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Shah Wali Allah

1. Introduction: Qutbal din Ahmad ibn Abdul Raheem who is renowned as Shah Wali Allah was
born in 1114 hijra in 1703 A.D. near Delhi. He was a part of a very distinguished intellectual and
religious family of the region. He was one of the greatest Muslim scholars of 18th century. He
made a lot of effort in raising the intellectual, economical, political, social and religious life of
the Muslims of subcontinent. Shah Wali Allah lived in that era when Muslim community was
having strong disagreements with one another and were divided into different sects and the entire
Muslim empire was losing ground on Indian subcontinent. He tried to resolve and reconcile
various factions of the Indian Muslims by not only trying to give theological and metaphysical
issues a new rational interpretation but also putting effort to harmonize reason and revelation.
Shah Wali Allah was of the strong opinion that the main reason of the downfall of the Indian
Muslims was their unawareness of the sacred book i.e. Holy Quran. He was the founder of a
movement with the theme 'Back to the Qur'an', and possessed the crown of translating the Qur'an
into Persian to facilitate its understanding among the Muslims of India as persion as that time
could easily be read and understood all over the region. This is considered as the first complete
translation of the Qur'an by an Indian Muslim scholar.
2. Aims of Education: Shah Wali Allah received an early structured and spiritual education at
the madrasa (i.e. the religious school) at Delhi which was established by his father, Shah Abdul
Raheem. He studied Persian and Arabic grammar in detail, literature, higher philosophy,
theology, metaphysics, mystic and jurisprudence. He graduated from school at the age of fifteen
and, his father initiated him into the famous Naqshbandi order in the very same year.
Scholars who have done extensive research on Shah Wali Allah agrees that his Hajj journey
towards Mecca has a significant impact in his academic erudition. In 1143 hijri or 1731 A.D. he
went on hajj and utilized next fourteen months staying and studying hadith in both Mecca and
Medina. He also engaged himself in intellectual discussions, meditation and spiritual perfection.
After making second Hajj and returning home, he devoted the rest of his life
teaching hadith literature, metaphysics and writing.
3. Curriculum Formulation: Shah Wali Allah takes the credit of bringing reforms in the religious
curriculum of Madrasas (religious schools). The major amendment that was done on his behalf
was introducing Mishkat (the book of Hadith) in the course. The beauty of Mishkat is in its
brief work that deals with the basic teachings of Islam, avoiding unnecessary details that may put
reader in any sort of confusion.
Mishkat al Masabih gets the recognition and still remains part of the syllabus of hundreds of
Islamic institutions in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, like Dar-ul-Uloom Deobandia, Nadwatal-
Ulama Lucknow, Jamia Mansabiyah Meerut, Madrasa Aminyah, Delhi, Jamiah Arabiyah Al
The Mishkat was also introduced in even the higher Islamic educational institutions in South
Africa. Dar-ul-Uloom, Newcastle, Natal was established in 1973 and the Mishkat was introduced
in its curriculum in 1981.and since then it continues to enjoy the position of both a Hadith text
book and an introductory source book of Fiqh i.e. The Islamic Jurisprudence.
4. Teaching Methods:
Shah Wali Allah organized his teachings methodologies and focused towards reorienting the
concepts of basic social justice, removing social inequalities, and balancing the iniquitous
distribution of wealth among the Muslim societies. For the effective dissemination of his ideas
he established several branches of his school at Delhi.
None of the scholars of Mediaeval India understood the various aspects of civics as profoundly
as had been done by Shah Wali Allah. He was considered as a self-conscious which was
considered a prerequisite for gaining political consciousness. He worked in detail on the factors
that are important in growth of civil consciousness in his work Hujjat-Ullah-il-Baaligah which is
ranked high in developmental books.
Shah Wali Allah also realized the importance of economics in a social and political set-up. He
supported the concept of maintaining economic equilibrium in the society and strongly criticized
the accumulation of wealth which ultimately is the root cause of all sorts of evils in the world.
He envisaged a social order that was based on economic equality, fraternity and brotherhood,
which are principles practiced by Islamic socialists during the time of Caliphs.
Although born in an age of depravity chaos and corruption, Shah Wali Allah strove for worlds
peace and prosperity. He visualized a Muslim society in which the individual enjoyed the fullest
freedom in addition to bringing harmony to all. the concept ideal Islamic state compelled ruler to
be governed by the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.W).
Allama Iqbal while giving tribute to Shah Wali Allah beautifully explained the methodology of
teaching of this great scholar. According to Dr Iqbal, Shah Wali Allah was of the view that the
Prophetic method of teaching is the law revealed on the prophet that perceives habits, ways and
peculiarities of the people to whom he is specifically sent. The Prophet aiming at all-embracing
principles, can neither divulge many, nor allow them to work out their own rules of conduct.
The method of Shah Wali Allah is to train particular people and then to use it as a nucleus for the
building up of a universal Shariah. While doing so, he emphasizes those basic principles upon
which the social life of all mankind is based and then applies those rules to make cases in the
light of the specific habits of people immediately before him
5. Teacher:
Shah wali Allah began his teaching career at the same Madrasa that was founded by his father
i.e. Madrasa-e-Rahimiya. After his father death he became the head of the institution, teaching
the current sciences at the school for more than twelve years. He also continued his own studies,
growing in stature as a teacher and attracting more and more students to his circle.He trained
students in different divisions and subdivisions of Islamic knowledge and entrusted them for
teaching further students.
He not only corrected many un-Islamic ideas and view points, which had crept in the Muslim
society but also brought different sects of Muslims, the Shias and Sunnis, Deobandis and
Brarewies close to each other and emphasized the importance of undefeated unity among the
6. Student:
Shah Wali Allah side by side of teaching also gained the scholastic maturity and soundness
under the umbrella of great teachers. Sheikh Abdul Raheem was his educator in India; under
whom he got both the direction and future strategy of achieving and implementing knowledge.
He was a devoted and a hard working student. His approach was helped and strengthened by the
teachers who were well equipped with the related knowledge. He had delved deeply into the
Quranic verses under the guidance of his own father. Later at Hijaz, he also got the chance of
delving deep into the knowledge of A-Hadith and the methodology of teaching it.
His beauty of teaching hadith was that he gave preference to the beauty of the narrators and its
message to humanity. The literary principles of writing and editing were also learnt while he was
staying at Hijaz.
7. Intellectual contribution of Shah Wali Allah:
The intellectual work of Shah Wali Allah can be classified into six categories.
The first category deals with the Holy Quran. It includes the translation of the Holy Book into
Persian, which was one of the literary languages of the subcontinent of that era.
Second class in which he has contributed is the domain of Hadith. His contribution in this
regard surpassed several works including an Arabic and Persian explanation in a manuscript
Muatta", which is a renowned collection of the hadiths /traditions of the Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.W) compiled by Imam Malik. Shah Wali Allah is an outstanding Muhaddith (A
Traditionist) and the associations of all contemporary and innovative scholars of Hadith in the
subcontinent may have some links to him. Shah Wali Allah wrote a number of pamphlets and
books regarding Hadith.
The third category deals with the section of Fiqh or also known as Islamic Jurisprudence. His
manuscript in this regard is named as "Insaaf-fi-bayaan-i-Sabab-il-Ikhtilaaf", which is although
brief but yet a very informative, interesting and thought provoking history of the Islamic
Jurisprudence of the last five centuries.
The fourth category deals with his works that are based on mysticism, in which he throws light
of the theology and religious aspects of a Muslims life
The fifth category pertains to his works on Muslim philosophy and the interpretation of Islamic
issues. He also published a pamphlet which holds the principles of Ijtihad i.e independent
interpretation and Taqlid i.e. conformity in deriving rules. In the "Principles of Ijtihaad" he
clearly writes on if it is obligatory for a Muslim to stick to the one of the four recognized schools
of thoughts of Islamic Jurisprudence (Shafi, Hanbli, Maliky or Hanfi) or whether a person can
exercise his own judgement. He was of the opinion that a layman who does not know much
about religion should rigidly follow his own Imam but a person who is well versed in Islamic
law can exercise his own judgement which should be in conformity with the practice and
teachings of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.W).
The sixth category deals with his works on the sects or factions issues i.e. Shia-Sunni problem
which were becoming fairly acute in those days. His writings on this subject played a significant
role in abridging this problem. His theories related to concepts of economics and socialism are of
revolutionary nature and he may be regarded as the precursor of Karl Marx, who was a well
known German philosopher and economist.
8. Political Movement: Shah Wali Allah played a major role in the politics of his times. He was
greatly involved in bringing out a united Muslim front against the rising Marhatta power which
was a threat to the last vestige of the Muslim power in the northern India. It was he who wrote to
Nazim ul Mulk and Najibuddaula, and finally he invited Ahmad Shah Abdali who inflicted a
overwhelming defeat in the third battle of Panipat over the Marhattas. His letter to Ahmad Shah
Abdali which encapsulates the invitation to the ruler to take up arms against the alarming
Marhatta powers is one of the most important historical documents of the eighteenth century. He
looked deeply into the political situation in the subcontinent and was well aware of the dangers
of which Muslims of subcontinent were prone from different quarters, so for combating the
Marhattas, He chose one of the most stunning, capable disciplined and courageous Muslim
leaders of his time.
A hallmark of Shah Wali Allah political contribution was his ability to reunite all the opposing
viewpoints to the level of contentment of each side. This was his main struggle towards uniting
the whole Muslim nation as he strongly believe it have a synergistic effect in the rise of the
ummah. His influential and prevailing abilities as a reconciler enabled him strongly to provide a
common ground and a strong basis for cooperation and accord both between the Sunni and Shia
and Deobandi and Barelwi.
Shah Wali Allah emphasized on the rational evaluation of Shariah, due to which he has been
regarded as founder of Islamic modernism' and a reformer of faith by most of the Muslim
scholars and Islamic historians. His one more step towards political contribution was his
insistence for blending the cultural identity of Arab in subcontinent as he affirms that only the
path of Sunnah and Quran pak is the way of success for Muslims. He also possesses political
objective that the followers of Islam should not lose their status of dominant political group in
state. This will ultimately give dominance to Muslims in the world. Shah Wali Allah was
however not in the favor of concept of civilized democracy.
Unlike Imam Ghazzali Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Taimiyyah Shah Wali Allah believed in the
revolution against the corrupt and unjust rulers for the sake of attaining peace and justice in the
region. Thus many of his writings invoked Jihad in the Muslims community to establish such an
ideal state and to oppose the downfall of Muslims. His philosophy was similar to the other
Islamic scholars who stressed upon the extraction of scientific theories and concepts from the
Holy Quran.
9. Evaluation:
Shah Wali Allah died in 1763 A.D. leaving behind an intellectual legacy that has still been
surpassed hardly ever. If there exists any critique of his work, it is that he ignored the British
challenge to the Islamic civilization.
The movement of political and spiritual regeneration of Muslim of subcontinent did not die with
the death of Shah Wali Allah. This whole scholarly bequest was transferred to his talented son,
Shah Abdul Aziz, and his worthy disciples and his successors who strove for not only practical
implementation of Shah Wali Allahs mission but also to accomplish his dream. The light of
Islamic revival that was kindled by Shah Wali Allah kept lofting by his worthy and dedicated
successors. The echo of the third battle of Panipat holds some relation with the battle of Balakot,
both forming the landmarks of the very same struggle.
Concisely Shah Wali Allah possessed a versatile personality. His real greatness lies in the
cumulative effect that was produced by his writings, by his enthusiastic successors and followers
and by the achievements of the school of thought that was founded by him. In religious matters,
he struck a mean between extremes i.e. a way of enlighten moderation. In social affairs he
worked hard to introduce the simplicity and purity of early Islam in the Muslim society. In the
sphere of economics he supported the concept of revolutionary Islamic socialism and in the
political field he focused on establishing a united Muslim front against the non-Muslim forces
which were threatening to storm Muslims of subcontinent.
In short the sincere and dedicated efforts of Shah Wali Allah and his family cannot be ignored. It
is due to their efforts that the illustrious banner of Islam kept flying over the Indian sub continent
despite the decline and fall of the Mughal Empire. This is in contrast with Spain where the faith
of Islam disappeared with the down fall of the Muslim rule. There many Muslims were either
killed or were converted to Christianity. In Indian sub continent the British Government did not
succeed in its plan as the Muslims of India did not convert to the religion of rulers despite of the
fact that there was no doubt in the Missionary activities of British Government who spent
millions of pounds in the related task by arranging lectures, debates and seminars to propagate
their religious views. The failure of the British Government plan in converting the Muslims of
subcontinent was due to the dedicated efforts of Hazrat Shah Wali Allah and his noble family.