2. Name and Genealogy
2.1 Celebrated Name
The name given to Hazrat Thanwi by his father’s family was Abdul Ghani. However, the chosen and popular Majzoob, Hazrat Hafiz Ghulaam Murtadha Panipati (Rahmatullahi alaih) who devoted special attention to his mother’s family proposed his name to be Ashraf Ali. You will find details on this under Hazrat’s ‘Birth’. It was the result of his [Hafiz Ghulaam Murtadha Saheb’s] focus of attention that Hazrat’s name from his father’s side did not enjoy wide acceptance and the proposed name of this Majzoob was sealed on the tongues of Ulama and ordinary folk alike.
Since no action is devoid of reason the name proposed by the father’s family was, not therefore, futile. The hidden benefit and underlying wisdom of the father’s family’s proposed name became clear when Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi utilized that name in a certain place in his treatise Al-Khutoobul Mutheebah where using the customary name was against discretion. If he did not have a second name then he would be constrained to resort to a pseudonym and this was unbecoming of the lofty rank of the Heir of the Seat of Nubuwwat. Thus, at the very onset, in accordance to the beautiful running of creation, a second name for him was proposed.
2.2 Honourable Title
His title is Hakeemul Ummat which was firstly inspired in the heart of Molvi Mirza Muhammad Beg, the owner of Mahoobul Mataabi’ Printers, Delhi. He wrote it exactly like that in the address of Hazrat. Similar to this is how Moulana Abdul Hakeem Siyalkoti wrote alongside Hazrat Shaikh Ahmad Sarhandi’s (Rahmatullahi alaih) name, “Mujaddid-e-Alf-e-Thaani”. This title automatically became the Horn of Allah Ta’ala on the tongues of creation and came into vogue. The reformational works of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi have made him true to the title
Whenever Hazrat Moulana Khaleel Ahmad Saheb Saharanpuri (Quddisa Sirruhu) would not find Hakeemul Ummat written with Hazrat’s name he would become very angry and he would say that the title which Allah Ta’ala inspired in the hearts of His Special Servants should not be discarded, as this is showing disrespect to Hazrat-e-Haq [Allah Ta’ala].
2.3 Exalted Lineage
The family lineage of Hazrat-e-A’la is, in his own words, reproduced below:
Ashraf Ali, the son of:
Munshi Abdul Haq, the son of:
Hafiz Faiz Ali, the son of:
Ghulaam Fareed Shaheed, the son of:
Muhammad Jalaal, the son of:
Rahmatullah, the son of:
Amaanullah (around 983AH), the son of:
Ateequllah Khateeb (the Royal Herald in the Court of Aalamgeer 8th Jumaadal Awwal ??2AH), the son of:
Hafiz Habeebullah (the Royal Herald during the era of Jahangir), the son of:
Shaikh Aadam (the Royal Herald during the era of Akbar Awwal in partnership with his younger brother Fareed), the son of:
Moulana Sadr-e-Jahan (the ancestor of the Khateebs, alive in 970 AH during the era of Akbar Awwal according to one Royal Edict in which they are given the title Taqwa Shi’aar)
2.4 Family Hallmarks
In Thanabawan there are four well-known families of the Farooqis. They are called: Khateeb, Qaadhi, Naa’ib (Naa’ib Qaadhi) and Muhtasib. Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi is linked to the Khateeb Family. He is thus a hereditary Khateeb. [Khateeb literally means: speaker/orator.] They were in the words of their proclamations called Taqwa Shi’aar. Thus taqwa [piety] was his family’s hallmark.
Moulana Sadr-e-Jahan’s family tree goes up to Sultan Shihaabud Deen who was among the Awliyaa-e-Kaamileen. His title was Farrukh Shah and he served as governor of Kabul. The Shuyookh of Thanabawan: Hazrat Shaikh Mujaddid Alf-e-Thaani, Hazrat Shaikh Jalaalud-Deen Thanesri and Hazrat Fareedud Deen Shakr Ganj; all of them are the descendants of Sultan Shihaabud Deen nicknamed Farrukh Shah. He is portrayed in Zubdatul Maqaamaat with these words:
“He was an Allah-Wala, a scourge of the worldly, formerly a distinguished minister and Sultan of Kabul who settled in Hindustan. He came from Ghazna and Kabul to the Land of Hind. It is said that he possessed blessed attributes. He is credited with the propagation of Islam and the subjugation of the idolaters. (Transcribed from the seventh completion of Tambeehaat-e-Wasiyyat)
In this way wilaayat, [authority, sainthood] is also his family inheritance. This is supported by the following rhyme of the former Mufti of Darul Uloom Deoband, Moulana Mufti Azeezur Rahman:
از گروۂ اولیاء اشرف علی
Ashraf Ali is from the Awliya Group
Further in his genealogical tree the name of Hazrat Farooq-e-A’zam [Sayyidina Umar] (Radhiyallahu anhu) appears whose intelligence and insight are universally accepted. Thus Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s understanding and insight are also hereditary.
His maternal grandfather, Peer Najaabat Ali was very famous owing to his distinction in the Persian Language, writing, humour, instinctive replies and witticism. He was an outstanding attorney-general of the semi-autonomous district of Kanjpora. Although he was bai’t to Moulana Shah Niyaaz Ahmad Bareilwi’s Khaleefah-e-Khaas, however, the gaze of tarbiyat [spiritual nurturing] fell on him of Hazrat Hafiz Saheb Majzoob. As a result, the effects of zikr and shaghl overwhelmed him to such a degree that he made himself independent of concern for livelihood and discharging of rights. Hafiz Saheb was, therefore, constrained to snatch away this spiritual condition of his through tawajjuh [a spiritual special effect]. However, close to his demise Hafiz Saheb cast such a glance at him that the former spiritual condition returned.
Similarly, Hazrat Thanwi’s real maternal uncle, Peer Jee Imdaad Ali became an emotional and outspoken Buzrug through Hafiz Saheb’s tawajjuh. His outbursts and Divine-Love knew no bounds and according to the words of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi himself:
“A sort of flame could be perceived from his words and this poem of Hafiz Shirazi would aptly describe it:
غلام آں کلماتم کہ آتش افروزد
Those words of mines ignite a fire
نہ آب سرد ز ند در سخن بر آتش تیز
In speech cold water cannot put off a burning fire
Similarly, the ancestral-patriarch of his maternal family is Hazrat Ali (Karramallahu Wajhah) who is the final link in the Chains of Tareeqat. Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi therefore received the bounty of Divine-Love from his mother’s family and the virtue of Tareeqat or Tasawwuf from his ancestral-patriarch.
His respectable father, Munshi Abdul Haq was an influential nobleman and estate owner of Thanabawan. He, in the words of the author of Ashrafus Sawaanih: “possessed excellent skill in the Persian Language. Although he was not a Hafiz, however, his naazirah was so fluent that at times he would even correct Hafizes. He was the sole authority over a sizeable semi-autonomous district in Meerath and with the permission of the Head of Commissariat or Ministry he used to lease out as well. Allah Ta’ala conferred so much barkat in this that his income would run into the thousands. [In today’s money value it would be equivalent to hundreds of thousands]. With this he purchased many new properties. When it came to spending he showed big-heartedness.”
In this way, Hazrat Thanwi acquired riches, nobility and influence from his father. This instilled independence in him. In consequence, no one could exert their authority over him. In fact, he himself would say:
“Bifadhli Ta’ala, I am not enamoured by even the richest of aristocrats merely on account of their estates and power. This is because I think to myself that where is he rich? We are also, through the Fadhl of Allah Ta’ala, from a wealthy home. We are not sons of paupers.
Alhamdulillah! I have always lived in extreme luxury and I have spent thousands of Rupees with these hands of mine. Therefore, I have no such regret anymore for money and commodities due to which I may look with a gaze of need at any rich man. When one is satiated with something then naturally greed and desire go away.”
In short, he inherited insight and wisdom, sainthood and Tasawwuf, the position of Khateeb and influence, riches and land, Divine-Love and Piety; such bounties from Allah Ta’ala by virtue of which he was an exhibition of the Farooqi and Alawi Grandeur. For him to be like that was precisely in conformity to the Tradition of Allah Ta’ala, because who Haq Ta’ala seats on the Pedestal of Irshaad, he bestows him with noble lineage and family honour so that he may be a person people turn to and high class people do not find embarrassment in following him.