Karamat Ali Jaunpuri a religious and a social reformer. He was born in Mullahata, Jaunpur, UP, India. His father Abu Ibrahim SK Muhammad Imam Baksh, a disciple of Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlavi, was a scholar of Persian literature and was well-versed in Hadith and other branches of knowledge. Karamat Ali was the 35th descendant of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique (R).
Karamat Ali's primary education started under his father. He learnt theology from Maulana Qudratullah Rudlavi and Hadith literature from Ahmadullah Allami. He also learnt the art of reciting the Quran at an early age. At the age of eighteen, Karamat Ali became eager to develop spiritual knowledge and an urge for self-purification made him restless. He met Syed Ahmad at Rai Bareli and got Bai'at in his hands (ie became his disciple). Syed Ahmed Shahid asked him to go to Bengal and preach Islam through speeches and his pen.
Before coming to Bengal, Karamat Ali had established Madrasa-i-Hasafia at Jaunpur. Soon this Madrasa became famous as a centre of Islamic learning. He was an ardent follower of original Islamic norms, rites and rituals. But Bengal Muslim society of the day was full of innovations (Bid'at), superstitions, and un-Islamic practices. Many Muslims had given up obligatory duties such as Saum (fasting of Ramadan), Salat, Azan etc and had instead started to practice Hindu rituals and had joined Hindu religious festivals. Shirk and Bid'at had engulfed Muslim thought. The Maulana strove to restore pure Islamic values among Bengal Muslims.
After finishing his primary mission in Calcutta Karamat Ali reached Barisal through Jessore and Khulna. This was at a time when haji shariatullah, Abdul Jabbar and many other Faraizi leaders were carrying on reform activities on their own. There was little difference of policy or ideals between the reform movement of Karamat Ali and those of Haji Shariatullah, dudu miyan and Abdul Jabbar. But on the issue of British rule in the country the two sides stood poles apart. Haji Shariatullah opined that British India was Dar-ul-Harb or abode of war while Karamat Ali in support of the English maintained that since the British did not interfere with the religious activities of the local people, India could not be a Dar-ul-Harb. He opined that though not a Dar-ul-Islam India was at least a Dar-ul-Aman (abode of security). So Muslims could practise religious activities in India without hindrance.
On the issue of whether India was Dar-ul-Harb or not, a Bahath (debate) was held between Karamat Ali and the Faraizis led by Abdul Jabbar. In the debate Karamat Ali proved that India was not a Dar-ul-Harb and as such the two Eids and Jummah congregations were obligatory for Muslims. Though overpowered in the debate, the Faraizi leaders harassed Karamat Ali in different ways. Sometimes he was not even allowed to stay in areas where he had come to preach. He introduced the ritual of five Azans in mosques. Previously Azan was pronounced only during night time. When Azan was introduced in the daytime, people considered it to be an innovation. After much persuasion the Maulana was able to convince them that it was compulsory to proclaim Azan five times a day. He also started Jummah prayer in mosques. At first his enemies opposed him in this venture, but gradually people got accustomed to it.
The movement started by Karamat Ali is called Taiyuni Movement. It is derived from the Arabic word 'Taiyun' meaning 'to identify'. Karamat Ali's activities were two fold, firstly, he struggled to eradicate Shirk and Bid'at from Muslim society, and secondly, he brought back many Muslims, who were misled by superstitions, to the true path of Islam. Karamat Ali visited Noakhali, Chittagong, Assam, Rangpur and many other interior areas. He fell seriously ill while in Rangpur and on passed away the 30 May 1873 while reciting the Kalima. He was buried in Rangpur.
Karamat Ali wrote about 46 books and booklets. His book Miftah-ul-Jannah has gone through many reprints. It has been acknowledged in the subcontinent as a major book on Islam. Maulana Karamat Ali's books may be divided into 4 categories: 1. Compendium of religious subjects; 2. Explanations of the Quran and method of prayers and ablution; 3. Discussion of spiritual and pir-murid principles and 4. Criticism of the theories of Haji Shariatullah and Dudu Miyan. Most of his books are in Urdu though he wrote in Arabic and Persian as well. Some of his important books are 1.Miftah al-Jannah, 2. Baiat-i-Tawba, 3. Shist al-Musalli, 4. Mukharib-al-Harurf, 5. Kaukab-i-Durri, 6. Tarjuma Shamail-i-Tirmizi, 7. Tarjuma Mishqat, 8. Al-Qaul al-Thabit, 9. Bai'at wa Tabua, 10. Qaul al-Amin, 11. Murad al-Muridin, 12. Farz-i-Aam, 13. Kitab al-Intiqamat, 14. Nurun Ala Nur, 15, Jad al-Taqwa. [M Inamul Hoque]