considered ghulu, if it is in knowledge then it is considered to be implementation and if it is regarding mannerisms and worship then it is considered to be monasticism, if it is in customs or habits then it is considered compulsion. If it is it do with purification and to keep impurities away it is considered to be whisperings and if it is regarding the lack of preservation of the usul and furu then it is considered to be oppression.

He said in explanation of the ayah “O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely” (Surah al-Baqarah:208) this ayah commands complete submission and obedience to Islam and a warning against the path of the misguided nations which traversed the path of shaytan “So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part” Surah al-Baqarah:85. It is incorrect to take some aspects of Islam and reject the rest and one can only abstain from misguidance after research. It is taqlid that pushed fanaticism and partisanship in Islam. The dissension and discord between the Hanafi’s and Shafi’s was so intense that let alone praying behind one another, they would not marry each other. They issued legal edict that debating with one another was like jihad and it was permissible to break the fast in order to debate with much energy and such historical facts are very lengthy to discuss.

The straight path which was one was divided into quarters and this was why Allamah Sha’rani said doing taqlid of one Madhhab does not act on the complete shari’ah. This ayah also refutes the notions above because it advocates complete submission and obedience to Islam and to live in peace and harmony because in fis silmi the meaning of silmi is also harmony. Allah said “And if they incline to peace” (Surah al-Anfal:61), in this regard the meaning of the ayah would be oh honest people live with each other in complete harmony and peace and do not be disunited and differ while following the way of shaytan. The summary is that this ayah refutes the ideas bigoted taqlid and supports the concept of research and investigation.

He said in explanation of “Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans” (Surah al-Baqarah:62) he talked about the Sabiyyah and the condition of doing righteous deeds. He also mentioned that Mawlana Abul Kalam Azad made a mistake in understanding this ayah because he said that a jewish or christian person believes in Allah and the hereafter while doing righteous deeds, he will worthy of paradise and this is incorrect. This is because believing in Allah entails and obligates believing in the Messenger, who guides to the worship of the creator. So, therefore, if a person believes in Allah and not the Messenger he sent then this is synonymous in him rejecting Allah. In fact, a person has to believe in all of the Messengers and rejecting a single one is disbelief because the jews and Christians do not believe in Muhammad Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam as the Messenger of Allah so therefore it is incorrect to say they have faith. This ayah also has the wording “and did righteousness” which is restricted to obeying and following the Prophet. Allah says “Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah, then follow me” (Surah Al-Imran:31)

Pakistan and Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi

In additional to Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi being a distinguished teacher, researcher, Muhaddith, Mufassir, Munazir and author, he was also involved in politics. He was in favour of the two state solution. This was the reason he supported Muslim league for the Pakistan independence movement and not only this, he was also the president of the Muslim league branch in Gujranwala and offered a credible role in the independent Pakistan movement.[14]

Who does not know that the intent in establishing an independent Pakistan was solely to create an Islamic environment and in light of the Quran and Sunnah to spread the message of living (Islamically) to the sad state of affairs of the world and similarly to present a practical example of an Islamic state. However, how disconcerting is this affair that despite continuous efforts this noble and sacred ideology was sidelined that let alone completing this objective the future generations are distancing themselves from Islam. Most of the shortcomings lie and fall with our people of authority and leadership, who did everything in this country but nothing for Islam. This action of these people is synonymous to betraying Allah and his Messenger. Some of which they were punished for by the annexing of East Pakistan (i.e Bangladesh) and the remainder of which we hear on a daily basis. Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi vividly felt these realities so much so that it led him to write:

“If the Islamic constitution is not established in Pakistan it will never be safe and there is a real danger that it might break way (into separate states) from a geographical, language and tribal (or regional) perspective. There is a dire need for the Islamic constitution to be established here due to logical perspective and not on the basis of religious devotion. So whoever wishes for a constitution other than an Islamic constitution to be established in Pakistan and he exerts efforts and works towards this, then in reality he is someone who betrays the country. They intend to weaken Pakistan and dividing in to states or wanting it to integrate with India again.”[15]

The affair is manifestly clear that there was only one way to protect and defend Pakistan and also to guard it from conflict, which was to establish an Islamic constitution immediately. However, due to stark reality this was not achieved and as a result the same things happened which Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi had expressed.

In this era, not just Pakistan rather the whole Islamic Ummah is subject to division and discord. The enemies of Islam are in agreement in exterminating the Muslims but a shame the Muslims are disunited. So what should the Muslims do, who feel the pain of the Ummah and what steps should they take. So Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi also offers some valuable advice and thoughts on this, he says:

In this era the world is divided into three parts, politically speaking; The socialist or communist block, the western block (Democracy) and the Islamic block. In such circumstances it is mandatory on all Muslims to support the Islamic Block and all of the Muslims countries should be united into one nation and they should be united on a single point of interest (or demand). All of the Muslims leaders of the different countries should be organised into a group which will make the decisions and all of them should have the same Islamic constitution as well as the education system and where as much as possible, to be lenient on distinctive law pertinent in the different countries as much as possible and finally anything that prevents unity between the Muslims which revolves around, nationalism and language, the utmost effort should be exerted to eliminate them.”[16]

Dear readers, you can understand how much passion he had with regards to unifying the Muslims. He despised division and discord on a national level nor divisions on a global Islamic level. On the contrary he understood global Islam based on the words of the blessed Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam that: “The example of the Muslims is like a single body” as a single body.

An Embodiment of Knowledge and Action

The Shaykh was in terms of his knowledge some one who upheld the Sunnah and a true embodiment of beneficial knowledge. He was scholar with taqwa and zuhd. He was someone who spent his nights awake in the servitude of Allah, in fact this was his norm from the days he was a student. Shaykh Muhammad Abduh narrates from Shaykh Muhammad Yunus Dehlawi when Shaykh Ghondalwi was studying in Delhi he would pray tahajjud in a masjid which was further away from Chandni Chowk. One evening he was going to the masjid when a guard blew his whistle. The Shaykh due to his simplicity decided to run and fell when he approached the masjid. The guard by then had caught up with him and arrested him under the pretense of being a thief. The masjid administrators eventually were able to free him once they found out. His night prayers were long with good recitation of the Quran. While reading the ayahs of glad tidings it would seem real. His trembling voice would give away his fear of Allah.

His attention to his prayer was such that his acclaimed student Shaykh Ataullah Hanif mentions the Shaykh never missed the first Takbir of the prayer for approximately 50 years.[17] He would also focus on the recommended acts besides those which were obligatory and Sunnahs. He would always offer 2 units of prayer when entering the masjid and would never sit without offering them. After offering his Tahajjud prayers at home he would go to the Masjid and instruct the Mu’adhin to call the Adhan at its correct and allocated time. He would then proceed to make zikr with full concentration.  After sunrise he would offer his Salatul-Duha and then return home and he would the same with the optional prayers after Maghrib.

My brother in Islam Shaykh Shahbaz Ahmad Salafi mentions once a questioner came before prayer time. He said i’ve come to know you are a senior scholar of this city, so could you assist me? After helping him the Shaykh said: ‘Someone has misinformed you, Shaykh Muhammad Isma’il al-Salafi is the senior scholar, he is the khatib of the of the large masjid, im just a student of knowledge and the Imam of a small masjid.’ After everyone had departed, his affair of humility and modesty was such that he cried through the whole prayer while he led us in prayer. Allah Allah, what a stature of humility, humbleness and modesty.

The attachment Shaykh had with the Quran can be deduced from the following example that Shaykh Sufi Muhammad Akbar mentioned. In 1984 the Shaykh’s health deteriorated and he was taken to hospital. It was during the month of Ramadhan and the doctor prohibited him from fasting. During the days of severe health concerns he continued to make zikr and recite the Quran. Later, he expressed his sadness in not being able to fast but also expressed that during this period he was able to finish 30 recitations of the Quran, meaning that he would recite the whole Quran in one day. It was the same affair during the end of his days when he was in a hospital in Lahore, he was constantly engaged in the remembrance of Allah from his heart and tongue. When people would come to meet him and ask about his health, he would reply with a brief answer and then continue in his Zikr.

One day after the Shaykhs death I visited Shaykh Ataullah Hanif, during the visit the phone rang. I gathered from the phone conversation Shaykh Hakim Abdul Rahim Ashraf was on the other end and he called to offer his condolences. Shaykh Ataullah’s voice spoke with fear and his eyes became wet and said in a very saddened tone, “Hakim Sahib, not only has the Musnid of Ilm passed away but the gatherings of remembering and pondering have also finished.”

The Shaykh besides talking about knowledge would also encourage righteous actions and remembering Allah. I also had the pleasure to benefit from this and the issues that troubling me before I spent time with the Shaykh were alleviated by the Shaykhs admonitions and advices. In my early days there was a lack of attention but I eventually maintained a link of knowledge and its people. The Shaykh was unique that if I missed a lesson, he would ask about me.

After finishing my education, I joined Idarah Ulum al-Athariyyah and after every 2 or 4 months I would visit the Shaykh to ask about difficult issues. These gatherings would last long with the Shaykh. After departing from the Shaykh it would seem like I have acquired major wealth and it was this feeling that would give me the inclination to return.

Once I went through a period when I was unable to achieve tranquility in my prayer, I was unable to concentrate on my zikr nor have the zeal to research. So, I wrote to the Shaykh. He replied very quickly and instructed me with some duas and invocations, after which those feelings disappeared.

I have already mentioned his attention and focus on the obligatory and acts of sunan. After the second sajdah and the brief period of resting, it is the norm of the scholars of hadith to support oneself on the ground, but what is the defined method? This is something that was differed over. However, the Shaykh would support himself with his fists, just as one kneads dough. This resulted in marks on the knuckles, just as one get marks on the ankles (from Tawarruk). I remember very clearly while studying Sahih al-Bukhari when he explained this issue, he read the statement in the marginal notes of Sahih al-Bukhari (1:114), “The jurists says one should support himself just as one kneads dough, as cited by al-Kirmani.” He said the notes mention the word al-Abin but the correct ward is al-Ajin has al-Kirmani has mentioned in his explanation of al-Bukhari (5:176).[18]

Shaykh Abul Barkat Ahmad mentions the Shaykh would focus on fasting on the white days, but when he became weak he stopped keeping them. However, after this he suffered from nose bleeds and he said, “I realise, the nose bleeds were controlled by fasting and this has happened due to not keeping the fasts.” The point being the Shaykhs was a true example of the Salaf in terms of knowledge and action.

Al-I’tisam, Shawwal 1411 / April 1991.


[1] According to Fadhilatush Shaykh Muhammad Ataullah Hanif (Bhojiyani), Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah was from the foremost students of Shaykh Muhammad Ghondalwi and during the lessons he would refer to Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah as Sibawayh, the Shaykh died on the 8th of May 1987 at the age of 80, Rahimahullah)

[2] al-Ei’tisam, 16th December 1949, vol.1, issue 12, page 4.

[3] Nata’ij Taqlid, 22, 2nd edition.

[4] Faydh al-Bari, 1:357.

[5] Faydh al-Bari, 1:52

[6] (tr.) He also authored a magnificent history of al-Andalus titled, ‘Jadhwah al-muqtabis fī dhikr wulāt al-andalus.’

[7] Lisan al-Mizan, 1:17.

[8] The same mistake was made by Mawlana Zafar Ahmad Thanwi, he writes concerning this narration of Anas Radhiallahu Anhu, “It is like this in the narration of Sharikh al-Qadii and Sharikh was weak in memory.” (Inha al-Sakan, 118)

[9] Allamah Shibli details this in his Sirah al-Nabi, 1:164, Printed by Quran Mahl in Karachi.

[10] Shaykh Abdus Salam Mubarakpuri in his Sirah al-Bukhari and Shaykh Abdul Rahim Rahimabadi in his Husn al-Bayan have discussed and critiqued this principle of Allamah Shibli in detail.

[11] Refer to al-Faruq, 108-110 (of Shibli Nu’mani). Printed by Madinah Publishing company

[12] For details refer to Nayl al-Awtar, 7:12.

[13] For further details about using this ayah as evidence refer to Nayl al-Awtar, 7:13.

[14] Daily Jang, 6th June 1985.

[15] Tanqid al-Masa’il, 65.

[16] Tanqid al-Masa’il, 122.

[17] Al-I’tisam, 21 June 1985. [Tn. Shaykh Abdullah Nasir Rehmani also mentioned this so me several years ago.

[18] Allamah al-Albani wrote, “That al-Ajin (kneading) in the prayer is to support oneself with the hands when standing.” He also said, “Ibn Ishaq al-Harbi transmitted this with a good chain.” (Sifah Salah al-Nabi p.137, 11th edn.)  

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