Shah Waliullah was born in Delhi, India in 1703 and was mainly an Islamic scholar. He was also a historian, bibliographer, theologian, and philosopher, and he was born Qutb-ud-Din but became known as Shah Waliullah, a title that pointed to his natural kindness and spirituality. He was a prolific writer, writing 51 significant Islamic works.
Shah Waliullah Dehlavi inspired following generations of Islamic reformers by his writings and teachings, as well as the life he led.
On 21 February 1703, Shah Waliullah was born to Shah Abdul Rahim, a notable Delhi-based Islamic scholar. Due to his piety, he was known as Shah Waliullah. He had a son, Shah Abdul Aziz, who was also a renowned religious scholar.
Shah Abdul Rahim, his father, founded the Madrasah-i Rahimiyah. He was a member of Aurangzeb’s committee responsible for writing the code of law, Fatawa-e-Alamgiri. Sheikh Wajihuddin, his grandfather, was a prominent officer in Shah Jahan‘s army.
His father provided him with an education mostly focused on Islam. By the age of seven, he had memorized the Qur’an. He quickly mastered Arabic and Persian letters. He married at the age of fourteen. By the age of sixteen, he had finished the traditional Hanafi law, theology, geometry, arithmetic, and logic curriculums.
He visited Mecca in 1732 and then stayed in the Hejaz (now Saudi Arabia) to study religion with prominent scholars. He entered adulthood during a period of sorrow following the death of Aurangzeb, India’s final Mughal emperor, in 1707. Due to the loss of large areas of the empire to Hindu and Sikh rulers in the Deccan and Punjab, Indian Muslims compelled to accept non-Muslim authority. This obstacle occupied most of Waliullah’s adult life.
His Importance and Achievements
Shah Waliullah introduced to Islamic education when he was only five years old. He was able to recite the Holy Quran two years later. Clearly, he was an early scholar. He was just ten years old when he first read Ja’mi’s Interpretation, and he also received the knowledge of Tafseer, Hadith, spiritualism, metaphysics, logic, and Ilm-ul-Kalam during this time period. He was able to complete his training in one year after being introduced to the Persian and Arabic languages. Following that, he focused on grammar and syntax. Additionally, he studied medicine.
Shah Waliullah, then 17 years old, became an educator at the Madrassa-i-Rahimiya following his father’s death. For 12 years, he taught there, counselling fellow Muslims on spirituality and reformation. Shah Waliullah was a pious Muslim who observed the Islamic ritual of praying five times a day. The Madrasa-iRahimiya would become the epicentre of the Indian subcontinent’s Islamic society, attracting scholars from around the country. Following their education, they spread the message of Islam throughout the region.
Life in Arabia
Shah Waliullah continued his education in Arabia in 1730. He attended Makkah and Madina, two renowned educational institutes, where he established himself as a distinguished scholar and he spent 14 years in total studying in Madina, where he obtained his Sanad in Hadith (the oral traditions related to the teachings and the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad). He also became aware at the time that the Marathas were staging continuous battles within India, looting the Muslims’ wealth.
According to legend, while in Arabia, Shah Waliullah saw a vision of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who instructed him to organize and then emancipate the Muslim community in India. Shah Waliullah returned to Delhi on July 9, 1732, to begin what he regarded to be his life’s mission.
A Muslim Leader
Shah Waliullah faced an uphill battle in completing this job. Muslim India was in chaos at the time, socially, politically, economically, and spiritually. However, Shah Waliullah identified the underlying causes of the problems and recommended acceptable solutions. He was critical of non-Islamic practices that had grown in Muslim society, primarily as a result of the Muslim community’s exposure to Hinduism. He specifically discouraged expensive weddings and celebrations. Additionally, he identified the causes of economic issues in Muslim society and proposed corrective measures, including increased wealth distribution, a concept that predated Karl Marx’s nineteenth-century economic theories, the philosopher and economist who introduced capitalism and became known as the “father of communism.”
The root of the problem in his view
However, Shah Waliullah considered that the bigger, underlying problem was a lack of awareness among Muslims regarding Islam and the Holy Quran. This ignorance, he believed, was the basis of all the Muslims’ failures.
Life in India After Return from Arabia
Once in Delhi, Shah Waliullah began instructing students in the numerous fields of Islamic knowledge, as well as preparing them to serve as missionaries, revealing to the people the true nature of Islam. Additionally, to aid in the promotion of Islamic teachings and to make the Holy Quran more accessible to laypeople, he translated it into Persian, the common language at the time. He also attempted to resolve conflicts that divided Muslims into several sectarian factions. As a result, he grew to prominence as a scholar and a leader, and his followers recognized in him certain saintly attributes.
Apart from being a genuinely spiritual man and a renowned scholar, Shah Waliullah was also a politically intelligent individual. He aided in the formation of a united Muslim front to counter the rising Marhatta dominance, which endangered the Muslim presence in northern India, which was already decreasing. To prevent the loss of Muslim power, he persuaded national leaders like Ahmad Shah Abdali, Nizam ul Mulk, and Najibuddaula. He specifically wrote to Ahmad Shah Abdali, appealing to him to assist the Muslims of India in defeating the Marhattas and their ongoing danger to the declining Mughal Empire. As a result of the request, Ahmad Shah Abdali emerged on the battlefield of Panipat in 1761 and defeated the Marhatta’s desire to rule the Indian subcontinent with his army.
Shah Waliullah’s letter to Ahmad Shah Abdali is now recognized as one of the most significant eighteenth-century historical texts, as Shah Waliullah accurately portrayed the terrible political situation in India, as well as the myriad dangers confronting the Muslim society from all directions.
Not only did Shah Waliullah have an acute understanding of regional and national politics, but also grasped the significant importance of economics. Based on his observations, he advocated socioeconomic balance and condemned wealth accumulation, considering it as the proverbial root of all evil in the world. Additionally, he argued for a social order grounded in Islamic principles of equality, fraternity, and brotherhood.
As seen by his letter to Ahmad Shah Abdali, Shah Waliullah held considerable influence through the written word. He was a prolific writer who made it his life’s effort to produce standard works on Islamic study. He authored 51 books over 30 years (23 in Arabic and 28 in Persian). Even today, several of his works are recognized as unmatched in the field of Islamic literature.
Scholars generally divide Shah Waliullah’s written works into six categories: those dealing with the Holy Quran (including his Persian translations), those dealing with Hadith, those dealing with “Fiqh” (or Islamic jurisprudence), those dealing with mysticism, those dealing with Muslim philosophy and Ilm-i-Kalam, and finally, those dealing with the Shia-Sunni division.
His most renowned works include Fath ur Rahmaan Fee Tarjumatul Qura’an, a Persian translation of the Holy Quran, and Al Fauzul Kabeer Fee Usool at Tafseer, a Persian pamphlet that explains the essence of the Holy Quran and its rules of interpretation. Additionally, it examined different experts’ interpretations of the Holy Quran.
Many regard his most notable work as the Hujjatullah-il-Balighah, a two-volume Arabic book that described Hadith jurisprudence as well as characteristics of Islam that are common to all Muslim countries. Scholars continue to teach it.
Perspectives On Revolution
Shah Waliullah condemned the exploitation of the poor, describing it as a cause for bloody revolutions, which he disliked. He believed that revolution should be nonviolent and intellectual and that an intellectual revolution should overtake any form of political change. In Izaalat-ul-Khifaa, another of his best-known works, Shah Waliullah elaborated on his vision for a political revolution.
Work of Shah Waliullah
- A list of few notable works of shah Waliullah is provided below:
- The Sacred knowledge
- Al-Khayr al-kathir (The Abundant Good)
- Hujjat Allah al-baligha (The Conclusive Argument of God), Considered his most important work.
- Sata’at (Manifestations)
- Lamahat (Flashes of Lightning). It is one of the important writings on Sufism.
- Fuyud al-haramayn (Emanations or Spiritual Visions of Mecca and Medina).
- Al-Tafhimat (Instructions or Clear Understanding). One of the most comprehensive metaphysical works.
- Al-Budur al-bazighah (The Full Moons Rising in Splendour).
- Ta’wil al-ahadith fi rumuz qisas al-anbiya (Symbolic Interpretation of the Events in the Mysteries of Prophetic Tales)
Shah Waliullah died on August 20, 1762, after a lifetime spent teaching and writing about Islam. He was buried with his father in “Munhadiyan,” a well-known graveyard in India. Following his passing, his son, Shah Abdul Aziz, together with his followers and later generations, carried on his objective of regenerating the Muslim faith.
He is still held in high regard by Muslims throughout Asia today. His beliefs and tradition are carried on through the Deoband and Barelvi organizations, respectively. Following in his father’s footsteps, Shah Abdul Aziz later translated the Holy Quran into Urdu, the language of India’s Muslim majority. Meanwhile, the influence of Shah Waliullah continues to be felt in a variety of religious, social, and political areas.
Waliullah felt that the Muslim polity might be restored to its former glory through a religious reform agenda that linked Islamic religious goals with India’s changing social and economic situations. According to him, religious concepts were universal and everlasting, but their implementation depended on the context. His primary instrument was the idea of tabq, which included reconstructing and reapplying Islamic principles in accordance with the Qur’an and Hadith (the spoken traditions attributed to Muhammad). He thus permitted the practice of ijtihad (independent thought by theologians on topics of Islamic law), which had previously been prohibited.