Fatwa ID: 04575
Answered by: Maulana Yusuf Zaman
A Brief Biography of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Before I answer your question, I would like to mention a few things regarding Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA), in particular his piety and taqwa.
Hakimul Ummat, Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahimahullah) was born on 5th Rabiul-Thani 1280AH, in the village of Thana Bhawan. He lost his mother at a tender age and was brought up by his father in a fairly affluent background.
From a young age, he had a great desire for Salaat, even whilst playing he used to imitate the worshippers. An example is when he gathered all of his friends’ shoes, placed them into a line, put one shoe in front of the line and expressed his happiness that the shoes were performing Salaat.
He also had a great inclination to deliver lectures. On his way to the shops, he used to enter any Masjid, ascend the Mimbar and deliver a Khutbah.
At the age of twelve, he began performing Tahajjud and other Nafl Salaat. His love for deen was sown by his initial Ustaad, Moulana Fateh Muhammed Sahib (Rahimahullah). After learning the basic kitaabs by his uncle and Moulana Fateh Muhammed Sahib (Rahimahullah), he proceeded to Deoband and qualified at the tender age of 19 or 20 years. From his student days, he became famous for his intelligence and sharp wittedness. He never wasted his time in futile play and amusement. Such was his burning desire to obtain knowledge that he learnt certain Kitaabs which he could not study during class time from his Ustaads (teachers) whilst they performed wudhu. His Ustaads were all great luminaries of their time. The most important amongst them was Moulana Muhammed Ya’qoob Sahib (Rahimahullah) from whom he achieved the greatest amount of knowledge and spiritual benefit. He learnt Qira’at from the well known Qari Muhammed Abdullah Sahib, Muhaajir Makki (Rahimahullah) and mastered it to such an extent that it became difficult from the listener to distinguish between the recitation of the student and the teacher.
After qualifying, he spent 14 years in Kanpur teaching, writing and propagating to the people. During this period, thousands of students quenched their thirst at this ocean of knowledge. Although he was still very young, the people of Kanpur respected and honoured him tremendously-it was at that time that he became famous. His discourses were greatly appreciated and were being printed in the form of booklets. Very few scholars in the history of Islam have had so many of their discourses printed.
During his student days in Deoband, he desired to make a pledge at the hands of Moulana Rashid Ahmed Gangohi (Rahimahullah) who refused, saying that it would harm his studies. Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahimahullah) then wrote a letter to Haji Imdadullah (Rahimahullah) in Makkah urging him to make Moulana Rashid Ahmed Gangohi (Rahimahullha) accept the pledge. Haji Imdadullah (Rahimahullah) by means of a letter instead accepted Moulana Ashfar Ali Thanwi (Rahimahullah) as his disciple.
When Moulana Ashfar Ali Thanwi (Rahimahullah) accompanied his father for Hajj one year after qualifying, he renewed his pledge with Haji Imdadullah (Rahimahullah). After his return from Hijaz, he continued teaching and propagating, whilst his desire for Dhikr intensified. He used to deliver lectures whilst standing for five to six, and sometimes even seven hours continuously.
In 1315 AH, he left Kanpur, and on the advice of his spiritual mentor, he returned to Thana Bhawan (his birthplace) where he devoted more to imparting spiritual benefits to the masses.
Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahimahullah) wrote books in every field, be it Tafseer or Tasawuf, Fiqh or Tajweed. All of his works total more than a thousand. In the field of Hadith, he did not write any voluminous work directly because he had many assistants. In this way, the voluminous I’la Us Sunan was written under his guidance. Regarding this kitaab, he said that “If this Madrasah does no other work besides the writing of this book, then it is a great achievement because it is a unique work”.
Perhaps very few Muslims homes do not possess Bahishti Zewar and Munaajate Maqbul, two of Moulana’s famous books. His Tafseer ‘Bayanul Qur’an’ is unparalleled. Moulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (Rahimahullah), well known for his in-depth knowledge, used to say that after reading Bayanul Qur’an, he developed a desire to read Urdu books.
Although he wrote such a large number of books, yet he did not earn a cent from them. All of his works were solely for the pleasure of Almighty Allah. He granted full permission to anyone who desired to print his books. Some of his works have been through hundreds of editions. He used to say that all praises are due to Allah because all of the essential work has been done. The path towards Deen has been cleared for centuries. Insha-Allah his books, discourses and advice will be of assistance in religious matters for future generations.
On the 20th of Jamadal Ula 1346 AH, whilst performing Fajr Salat, he was inspired about the effects of certain acts. If the Muslims practised these acts, their calamities could be overcome. He subsequently gathered 25 principles and had them printed in a booklet called Hayatul Muslimeen.
Although he wrote so many beneficial works, he used to say, “I never had any thought of any of my books being any means of salvation for me. However, with regards to Hayatul Muslimeen, I have a strong feeling it will be a means of my salvation. I regard it as the earning and capital of my entire life”.
He spent his entire life serving Deen in every field. It is for this reason that he has been conferred the titles ‘Hakimul Ummat’ and ‘Mujaddidul Millat’. After blessing the earth for 83 years with his presence, he passed away on the 16th of Rajab 1362 AH (20th of July 1943). The Janazah Salaat was performed by Moulana Zafar Ali Ahmad Uthmani (Rahimahullah). Hakimul Ummat was buried in the graveyard Ihsq-Bazaan of Thana Bawan (his birthplace).
Only Allah Knows Best
Written by Maulana Yusuf Zaman
Checked and Approved by Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham.