Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotwi
Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotwi (Rahmatullahi Alayh) founded the greatest religious institution of the Indian Subcontinent, the prestigious Darul Uloom Deoband. He is the teacher of erudite scholars such as Maulana Mahmood-ul-Hasan (also known as Shaikhul Hind).
Maulana Yaqub Nanotwi describes Maulana Qasim Nanotwi in the following words:
Intelligent, obedient, courageous, sharp, possessor of broad determination, diligent, valiant, active and clever. He always outshined all his peers in his studies as well as in exercises and competitions.
Maulana Qasim Nanotwi finished the Quran at a very young age. The special knowledge which Allah had blessed Maulana Qasim Nanotwi with cannot be described in words.
Maulana Muhammad Yaqub Nanotawi, a peer of Hadhrat Maulana Qasim Nanotwi used to say: "I have studied Ab-e-Hayaat (a book by Maulana Qasim Nanotwi) six times and now only do I understand some of it."
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, a student of Maulana Qasim Nanotwi says: "I still do not fully understand the writings of Maulana Qasim Nanotwi."
Maulana Qasim Nanotwi occupies a rank in religious excellence that is unique and perhaps occupied by none other in the last thousand years of Islamic history. His being a mujaddid (reformer) of Islam is a fact which is not only proven by his highly philosophical and insightful works but also by his endeavours to re-establish Islam and re-generate the Muslim spirit in the form of Darul Uloom Deoband.
He is the founder of Darul Uloom Deoband, thus he is called the "Father of Darul Uloom Deoband." Thousands of big and small institutions pledge allegiance to this "Ummul Madaris" (mother of all madaris) all over the world. The fruits of the endeavours of Maulana Qasim Nanotwi are still ripening into the twenty-first century. The traditional teachings of Darul Uloom Deoband are gaining more and more commonality day by day. The hundreds of thousands of graduates of Darul Uloom Deoband and its affiliates are only a continuation of the efforts of Maualna Qasim Nanotwi. Their writings and speeches, their reformations and humanitarian efforts are countless. These are all the fruits of the garden planted by Maulana Qasim Nanotwi, who has planted such a viable garden which is still blossoming and if Allah wills, shall continue to flourish until the Last Day.
Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotwi was born in 1248 AH (1832 CE) in the village of Nanota (Saharanpur district). He is a descendant of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (Radhi Allah Anhu). He was very bright, active, courageous and intelligent from the very beginning of his childhood. He would always outshine his peers in all subjects. He studied Arabic and Farsi from Maulana Mamlook Ali. During this time he saw a dream in which he was standing on top of the Ka`ba and many streams were flowing out of him. He narrated this dream to his teacher, Maulana Mamlook Ali, who remarked that (streams of) knowledge shall flow out of you benefiting the masses. Thereafter he travelled with Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi in 1843 CE to Dehli to complete his studies under Shah Abdul Ghani Dehlawi (Rahmatullahi Alayh).
The paternal lineage of Maulana Qasim Nanotawi is as follows:
Muhammad Qasim son of Asad Ali son of Ghulam Shah son of Muhammad Baksh son of Alauddin son of Muhammad Fath son of Muhammad Mufti son of Abdus Samee son of Maulvi Muhammad Hashim.
The maternal grandfather of Maulana Qasim Nanotawi was Maulana Wajihuddin who was an expert of the Farsi language and was an upright elder of his times. Maulana Yaqub Nanotwi says that their lineage is traced back to Hadhrat Abu Bakr as-Siddiq through Hadhrat Qasim bin Muhammad bin Abu Bakr.
Maulana Qasim Nanotwi's brothers all died in their infancy, therefore, he was the only son of his father and mother.
Haji Imdadullah Saheb Muhajire Makki would frequent Nanota as this was his maternal home and his sister was married in Nanota and lived there. Maulana Qasim had the honor of staying in the company of Haji Imdadullah from the very beginning.
All three scholars, Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, Maulana Qasim Nanotwi and Maulana Yaqub Nanotwi became good friends while studying in Dehli. After excelling in the initial studies they studied Hadith from Maulana Shah Abdul Ghani. This was the time when students would come from all over the Indian subcontinent to learn Hadith from Maulana Shah Abdul Ghani and acquire their degree (sanad) in Hadith from him. It is hard to describe the enthusiasm of those students and their aged and learned teacher. The seat of learning was still Delhi and Maulana Shah Abdul Ghani was ever-engaged in preaching Qalallah ("Says Allah") and Qala Rasulullah ("Says Rasulullah").
The lives and times of these saints of Allah was unique and awesome. The summary of their lives can be described in three words: learning, practising, and conveying. They learned the Quran and Hadith from their elders who learned it in turn from their elders and thus the chain reaches the Leader of Both the Worlds. They practised each and every minute detail of this precious knowledge. Last but not least, they taught, conveyed and preached what they possessed to their students as well as the masses.
Maulana Qasim Nanotwi was held in a very high esteem by his Shaykh Haji Imdadullah Saheb Muhajire Makki. In Zia-ul-Quloob, Haji Imdadullah Saheb says about him:
"People like him (Maulana Qasim Nanotawi) used to exist in earlier times".
He also says that although Maulana Qasim Nanotwi is my disciple, in reality he is much higher in knowledge and spirituality than me.
Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi used to say that one can not understand Shah Waliullah without understanding Maulana Qasim Nanotwi.
Allama Shabir Ahmad Uthmani used to say: "No matter how many forms (of arguments and debates) are brought by the philosophers (to challenge Islam) in the next hundred years, the wisdom of Maulana Qasim Nanotwi provides the solution to all of them".
The greatest contribution of Maulana Qasim Nanotwi was to start the Darul Uloom Deoband. This great institution was started after divine inspiration in the hearts of the Auliya-ul-Ullah (friends of Allah) of the era, who decided that a Madrassa should be started to safeguard the Deen of Islam for the future generations of the Muslims. Hence, on May 20th, 1866, the Darul Uloom in Deoband was started under the supervision of Maulana Qasim Nanotwi. It started under a tree in the city of Deoband with one student and one teacher, Mahmood being the names of both.
Fuad Shahid Naeem writes:
Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautvi was a very important scholar, intellectual figure, and Sufi, of his time. He is most famous for founding, along with Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, the influential madrasah at Deoband that has become one of the most important religious institutions of Sunni Islam, at the behest of their spiritual master, the well-known Hajji Imdad Allah. Maulana Nanautvi is known in three capacities in which he wrote and taught: one, as a scholar of the religious sciences; two, as an intellectual figure who took upon himself the task of defending traditional Islam intellectually, largely through theology (kalam) and philosophy (falsafah or hikmah), against Muslim and Hindu modernism as well as Christian missionary work; three, as a Sufi master. In the integration of these three elements, the legal, the intellectual, and the spiritual, Nanautvi personifies both the essence of Sunni scholarship in the later centuries, especially in the Indian Subcontinent, as well as the foundations of the school of Deoband, which has often been called reformist or puritanical, but which, in reality, finds its roots in these three elements, and which largely follows an interpretation of the Islamic tradition that has its origins in Shah Wali Allah". (The 'Ulama of the Indian Subcontinent at the Rise of the Modern Age: Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanvi and His Response to Modernism:30-31)
An excerpt from another biography:
The English had sent missionary teams throughout India to preach Christianity - that they may breach the force of the Muslims by converting them - for they maintained that as long as the remained as Muslims, not only they, but any other nation throughout the world will never be able to establish own government. To this end they employed 2 methods:
1. Enhancing English education.
2. Paying Christian priests lucrative salaries for carrying out missionary activity in the Indian sub-continent.
The efforts and influences of the English education and its culture are only too obvious - Atheism, Irreligiousness, Transgression, Anarchy, Shamelessness and Lewdness, apathy towards Deen, ill-belief, etc. These are the natural consequences of English integrated Education, which is so manifest even today.
On the other hand, many Muslims were misled by the Christian missionaries to such an extent that many even turned renegade. The Muslim elders who were fully aware of these happenings realised that the only way to curb this problem was to come out in full opposition to these missionaries as a result of which a chain of Debates were held with the Christian Priests. A very famous debate in this regard was held in Chandpur district Shahjahanpur - which was attended by leading Priests specifically brought in from Europe for the occasion. The debate very soon swung in favour of the Muslims and eventually the Christian Priests suffered such devastating defeat at the hands of the Ulemul Deoband that it never occurred to them to ever cross swords with the Muslims again. At the end of this debate, one of the Ulema - viz Sahed Zahoo-ud-Din Saheb representing the Muslims enquired from one of the Priests this:
"How is it that you never spoke anything today"
"What could I speak, Molvi Saheb (referring to Moulana Qasim Saheb) shattered us in such a way that even our Chief Priest Noulus couldn't answer him..."
Another Priest, Ainate reported this:
"We have attended many such gatherings and debates but never did we hear such a discourse by such an Aalim" (Referring to Moulana Qasim Saheb)
Yet another Priest reported:
"If it had been our practice to embrace particular religion as a result of speeches, we would surely have done so after having listened to this man" (Moulana Qasim Saheb)
He further conscientious:
"When our Chief Priest Noulus found no other way of overpowering them (Muslims) he resorted to the subject of Taldeer, reluctantly. Which is the 'resort' among us - but the way this person (Moulana Qasim Saheb) rebuffed at him, that not only he (Chief Priest Naulus) was at a loss but we too did not know what was happening."
Debate at Rourkee
On Emulating the ways of the Christian Priests - many Hindu priests also began provoking Muslims on religious matters. Most notorious among them was - Pundit Dayanand who once toured Rourkee and openly attacked the Muslim beliefs. When Moulana Qasim Saheb faced up to him in their debate and cornered him, he eventually fled from the debate in such haste that he never appeared again. The answers to the objectors raised by Dayanand are found in Moulana's work. Qibla Numa, which is a marvellous interesting and not answered work.
May Allah Ta'ala give us ilm, amal, adab and humility like Maulana Qasim Nanotwi Rahmatullah Alayh. Aameen.