By: Mufti Muhammad Noman Daji, Batley, UK
I believe the below seven distinguishing and pivotal traits provide a good summary and overview of the life of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz Sheikh-ul-Hadeeth & Sadr-ul-Mudarriseen of Darul Uloom Deoband Hazrat Aqdas Moulana Mufti Saeed Aḥmad Palanpuri (RA).
I seem to have a close relationship with the number seven as it’s the number that has come up a few times as part of my recent articles like the ‘7 Characters’, the ‘7 Pearls of Reflection on the Holy Quran’, etc and now with the traits of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz. The number seven is a good medium number.
These seven powerful traits embed many lessons in particular for the scholarly fraternity and students of Islamic knowledge which I will try to shed light on. The seven powerful traits are:
1. Depth of Knowledge (تعمق فى العلم)
2. Introspection (فكرِ باطن)
3. Expertise in Teaching (ملکہ تدریس)
4. Style and Expertise in Authoring Books (ملکہ تصنیف)
5. Propagating the Deen (Tableegh / تبليغ)
6. Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil (الامر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر)
7. Steadfastness on the Maslak of Ulama Deoband (مسلك علماء ديوبند پر تثبّت)
I will briefly discuss on all these with a view to deriving lessons from them. There are many other facets to Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) that could be written on and hope others will be writing on them but leaving them out to focus on these important traits.
1. Depth of Knowledge (تعمق فى العلم)
Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was an expert in all the Islamic sciences both Uloom (sciences) and Funoon (arts) -
(علوم و فنون) - that are taught in the Darul Ulooms. In my title to this piece on Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) I have only stated four big titles for him. They are:
1) Mufassir (مفسّر)
2) Muhaddith (محدّث)
3) Faqeeh (فقيه)
4) Mutakallim (متكلِّم)
They denote the expertise in the four key Uloom (sciences) which are known as Uloom Aaliyah with Ayn (علوم عالية / the higher sciences) as they are the destination for studying and mastering all the sciences and arts before them. The first two titles are referring to the knowledge and expertise on the primary sources of Islam i.e. Al-Quran and As-Sunnah. The third title - Faqeeh (فقيه) - is referring to the knowledge related to the practical life (Far’a / فرع) of a believer i.e. Fiqh which in this context covers both Fiqh Zahir and Fiqh Batin. And the fourth title - Mutakallim (متكلِّم) - is referring to knowledge related to the beliefs (Aqeedah / Asl / اصل) of a believer i.e. the foundation.
The expertise in all these four key sciences is evident to all the students, readers of the books and works of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) and scholars that know him.
Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was also an expert in all the related subjects to the above 4 sciences (i.e. all the Usools - Usool Hadeeth, Usool Tafseer, etc and the related subjects) and also all the arts (Funoon / فنون) like Mantiq, Falsafah, Nahw, Sarf, Balaghat, etc. These are termed as Uloom Aaliyah with Alif (علوم آلية) i.e. they are tools for the Uloom Aaliyah with Ayn. Without a good grasp on علوم آلية the student of knowledge and the scholar cannot get the deep insights into the actual texts (عبارة النص) of the the Holy Quran and Sunnah. The sad reality is there is a lot of weaknesses in the students of knowledge in these areas nowadays. I believe and based on the mindset I learnt of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) that was the motivation to write the Tafseer based on the Ibarat-un-Nass (عبارة النص) of the Holy Quran. Acquiring knowledge (in this case the term is Maloomaat / معلومات) of the Holy Quran or the Sunnah from secondary sources is very different than from gaining it directly from the text. Yes, the direct knowledge needs to be backed up by the interpretations and commentaries done by the great scholars of the past. Hence, I believe Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) kept the Tafseers of Hakeem-Ul-Ummah Mujaddid-Ul-Millat Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) and Allamah Shabbir Aḥmad Usmani in His study for this purpose.
Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) had developed depths in all these sciences and arts and had expert command on them. As they say in Urdu Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) had علم میں گیرائ i.e. depths and deep understanding in these subjects and not just superficial and high level knowledge.
The take and lesson from this trait for all the students of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) in particular and all those studying at the Darul Ulooms or already graduated is to develop or work towards developing expertise and depth in all these sciences and arts.
# The expertise will develop post graduation but during the study period at the Darul Uloom develop the aptitude and Isti’dad (استعداد) that you have the ability to study any book on the subject taught at Darul Uloom whether you have studied it or not.
# Then post graduation continue your engagement with the sciences and develop expertise.
# Do not remain shallow or just focus on some subjects whilst neglecting others.
# It is important to gain a good command on all these to truly appreciate and benefit from the primary Islamic sources - Holy Quran and the Sunnah. This involves total immersion in the study and acquiring of knowledge as was the habit of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA).
# One key way and sign of depth of knowledge is to develop the essential skill that you can dissect and pull apart (i.e. Hall-e-Ibarat / حلِّ عبارت) the text of the taught textbooks (متون و كتب درسية) properly. This is vital to understanding the texts and the depths of the texts of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. This is something many graduates and scholars overlook or dismiss its importance due to their own lack of understanding and immaturity. Maybe it is inferiority complex.
2. Introspection (فكرِ باطن)
I noticed throughout my contact with Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) he continuously remained in introspection and engaged in developing himself from all angles including the inner (Batin / باطن) and remained firm on the outward practices of Islam. Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) had connection with various Mashaikh and was given Ijāzah and Khilafat from Hazrat Mufti Muzaffar (RA) who was the khalifah of Hazrat Moulana Asadullah (RA). Both these great scholars were the Nazim (rector and principle) of Mazahir-Ul-Uloom in Saharanpur. Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) would visit Hazrat Mufti Muzaffar (RA) when I was a student at the Darul Uloom and I was aware of this. This area of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was not something he would mention much but it existed and was there fully. All scholars have different personalities and some don’t share this aspect of them. The key is that it is present and the expression is up to the individual. وللناس فيما يعشقون مذاهب
I noticed throughout my contact Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) didn’t take interest in what his peers at the Darul Uloom or contemporaries (معاصرين) were doing or not doing. His focus was centred on what he had to do and how best he can achieve that for the benefit of the Ummah. Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) lived a bit farther away from the Darul Uloom so could avoid unnecessary distractions and focus on the task at hand. Teaching and being successful at the best seat of learning and the Ummul Madaris (أم المدارس) Darul Uloom Deoband can bring with it trials and tribulations from within and outside and to remain humble and in the manner Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) remained is testament to his great inner character.
Also, time keeping, attending lessons on time and utilising time effectively was something Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) did extremely well.
Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was full of humility and simplicity which was my first observation and remained till the end.
The Taqwa and Zuhd (abstinence) of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was exemplary too. Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) returned all the salary back to the Darul Uloom where he had taught for nearly half a century and stopped taking salary as his income from his books and published works was sufficient. Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) then started to spend on his daily needs from the income he gained in particular from his Tafseer work - Hidayat-ul-Quran (هداية القرآن).
During my last visit to Darul Uloom Deoband and attending the after Asar majalis the feeling (رنگ) in the presence of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was very different. I felt the ruhaniyyat (spiritual connection) of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was orbiting (عروج پر تھا). It felt like seeing a space rocket in the sky orbiting high into space.
The take and lesson from this trait for all the students of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) in particular and all those studying at the Darul Ulooms or already graduated is that no matter what heights in the outward knowledge a person reaches they still need to develop this introspection and worry to rectify the inner and conform and synchronise their knowledge with their practice and their inner. This is best achieved through sincere connection and practice on the teachings of a reputable and expert Sheikh in the field of Tazkiyah.