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In memory of Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi

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By: Talib Shahin

Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi was a great practical idealist, reputable scholar, dynamic writer, glamorous and most quoted Islamic historian of 19th century. He was born in Raebareli, United provinces of Agra and Oudh in British India. On his extraordinary addition of revolutionary thoughts to Muslim world, he was awarded ‘King Shah Faisal Prize’ in 1980. In 1984, he was elected president of ‘league of Islamic literature’ and in 1999, he was honoured with ‘Islamic personality of year’ award by SHIEKH MOHAMMAD of United Arab Emirates. When the university of Oxford decided to establish a ‘Centre for Islamic Studies’, he was cordially invited and made the chairman of its board of trustees for lifetime.

He received his early education at his home, moved to Dar al- ULUM of the NADVA in LUCKNOW [hence the title ‘nadvi’], where he got most of his advanced education. Apart from this institution, he also received a ‘gold medal’ from Allahabad University [in Arabic] and studied English language privately. He wrote some sixty books on history, theology, biography, and thousand of articles on social and faith related issues. He played a crucial role to maintaining harmony and work for humanitarian causes in India for which he laid the foundation of ‘TEHREEKI PYAAM-E-INSANIYAT’.  He became one of the greatest exponents of Islam in the second half of the 20th century because of his great command over Arabic, through his writings and lectures he had a wide area of influence extending far beyond the subcontinent, particularly in the Arab world.

He produced a number of eminent works on Islam in general and Islamic history in particular and during his whole life, he stood for social reform, religious revival of Muslims throughout the world. He was a great promoter of Islamic identity through his works embodying reliable understanding of themes and authenticity of sources. His direct access to the Qur’an, Sunnah and classical literature of Islam and his training in traditional way made him to grasp the stance of the legacy and having keep eye upon the new developments in the world, particularly in the Muslim world, his works have great depth of knowledge and fresh intellectual content.

This influence can be understood with this example that he was given the key to the KAABAH to allow him to enter whenever he choose during his pilgrimage. He was highly influenced by his contemporaries who formed the framework of his thinking, which he perfected and improved. The most influential among them are Syed Maududi, Maulana Muhammad Ilyas, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Hasan-Ul-Banna, and Syed Qutb.

Doctor Syed Talha Shah of Pakistan notes in his paper, that MAULANA sincerely and staunchly believed that the real threat to the modern world, especially the Muslim world, is neither the lack of material nor the political disturbances, rather it’s the moral and spiritual decline. He firmly believed that Islam alone had the ability to overturn this and thus Muslims must wake up to make an effort in this regard. By staying back, he argued, the Muslims were not only failing themselves rather the entire humanity! He stressed on Muslims, especially those living in Muslim majority countries like Pakistan, to develop a society based on Islamic principles that could become a model [for its moral and spiritual values] for the rest of the world.

He was a strong critic of nationalism and stressed upon working for humanity, collectively. He also laid much emphasis on the crucial role of women for upholding the teachings of Islam in a society. Instead of trying to shut their doors for the incoming western influence, he believed that the intellectual Muslims should study the contemporary western ideologies and form their own ideology in its response, with holding the ‘superior moral values of Islam’. He opposed ‘Islamic groups’ from clashing with the ‘secular elite’ in Muslim majority countries and instead encouraged for an ‘inclusive approach’ wherein the ‘secular elite’ could be gradually and positively called towards Islam, without causing any chaos in the society. Similarly, he also argued Muslims living as a minority to maintain peace and create a valuable and suitable position for themselves through hard work and exemplary morals. Hardly any Muslim thinker can remain aloof from his works in way of taking benefits from them. He was a pristine blend of a number of qualities and characteristics which are seldom found in one single person.

MAULANA’S most famous and widely accepted work is ‘MAZA KHASIR AL-ALAM BI INHITAT-AL- MUSLIMEEN’ [literally translated as; what did the world lose with the decline of Muslims?]. Written originally in Arabic for which he received accolades throughout the world, especially in Arab world, where it was first published in 1951 C.E. The book is a precise analysis of history from the age of ignorance of Arabia to the modern age. Firstly, the author presents a picture of moral degradation of societies before the advent of Islam, and continues to throw light on the political, social, economic and moral degradation. After describing the age of ignorance, in its salient feature, the author has outlined the part played by Islam in the reconstruction of humanity. It delineates upon the role of Islam in saving the human society from decadence and degeneration, in liberating the soul of man from superstitious and banalities, emancipated him from the evils of slavery and degradation and liberated man from the tyranny of kings and the dominance of priests.

The author appreciates the past Muslim rulers of Arab world and their rise to power, their enthusiasm towards Islam, their contribution towards human civilization and their zeal for the promotion of Islam. The author also describes the decadence of Muslim power because of their luxurious life that led them to lose original fervor to Islam, due to which later Muslim rulers became the victim of their enemies.

This book is considered by Von Grunebaum, as a representative self-review of contemporary Islam.

He also criticized the neglect of the importance of scientific development by Muslims, which resulted in lagging behind of Muslim community in the field of science and technology. This is the cause of the great misunderstanding that Islam discourages technological development. He described an incident that a hot air filled balloon was flying above the city of Istanbul in the 17th century, people were seeing it surprisingly and they thought that it is a supernatural thing. He openly criticized the rigid attitude of the people particularly some Islamic scholars, by whose behaviour the hostility emerges against Islam. In addition to this, he was not in favour of imposing his thoughts on others by force but by convincing them. He left this world on 31st December 1999.

[The author is an associate of IJT Kashmir and student of 12th class. He can be mailed at talibshahin927@gmail.com]

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