Circumstances Which Led to Writing This Biography
He left behind for the Deeni and worldly reformation and individual and collective prosperity and progress of Muslims a precious Treasure of Ilm [academic and literary works] that can serve till Qiyaamat. However, it is regrettable that whilst the religious class is well cognizant of his name, works and message, the present western-educated class are almost all unaware. A major reason for this is that the condensation, simplification, dissemination and publication of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s teachings are not being carried out on the scale of other literature which are being spread and nor has his life-story been revealed in such a way as to attract the modern-educated class.
Although Khaajah Azeezul Hasan Majzoob compiled the Ashrafus Sawaanih of Hazrat Thanwi which he [Hazrat Thanwi] personally proof read and which is in all regard comprehensive, however, in view of its style not being chronological and historical and modern-day educated class find this a barrier in studying it. The thought, therefore, repeatedly came to my heart that some writer should revise and simplify it so that our English educated people can derive benefit from it.
Towards this end I firstly drew the intention of Moulana Abdul Baari Saheb Nadwi, the Ustaad of Philosophy in Jaami’ ah Uthmaaniyah who is among the distinguished Khulafa of Hazrat Thanwi. He informed me in his honourable letter dated 16th April 1947 AD:
“The biography of Hazrat (Alaihir Rahmah) with which style you have in mind, Moulana Sayyid Sulaimaan Nadwi has firmly made his mind to write it accordingly. In all probability he has commenced it. May Allah Ta’ala complete it.
It is also ahqar’s wish that Hazrat’s works are published in a way which can benefit the newly-educated class. However, together with making the external [i.e. the wording] enticing, internally as well there is a need for an edit, new layout and simplification. It is a source of happiness that your esteemed self has turned his gaze in this direction. May Allah Ta’ala accept and confer aid.”
After this notification I referred to Hazrat Moulana Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi. He replied to my letter as follows:
28th June 1947
There was a delay in replying to your letter. Your letter became displaced among piles of pages. Today it has surfaced. I ask for maaf for the anguish of the delay.
Indeed, I had commenced work on editing Ashrafus Sawaanih. After writing a part or two I took ill. Circumstances forced me to come to Bhopal and that work was left in abeyance. There is no hope of resuming it in the near future. In such circumstances, if someone else wishes to do this work then he should certainly do it. May Allah Ta’ala keep you people under his protection and safety and may He enrich you with His tauwfeeqaat.
Thereupon, I knocked at the door of the Researcher of Islam, the Sultan of the pen, Sayyid Munaazir Ahsan Geelaani, the Head of the Department of Deeniyaat at Jaami’ah Uthmaaniyah and I wrote to him: “I am taking out a journal in memory of Hazrat Thanwi, Paighaam-e-Islam. Kindly confer some material regarding Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi and take out some time to write his biography.”
In reply, he sent an essay titled, The Balanced Path of Hakeemul Ummat (which is documented in this biography) and he wrote:
Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatuhu wa Barakaatuh
Due to lack of time I couldn’t prepare any material. The main reason being that presently I do not have the stockpile of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s Kitaabs by me. Nevertheless, after your demand, remaining still seemed to be a ghunaah. I am preparing and sending a short article with the aid of Kamaalaat-e-Ashrafiyyah. What else must I say? Make du’aa that I come by some free time.
Munaazir Ahsan Geelaani.
Thereafter the winds of change blew and neither could the journal be published and nor did the atmosphere of ease and contentment prevail for me to petition elsewhere. However, the thought could not be forgotten.
After sometime news came from Lucknow that Moulana Abdul Baari Saheb Nadwi was writing Jaami’ul Mujaddideen about Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi. This brought some satisfaction. However, after its release, when it came I found it to comprise of only Hazrat Thanwi’s revivalist exploits. In it was explained how Hazrat Thanwi accomplished the magnificent work of bringing together, on the pattern of the Ambiya, different groups in this age. However, this could not serve as a biography.
Then I was informed that Muhtaram Moulana Abdul Maajid Saheb Daryabadi, the editor of Sidq-e-Jadeed Lucknow was portraying the humanity of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi with the title Hakeemul Ummat. Now I awaited this. When it came after being published then I found it comprising of Moulana Muhtaram’s personal sketches and impressions substantiating Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi to be the best human of this age. Although this exquisite compilation throws light on many aspects of Hazrat Thanwi’s life, however, it still could not fit the definition of ‘biography’ and hence I did not see any other alternative other than attempting to accomplish this work myself reposing my trust in the Special Grace of Haq Ta’ala notwithstanding my lack of ilmi [academic] capital.
When Muhtaram Molvi Thanaa’ullah Khan Saheb, Publisher of Kitaabs, Lahore learned of this intention of mine he showed me the red robot to stop me from putting my foot in this field. He said:
“Hazrat Thanwi absolutely dislikes his biography to be written.”
This caused great consternation. To remove this worry, the disciple of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, Muhtaram Haji Abdus Salaam Saheb Hoshyarpuri wrote to me:
“Definitely go ahead and compile a concise biography of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi on the new Nadwi pattern. There is great need for this. The current biography is lengthy and complex which ordinary folk cannot bear.
The reason for Hazrat (Quddisa Sirruhu) prohibiting was that compilers either exaggerate or show neglect. Now, as there is Ashrafus Sawaanih which was prepared during Hazrat’s (Quddisa Sirruhu) life, in Hazrat’s presence, there is no harm then in compiling those anecdotes in another style. Only the style of speech will be an easier one; the episodes will be the same. If anything is augmented then it will be from that which Hazrat spoke of in his Malfoozaat.”
Support for these words of Haji Saheb is found in the preface of Ashrafus Sawaanih, Kashful Haqeeqat which Hazrat wrote himself. In it he writes that since:
“Many adorers exaggerate; therefore, I have strongly refused that my biography be written.”
In spite of this, permission for writing Ashrafus Sawaanih was given because in overseeing this work, “the possibility of excesses and omissions diminishes considerably as the person responsible can review it and there is no doubt regarding its wisdom.”
Another benefit of permitting the writing of his life-sketch during his life and under his direction was that reports of his life story could not be clouded and the road would become easy for future historians to write his biography. The reason for this is that apart from his biography, compilations and writings, his daily practices right up to his lectures and statements (Mawaa’iz wa Malfoozaat), all are available with his review and endorsement. In these, every aspect of his life appears clear as day.
Commencing on this work I examined Hazrat Thanwi’s academic and practical feats and found them to encompass more than nine hundred Kitaabs. I felt sort of scared at diving into the raging ocean of this knowledge, wisdom, understanding of reality and perception of the Divine. Muhtaram Asad Multani saw me hesitant and remarked:
“In contrast to the writing of ‘Daastaan-e-Amal’ this is not such a difficult task as you think it to be.”
This gave me some courage. However, prior to commencing I deemed it necessary to take permission from the Qutb of the times, the Shaikh of the age Hazrat Moulana Mufti Hasan Saheb (Mudda thilluhul aali), the Chief of the Court of Hazrat Ashraf’s Khulafa. Hence I informed him of this intention. He wrote this du’aa:
“May Haq Ta’ala grant you barkat with every step in this endless ocean you have stepped into.”
He added strength to my courage. His du’aa was like acceptance from the Divine Court and the pen went into motion. From the Unseen, gradually such mediums of ease were found that the giver of the du’aa himself was amazed. These were the circumstances under which this biography was written.