Al-Nanawtawi’s Political Ideology:

/Al-Nanawtawi’s Political Ideology:
Al-Nanawtawi’s Political Ideology: 2018-08-05T06:55:37+00:00

Al-Nanawtawi’s Islamic Political Ideology: Paradigms from Rudad, Sawanh Qasimi and other Selected Writings

Author: Dr. Atif Suhail Siddiqui*


Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi’s intellectual height is not limited to only Islamic religious sciences. At the one hand he is known as the most towering figure who revived Islam’s intellectual heritage in the Indian-subcontinent, on the other hand, he was also aware about the political and diplomatic loss of Muslims. He defended political and diplomatic affairs of the Muslims from Islam’s point of view. Al-Nanawtawi addressed not only the common people but also the Ulama and convinced them to raise concrete steps for defending the political hegemony of Muslims in their respective regions against the aggressive forces. This paper studies the religio-political arguments of Al-Nanawtawi, which he produced in the defense of his opinion and was successful to mobilize the larger section of elite and common Muslims in one political direction. This paper also gives a direction to develop ideas about the religio-political impacts of Al-Nanawtawi’s thoughts, which even until the modern period are most significant factor for different political movements among the present Muslim communities.


The most important factor in the development of Al-Nanawtawi’s personality is his balanced thought. As a political leader, he was actively engaged in war against British imperialism and wanted to liberate his home country from external aggression and occupation. Secondly, as a social reformist he initiated several social reform movements, and thirdly as a neo-philosopher, thinker and polemicist, he served knowledge and Islamic religious sciences. Thus, Al-Nanawtawi’s entire life was focused on three dimensions[1]. While his thoughts in religious, political and social reforms were single-dimensional and they were premised upon Islam’s fundamental teachings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad. The exceptionality of Al-Nanawtawi’s thought is its functionality in the practical fields of human life. Instead of merely philosophical ambiguity and gnomic, Al-Nanawtawi’s thoughts are pragmatic in social, religious and political arenas. His thoughts are erected upon the paradigms from the character (sIrah) of the Messenger of God and his pious companions.[2]

In the Battle of Shamli

In 1857 during mutiny of sepoys against British colonial regime in India Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi actively participated in an armed struggle. Armed participation against British imperialism is an important chapter of his life and movements.[3] The epicenter of the mutiny was Meerut Cantonment, where several sepoys raised weapons against their officers and killed them. This mutiny spread in different parts of North India and thus, Al-Nanawtawi did not remain uninfluenced.[4]

After the news of munity reached to Thana Bhawan,[5] Al-Nanawtawi’s spiritual mentor Haji Imdad Allah Muhajir al-Makki was elected Amir al-Mu’minin (the leader of the believers), while Al-Nanawtawi was elected Commander-in-Chief for leading the armed struggle against the British colonial forces.[6]

During famous battle of Shamli,[7] Al-Nanawtawi was injured[8], while one of his famous companions Hafiz Muhammad Zamin was killed.[9] Eventually, the Muslim empire of India came to an end, Delhi fell to the British. Also the battle of Shamli came to an end with loss of lives to both sides. Imdad Allah left permanently to Makkah, Al-Nanawtawi was declared a rebel and sought for trial in British court, which was feared into a death penalty. On the behest of his relatives, Al-Nanawtawi went to hiding, he spent three days in hiding. After three days, he came out from the hiding and said, “I cannot spend more than three days in hiding, because the sunnah of the hiding[10] is only three days.[11]” This statement of Al-Nanawtawi is an evidence of his religio-political aphorism, which he developed from the example of the life of the Messenger of God.

The Shamli battle did not bring desired results. Al-Nanawtawi changed his modus operandi; he alienated from direct political movement and avoided confrontation with the government, and he and his colleagues launched the movement of educational uplift of the Muslim society. Dar al-Uloom Deoband and other similar institutions were developed for protecting the religious ideologies of Muslims in India. Al-Nanawtawi though excluded politics from the curriculum of these institutions but the succinct mottoes of these institutes have broad explanations; according to the beliefs of Islam, he and his colleagues kept alive the spirit of struggle of independence and religious-political persuasions.[12]

Explanation for participation in the Battle of Shamli

Before the battle of Shamli, the Ulama were discussing the possible strategy against British forces but amid these talks influential scholar Shaykh Muhammad Thanwi disagreed with this formula that the Muslims should go in direct and armed confrontation with the British forces. He was of this opinion that in such pathetic and weak conditions, Muslims will only suffer from severe losses. This disagreement from such influential person was evidently affecting the opinion of a large section of community. Other leading Ulama tried to convince him privately and publicly but they were unable to force him to change his opinion. At the end in the presence of Imdad Allah Thanwi Al-Nanawtawi put his arguments, which Shaykh Muhammad Thanwi simply rejected. Shaykh Muhammad Thanwi said,

“In case all your arguments in favor of an armed struggle against British forces are accepted, but the major condition for jihad is to have an Imam. Where is an Imam, under whose guidance we fight?”[13]

Without thinking even a single moment Al-Nanawtawi immediately responded his question, he pointed out towards Imdad Allah Thanwi[14], because of his fame in Tadhkiyah and Suluk  Imdad Allah was the most revered personality of his time. Hundreds of Ulama and common Muslims already had paid their allegiance to him. Al-Nanawtawi said to Imdad Allah Thanwi that he was their leader in the affairs of religion, so he requested him also to take the responsibility of worldly administrative affairs and by holding the office of the Chief of the believers to settle their differences.[15]

Ashiq Ilahi further writes that Imdad Allah had to accept their offer.[16]At the end, Al-Nanawtawi questioned, “Are we weaker than the mujahidin of Badr?”[17] It made Muhammad Thanwi speechless. One single sentence of Al-Nanawtawi ended the confusion and disagreement.[18]

Al-Nanawtawi further suggested that all the important offices, which shall work under the Chief (AmIr), should be accordingly set. In the words of Al-Nanawtawi’s biographer,

Imdad Allah Thanwi was receiving the allegiance from the mujahidin as the Chief of the Believers (Amir al-Mu’minin). Muhammad Zamin was the flag bearer of the jihad, Rashid Ahmad Gangohi was the preacher, who was motivating the mujahidin, while Al-Nanawtawi was the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.”[19]

At the home, Al-Nanawtawi feared that he could also face opposition from his mother. He did not directly inform his mother about his participation in armed struggle against British colonial forces. At the first stage, Al-Nanawtawi explained the importance of jihad against the oppressors, he explained the importance of jihad from Qur’anic perspectives and the traditions of the Messenger of God, Muhammad (Peace be upon him and mercy of God) and the Sahabah. He motivated his mother and explained about the rewards to the parents who sacrifice their wealth and children in the path of Allah.[20]

After these explanations, Al-Nanawtawi informed his mother about his intention. He also included that, “Creatures’ opposition has no value in following the instruction of the Creator.”[21] The purpose was to make his mother aware that while neither they (Al-Nanawtawi’s parents) required him for personal services nor were they in need of his services,[22] in such a condition, if they try to stop him from jihad, it shall not be mandatory upon him to follow their instruction. Thus, he requested his mother, “I wish, you allow me to participate in jihad gladly and get full reward from Allah.”[23] His mother, who was a very pious and learned lady, said, “You are from Allah and I give you to Allah gladly.”[24]

A Review of Rudad: Support to Turks

In 1874 CE (1294 AH), Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi wrote a religious decree for supporting Ottomans against Russian Empire. A report (Rudad) was compiled regarding the efforts of the Ulama for collecting funds to support the Mujahidin in Balkan. These Mujahidin were the part of the Ottoman Empire and were fighting war against Russian aggression on the Balkan territories of Ottoman Empire. This report has great importance for understanding the religio-political philosophy of Al-Nanawtawi. In 1294 A.H., Al-Nanawtawi has written a detailed treatise in Farsi (Persian), in which he had explained the importance of this war including supporting the Turk-Ottoman army and especially to provide them financial support. This treatise was translated in different languages and was published in numerous newspapers and magazines.[25] It got vibrant support from the Ottoman Empire.[26]

In the first step, this report mentioned Russian attempts on Turkish-Ottoman territories and its negative impacts including the killings of Muslim men, women and children. Later, this report mentioned the importance of the Caliph’s authority, which is very important for the safety and dignity of the two Holy Shrines of Islam in Makkah and Madinah. This report forecasted the global harm of the Muslim community if the Muslim community decentralized; this centrality exists due to the Caliph’s regime.[27]Thus to support the Caliphate is must and compulsory. It is a religious obligation and duty, which every Muslim must fulfill. If the centrality of the Muslims is decentralized, the entire Islamic world will face the severe consequences.[28]

The Rudad (report) explained motivating factors with special reference to Islam’s teachings. This Rudad is a fine example of Al-Nanawtawi and his colleagues’ Islamic religious political ideology. It depicts their political perceptions strictly confined within the fold of religion; they did not allow any outside, secular or non-religious factor to pollute it.  The first factor is counted as Islam’s urge to support the oppressed. It portrays the Turk troops as the oppressed ones who were guarded for the protection of the Holy Shrines of Islam and a war has been imposed upon them. Now their lives are under serious threat and the Muslims should firmly stand to support them in dire needs.[29] Secondly, Muslim sensitivity on any issue related to Islam is one of the major factors behind the call to support the Turk forces.[30] Thirdly, it motivates Muslims to pay other Muslim brothers and fellows from the bounties of God, which they are enjoying without any hindrance. At the time of hardship of other Muslims, it becomes incumbent to support them from these favors.[31] Fourthly, it explains a hierarchy in actions, during the time of jihad the priorities are shifted. It is important to be aware about the priorities; thus, some actions become compulsorily primary and others become secondary. For instance, building mosques and serving the pilgrims can never be equal to fighting and spending in the way of God.[32] Fifthly, the Rudad explains from the worldly and Godly point of view. In case the Turks are fighting for mere worldly and political benefits even their support is compulsory. It strictly condemns the conjectures regarding intentions of Turk troops. It belongs to God only. Even they fight for worldly political gains, their victory would be better than the victory of the infidels in all circumstances.[33] Finally, from the then political circumstances in India this Rudad motivates Muslims to support Turks. During this war, the British regime was in support of Turks against Russia. It was a good opportunity to provide maximum support to the Turk forces.[34]

In the opinion of Al-Nanawtawi, his disciples and colleagues at that time, the most important task was to support Turk forces against Russian aggression and this task was more important than building the mosques and supporting the educational institutions. Even according to them, any other religious obligation became secondary against the support of Turks. Initiatives like building mosques and supporting educational institutions were not considered as important as to support Turkish forces, because they were seen as the catalysts that could help to maintain Islamic centrality and unity.[35]

Al-Nanawtawi decided to raise two steps in support of Turk forces and the regional Muslims in the fighting zones of the Turkish Empire. First was to provide financial support to the Mujahidin and the armed forces of Turkish Empire including the widows and orphans of the army personnel and common Muslims in Eastern Europe. This support, according to Al-Nanawtawi, would boost them on moral grounds and they will not feel themselves alone in their struggle and hardship. They should realize that their Muslim brothers in India are with them in their hardship and time of sorrow[36].[37]

Al-Nanawtawi was the first person who donated the first amount for the Turk forces. He donated the jewelry of his wife. This donation was given immediately after his marriage with the fair consent of his wife.[38]

The biographer of Al-Nanawtawi Manazir Ahsan Gīlānī describes this event as:

“At the first night after his marriage, he (Al-Nanawtawi) persuaded his wife for donating all her jewelerywith the noble purpose to support Turkish forces. His wife donated all her ornaments immidiately at that night. When his wife went to her father’s home and her father saw her without even a single peice of ornament, he questioned about the matter. When he knew about the fact, he purchased new jewelry for the daughter. But Al-Nanawtawi did the same with new ones.”[39]

The other people who were involved in collecting funds were Ahmad Ali Muhaddith of Saharanpur, Mazhar Nanawtawi and great jurist and friend of Al-Nanawtawi Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. These learned scholars of Islam have done their best efforts for collecting the funds. The collected amount was delivered to the Consulate of the Ottoman Empire in Bombay. This amount was sent in several installments.[40]

This collection was not limited to Deoband or local vicinities, on the behest of Al-Nanawtawi, it had become a national movement. Muslims, rich or poor, from each part of the country were collecting funds with zeal and enthusiasm, which was filled in them. This zealous effort was for saving and protecting the dignity of the Muslim centrality, which was associated with the centrality of the Ottoman Caliph. The total amount, which was collected and delivered to the Ottoman Consulate in Bombay, reached 1.2 million rupees[41]. During that period, which was of severe financial scarcity and economic anarchy in India, this amount was outstanding and historic.[42]According to the financial circumstances at that period, collection of this amount was unimaginable, even today this amount is believed to be a huge financial support to any cause.

After the amounts were received at the Ottoman Consulate, the receipts were delivered to the donors with this commitment that this outstanding donation will be published in Al-Jawa’ib[43]. Later on the amounts were received at Bab-i Aali; the then Prime Minister of Ottoman Empire Ibrahim Adaham sent a letter of thanks to Al-Nanawtawi and other elders of Madrasah Islamiyah Arabiyah Deoband (Dar al-Uloom, Deoband) on May 23, 1877 corresponding to Jamadi al-Awal 9, 1294 AH.[44]

After the success of the first step Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi motivated his disciples and colleagues for raising the second step and this was to join the Mujahidin and Turkish forces in Balkan. However, in contrast to the public call of financial support by everyone and by each individual the call to fight shoulder to shoulder with the Turk forces was not made public. Al-Nanawtawi knew that each individual is not capable to join the armed jihad, this service needs specific training and energy, thus, even having the enthusiasm for an armed jihad everybody is not capable to join the Turk troops at the fronts of the war.

Al-Nanawtawi further explains that an action becomes obligatory when there is a need of this action. Thus, joining troops for each individual Muslim neither is practical nor is mandatory. And in such case that the untrained individuals would bring damages more than the benefit, more important is they provide moral and financial support to the Mujahidin. In this decree, Al-Nanawtawi writes that motivating unarmed and untrained individuals for joining the troops at the fronts of war is not so important. More important is to provide the Ottoman troops with financial support. He was of this opinion that the numbers of the trained and official troops at the fronts of war is sufficient but for war expenditures financial support is obligatory. Al-Nanawtawi wrote that it is not possible that everybody can join the war and fight against the infidel forces but it is very possible that everybody can provide financial support according to his or her capacity. By quoting the Qur’an[45] Al-Nanawtawi wrote that Allah commands for both kinds of the jihad—with arms and with finance, and do not destroy yourself by hoarding the money while your brothers are in need.[46] In dire conditions, spending money for the cause of Allah is compulsory and there is no maximum and minimum limit of this support, and those who still are not willing to spend the money they could face harms in both of the lives.[47]

The ‘ulama decided to travel to Hijaz for getting better glimpse of the situation in Balkan. A huge number of ‘Ulama began traveling for Hajj. Sayyid Asghar Husayn writes that in Shawwal 1294 AH the elders of the ‘Ulama decided to travel for holy journey to Makkah. The leaders of the caravan were Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi and Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. Due to this famous leadership, a huge number of common people and ‘Ulama gathered. Hundreds of poor and rich religious Muslims planned their journey to Makkah.[48]He further writes,

“From India such a sacred group of people and popular caravan journeyed (to Makkah) that there is neither any example in the entire history nor is there any hope in the future.”[49]

Though during the Russia-Turk war, the British Government was in support of Turkey against Russia but it was also not easy to announce openly to travel for the purpose of jihad. The ‘Ulama were aware about the sensitivity of this journey from political and social point of view. Therefore, no direct announcement was done of this purpose that the ‘Ulama along with the common citizens ultimately aim to travel to Balkan after performing Hajj. Ashiq Ilahi gives an account of this fact,

“When common Muslims of India saw that all of a sudden a community of elite is moving towards Hejaz, so whoever could be able, they immediately agreed to join this caravan. Itself a belief developed in the mind of people that these people, for religious support but as a pretext to Hejaz, are actually travelling to Rome. For the side of Turkish Empire they will join voluntarily Mujahidin, and in whose fate is a martyrdom he will receive an eternal life.”[50]

In the Context of Religion Al-Nanawtawi’s Arguments to Support Turks against Russian Forces

Al-Nanawtawi’s original decree related to this war was published in several magazines and booklets at that time.[51] The original manuscript is preserved at Mufti Allah Bakhsh Academy, Kandhla, Muzaffarnagar. This decree was conceived as a motivating factor for collecting financial and moral support to the Turkish army against Russians. Al-Nanawtawi has written this letter to Maulana Ahmad SaÑId. In this letter, he explained the importance of this jihad, need to support the Turks and especially financial support by collecting the money. All his arguments are from the point of Qur’an’s view and prophetic traditions. He commences his decree with the support of the Qur’anic verse[52] and says that in situation of the aggression from the enemies jihad becomes eminent and according to the Qur’anic[53] measurements it becomes compulsory to provide support to the mujahidin.[54]

Al-Nanawtawi wrote a very brief annotation in this epistle and described the verse[55] of the Qur’an. Al-Nanawtawi explains in the light of the verse that despite necessity the people who do not emigrate from a state, which is a Dar al-Harb, they fall in the class of the infidels. Al-Nanawtawi gives further support to this argument from al-Tawbah[56] and explains that such people who are no more in state of consociation, they are no more firm believers (mu’min). Furthermore, in desperate situation support of downtrodden people becomes deontic and obligatory. For fulfilling this deontological duty to follow the fundamentals of Iman and maintaining the state of consociation is compulsory. So in such a condition support to the mujahidin becomes deontological and obligatory.[57] In case solidarity between infidels[58] against Islam, a consociation amongst Muslims is compulsory. It is also obligatory upon Muslims to stand firmly for protecting the sanctity[59] of the holy shrines in Makkah and Madinah.

Al-Nanawtawi counts three reasons for supporting Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman caliph. First reason is infidels’ expeditions against Muslims and the Qur’an[60] advocates this support against the invaders, secondly, because Muslims seek support from other Muslims[61] and thirdly, for protecting the sanctity of the Holy Shrines in Makkah and Madinah.

Some of the opponents have questioned the nature of this war. Some people believed that this war was not a religious one (jihad Fi sabil Allah), it was merely a political war. Al-Nanawtawi answered their doubt. Other than Allah none knows the intentions of any one. If someone blames us that our prayers and fasts (Salat wa sawm) are for show (riya), how would we justify it? Similarly, none has the right to question the Jihad of Turk forces. If prayer (Salat) means to face towards qiblah and performing the actions of the prayers, thus, jihad means Muslims fight against infidels. If for jihad a sound intention is required similarly for Salat a good intention is also required. If the intentions of the Turks are not good, how is good your intentions? What is proof of the bad intentions of the Turks and how would you prove good intentions of yours?[62] Furthermore, there is a hope of good reward from Allah on the payment to a non-Muslim architect of a mosque, so why will there not be a reward on the financial support to a mujahid, even suppose in his intention he is fighting for worldly benefits? By the efforts of an architect, the religion is served and the house of Allah is built. Similarly, a mujahid protects the religion and implications of his efforts remain long lasting which help protect the religion (din).[63]

Further to support his decree, Al-Nanawtawi wrote a comparison between few verses of the Holy Qur’an.[64] Elaborating these verses, Al-Nanawtawi wrote that the most important compulsion upon a Muslim is to sacrifice his life, if it is not so, a Muslim must sacrifice his wealth and as per the least action a Muslim should donate some of his wealth to please his God. Al-Nanawtawi ends his decree by explaining that our life and wealth both are already of God. The verse, “they fight in the path of God”[65]absolutely indicates the compulsion of fighting in the cause of Allah and avoiding it is just like denying a King on his public call for a special kind of support even the King is fully capable to protect his sovereignty without any outside support, but those who will defy King’s call will face the wrathof the King.[66]

Impact of Al-Nanawtawi’s Religio-political Thoughts upon the Later Generations of the Ulama

Al-Nanawtawi’s political thinking brought massive and most significant impact on his most distinguished disciple Shaykh al-Hind Mahmoud Hasan. At the time of Sepoy’s Mutiny in 1857 Hasan was not in the contact of Al-Nanawtawi. But during the Russia-Turk war he closely watched and observed the activities of his teacher and other eminent Ulama. At that time Hasan was a young man, who was fully aware about the sentiments of his teacher. Later he could trace the roots of the political ideas of his teacher and contemporary Ulama, they were striving for independent cultural, political and social identities of Muslims not only in India but everywhere in the world.[67] These thoughts, which were developing Hasan’s personality, played very important role in the future, they helped him to develop as an Islamic political leader and freedom fighter for India’s independence. In original sense Mahmoud Hasan did not inherit Al-Nanawtawi’s intellectual legacy only, but in true sense he was the original and the only interpreter of Al-Nanawtawi’s religio-political ideology.

In the later age, India’s prime political leaders and freedom fighters got ideological strength from Mahmoud Hasan. The very prominent leaders like Ansari, Ajmal Khan, Muhammad Ali, and Abul Kalam Azad were influenced by Mahmoud Hasan. Among these political leaders, Ansari paid allegiance to him.[68]

The growing political tussle between the British regime and the Muslims in India and the Balkan war of 1912 provided an opportunity of the establishment of Nazarah al Ma’rif. This was an ideological training center with the aim of keeping alive the spirit of religious political ideas among Muslim youths.[69]

An impression of Al-Nanawtawi’s training is evidently witnessed upon his most distinguished disciple and student Mahmoud Hasan. Mahmoud Hasan was detained by the British government. In Feb 1917, he was sent to Malta because of his anti-British government campaign in India and his rapidly growing influence.[70] He was released from Malta jail in March 1920.[71] After his arrival back to Dar al-Uloom Deoband a decree (fatwa) about Non-cooperation Movement was asked from him. Mahmoud Hasan asked his three distinguished disciples Mufti Kifayat Allah, Husayn Ahmad and Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani to write this decree. His disciples hesitated and requested that in his presence it is not possible for them to write a decree. Shaykh al-Hind Mahmoud Hasan replied,

“Sentimentally, I am filled with full hatred against the English people. Therefore, I am not confident that I shall do justice and it would be against Qur’an’s instruction—[72] “Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.”[73]

Al-Nanawtawi left such paradigms, which helped his successors to reinstate the political influence of Muslims in the later stage. It included rebuilding the confidence of Muslim community.  After the fall of Delhi and failed mutiny of 1857, the aggressive British rulers got all kinds of superiority and advantages upon the conquered Muslim community. It has also changed the direction of British politics and diplomacy.[74]

According to the new policy of the new and colonial government, the last aggression was intellectual. It was decided now to defeat the Muslim community at intellectual level by raising questions on Islam’s viability and relevance.[75] Al-Nanawtawi was proved the most significant pillar in the defense of Islam’s intellectual heritage. He also changed his strategy, instead of fighting with sword, he designed new policy and it was to counter the intellectual aggression of British forces against Islam and Muslims. In the new policy of Al-Nanawtawi and his colleagues, they suspended entirely political ambitions. They were of this opinion that any political effort now would bring more serious disaster to the Muslim intellectualism. For them it was now the most important priority to protect the Islamic faith and Muslim beliefs from the new policy of the Imperial British Government.


In fact, Al-Nanawtawi was the last bearer of the legacy of Shah Wali Allah of Delhi. Al-Nanawtawi picked the essence of Shah Wali Allah’s cultural, social, political and religious thoughts and believed that Muslims cannot give up their right to rule the land of God. But the module of the governance of Muslims needs appropriate strategy and it is not merely diplomatic and political. He also observed that in the time of political suppression intellectual superiority, governed by a sublime Islamic ideology, should be maintained. At any rate, Muslims should never lose their link with their intellectual heritage; community’s connection with intellectual heritage is the best fight against social, political and cultural anomalies.

According to Al-Nanawtawi’s belief political suppression is timely, while intellectual loss is most disastrous and dangerous; its impacts are long lasting. Al-Nanawtawi insisted on the changing nature of strategy and policy. He himself produced the paradigms of changes. His life is categorized with three different phases. The first phase of his life is full of political struggle, while in the second phase, he changed his policies and engaged in polemics with Christian and Hindu missionaries and in addition continued several revival movements. The third and the most successful phase of his life is the intellectual and academic revolution, for which he became most famous. But in all three phases of his life, Al-Nanawtawi always was struggling for Muslim political and intellectual superiority.

Thus, the paradigms left by Al-Nanawtawi became footprints for his successors; they sporadically and permanently were engaged in different political movements. But none of his successors ever differed from the main maxim, which Al-Nanawtawi has set for them in the last stage of his life and it was Muslim inclination and absolute reversion towards religio-cultural heritage and it was preserved in the intellectual heritage of Islam.


* Dr. Atif Suhail Siddiqui is the founder president of Deoband Institute of Islamic Thoguht.

[1] Akhtar Imam Adil, Tahaffuz-e Din ke Masa’i-e Jamilah- Mawlana Nanawtawi—Ahad awr Khidmat, in Hujjat al-Islam Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi: Hayat, Afkar, Khidmat, (New Delhi: Tanzim Abna-e Qadim Dar al-Ulum Deoband, 2005), 114-115.

[2] Shams Tabriz Khan, Fikr-i Qasmi ke Chand Asasi Rujhanat, in Hujjat al-IslAm Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi: Hayat, Afkar, Khidmat, 125.

[3] For detailed biography of Muhammad Qāsim Al-Nānawtawī see, Manazir Ahsan Gīlānī, Sawānh-i Qāsmī, (Deoband: Maktabah Dārul Ulum, 1383AH); Muhammad Ya’qub Nānawtawī, Hālāt Janāb-i Tayyab Mawlvī Muhammad Qāsim Sahab (Bhawalpur: Matba’ Sādiqul Anwār, AH 1297); Muhammad Anwrul Hasan Qāsmi, Anwār-i-Qāsmī, (Pakistan: Idārah Sa’diyah Mujaddadiyah, 1969) and Nur al-Hasan Rāshid Kāndhalwi, Qāsim al-Ulum HaÌrat Mawlānā Qāsim Nānawtawī: AÍwāl wa Óthār wa Bāqiyāt wa Muta’lliqāt, (Muzaffarnagar: Maktaba-E Noor, 2000).

[4] Nadim al-Wajidi, “Hazrat Mawlana Qāsim Nānawtawī ki fikri Basirat awr Dawr-i Hazir men uski Ma’nwiyat”, in Hujjat al-Islam Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi: Hayat, Afkar, Khidmat, 135-136.

[5]Thana Bhawan is a small town in Muzaffarnagar District in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh around 120 km from Delhi. During 1857 war of independence Thana Bhawan became the center of strategy against British colonial forces which ultimately turned in the famous Battle of Shamli, which took place between the forces of Haji ImdAd Allah and Britain. See, Shaykh Muhammad Ikram, Tarikh-e Hindustan Mawj-e Kawthar, (Delhi: Adabi Dunya, n. d.), 196, Husayn Ahmad Madani, Naqsh-i Hayat,(Deoband), 43, Sayyid Muhammad Miyan, Ulema-I Hind ka Shandar Mazi, v. 4, (Karachi: Maktabah Rashidiyah, 1986), 281.

[6] Husayn, 43.

[7] Shamli is a city and district headquarters in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, it became the battle ground between the forces of Mujahidin, led by Haji Imdad Allah and Al-Nanawtawi against British colonial forces in 1857. The battle of Shamli is one of the important chapters in India’s freedom struggle. See Manazir, v. 2, 121-204

[8] A bullet hurt him, but the injury was not serious. It was recovered very soon. See, Muhammad Ya’qub Nānawtawī, Hālāt Janāb-i Ùayyab Mawlvī Muhammad Qāsim Sahab (Bhawalpur: MaÏbaÑ Øādiqul Anwār, AH 1297), in Nur, 202.

[9] Ikram,196.

[10] Al-Nanawtawi here refers to the Messenger of God Muhammad (peace be upon him and mercy of God). The Holy Prophet went on hiding for three days in Thawr Cave enroute from Makkah to Madinah. See Manazir, v. 2, 173.

[11] ManāÐir, v. 2, 49. The arrest warrant remained effective until the British Government announced clemency against those who were declared rebels throughout the country. But Al-Nanawtawi’s name remained in the record of the British police, which always affected his activities. During the period of warrant, there were several police raids on possible hideouts. But Al-Nanawtawi could never be arrested. See, Muhammad Ya’qub Nānawtawī, in Nur, 202. Also his biographers, Manazir,  Ya’qub and others have given accounts of the events how always Al-Nanawtawiescaped from the arrests despite sudden raids on his possible hideouts. There is an interesting and famous account mentioned about his escape from arrest in Masjid Chattah by his biographers, Al-Nanawtawi was standing in the mosque, suddenly one police officer entered the mosque who did not know Al-Nanawtawi by face. The police officer asked Al-Nanawtawi “Did you see Muhammad Qasim?” Al-Nanawtawi moved two-three steps behind from his place and replied to the police officer, “Yes, Muhammad Qasim was standing here and pointed out the place from where he moved a few steps.” The police officer did not ask any further question and left the mosque quickly. His biographers write that he never spoke lie and God saved him due to his piety and pious intentions. See, Ashiq Ilahi, Tadhkirah Al-Rashid,v. 1, (Saharanpur: Kutub Khanah Isha’at al-Ulum, 2014), 120, Manazir, v. 2, 176-177. Al-Nanawtawi’s colleague Rashid Ahmad Gangohi writes that, “I was arrested because before the battle of Shamli I was confused and Al-Nanawtawi was never arrested because he was fully confident before the battle, God helped him because he was fully relying on the support from Allah.” See, Akhtar,116.

[12] Sayyid Muhammad Miyan, Ulema-e- Hind kA Shandar Mazi, v. 4, 287

[13] Manazir, 123.

[14] Imdad was the most revered personality of his time. His fame was due to his piety, which attracted thousands of common people and hundreds of contemporary eminent Ulema. They all paid allegiance to him. According to Al-Nanawtawi’s biographer, nobody could dare to oppose his name as the Chief, because he was fulfilling all the conditions, which a person requires for appointing as a Chief of the Believers. Thus, without any opposition all opponents of the battle of Shamli agreed to pay the allegiance to Imdad and agreed upon his leadership. See, Manazir, v. 2, 125-126.

[15] Ashiq, Tadhkirah Al-Rashid, v. 1, 114.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Muhammad Salim Qasmi, “Al-Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi ki Shakhsiyat ke imtiyazi pahlu”, in Hujjat al-IslAm Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi: Hayat, Afkar, Khidmat, 71-72.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Manazir, v. 2, 127.

[20] Ibid, 129.

[21] Ibid. Also see the Qur’an, upon which Al-Nanawtawi made the premise of his  arguments, (Qur’an, 31:15)

[22] During the battle of Shamli Al-Nanawtawi was the young man of 25, his parents had not also reached to this age that they needed his services. His parents also not crossed age of 45, their health was absolutely fine, and his parents used to work themselves without any support and help.

[23] Manazir, v. 2, 129.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Nur, 146.

[26] In this report the letters from Al-Nanawtawi and the officials including Prime Minister of Ottoman Empire are described. This report is a fine example of how Al-Nanawtawi, his disciples and his colleagues were engaged in a conversation with the high officials of Ottoman Empire and in what manner the Ottoman Empire acknowledged this support. See, Rudad Chandah-i Balqan, (Meerut: Matba’ Hashmi, 1294 A. H.), 1-5.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Nur, 99-100.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Manazir, v. 1, 511.

[39] Ibid, 513.

[40] Through Rashid Ahmad Gangohi three installments of amount comprising of 784 Rupees, 87.5 Rupees and 200.25 Rupees were delivered to the Consulate of Ottoman Empire in Bombay, while Ahmad Ali of Saharanpur delivered total amount of 4230 Rupees in five installments. This receipt of amount was published in a report by the Consulate of Ottoman Empire, See, Daftar A’anat-i Hindiyah, (Bombay: Consulate of Turkish Empire in India, n. d.), 1-161; See also Nur, 103.

[41] The comparative value of the currency in the 80s of 19th century and first decade of 21st century is highly different. Now this amount is equal to more than 100 million rupees. See, Nur, 104.

[42] Nur, 103.

[43]Al-JawA’Ib was the official weekly mouthpiece of Ottoman Empire, which used to be published from Bab-i Aali (the administrative town or block of the Ottoman Empire). The first publication began in 1860.  Few copies of Al-Jawa’ib are preserved in the library of Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow, India.

[44]Rudad, 10-11.

[45] Qur’an, (2: 195).

[46] Al-Nanawtawi, Makateb, op. cit.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Sayyid Asghar Husayn, HayAt-i Shaykh al-Hind, (Lahore: Idarah Islamiyit, 1977), 22.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ashiq, Tadhkirah al-Rashid, v. 1, (Deoband), 229.

[51] Nur, 146.

[52] Qur’an, (2: 38).

[53] Qur’an, (8: 72; 9: 38).

[54] Al-Nanawtawi, Maktub ba silsilah-i Jang Rus wa Turki, (1294 AH),see in Nur, 149-150.

[55] Qur’an, (8:72).

[56] Qur’an, (9:71).

[57]Al-Nanawtawi, Maktub, op. cit.

[58] Qur’an, (8:73).

[59] Qur’an, (9:28).

[60] Qur’an, (9:38).

[61] Qur’an, (8: 72, 8:73).

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Qur’an (9: 19-22, 9:111).

[65] Qur’an, (9:111).

[66]Al-Nanawtawi, Maktub, op. cit.

[67] Nur, 93.

[68] Sayyid Muhammad Miyan, Ulema-i Haq awr unke Mujahidanah Karname, v. 1, (Deoand: Faisal Publications, 2003), 93.

[69] Miyan, 93.

[70] Miyan, Safarnamah Asiran-e Malta, (Deoband: Kutub Khanah Na’imiyah, 2002), 73.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Manazir, 84.

[73] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, (5:8).

[74] Akhtar, 118.

[75] Punjab and Sind, Miss NSS, 249, see in Nasim Ahmad Qasmi, “Hujjat al-Islam Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi, Khidmat awr Karnamay”, in Hujjat al-IslAm Imam Muhammad Qasim Al-Nanawtawi: Hayat, AfkAr, Khidmat,107.