Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi
The 4th February 2010 morning, Deoband woke up in shocks, as the minarets of Darul Uloom’s mosque resounded, in the deep winter silence, the sad news of its ex-Shaikul Haidth expiring in the same night. The shockwaves continued to travel throughout Indian subcontinent and even to every place in the entire world where people with Deoband link are present.
It was sorrowfully recalled that just 4 years ago, on 6th February 2010, Maulana Asad Madani expired leaving a strong column of Deoband falling apart, that even led the division in Jamiat Ulama Hind and a subsequent rift between Deoband sympathisers around the world.
If you have been in Darul Uloom Deoband, you must be remembering a personality tall, straight with wood stick in hand heading to Darul Hadith (class for higher learning of Prophetic sayings). It was Shaikh Naseer Ahmad Khan, commonly known with Shaikh Awwal (senior Shaikh) among the students.
He was ailing since last some years but continued the studies till the end of 2008 as Shaikhul Hadith of Darul Uloom Deoband and Sadrul Mudarrisin (Principal) from which he resigned on health ground and later the duo posts went to Hadhrat Mufti Sayeed Ahamd Palanpuri. According to sources, his health deteriorated continuously from some last days. He remained bed ridden just a shadow of himself, denying food at his residence in Deoband. It was 02:00 am on 4 February 2010, he breathed his last and left for his heavenly abode drowning his students, disciples and followers in a sea of sorrow and grief.
His Early Days
He was born in an academic family on 21st Rabiul Awwal AH 1337 (1918), in village Bassai of Buland Shahar district of Uttar Pradesh. His father Abdus Shakoor Khan enjoyed a high post in Indian British army, but after the call of ‘non-cooperation’ made by the freedom stalwart Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan Deobandi (1851-1920) he resigned and returned home and earned livelihood by tilling.
After memorizing the Holy Quran, he read all the Persian and Arabic books of the syllabus, from first to last, at Madrasa Manbaul Uloom Gulaothi (Dist. Buland Shahr). After completion of his studies at his local Madrasa, he longed to benefit from the elders of Deoband and thus he took admission in Daura-e Hadith of Darul Uloom Deoband in 1362 AH (1943) where he completed his studies at the hand of great Ulama of the time, especially Shaikhul Islam Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani (1879-1957). The next year, he completed the study of other arts and also acquired proficiency in Quranic intonation (i.e. Qira't-e Hafs and Sab'a Ashra).
His elder brother Maulana Basheer Ahmad Khan was also a renowned teacher for upper classes at Darul Uloom. He was well-known for his in-depth knowledge of secular subjects like astronomy, logic and philosophy. His elder brother played a key role in shaping his life and elevating him to the heights of knowledge and piety.
His Bright Career
After completion of his studies, in the late 1365 AH (1946), he was appointed as a teacher in Darul Uloom Deoband at a young age. Thus he was included in the galaxy of scholars in whom the Muslim Ummah can take pride like Shaikhul Islam Maulana Madani, Shaikhul Adab Maulana Azaz Ali (1882-1954), Maulana Ibrahim Balyawi (1886-1967), Qari Muhammad Tayyib (1897-1980) etc. In his long career as teacher, he taught almost all the books of the syllabus ‘Dars-e-Nizami’, now even many of the books are no more part of the syllabus.
In 1391 AH (1971), in view of his high administrative abilities, along with his teaching work he was appointed on the post of Naib Mohtamim (Deputy Vice Chancellor). He continued to hold the post till 2003.
Thereafter, in 1397 AH (1977), he was appointed as Shaikhul Hadith (one who teaches Sahih Bukhari, the most authentic book of Hadith) followed by Hadhrat Maulana Shariful Hasan. He taught the book successfully for three decades till 2008 and produced thousands of students.
In 1412 AH (1991), after the demise of Maulana Miraj Ahmad Deobandi, he was entrusted the post of Sadrul Mudarrisin (Principal) which he carried on to hold till 2008.
In his personality, we find a fine blending of academic and administrative abilities. Not only he protected the honour of posts he held, rather his steadfast and scrupulous administration won him good trust and the administration and educational sphere witnessed a great deal of expansion and progress.
His teaching of Hadith was generally liked and lauded by all. His lectures discourses were lucid, coherent and logical. He used short sentences and limited his lecture to only necessary details explaining the main points and avoiding unnecessary and irrelevant talks. Shaikh sahib’s teaching style was though simple but much impressive. He was so respectful to the Hadith that he used to take bath every day before going to teach Hadiths.
He was very punctual to all his duties and work. In mosque, we found him in the first row performing salah, a constant practice that is very hard for most of Ulama. In class, there is slightest record of absence and late attendance. He was accustomed to teach a fixed quantity of the syllabus each day across the length of the academic year.
In spite of high posts and prestige he possessed, there was great simplicity and humility in his disposition. His exterior and interior attitudes were always identical. He was also cheerful and affable. In him, we had a man of dignified posture who loved to stay away from frivolities and to speak only when it was too necessary. Thus, he owned an imposing and impressive personality.
He had got great knowledge of the science of astronomy and other sciences. He wrote a scholium on Risala Fatahiyya of astronomy, which once was included in the syllabus of Darul Uloom Deoband. It can be said that, with his demise, we lost the last link to the past.
He held three prestigious posts at a time. He held the post of Shaikhul Hadith, the highest post in religious education, for 33 years, and for longest term after his mentor Shaikh Madani. At the same time, he was Sadrul Mudarrisin (Principal) and Naib Mohtamim (Deputy Vice Chancellor). He taught at Deoband for seven decades and the longest term in the history of the world famous Islamic seminary. During his term of Shaikhul Hadith, he produced nearly 28,000 fuzala (graduates) who are working in different parts of the country and the world. He was almost teacher of every living scholar graduated from Darul Uloom Deoband.
His Journey to Paradise
The funeral prayer was offered at Darul Uloom premises and was led by Moulana Qari Syed Mohammed Usman. His last rituals were performed at the presence of thousands of students, Ulama and general Muslims from Deoband and surrounding areas. His body was laid to rest at Qasmi graveyard beside his elders.
Maulana Marghubur Rahman, the Mohtamim of Darul Uloom Deoband, expressed his heartfelt grief on Shaikh’s demise and termed his dead as loss for all Muslims. Maulana Badruddin, MP of United Democratic Front and Member of Darul Uloom Deoband’s Majlis Shura, condoled his family and said with his death he lost an affectionate patron and history builder personality. Darul Uloom Deoband and Shaikh’s family members are continuously receiving condolence messages from around the globe.
Remembering his bright services spread at the span of seven decades, his deep love and affection, his beloved personality and his sweet memories, we offer him heartiest homage and purest tribute, quoting an Urdu couplet:
Wiran hai mai kadah, khum o saghar udas hain
Tum keya gay ke ruth gaye din bahar ke
“The tavern is deserted, and the pitcher and bowl are stricken with sadness
With your departure, the spring days also said goodbye”