Sayyid Ahmad Shahid and the Students of Shah Abd al-Aziz

Courtesy of SF. The article below illustrates that Sayyid Ahmad Shahid was a well-accepted scholar amongst the elite scholars in India. He was widely accepted by scholars who were famous in the circle of Shah Abd al-Aziz, the son of Shah Waliyullah:

Sayyid Ahmad ibn ‘Irfan Shahid al-Berelwi (1201/1786 – 1246/1831) enjoyed wide popularity and acceptance during his brief role as Sufi master and preacher. One of the greatest indications of this is that many of the direct students of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (1159/1746 – 1239/1824) who had become recognised scholars in their own rights pledged allegiance to him and became his disciples. Sayyid Ahmad Shahid was himself a spiritual successor (khalifah) of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. The early hagiographical biographies of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid like Makhzan Ahmadi [authored by Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ali ibn ‘Abd al-Subhan al-Tuki (1195/1781-1266/1850), a nephew and disciple of Sayyid Ahmad, several years his senior] and Waqa‘i Ahmad [by Muhammad ‘Ali al-Sadrpuri (d. 1287)] mention that Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz conferred to him the status of wilaya (sainthood). These sources mention that although Sayyid Ahmad Shahid disagreed with Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz on the point of shughl barzakh, Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz said this was a blessing of his “prophetic” wilaya as opposed to “saintly” wilaya. Sayyid Ahmad Shahid’s Sirat i Mustaqim was completed several years before the death of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and there are no reports that he expressed disapproval of its contents.

The following is a list of some scholars who were direct students of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz that became disciples of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid which I found while scanning through the biographies of Indian ‘ulama from the 13th century Hijri from Nuzhat al-Khawatir by ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy ibn Fakhr al-Din al-Hasani (1286/1869 – 1341/1923). Many of those mentioned took the spiritual path from him during the lifetime of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz himself.

1. Shah Muhammad Isma‘il ibn ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Dihlawi (1193/1779 – 1246/1831). He was brought up in the household of his uncle Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir and studied with him and his two elder brothers, Shah Rafi‘ al-Din and Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. He was the most renown disciple and successor of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid who was several years his junior.

2. Mufti Ilahi Baksh ibn Shaykh al-Islam ibn Qutb al-Din al-Siddiqi al-Hanafi al-Kandehlewi (1162/1750 – 1245/1829). He studied under Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz for a long period and became his disciple. His mastery in Hanafi fiqh led him to become the mufti of Bhopal. He took the Qadiri tariqa from his brother Hajj Kamal al-Din. “Then he took the Naqshbandi tariqa from Shaykh Imam Ahmad ibn ‘Irfan al-Shahid al-Berelwi and he compiled al-Mulhimat al-Ahmadiyya regarding the practices and litanies of the tariqa and he filled it with praises of Sayyid Imam (Allah have mercy on him).” (Nuzhat al-Khawatir p. 921) Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh was nearly forty years senior to Sayyid Ahmad, and was one of the foremost students of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (Nuzhat al-Khawatir p. 1014). His pledge at the hand of Sayyid Ahmad is therefore a great testament to the latter’s profound spiritual station and his acceptance amongst the scholarly elite. One of Mufti Ilahi Baksh’s students mentioned in Nuzhat al-Khawatir, Mughith al-Din al-Saharanpuri, also became a disciple of Sayid Shahid and even participated in the jihad with him.

3. Sayyid Awlad Hasan ibn Awlad ‘Ali al-Qinnawaji (1210/1796-1253/1837). He was the father of Siddiq Hasan Qinnawaji. He studied under Shah Rafi‘ al-Din and Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz for some time, and he was a khalifa and close disciple of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid. (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 931)

4. Mawlana Haydar ‘Ali ibn ‘Inayat ‘Ali al-Dihlawi al-Tuki (1203/1788 – 1273/1856). He studied under Shah Rafi al-Din and Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, and he opposed in writing Fadl Haq al-Khayrabadi’s views against Shah Ismai’il. ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy said of Haydar ‘Ali: “He was extremely intelligent, very perceptive, a master in the knowledge of the Book and Sunnah and disagreements, and a treasure-filled ocean in philosophical sciences.” (Nuzhat al-Khawatir p. 960) He was a respected teacher of the Islamic sciences, and taught the well-known Mufti ‘Inayat Ahmad al-Kakarawi author of ‘Ilm al-Sighah. (Nuzhat al-Khawatir p. 1048)

5. Shaykh Khurram ‘Ali al-Balhuri (d. 1271/1855). He studied the traditional books under the sons of Shah Wali Allah, and then became a disciple of Sayyid Ahmad. He translated sections of al-Durr al-Mukhtar on Hanafi fiqh, called Ghayat al-Awtar, which was then completed by other ‘ulama after his death. He translated Mashariq al-Anwar by al-Saghani and he translated al-Qawl al-Jamil of Shah Wali Allah and called it Shifa al-‘Alil. He has a popular work called Nasihat al-Muslimin similar to Shah Isma‘il’s Taqwiyat al-Iman (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 963)

6. ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy ibn Hibat Allah ibn Nur Allah al-Burhanawi (d. 1243). He studied with Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir and Shah ‘Abd al-Aziz, and he was a relative of the latter. “He was extremely intelligent, with a strong memory, very involved in research and reading.” (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 1005). He became a disciple of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid in the lifetime of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. He co-authored al-Sirat al-Mustaqim with Shah Isma‘il and then translated it to Arabic. Qadi Shawkani of Yemen sent to him a written general ijaza. Muhsin ibn Yahya al-Turhati wrote in al-Yani’ al-Jani fi Asanid al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghani (completed in Rajab 1280/1863): “He was the best of them [i.e. the students of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz] in fiqh and the most experienced of them in the traditional books….” (p. 1005) Shah Muhammad Ishaq al-Dihlawi (1197/1783 – 1262/1846), the grandson and successor of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, read Sarf and Nahw up to al-Kafiya under Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hayy and studied fiqh with him, before specialising in hadith under Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 911). Although his year of birth is not mentioned, as he was a teacher of Shah Muhammad Ishaq, he must have been at least a decade or two older than Sayyid Ahmad Berelwi. ‘Allamah Wajih al-Din al-Saharanpuri was a student of ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy and took isnad from him; he was the hadith-teacher of the famous Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali al-Saharanpuri, founder of the Matba‘ Ahmadi printing press; one of the latter’s chains is therefore: from Wajih al-Din al-Saharanpuri from ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Burhnawi from Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir from Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz… (Nuzhat al-Khawatir p. 907, 1132) His more famous chain is through Shah Muhammad Ishaq from Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz.

7. ‘Allamah Ghulam Jilani ibn Ahmad al-Sharif al-Rampuri (1154/1742-1234/1819). He took hadith from Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. He became a renowned teacher and was one of the teachers of Haydar ‘Ali mentioned above. He became a disciple of Sayyid Ahmad who was over forty years his junior. He was in fact some years older than even his teacher Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz! Despite his eminence and old age he wished to accompany Sayyid Ahmad Shahid to jihad, but when Sayyid Ahmad refused because he was too elderly, he began to weep as mentioned in Wasaya al-Wazir (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 1051)

8. Shaykh Mahbub ‘Ali ibn Musahib ‘Ali al-Ja‘fari al-Dihlawi (1200/1785-1280/1864). He gained direct ijaza from Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. He was a disciple of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid and he even travelled to the Frontiers to fight, but due to unknown reasons had to turn back. (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 1078) He was one year older than Sayyid Ahmad Shahid.

9. Shaykh Wahid al-Din ibn Mu‘in al-Din al-Puhulti al-Dihlawi. He studied under Shah Isma‘il and he accompanied Shah ‘Abd al-Aziz and Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir for thirteen years, and then he accompanied Sayyid Ahmad Shahid. He went to Hajj with him and then returned to India and then accompanied him to the Frontiers. (Nuzhat al-Khawatir, p. 1133)

Besides these scholars, there were many other associates of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and indirect students who took the tariqah from Sayyid Ahmad Shahid. This is sufficient reason to believe that there was no conflict between the teachings and methodology of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and the spiritual teaching of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid and his tariqa.

Shah Muhammad Ishaq al-Dihlawi (1197/1783 – 1262/1846), the grandson and successor of Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Dihlawi, supported Sayyid Ahmad Shahid’s jihad on the Frontiers. He dictated a work called Mi’at Masa’il in which he defended the ideological views of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid and Shah Isma‘il. In a British journal article dated November 1832 – Journal of the Asiatic Society No. 11. November 1832. “Notice of the peculiar Tenets held by the followers of Syed Ahmed, taken chiefly from the “Sirat-ul-Mustaqim,” a principle Treatise of that Sect by J.R. Colvin (of which I own a copy) – J.R. Colvin writes: “The writer [i.e. J.R. Colvin] has seen another Treatise printed in the course of last year (1831), the Miayatul Masail, or the hundred questions: being answers by Shekh Mohammed Ishak, a grandson of Shah Abdul Aziz, to queries stated to have been put to him by some of the Royal family at Delhi.”

Under the biography of Shaykh Ahmad Allah ibn Dalil Allah al-Annami, ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Hasani writes: “He has a treatise called Mi’atu Masa’il fi Tahsil al-Fada’il bi al-Adillat al-Shar‘iyya wa Tark al-Umur al-Manhiyya, in which he compiled issues from the written [answers] of his shaykh, Ishaq. He compiled it in the year 1245 (1830).”

There is therefore no doubt that a work called Mi’atu Masa’il was circulating in the early 1830s under the authorship of Shah Muhammad Ishaq, long before his death. If he knew it was misattributed to him, he would have clarified that it is not his. Shah Muhammad Ishaq migrated to Mecca in the year 1258 H more than ten years after the publication of this work in India. Furthermore, Ahmad Rida Khan and Ahmad Yar Khan recognised the work to be his and claimed it is contrary to the beliefs of the “Ahl al-Sunnah”.


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