South-west of Sahaaranpْr is a town known as Gangoh. Allah Ta’ala has blessed this town with three Akaabir (Seniors) of the Silsilah. Two of them have already been discussed, namely, Hadhrat Shah Abdul Quddْs and Hadhrat Shah Abu Saeed. The third illustrious personality is Hadhrat Imaan Rabbani. At one and the same time he was an Aalim of the Deen, an Authority of the Shariat and Tariqat, an Aashiq (Lover) of the Nabi and a staunch follower of the Sunnah. He is that noble soul who has been designated Imaam Rabbani by his ardent devotees.
His name was Rashid Ahmad. Hadhrat Imaam Rabbani was born on Sunday 6th Thil Qa’dh 1244 Hijri (1829) at the time of Chaasht (about 2 or 3 hours before midday) in Gangoh. His father, Maulana Ahmad Sahib died in the year 1252 at the age of 35 years. Imaam Rabbani’s age at the time was 7 years. After the demise of his father, Hadhrat was taken care of and trained by his grandfather. Birth on a Sunday and being orphaned in early childhood are two features of Rasulullah’s (صلى الله عايه وسالم) life which Allah Ta’ala bestowed to Imaam Rabbani.
His very first Ustaad was Mianji Qutub Bakhsh Gangohi. Even during early childhood his Ustaad spoke glowingly of his intelligence and alertness. It was the habit of Mianji Qutub to smell the mouths of his pupils and question them of the food they had ate. When the pupils informed him, he would say: “You ate alone. Why did you not bring anything for me?”
In view of this habit, Hadhrat Imaam Rabbani had adopted the practise of bringing along his food. He would not eat of it. Rather he would present it to his Ustaad. For several days the house folk were unaware of this sacrifice. However, after a few days when they observed oily marks on his clothes, they admonished him and demanded an explanation. In this way they learnt of his sacrifice. This was the effect of that good fortune and that ability to sacrifice which were naturally endowed to him.
He would occasionally say that it was in either his 4th or 5th year when his mother gave him and his elder brother, Molvi Inayat Ahmad some milk to drink. He continues:
“I insisted that the quantity of milk be increased. My elder brother did not view my insistence with favour. My brother, after drinking his share, drank my share too. I then realised that the outcome of obstinacy is deprivation.”
It has not been established where Hadhrat had learnt the Qur’aan Majeed. Probably he learnt it from his mother at home. In those times the females of the nobility were fully versed in the Qur’aan Majeed and knowledge of the Shariat. He studied Farsi by his maternal uncle, Maulana Muhammad Taqi in Karnaal. Part of his Farsi was also learnt under Molvi Muhammad Gauth. He studied the primary text books of Arabic grammar by Molvi Muhammad Bakhsh Rampْri. On his encouragement, Hadhrat went in the pursuit of further knowledge to Delhi in 1261. At this time he was 17.
In Delhi he joined the classes of different Ustaads. However, he was not satisfied to stay in any place here. By a sheer good coincidence and the Qudrat of Allah Ta’ala, the Ustaad of all subjects, Hadhrat Maulana Mamlْk Ali was returning from his Hijaaz (Arabia) trip and on his way to Naanotah, passed by Delhi. The holidays were about to end, hence he brought along Hadhrat Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotwi for pursuing knowledge in Delhi.
Imam Rabbani who had not yet commenced his studies systematically because of his inability to settle down, arrived by Maulana Mamlْk Ali. Thus, Hadhrat Imaam Rabbani acquired his Uloom-e-Zaahiriyyah under the guidance of one Ustaad. He studied the Kitaab, Sadraa Shams-e-Baazigah by Maulana Mamlْk Ali in the same way as a Hafiz teaches the Qur’aan. He stayed a few years in Delhi until he had accomplished his academic pursuit.
His other Ustaads in the philosophical branches are Maulana Mufti Sadruddin and Qadhi Ahmaduddin. His Ustaad in Hadith was Maulana Shah Abdul Ghani Naqshabandi. He engrossed himself so thoroughly in the acquisition of knowledge that he devoted only seven hours to all his needs such as eating, sleeping, etc. (This means that 17 hours daily were devoted to studies).
After completion of his studies, he returned home at the age of about 21. For the entire duration of his stay in Delhi, he had made his own food arrangements. He never imposed on anyone. Every month 3 rupees were sent from home. This would suffice for all his needs.
Now he began teaching in Gangoh. He taught a variety of subjects. This occupation continued until the end of 1300 Hijri. From 1301 his preoccupation was only with Hadith. He alone would teach all six kitaabs of Sihah-Sittah (The six authentic books of Hadith). Hadith lessons would commence during the month of Shawwaal. By Sha’baan all six books would be completed.
Imaam Rabbani himself had explained many times his initiation into Sulook. He said:
“When Maulana Muhammad Qasim and I were studying in Delhi, we intended to study the kitaab, Sullam. But in view of the heavy engagement of Hadhrat Ustaad it was decided that the kitaab (Sullam) would be taught only twice a week. Once while the lesson of Sullam was in progress, a man with a green lungi over his shoulders entered. Spontaneously Hadhrat Ustaad together with all the khuddaam stood up and greatly honoured the man. Hadhrat Ustaad then said:
“Rashid, the lesson will continue another day.”
I lamented much the loss of that day’s lesson. I said to Molvi Muhammad Qasim (with some sarcasm):
‘This is some good Haji. Our lesson is lost.’
Molvi Muhammad Qasim responded: ‘Don’t speak like that. He is a buzrug and among the chosen ones.’ ”
After having narrated this incident, Hadhrat Imaam Rabbani said: “Little did we know that it would be this selfsame Haji who would guide us.” He also said:
“During my student days on account of studying Hadith, I remained for a considerable time in the service of Hadhrat Abdul Ghani Muhajire Madani. I, therefore, repeatedly resolved to become bay’t to him, but every time Maulana Nanotwi would put me off saying that we should make bay’t with Hadhrat Imdad.”
Thereafter, his relationship and affection for Haji Sahib went on increasing until he became wholly dedicated to Haji Sahib, culminating in bay’t on his hands of truth. The episode of his initiation is as follows:
Imaam Rabbani went to Thaanabovan to discuss an issue with Hadhrat Maulana Shaikh Muhammad Thanwi. Before engaging in the discussion, he went to visit Hadhrat Haji Sahib. On his arrival he found Hadhrat Haji Sahib engaging in tilaawat of the Qur’aan Majeed. This was Hadhrat Gangohi’s fifth meeting with Hadhrat Haji Sahib. Haji Sahib met him most affectionately, asking him the reason for coming. Hadhrat Gangohi said that he had come with the intention of debating with Maulana Shaikh Muhammad. Haji Sahib said:
“Oh! Oh! Don’t intend so. He is our buzrug.”
Hadhrat Gangohi said: “If he is your senior, then he is my senior as well.”
Thereafter, finding an opportunity, Hadhrat Gangohi requested to become bay’t. In order to test his eagerness, Haji Sahib refused. However, the love for Haji Sahib was firmly embedded in his heart, hence inspite of the refusal, Hadhrat Gangohi’s resolve did not slacken. After two of three days Haji Sahib initiated him (i.e. Hadhrat Gangohi became bay’t to Haji Sahib). At the time of bay’t, Hadhrat Gangohi told Haji Sahib that he was unable to practise thikr and shaghl, mujaahadah and riyaadhat, nor could he stay awake at night. Haji Sahib smiled and said:
“Good! It does not matter.”
One of Hadhrat Imaam Rabbani’s close associates then asked: “Hadhrat, what happened then?”
Imaam Rabbani replied: “Then, death and annihilation happened.
Two or three days thereafter, Haji Sahib instructed him recite the Thikr formula known as Baarah Tasbeeh.
According to this usual practise Hadhrat Haji Sahib got up at night for Tahajjud. After wudhu he went into the Musjid. Imaam Rabbani also woke up, made wudhu and performed Tahajjud and engaged in thikr in another corner of the Musjid. He was young at the time and he made the thikr enthusiastically and forcefully. In the morning Hadhrat Haji Sahib said:
“You made thikr like an expert.”
Imaam Rabbani said that from that day onwards he was in love with Thikr.
A week after bay’t, Hadhrat Haji Sahib said:
“Molvi Rashid Ahmad! The Ni’mat (Bounty) which Allah Ta’ala has bestowed to me, I have given it to you. In future, it is your duty to increase it.”
Imaam Rabbani would occasionally comment:
“This statement (of Haji Sahib) at that time greatly surprised me. What did he give me? Finally after 15 years I understood what it was he had given.”
After a stay of 22 days, he left enriched with baatini treasures and roohaani wealth from Thaanabovan. At the time of seeing Imaam Rabbani off, Hadhrat Haji Sahib held his hand and in privacy said:
“If anyone request you to accept them in bay’t, do so.”
Hadhrat Gangohi replied: “Who will ask me?”
Haji Sahib responded: “Do as I say.”
After leaving Thaanabovan, Imaam Rabbani arrived at Gangoh. On reaching Gangoh a state of enthusiasm and spiritual ecstasy had settled over him. Regarding this condition, Hadhrat’s cousin, Maulana Abun Nasr says:
“After returning from Thaanabovan, Hadhrat stayed at my home. At midnight he would wake up and set off straight to the Musjid. I would follow him at a distance. When Hadhrat engaged in Thikr Bil Jahr, it seemed as if the whole Musjid was shuddering. Only he knows the state which must have settled over him.”
After having acquired the khilaafate, Hadhrat’s humility and crying increased considerably. Entire nights would pass with him sobbing. His mother had made for him a green shawl for covering him when he goes to the Musjid in the cold nights. He would wipe the constant flow of tears with the shawl. Soon the shawl’s colour changed as a result of the profuse moisture of his tears.
Once while in Thaanabovan, Hadhrat Haji Sahib subjected Hadhrat Gangohi to a test to ascertain his degree of patience, tolerance and self-control. Imaam Rabbani explaining this test said:
“I had stayed a few days in Thaanabovan. I detest to impose the burden of providing my food on Hadhrat. I also thought that to make arrangements elsewhere would be both difficult and detestable. I, therefore sought permission to leave, but Hadhrat declined and told me to stay another few days. I was silent. Although I had resolved to stay the extra few days, I also decided to make my own food arrangements. After a short while, Hadhrat said, just before going home:
‘Rashid Ahmad, don’t worry about food. Eat with me.’
In the afternoon when the food came from Hadhrat’s home, one plate contained very delicious kebaab. The other plate contained an inferior type of gravy. After we sat down to eat, Hadhrat kept the kebaab far from me. At that juncture Hadhrat Hafiz Muhammad Zamin Sahib entered. Seeing this, he said to Hadhrat Haji Sahib: ‘Brother, it is difficult for Rashid Ahmad to stretch his hand so far. Why don’t you put the plate near to him?’
Hadhrat Haji Sahib said sharply:
‘He should be grateful that I am at least allowing him to eat with me. In fact, I had intended to give him a piece of bread in his hand to eat elsewhere.’
While making this comment, Hadhrat Haji Sahib was looking at me to detect any change in my expression. But, Al-humdulillah! There was no affect on my heart. I accepted that whatever Haji Sahib had said, was the truth. In fact, to get a piece of bread from his royal court is a great favour, regardless of the way it is obtained. Thereafter Hadhrat never again put me to test. Therefore I know nothing.’ ”
Hadhrat Haji Imdadullah had written to Imaam Rabbani enquiring about his condition. In response, Hadhrat Gangohi wrote a letter which has been printed in Makaateeb-e-Rashidiyyah. The letter is reproduced here.
“O my refuge of both worlds! You have requested information about the haalaat of this useless one. What can this non-entity present of his insignificant conditions in the presence of the Fountain of excellence and perfection? (This is a reference to Hadhrat Haji Sahib). By Allah! I am highly ashamed. I am nothing. But on account of Hadhrat’s instruction, I am constrained to write something, Hadhrat Murshid! Regarding the condition (haal) of Ilm-e-Zaahiri, in the period of approximately more than seven years since I have departed from your august presence, until this year, more than 200 have qualified in Hadith. The majority of them have initiated dars (the profession of imparting Deeni Knowledge) and they are active in the revival of the Sunnah. They have been responsible for the dissemination of the Deen. There is no greater honour than this honour if it is accorded Divine acceptance.
In a nutshell, the fruit of my presence in Hadhrat’s service is that my heart is not concerned with either benefit or harm from anyone besides Allah Ta’ala. Wallah! Sometimes I am separated from my Masha-ikh, hence I am not concerned with the praise or criticism of anyone. I regard both the one who praises me and the one who criticises me to be distant from me.
I have developed a natural dislike for sin and a natural inclination for obedience. This effect is due solely to that relationship (nisbat) which has reached me from the spiritual effulgence of Hadhrat.
To say more will be disrespectful. May Allah forgive that I be a liar, for I have written on the instruction of Hadhrat. In reality I am nothing. It is only Your shadow – only Your existence. What am I? I am nothing. Only He is. You and me are shirk upon shirk. Astaghfirullah! Astaghfirullah! Astaghfirullah! Wala haula wala quwwata illa billah. Kindly absolve me from saying more.
Wasalaam. 1306 Hijri.”