Allamah Zahid ibn Hasan al-Kawthari (1879-1951 or 1296 AH-1371 AH) was the deputy to the last Shaykh-ul-Islam of the Ottoman Empire and a peerless authority in the Sunni scholarly arena throughout the Arab lands. Being extremely well-traveled, and having settled in several countries including Egypt and Shaam, he was intimately aware of the state of Islamic scholarship throughout the world.
Throughout his numerous works, Allamah al-Kawthari frequently refers to the brilliance of the Indian scholars, and the fact that Allah had entrusted them with the burden of reviving the Sunnah and its sciences for the past three hundred years. Other than a few exceptions, such as Imam Nimawi (rahmatullahi alayhi), his praise of contemporaries is largely limited to the scholars of Deoband. The absence in Allamah al-Kawthari’s analyses, of other self-claimed mujaddids from the same region, is also quite telling.
Allah Revives Deen In Different Lands In Different Eras
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah, the great hadith scholar from the last century, wrote the following taqriz (commendation) of I’la al-Sunan when Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani was editing the first few volumes. He states it is the best book on the subject, and quotes ‘Allamah al-Kawthari describing how the different lands take it in turns to revive knowledge and that the burdens of the sciences of the Sunnah were being carried by the scholars of India:
All praise to Allah Lord of the Worlds, and blessings and peace upon our leader and our master Muhammad, and upon his family and all his companions.
From the most important ways in which the pure Sunnah is served is by commenting on the hadiths of rulings and extracting what is found in them of jurisprudence (fiqh) and teaching, commands and prohibitions, the lawful and the unlawful. The aspirations of the juristic hadith-scholars vied with one another in every age and place to collect these hadiths in one platform so they become a simple reference-point and easily attainable for every student of jurisprudence and seeker of benefit.
From the best, nay the best, of what was compiled on this [subject] in this fourteenth century, and the most far-reaching of them in comprehensiveness, from the perspective of the Hanafi masters, is the book I‘la al-Sunan, a compilation by our teacher, the great scholar (‘allamah), the hadith-scholar (muhaddith), the jurist (faqih), the theoretician (usuli), the proficient researcher, Shaykh Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani al-Thanawi (Allah Almighty have mercy on him) which was first printed in India using [old] lithographic print in the year 1341 (1923 CE) and [later volumes continued to be printed] from then on, and most of it was printed there. Then its printing was completed in Karachi in Pakistan, and it appeared in twenty volumes*. From them were two volumes written as an introduction to the book, one of them a hadith-related introduction** and another on juristic principles, in consideration of what the book contained of noble hadiths in the main text (matn) and the juristic rulings extracted from them in the commentary (sharh), so the book by means of this comprehensiveness and meticulousness came to be at the peak of what was compiled on its subject-matter.
The reason for compiling this immense beneficial book is what occurred in the course of this century when a group of people in some cities of India arose, before the partition of Pakistan, calling themselves “Ahl al-Hadith,” claiming that the school of the Hanafi masters, which is the school of the majority of Muslims in those large and expansive lands, conflicts with the Prophetic hadiths in many issues, just as they claimed also that the Hanafi masters prefer analogy over the noble hadith, and just as they denied also taqlid of the four Imams (Allah be pleased with them) that are followed, and they lengthened their tongues with respect to Hanafi jurisprudence and more specifically with respect to the jurist of this nation Imam Abu Hanifah.
Outstanding scholars from those Indian lands rose to challenge these deviant beliefs and they falsified these claims through many well-researched hadith-related works. They explained in these [works] the reliance of the Hanafi masters in their jurisprudence and their school on the noble hadiths, and that they prefer the noble hadith and even weak hadith over analogy, and that analogy with its conditions is from the proofs which must be acted upon, and in drawing evidence from the Sunnah and relying upon it, the Hanafis are not less than other than them from the Imams, if not stronger than other than them in relying on hadith and narration. Rather, our teacher, the author of I‘la al-Sunan, Allah Almighty have mercy on him and increase his rewards, established in his hadith-related introduction Qawa‘id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith p. 289 that the Hanafis prefer the statements of the Companions over analogy, due to their excessive adherence to reports, let alone the noble Prophetic hadiths.
And by this unique comprehensive and rare book I‘la al-Sunan and those hadith-related compilations similar to it which the scholars of India and Pakistan undertook – in those lands which have now carried from between the lands of the Muslims the burdens of the sciences of the Sunnah and its service and its propagation – those deviant claims against the Hanafis have been destroyed, and every arrogant deviant or shameless pretender of knowledge was silenced, and it became apparent to every possessor of two eyes that the Hanafis are from the greatest of people in reliance on hadith and narration while they are also people of reason and analogy.
‘Allamah al-Thanawi, Allah give him abundant reward and raise his position and his mention with Him, exhausted in his book I‘la al-Sunan the proofs of all the chapters of jurisprudence from the chapter of purification to the last chapters of jurisprudence with an excellent effort and in a rigorous hadith and fiqh-related method. Gazes turned to this book so the hands of the scholars from the time of its publication hastily seized it, and acquiring a copy of it came to be from the great hopes in the hearts of the scholars who knew about this book from [other] books or heard about it.
It is a sufficient testimony for you to [know] the lofty position of this book that you see the like of our teacher, Imam al-Kawthari (Allah Almighty have mercy on him) praise it with the most wonderful praise in his book Maqalat al-Kawthari p. 75 in an article of his in which he spoke about the different lands taking turns in carrying the burdens of the sciences of the Sunnah, so after referring to the efforts of the scholars of India and Pakistan and their achievements in the field of the pure Sunnah in the latter centuries, and their undertaking of the burdens of the sciences of the Sunnah since the tenth century till now, he said:
“Some of their scholars also have specific compilations on the hadiths of rulings in a novel original manner, which is to exhaust the rulings from their sources and collect them in one platform [arranged] into chapters, and to comment on every hadith from them with criticism and accreditation and strength and weakness.”
And after Imam al-Kawthari highly praised the book Athar al-Sunan written for the same purpose by the great scholar, the hadith-scholar, the knowledgeable jurist, the critic, Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Ali known as Zahir Ahsan al-Nimawi (Allah Almighty have mercy on him), he said, the summary of which is:
“Similarly, the inimitable great scholar, the unique ocean, the teacher of the scholars of the Indian lands, the great hadith-scholar, the knowledgeable critic, our master, the sage of the nation, Muhammad Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi, the author of works, both small and large, numbering around five hundred, paid attention to this matter, and thus he wrote Jami‘ al-Athar on this subject. A description of this book is dispensable by the mention of the great name of its author. It was printed in India although getting hold of it has become somewhat difficult since its printed copies were depleted because of the great number of those interested in collecting the works of this lordly scholar, who is a blessing of the Indian lands, and he has a high standing amongst the scholars of India such that they call him “the physician of the nation” (hakim al-ummah).
“This magnificent scholar instructed his student and nephew, who completed his hadith studies with him, the critical hadith-scholar, the excellent jurist, Mawlana Zafar Ahmad al-Thanawi (may his achievements increase), to compile the proofs of the chapters of jurisprudence by gathering the hadiths of rulings, [arranging them] into chapters, from the sources which are difficult to obtain, while commenting on every hadith at the bottom of every page according to what is required in the science of hadith of strength and weakness and acceptance and rejection according to the different schools. This enthusiastic scholar occupied himself in this difficult task for around twenty years with the utmost devotion until he completed his work with the utmost brilliance with the accordance of Allah Glorified is He.
“Truth be told, I was astonished by this compilation and this exhaustion and by this extreme comprehensiveness in commenting on every hadith as is required in the science [of hadith], in relation to the text and chain, without there appearing the signs of affectation in support of his school, rather fairness was his principle when speaking about the opinions of the adherents of the [different] schools. Hence, I was pleased with it with the utmost happiness. This is how the aspirations of [real] men and the seriousness of [true] heroes are. If only some of the owners of the big printing presses in Egypt would attain the aforementioned book from its author, and print it with beautiful Egyptian letters, and if one of them were to do that he would have served knowledge a service that is appreciated, and he would fill a gap in this subject.” [Here] ends the statement of our teacher Imam al-Kawthari, Allah have mercy on him.
Indeed Allah Almighty has favoured for the realisation of this priceless noble desire and for the printing of this brilliant hadith and fiqh-related book in the city of Karachi in Pakistan, adorned with an academic and distinguished service, the great scholar, the researcher, the hadith-scholar, the perceptive jurist, the man of letters, the esteemed Shaykh Muhammad Taqi al-‘Uthmani, the son of our respected teacher the Grand Mufti Mawlana Muhammad Shafi‘, his lofty shadow be lengthened in good health and happiness.
That descendant, the brilliant heir, undertook [the task of] verifying this [book] and annotating it, in a way that will make its aims and objectives complete and will perfect its pearls and its benefits, with a lofty academic flavour and a novel typed artistic format, with a brilliant look from the beauty of modern printing. The first volume of it has become a wonderful academic treasure. The services of the sagacious researcher, the apple of Pakistan***, is manifest therein, so this wonderful academic work deserves the gratitude of the students of knowledge and scholars.
Allah is beseeched for the production of this encyclopaedic beneficial book to be completed at his hands, so it becomes a great weight in his overflowing good deeds, Allah willing. Allah reward him the best of rewards on behalf of knowledge and its people. Allah also reward with goodness its publisher and its printer and all who helped in its production in this nice cover and beautiful printing. All praise to Allah by Whose grace good actions are fulfilled.
The one needy of Him Most High wrote it, ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah. Riyadh, College of Shari‘ah. 3/2/1396 (1976 CE)
*The final volume was completed in 1357 Hijri (1938 CE)
**Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah: “This beneficial comprehensive hadith-related introduction called Inha’ al-Sakan ila man yutali‘u I‘la al-Sunan was printed in India in the year 1345 in [old] lithographic print, and then it was printed in Karachi in Pakistan in the year 1383 with modern printing. Later, Allah, with Whom is grace and blessing, favoured me with serving this unique hadith-related introduction and verifying it and annotating it and printing it and publishing it with the title Qawa‘id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith. Its printing was completed in Beirut in the year 1392 in 550 pages, and it became by Allah Almighty’s grace, a knowledge-filled treasure, wonderful to look at and learn from, and it received the most pleasant acceptance and approval from the great scholars of this field, and all praise belongs to Allah Lord of the Worlds.”
*** Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah: “This is a title with which I named the verifier of this book [Mufti Taqi al-‘Uthmani], Allah Almighty preserve him and maintain him, while he was in the prime of his youth around fifteen years ago in my first trip to Pakistan in the year 1382 (1962 CE) when I saw in him a vigorous talent, a sharp mind, expansive knowledge, overflowing brilliance, along with a high and transparent spirit and a rare Arabic eloquence in his sermons and his extemporary speech. Allah increase him from His favour and His accordance, and benefit through him [His] servants and all lands, and bless me with his righteous supplications.”
None Equal To Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri Since Ibn al-Humam
In Maqalat al-Kawthari, one article is devoted to showing the misguidance of the Qadiyanis. Towards the end of the article, ‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari (1879 – 1951) only mentions ‘Allamah Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri (1875 – 1933) and his associates, Mawlana Murtada Hasan al-Chandpuri (1868 – 1951) and Mufti Shafi‘ al-‘Uthmani (1896 – 1976), as those who defeated the Qadiyani heresy in India in writing. Mawlana Murtada Hasan al-Chandpuri is the author of several books refuting Ahmad Rida Khan’s false allegations against the Deobandi scholars.
“May Allah (Glorified is He) elevate the rank of the lost soul of Islam, the penetrating hadith-scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Anwar al-Kashmiri in the rooms of the Gardens [of paradise], and may He repay him with the reward of those who defended the borders of the religion of Islam, for indeed he uprooted the Qadiyanis with his irrefutable arguments, and he created a barrier before the terrible evil of the moderate of them and the extreme of them in India, by compiling beneficial books in refutation of them in various languages.
He researched in his book Ikfar al-Mulhidin the matter of anathematising them and their ilk. At its conclusion is found around seventy seven quotes similar [to the quotes] that have preceded from the writings of the aforementioned Ghulam Ahmad the false claimant to prophethood, quoting from the books of this deviant while identifying the pages from them by the selection of the eminent teacher, Mawlana Sayyid Murtada [Hasan al-Chandpuri] al-Hindi, and along with those texts are their translations into Arabic by the pen of the earnest teacher, Mawlawi Muhammad Shafi‘ al-Deobandi. Awareness of [even] one of them is enough to be certain of the speaker and his partisans having left the fold of Islam.” (Maqalat al-Kawthari, p. 271-2)
While discussing the deviant belief that the Prophet ‘Isa (upon him peace) has died and will not descend, ‘Allamah al-Kawthari writes:
“And in ‘Aqidat al-Islam fi Hayat ‘Isa ‘alayhi al-salam by our master, the oceanic-scholar, al-Kashmiri, is a detailed explanation of the ways the Book indicates to what the people of truth are upon, so whoever wants more detail should refer to that.” (Maqalat al-Kawthari, p. 266)
Besides ‘Aqidat al-Islam (and its commentary Tahiyyat al-Islam) and Ikfar al-Mulhidin, ‘Allamah Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri also authored al-Tasrih bi ma Tawatara fi Nuzul al-Masih in refutation of the Qadiyanis. In this book, he collected all the narrations proving the bodily descent of ‘Isa at the end of time. The book was edited and published by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah.
‘Allamah al-Kawthari also said ‘Allamah al-Kashmiri’s work on the issue of raf‘ al-yadayn is one of the best on the topic:
“From the best of what was written on this topic is Nayl al-Firqadayn and Bast al-Yadayn both of them by our master, the great scholar, the deep ocean, Muhammad Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri, Allah have mercy on him.” (Ta’nib al-Khatib, p. 166)
On specific works on hadith-proofs for the Hanafi school, he also has a book on reciting behind the imam in prayer (Fasl al-Khitab fi Mas’alati Umm al-Kitab), and another on Witr (Kashf al-Sitr ‘an Salat al-Witr); and he was also an aide to ‘Allamah Nimawi’s Athar al-Sunan to which he made further notes after the author’s death with the title al-Ithaf li Madhhab al-Ahnaf.
Finally, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah wrote in the introduction to his edition of al-Tasrih bi ma Tawatara fi Nuzul al-Masih:
Our shaykh, the researcher, al-Kawthari said: “After the shaykh, the imam, Ibn al-Humam, there appeared none equal to him [i.e. ‘Allamah Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri] in eliciting rare points of discussion from hadiths – and this is a long period of time!” (al-Tasrih bi ma Tawatara fi Nuzul al-Masih, p. 26)
The Achievements of the Indians are Beyond Estimation
While speaking about the important works written on the topic of hadith-proofs for the schools of fiqh, ‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari wrote on the contributions of the Indian scholars on this topic, saying it is “beyond all estimation,” and while mentioning these “Indians of the Ahl al-Sunnah,” he directly or indirectly refers to and praises at least six Deobandi scholars from the seven that he mentions:
“Then came the turn of our brothers, the Indians of the Ahl al-Sunnah, for their achievements in the Sunnah in these latter centuries is beyond all estimation, and their commentaries of the six mother-books are brimming with richness in [commenting on] the hadiths of rulings, so you have Fath al-Mulhim fi Sharh Sahih Muslim [by Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad al-‘Uthmani]; Badhl al-Majhud fi Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud [by Mawlana Khalil Ahmad al-Saharanpuri]; al-‘Arf al-Shadhi fi Sharh Sunan al-Tirmidhi [by ‘Allamah Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri] and innumerable other [works] in which are found satisfactory explanations of controversial issues [of fiqh].
Some of their ‘ulama also have specific compilations on the hadiths of rulings in a marvellous new style, which is to exhaust the hadiths of rulings from their sources and gather them onto one platform [dividing them] into the chapters [of fiqh], and discuss every hadith from them with criticism and accreditation and strengthening and weakening.
Thus, the great scholar and hadith-expert Mawlana Zahir Ahsan al-Nimawi (Allah have mercy on him) wrote his book Athar al-Sunan in two short volumes*, in which he compiled the hadiths related to purification and prayer according to the different juristic schools, and he commented on every hadith from them with criticism and accreditation in the manner of the hadith-scholars, and he excelled in what he accomplished with complete excellence. He had intended to continue in this way to the last chapters of fiqh, but death came between him and his hopes (Allah have mercy on him). This book is printed in India with lithographic print although the people of knowledge snatched it after its publication, so it is difficult to get hold of a copy of it unless it is printed again.
Similarly, the inimitable great scholar, the unique ocean, the teacher of the scholars of the Indian lands, the great hadith-scholar, the knowledgeable critic, our master, the sage of the nation, Muhammad Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi, the author of works, both small and large, numbering around five hundred, paid attention to this matter, and thus he (his stay be lengthened) wrote Ihya’ al-Sunan and Jami‘ al-Athar on this subject. A description of these books is dispensable by the mention of the great name of its author. Both of them were printed in India although getting hold of them has become somewhat difficult since their printed copies were depleted because of the great number of those interested in collecting the works of this lordly scholar (Allah extend his stay), who is a blessing of the Indian lands, and he has a high standing amongst the scholars of India such that they call him “the physician of the nation” (hakim al-ummah).
This magnificent scholar instructed his student and nephew, who completed his hadith studies with him, the critical hadith-scholar, the excellent jurist, Mawlana Zafar Ahmad al-Thanawi (may his achievements increase), to compile the proofs of the chapters of jurisprudence by gathering the hadiths of rulings, [arranging them] into chapters, from the sources which are difficult to obtain, while commenting on every hadith at the bottom of every page according to what is required in the science of hadith of strength and weakness and acceptance and rejection according to the different schools. This enthusiastic scholar occupied himself in this difficult task for around twenty years with the utmost devotion until he completed his work with the utmost brilliance with the accordance of Allah Glorified is He in twenty slim volumes with the paper size of Athar al-Sunan and this book of his was called I‘la al-Sunan; and a special volume was written for it as a brilliant introduction to the principles of hadith which is beneficial in [reaching] the goal in this subject.
Truth be told, I was astonished by this compilation and this exhaustion and by this extreme comprehensiveness in commenting on every hadith as is required in the science [of hadith], in relation to the text and chain, without there appearing the signs of affectation in support of his school, rather fairness was his principle when speaking about the opinions of the adherents of the [different] schools. Hence, I was pleased with it with the utmost happiness. This is how the aspirations of [real] men and the perseverance of [true] heroes are. May Allah extend his stay in goodness and safety and enable him to compile similar beneficial works. The author (Allah preserve him) has printed around twenty parts of this book with lithographic print, and the copies of the first parts have finished. As for the publication of the remaining [volumes], it is happening very slowly, so if only some of the owners of the big printing presses in Egypt would obtain the aforementioned book from its author, and print it with beautiful Egyptian letters, and if one of them were to do that he would have served knowledge a service that is appreciated, and he would fill a gap in this subject.
Also from the famous scholars of India, of those who have an interest in the hadiths of rulings, is the great scholar and hadith expert, Shaykh Mahdi Hasan al-Shahajanpuri [a graduate of Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband and student of Shaykh al-Hind], the Mufti (Allah preserve him), for he commented on the book al-Athar by Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani in two large volumes. Allah (Glorified is He) increase the likes of such men.
This is a small selection of the achievements of these brothers, and in this let the competitors compete.”
(Maqalat al-Kawthari, p. 68-9)
*This was also, in part, the contribution of a scholar from Deoband: ‘Allamah Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri helped the author with the writing of this book. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah in his biography of ‘Allamah Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri in Tarajim Sittah min Fuqaha al-‘Alam al-Islami quotes ‘Allamah Yusuf al-Binnori (the student of ‘Allamah Kashmiri), who after mentioning the ‘ilmi benefit acquired from ‘Allamah al-Kashmiri by his major contemporaries like Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi, Mawlana Khalil Ahmad al-Saharanpuri, and his teacher, Shaykh al-Hind Mahmud al-Hasan al-Deobandi, he said:
“Mawlana Muhammad Zahir Ahsan al-Nimawi (d. 1322/1904), Allah have mercy on him, the famous hadith-scholar, author of Athar al-Sunan, would seek assistance from Shaykh [Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri] with regards to the ambiguities of hadith, by correspondence through letter-writing. He would seek help from him while writing his book Athar al-Sunan and he would present to him what he had written piece by piece. This is what I heard from the revered Shaykh [himself], Allah have mercy on him. He said in his book Nayl al-Firqadayn: “The deceased Shaykh [al-Nimawi] while writing that book would send it to me piece by piece, until I became an aide therein; and I added many things to it after him.” The Shaykh, Allah have mercy on him, at that time was a youth whose reputation was not [yet] manifest to the people while the hadith-scholar al-Nimawi was an experienced scholar, and in spite of this, this was his [manner of] interacting [with ‘Allamah Kashmiri], and this shows his intellectual humbleness and his estimation of men. Allah raise both their statuses.” (Tarajim Sittah min Fuqaha al-‘Alam al-Islami, p. 29)
The Commentary of Sahih Muslim That Supersedes That of Imam Nawawi: Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari’s Praise of Fath al-Mulhim by Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani
The people of knowledge have a special interest in Sahih Muslim, in recognition from them of its lofty position amongst the six mother-books of Islam. Some of them composed mustakhrajat (a collection of the same hadiths with different chains) upon it; and some of them compiled specifically on its narrators; and some of them paid interest to the areas criticised by some critics of the chain and text; and some of them strove to clarify its hidden meanings and comment on the manners of its indications and release all that was locked in its chains.
From the group of the commentators of this eminent book are:
• Imam Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Maziri author of al-Mu‘lim fi Sharh Sahih Muslim;
• and from them is al-Qadi ‘Iyad ibn Musa al-Yahsabi author of Ikmal al-Mu‘lim fi Sharh Sahih Muslim;
• and from them is Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn ‘Umar al-Qurtubi author of al-Mufhim lima Ashkala min Talkhis Kitab Muslim;
• and from them is Abu Zakariyya Muhyi al-Din Yahya al-Nawawi author of al-Minhaj fi Sharh Sahih Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj which is derived [primarily] from the three books of these luminaries that we mentioned and Ma‘alim al-Sunan of al-Khattabi.
This commentary of al-Nawawi is the first commentary to appear in the world of printing from the commentaries of Sahih Muslim, although it is not of that which quenches the thirst of the researcher in all objectives. Then there appeared Ikmal Ikmal al-Mu‘lim by Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Khalifah al-Ubbi in the world of existence which was printed around thirty years ago together with Mukmil Ikmal al-Ikmal by Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Sanusi, in which they collected the essence of what is found in the previous commentaries, of benefits, together with their amendments as far as was possible for them, and the people of knowledge were greatly impressed with them due to what they received in them of a degree of expansion in comparison to the commentary of al-Nawawi printed previously.
However, truth be told, none of these commentaries fulfil the right of Sahih Muslim, of commentary and exposition from all perspectives, which concern the thirsty researchers [seeking] to reveal the secrets of the book. So if one commentary excels in jurisprudence or beliefs according to one school, for example, you find it lacking in the commentary of what relates to the remainder of the schools of practice and belief. This does not quench the thirst of the researcher. Or you find it neglecting the commentary of its introduction despite it being from the oldest of what the imams of hadith wrote in preparing the principles of the science of hadith like the book al-Tamyiz by Muslim, and such [a book] deserves a full commentary. And you find amongst the commentators those who omit commenting on the narrators altogether, although the researcher is in great need of this in areas of known criticism. Hence, when one of these commentaries pleases you from some perspectives, you find it does not quench your thirst from other perspectives. The remainder of the commentaries are similar. This is a substantial gap. We had the strongest desire that a commentary of Sahih Muslim appears in the world of print to fill this gap.
Now we are ones who have chanced upon our longed-for lost treasure in the production of Fath al-Mulhim fi Sharh Sahih Muslim in its wonderful dress and brilliant suit in a number of Indian prints. Till now two large volumes of it have been printed. The number of pages in each of its volumes is five hundred, and the number of lines in every page is 35. If the book were printed in Egypt, each volume would be two volumes in large size paper. The entire book is like this in five volumes, and the third volume is about to be published.
We were very pleased by this glorious and splendid commentary, in form and meaning, since we found it adequate and satisfactory from every perspective. And it filled, in the true sense, that void which we alluded to. Hence, the researcher finds a big introduction at its opening, collecting miscellanea of the science of the principles of hadith with brilliant research, collecting the opinions of the hadith-scholars who have written on this topic, according to what the scholars of the principles of jurisprudence authorised in accordance with the different schools, not being limited to one party besides another. Thus, this marvellous introduction suffices the researcher the burden of looking at endless sources. After the amazing introduction is a hundred pages giving the researcher a commentary of the introduction of Sahih Muslim, a commentary by which the breast of the examiner will expand, since the brilliant commentator did not leave any place of ambiguity therein at all, rather he explained what is for it and what is against it with absolute fairness. Then he commented on the hadiths in all the chapters with the utmost balance, so he left no juristic issue without his full assessment, rather he enumerated the proofs of the schools in the juristic issues and compared them, strengthening the strong and weakening the weak with utmost fairness.
Likewise, this learned commentator did not neglect any hadith-related matter in all of the chapters, rather he gave it its full due, of verification and elucidation. Hence, he exhausted:
• determining the correct vowelling of the names;
• explanation of the uncommon words;
• discussion of the narrators;
• verification of the areas in which some imams of this field brought various objections from the perspective of the art, not yielding to the acceptance of the statement of those who said, “All who the two shaykhs have transmitted from, he has jumped the hurdle,” as a means to blind imitation.
He refuted many deviant groups in this commentary of his and he had complete impartiality in his refutations of the opponents from the jurists and hadith-scholars. And he produced while commenting on hadiths many runaway benefits and lofty realities which none realise besides exceptional men and masters of the hearts.
There is no surprise that this commentary is as we described, rather better than what we described to the fair reader, since its author is that brilliant scholar, the proof, the embodiment of multiple sciences, the verifier of this age, the exegete, hadith-scholar, expert jurist, deep critic, Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad al-‘Uthmani, teacher of hadith at the Islamic University in Dabhel, Surat, in India, and principal of Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband, the Azhar of the Indian lands, and author of famous works on the sciences of the Qur’an, hadith, jurisprudence and refutation of opponents. May Allah extend his stay in affluence and good health, and enable him to complete the publication of this priceless commentary, and to compile many such [works] in which is happiness in the two abodes; and may He benefit by his sciences the Muslims in the east and west of the earth. Verily, He is Near, Responding.
(Maqalat al-Kawthari, pp. 74-5)
Mufti Shafi – Faqih an-Nafs in the True Sense
Allamah Zahid Al-Kawthari’s letter to Hadhrat Mufti Shafi (father of Mufti Taqi Usmani):
To our respected brother (for the sake of Allah), the ‘Allamah, the Hadith Scholar, the Jurist, Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ ad-Deobandi (may Allah protect him)
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,
I received your kind letter on the 15th of Safar, 1369 AH. There was much delay in receiving this letter due to a mistake in the address. Anyway, your kindness in writing to me greatly pleased me. I thank Allah that you are well and that you have remained busy in the affairs of the religion with your excellent companions under the leadership of Shaykh al-Islam ‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani (may Allah lengthen his life in goodness and wellbeing, and may Allah grant you all the ability to establish Islamic knowledge and the foundations of Shari’ah in this Islamic state for which we have high aspirations).
I hope that you send my sincere greetings and regards to that person who holds a unique position in knowledge, Muhaqqiq al-’Asr Mawlana [shabbir Ahmad] ‘Uthmani. May Allah cure him completely from that illness which he has. The scholarly community of the world is impatiently awaiting him to expand his efforts in completing his commentary, which is tremendous in every way.
I have desired, for a long time, [to become acquainted] with your honoured self, since I have seen your beneficial works and benefited from them. Ustadh [Yusuf] Binnori and Ustadh [Ahmad Ridha] al-Bijnori have been perfuming our gatherings with sweet smelling words of praise for you. Therefore, my happiness was multiplied when I was made aware of your membership to the organisation that Mawlana ‘Uthmani presides over. Your words are due to your extreme humbleness, otherwise your high rank in knowledge is known to all, whether they are close to you or far. We supplicate sincerely for you all, for complete success in your efforts, and that Allah keep you safe from the evils of the Isma’ilis and the Qadiyanis, and their like at home and abroad.
As far as issuing fatawa is concerned, you are the expert in this. Your long engagement [with issuing fatawa] has made you ‘Faqih an-Nafs’ in the true sense. The points that you have brought up [in your letter] are extremely notable … [Trans: this part of the text has been omitted by Hadhrat Mufti Taqi Saheb]
However, I do not dare add my signature to the fatwa, [because] I consider this to be insolence in light of your expertise in fiqh.
I pray to Allah that he grants you and I the ability to do that in which his pleasure lies and that he keeps you in good health.
The author of Faharis al-Bukhari was extremely pleased at your appreciation for his book. He expresses his gratitude and sends his sincere greetings. I hope you do not forget me in your prayers during those likely times in which prayers are accepted.
Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari.
16 Safar 1369 AH (Mere Walid Mere Shaykh Aur Un ka Mijaz Wa Mizaq, Idarat-ul-Ma’arif, Pages 58-62)