||Hazratjee Maulana Ilyas; First Ameer of Tableeghi Jamaat (RA)|
On the outskirts of Delhi, near the tomb of Khwaja Nizamuddin, there lived, some
seventy years ago, a godly person in the house on top of the red gate of the
historical building called Chaunsath Khamba. His name was Maulana Mohammad
Maulana Mohammad Ismail
The. ancestral home of Maulana Mohammad Ismail was in Jhanjhana in the district
of Muzaffarnagar. But when, after the death of his (Ismail) first wife, he
married again in the family of Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh Kandhlawi, who belonged to the
same ancestry as him, he visited Kandhla frequently and it became a second home
The family of Siddiqui Sheikhs of Jhanjhana and Kandhla had been known, for
generations, for piety and learning, and was held in high esteem in the
neighborhood. The lines of descent of Maulana Mohammad Ismail and Mufti Ilahi
Bakhsh Become one, six generations upwards. with Molvi Mohammad Sharif. The
lineage runs as follows: Maulana Mohammad Ismail, son of Ghulam Husain, son, of
Hakim Karim Bakhsh, son of Hakim Ghulam Mohiuddin, son of Molvi Mohammad Sajid,
son of Mofti Mohammed Faiz, son of Molvi Mohammad Sharif, son of Molvi Mohammad
Ashraf, son of Sheikh Jamal Mohammad Shah, son of Sheikh Baban Shah, son of
Sheikh Bahauddin Shah, son of Molvi Mohammad Sheikh, son of Sheikh Mohammad
Fazil, son of Es Sheikh Qutub Shah.
Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh
Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh was among the most outstanding pupils of Shah Abdul Aziz.
Besides being a distinguished teacher, author and legist, he was, also a Unani
physician of a high order, and possessed a thorough knowledge of both the
rational and traditional sciences. He had a great command over Arabic, Persian
and Urdu poetry as well, as is borne out by his commentary of Banat Su'ad in
which he has translated every line of Hazrat K'ab into Arabic, Persian and Urdu
verse. He left behind about 40 books in Arabic and Persian of which Shiyamul
Habib and Mathnaawi Maulana Rum Ka Takmial are more famous.
Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh had taken ba'it at the hand of Shah Abdul Aziz. A glowing
proof of his sincerity and selflessness was that though he was a renowned
spiritual mentor himself, on the death of Shah Abdul Aziz, he felt no hesitation
in taking ba'it at the hand of the latter's young deputy, Syed Ahmad Shaheed,
who was about 28 years his junior in age, and in seeking guidance from him.
Mufti Sahib was born in 1748, and died in 1831, at the age of 83 years. All his
sons and grandsons were men of learning and position. Scholarship and
religiousness have been the characteristics of this family Molvi Abul Hasan's
Mathnawi, Gulzar-i-Ibrahim, which forms a part of his well-known work, Bahr-i-
Haqiqat, is a poem of rare spiritual feeling. Till recently, it was very
popular. His son,
Molvi Nurul Hasan, and all the four grandsons, Molvi Ziaul Hasan, Molvi Akbar,
Molvi Sulaiman and Hakim Molvi Ibrahim, attained to fame as worthy
representatives of their celebrated ancestors.
Maulana Muzaffar Husain
Mufti Saheb's nephew, Maulana Muzaffar Husain, who was a most favorite pupil of
Shah Is'haq and a deputy of Shah Mohammad Yaqub, and had, also, been favored
with the company of Syed Ahmad Shaheed, was a very pious and godly person. He
never touched anything that was of doubtful purity in the eyes of the Shariat.
Incidents of his humility and prayer and fullness are still fresh in the memory
of the people of the neighboring areas and serve as a reminder to the glorious
days of the earliest decades of Islam.
The maternal grand-daughter of Maulana Muzaffar Husain was married to Maulana
Mohammad Ismail. It was his second marriage which was solemnized on October 3
1868. Maulana Mohammad Ismail was the tutor of the children of Mirza Ilahi
Bakhsh, who was related to Bahadur Shah Zafar the last of the Mughal Emperors.
He lived, as we have seen. in the house on top of the red gate of Chaunsath
Khamba. Close to it, was a small mosque with a tin shed in front which used to
serve as the parlor of Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh, and, owing to it, it was called
Bangle Wali Masjid.
The Maulana was spending his days in obscurity and even Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh had
no idea of his high station till he had a personal experience of how the Maualna
prayers were granted by God. Worship, Zikr (repeating the Names, praise and
Attributes of the Lord), attending to the needs of the travelers and teaching
the Quran giving instruction in the Faith were his sole occupation in life. He
used to take down the load from the heads of the thirsty laborers who passed the
way place it on the ground, draw water from the well and give it to them to
drink, and, then, offer two Rak'ats of Salaat, expressing gratitude to the Lord
that He had given him the opportunity to serve His bondsmen, though he did not
deserve it. He had attained the state of Ihsan.
Once, as he requested Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi to teach him Sulook, the
latter remarked, "You don't need it. You have already attained the objective
that is to be reached through this method. It is like a person who has read the
Quran saying that he should, also, read the elementary text book of Arabic
because he had not begun with it".
The Maulana was very fond of the recitation of the Quran An old wish of his was
that he went on grazing the goats and reciting the Quran. He was very particular
about some member of his family keeping vigil in the night. His second son,
Maulana Yahya, used to study till midnight, and, then the Maulana himself got up
and Maulana Yahya went to bed, and for the last part of the night, he woke up
his eldest son, Maulana Mohammad.
The Maulana never bore a grudge against anyone. His detachment with the world
was so complete that it had made him attached to everybody. All the persons who
came into contact with him were impressed by his piety, sincerity and
selflessness. Leaders of the different warring groups of Delhi held him in the
highest esteem, and put an equal trust in him, though they disliked each other
so much that none of them was willing to offer Salaat behind the other.
The link with Mewat, too, was established in his lifetime. It is related that,
once, he went out in the hope of finding a Muslim whom he could bring to the
mosque and offer Salaat with him On meeting some Muslim laborers, he inquired
from them where they were going.? "We are going in search of work", they
replied. "How much do you expect to earn?' asked the Maulana. The laborers,
thereupon, told him about the daily wages they, generally, received. "If you get
the same here," the Maulana asked, "What is the use of going elsewhere " The
laborers agreed and the Maulana took them to the mosque and began to teach the
Salaat and the Quran. He would pay them their wages every day and keep them
engaged in their lessons. In a few days, they developed the habit of offering up
Salaat. Such was the beginning of the Madrassa of Bangle Wali Masjid, and these
laborers were its first scholars. After it, about ten Mewati students always
remained in the Madrassa and their meals used to come from the house of Mirza
Death of Maulana Mohammad Ismail
Maulana Mohammad Ismail died on :26th February, 1898 in Khajoor Wali Masjid at
the Tiraha of Bahram in Delhi. The number of mourners, at his funeral, was so
large that though long bamboo poles had been tied to the either side of the bier
to enable them to lend a shoulder to it, many people did not get a chance during
the entire route of three- and-a-half miles from Delhi to Nizamuddin.
Muslims belonging to various sects and schools of thought, who never got
together, joined the procession. The Maulana's second son, Maulana Mohammad
Yahya, narrates that my elder brother, Maulana Mohammad, was a very soft-hearted
person and had a most obliging nature. Fearing that he might invite someone to
lead the funeral service behind whom people of another sect or group refused to
offer the prayer, and, thus an unpleasant situation arose, I stepped forward and
said that I would lead the service. Everyone then, offered the prayers
peacefully and there was no dissent or commotion.
Owing to the vast concourse of men, the funeral service had to be held a number
of times and the burial was delayed. During it, a venerable person and another
man known for his spirituality had a vision that Maulana Mohammad Ismail was
saying, "Send me off soon. I am feeling ashamed The Holy Prophet is waiting for
The Maulana had three sons: Maulana Mohammad from the first wife, and Maulana
Mohammad Yahya and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas from the second, who was the maternal
granddaughter of Maulana Muzaffar Husain The Maulana had married her after the
death of his first wife.
Maulana Mohammed Ilyas
Maulana Mohammed Ilyas was born in 1885 His childhood was spent in maternal
grandfather's home in Kandhla, and with his father at Nizamuddin. In those days,
the Kandhla family was the cradle of godliness and piety so much so that reports
of the high religiosity nightly devotions and Zikr and Tilawat of its members,
both male and female, would seem imaginary and fictitious to the faint-hearted
men of our time
The ladies used to recite the Quran themselves in the Nafl prayers as well
listen to its Tarawih and other Nafl prayers. standing behind the male relatives
The month of Ramadan, in particular, was the springtime for the Quran. It was
read for long hours, almost in every home The limit of absorption was that,
sometimes, the ladies forgot to pay attention to purdah and would not become
aware of the coming of outsiders in the house at a time of urgent need.
The Quran with its translation and commentary in Urdu, and Mazaahir-i-Haq
Mashariq ul Anwaar and His-i-Haseen formed the limit of the education of the
ladies. Deeds and accomplishments of the families of Syed Ahmad Shaheed and Shah
Abdul Aziz were the most popular themes of conversation, and facts regarding
these illustrious men of God were on everybody's lips. Instead of the stories of
kings and fairies, ladies of the household related these to the children.
Ammi Bi Maulana Ilyas's maternal grandmother
The Maulana's maternal grandmother, Amtus Salam, who was the daughter of Maulana
Muzaffar Husain and was known in the family as Ammi Bi, was a very pious lady.
About her Salaat, the Maulana, once observed "I saw her likeness of Ammi Bi's
Salaat of Maulana Gangohi"
During the last phase of her life, Ammi Bi's state was that she never asked for
food and ate only when someone placed before her. It was a large family and
there was always so much to do. If the thought of having her meal! did not occur
to her in the midst of domestic chores, she simply went hungry. Once, someone
said to her, "You are so old and weak. How do you manage to without food ?" "I
draw sustenance from my Tasbihat (remembrance of Allah) was her repy"
Bi Safia, Maulana Ilyas's mother
The mother of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, Bi Safia, had learnt the Quran by heart
and attained great distinction in it. It was a regular practice with her to
recite the whole of the Quran and additional ten Juze (part) every day during
Ramadan. She, thus, completed forty recitals of the Quran in that month and was
so fluent in it that her household duties did not suffer on account of it. See,
generally, kept herself engaged in some work while doing the recitation. Apart
from the month of Ramadan, her daily routine of worship included: DURUD Sharif,
5,000 times; Ism-i-Zaat Allah, 5,000 times; Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim, 1,000
times, Yaa Mughnee-u 1,100 times, La illaaha illallaah, 1,200 times Yaa-Haiyyu,
Ya Qaiyum 200 times, Hasbiallaah wa ni'mul Vakil, 500 times; Subhan Allah, 200
times; Alhamdu lillaah, 200 times; La ilaaha illallaah, 200 times; Allah
O-Akbar, 200 times; Istighfar, 500 times; Ofwwizu amree illallaah, 100 times;
Hasbunallaah wa ni'mul Vakil, 1000 times; Rabb-i in-ni maghloobun fantasir,
1,000 times: Rabb-i-inni masanni-az-zurru wa anla ar-hamur rahimeen, 100 times;
Laa ilaaha enta subhanaka in-ni kunzu minaz-zalimeen, 100 times. In addition,
she recited a Manzil (1/7) of the Quran everyday.
Like all other children in the family, the Maulana Ilyas began his education in
the maktab, and, according to the family tradition, learnt the Quran by heart.
The learning of the Quran was so common in the family. that in the
one-and-a-half row of worshippers in the family mosque, there was not a single
non Hafiz except the Muezzin. Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was Ammi Bi's favorite
child. She used to say; to him. "Ilyas, I feel the aroma of the holy Companions
in you. " Sometimes, placing her hand on his back, she would say, "How is it
that I see figures resembling the holy Companions moving along with you?
From his childhood, there was present in Maulana Mohammad Ilyas a touch of the
religious ardour and fervent feeling of the blessed Companions which had led
Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan to remark that "when I see Mohammad Ilyas, I
am reminded of the holy Companions. Eagerness and enthusiasm for Faith were
ingrained in his nature. Even in his early days, he, sometimes, did things which
were much above the common level of the children. Riazul Islam Kandhlawi, a
class fellow of his in .he Maktab, says that "when we were reading in the Maktab,
he, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, once, came with a stick and said, "Comes Riazul
Islam, let us do Jihaad against those who do not offer up Salaat
Stay at Gangoh
In 1893, his elder brother, Mohammad Yahya, went to live at Gangoh with Maulana
Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. Maulana Mohammad Ilyas used to live with his father at
Nizamuddin, and, sometimes, with his maternal grand-father's family at Kandhla.
At Nizamuddin, his education was being neglected owing to the over- fondness of
his father and his own excessive occupation with prayers. Maulana Yahya, thus,
requested his father that as the education of Mohammad Ilyas was suffering, he
might be allowed to take him to Gangoh. The father agreed - and Maulana Mohammad
Ilyas came to Gangoh in 1896 or early 1897 where Mohammad Yahya began to teach
Gangoh, in those days, was the seat of Sufi-saints and savants, the benefit of
whose company was constantly available to Maulana Mohammad Ilyas. A greater part
of his impression able age was spent there. When he went to live at Gangoh, he
was 10 or 11 years old, and at the time of Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi death,
in 1905, he was a young man of about 20. Thus, he stayed with Maulana Gangohi
for about 9 years.
Maulana Mohammad Yahya was an ideal teacher and benefactor. He wanted his
brother to derive the utmost advantage from the society of those illustrious
men. Maulana Mohammad Ilyas used to tell that when the Ulema who had been the
favorite pupils or disciples of Maulana Gangohi came to Gangoh, his brother
would, often, stop the lessons and say that his education, then, lay in sitting
with them and listening to their conversation.
Usually, Maulana Gangohi did not take bait from children and students. It was
only when they had completed their education that he allowed them to take the
pledge. But owing to the exceptional merit of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, he, at his
request, permitted him to do the bait at his hand.
Maulana Mohammad Ilyas had been born with a loving heart. Such a strong
attachment did he develop for Maulana Gangohi that he felt no peace without him.
He would, often, get up in the night, go and see the Maulana's face, and return
to his bed. Maulana Gangohi, too, had a great affection for him. once, Maulana
Mohammad Ilyas told his brother of severe headache after which he could not bend
his head even to the extent of performing the Sajdah on a pillow for months.
Maulana Gangohi son, Hakim Masud Ahmad, who was his physician, had a peculiar
method of treatment. In certain diseases, he forbade the use of water for a long
time which was :unbearable to most of the patients. But with the strength of
mind that was so characteristic of him, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas abided strictly
by the advice of his physician and abstained from drinking water for full seven
years, and, during the next five years, he drank it only sparingly.
There was little hope that he would be to resume his education after the
discontinuation owing to illness. He was very keen to take it up again, but his
well-wishers would not allow. One day, as Maulana Mohammad Yahya said to him
what he would, in any case, do by studying, he retorted, "What will I do by
living?" Ultimately, he succeeded in resuming his studies.
The death of Maulana Gangohi occurred in 1905. Maulana Mohammed Ilyas who was at
his bedside during the dying moments and reciting the Sura of Ya-Sin, was so
deeply affected by it that he used, often, to say, "Two shocks have been most
painful to me. One was of the death of my father, and the other, of the death of
Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. " In 1908, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas went to Deoband
where he studied Tirmizi and Sahih Bukhari from Maulana Mahmood Hasan. The
latter advised him to approach Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri for spiritual
guidance and instruction, since his mentor, Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, was
no more, and, thus, he completed the various stages of Sulook under Maulana
Absorption in prayers
During his stay at Gangoh, after the death of Maulana Gangohi, Maulana Mohammad
Ilyas, generally, remained silent and spent most of his time in meditation. Says
Maulana Mohammad Zakaria, "We read elementary Persian from him those days. His
practice, then, was that he sat cross legged, and in utter silence, on a coarse
mat behind the tomb of Shah Abdul Quddus. We presented ourselves for the lesson,
opened the book, and placed it before him, indicating with the finger where we
were to begin from on that day. We would read aloud and translate the Persian
verses. When we made a mistake, he would shut the book with a movement of the
finger, and the lesson came to an end. It meant that we were to go back, prepare
the lesson thoroughly, and, then, come again . . . ................. He used to
offer Nafl prayers much and often at that time. From Maghrib till a little
before Isha, he devoted himself exclusively to Nawafil. His age, then, was
between 20 and 25 years.
Ardor and eagerness
Ardor and eagerness, without which no real success is possible in any field,
were deeply rooted in him. It was by sheer determination and earnestness that he
accomplished what he did in spite of persistent ill-health. One day, during his
last illness, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas related that "once I was so ill and feeling
so weak that I could not go down the stairs. All of a sudden, I heard that
Maulana Saharanpuri had come to Delhi and I was so excited that I left for Delhi
immediately on foot and forgot all about my illness and exhaustion. It was in
the way that I remembered I was sick.
Contact with other spiritual mentors
Regular contact with other spiritual mentors and disciples of Maulana Gangohi
was maintained during those days. About Shah Abdur Rahim Raipuri and Maulana
Ashraf Ali Thanwi he used to say that they abided in his heart. They, too, had a
great regard and affection for him owing to his extraordinary qualities.
Spirit of Jehad
Together with Zikr, Saga (spiritual exercises and exertions) Nawafil and Ibadaat,
Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was, also, infused with the spirit of Jehad. Throughout
his life, he was never without it, and had, in fact, taken the pledge of Jehad
at the hand of Maulana Mahmood Hasan for that very reason.
Estimation in the eyes of elders
From his early days, he was held in the highest esteem by the elders of the
family as well as the spiritual leaders of the day. Maulana Mohammad Yahya was
like a father to him, yet the former's attitude towards his younger brother was
like that of the sacred Prophet towards Hazrat Usman Indifferent health
prevented him from taking part in duties involving physical labor. He
concentrated wholly on his studies, and on Zikr, and other forms of worship.
Maulana Mohammad Yahya, on the contrary, was a very industrious person. He owned
a bookshop which he managed with great care. It was not only his source of
livelihood, but of his brothers as well. One day, the manager of the shop said
that Maulana Mohammad Ilyas did not take any interest in the business which was
not good for him, too, benefited from it. When Maulana Mohammad Yahya heard of
it, he was very angry and remarked that "a Tradition has it that the sustenance
that reaches you and the help you receive from the Lord is due to the
blessedness of the weaker ones among you. I believe that I am receiving my
sustenance owing to the good fortune of this child. Nothing should be said to
him in future. If there is anything to say, it should be said to me.
Sometimes, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was asked to lead the service in the presence
of renowned theologians and spiritual leaders. Once Shah Abdur Rahim Raipuri,
Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi happened to be in
Kandhla. When the time for Salaat came and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was asked to
lead it, a senior member of the family, Molvi Badrul Hasan, humorously remarked
that "such a small engine has been fastened to so many big carriages." "It
depends on the power (not the size of the engine", replied one of them.
Career with a teacher in Mazaahirul Uloom
In 1910, a large number of men, including most of the senior teachers of the
Madrassa of Mazaahirul Uloom, left for the Haj from Saharanpur. It necessitated
the recruitment of new teachers for the Madrassa, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas being
one of them. He was given the secondary books to teach. On the return of the
senior teachers from the Pilgrimage, all the new entrants were relieved of their
duties, but the services of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas were retained.
At Mazaahirul Uloom, the Maulana had to teach some books which he had not read
himself as, in Maulana Mohammad Yahya's scheme of instruction, it was not
customary to complete the books, and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, further, had to
miss some secondary books owing to ill-health. During his teaching days, he
tried hard to make up for the deficiency and prepared his lectures carefully.
For instance, for teaching Kinzul Daqa'iq, he studied Bahr-ur-Ra'iq, Shaami and
Hadaya, and consulted even Hisami's notes and comments when he taught Nurul
The Maulana married the daughter of his maternal uncle, Maulana Rauful Hasans on
Friday, October 17, 1912 was performed by Maulana Mohammad, and Maulana Khalil
Ahmad Saharanpuri, Shah Abdur Rahim Raipuri an Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, all
the three of them, attended the ceremony. Maulana Thanwi's celebrated sermon,
Fuwayid us Suhbat, which has subsequently been published times without number,
was delivered on that occasion.
In 1915, Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri and Maulana Mahmood Hasan, decided lo
go on the Haj Pilgrimage. When Maulana Mohammad Ilyas came to know of it, he was
strongly seized with the desire to perform the Haj. He felt that it would become
dark and gloomy in India with their departure and he would not be able to live
in Saharanpur any more. But there was the question of permission. As his sister,
the wife of Molvi Ikrarnul Hasan, saw his distress, she offered her ornaments to
meet the expenses of the Pilgrimage. Contrary to expectations, the Maulana's
mother gave her consent. after which Maulana Mohammad Yahya, also, agreed. The
Maulana, then, wrote to Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri asking for his
permission, and explained that as far as she wherewithal for the journey was
concerned, three courses were open to him. He could take his sister's ornaments
or borrow the amount or accept the offers of money made by certain relatives.
Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri preferred the third course. Maulana Mohammad
Ilyas was fortunate enough to travel by the same boat as Maulana Khalil Ahmad
Saharanpuri. He sailed in August, 1914 , and returned in February, 1915, to
resume the teaching at the Madrassa.
Death of Maulana Mohammad Yahya
The death of Maulana Mohammad Yahya, on Wednesday, the 9th of August, 1915, was
an extremely sad and frustrating event for the Maulana. In addition to being a
most affectionate brother, he was, also, his teacher and benefactor. He could
not get over the shock till the end of his days. He used to get lost in thought
and a peculiar kind of abstraction took possession of him when he talked about
Stay at Nizamuddin
Two years after the death of Maulana Mohammad Yahya, the eldest brother of
Maulana Mohamad Ilyas, Maulana Mohammad, also, passed away. He was a man of
angelic disposition and an embodiment of affection, piety and humility. He loved
solitude and cared little for worldly comforts. He lived in Bangle Wali Masjid,
at Nizamuddin, in the place of his late father. There was a Madrassa in the
mosque which had been founded by Maulana Mohammad Ismail. Only primary education
was imparted in it, and, among its pupils were mostly the children from Mewat.
It had no regular source of income and reliance was placed solely upon God for
meeting its needs.
Many people of Delhi and Mewat were devoted to Maulana Mohammad and had
benefited from his guidance. His face had the radiance of spirituality. He,
often, gave the sermon, but in an informal, conversational way. He remained
seated during it, and, generally, read out the Traditions on good morals and
Zuhd, ( Islamic asceticism ) and explained their meaning in a simple language.
Once Maulana Mohammad developed a boil under an eye which had to be opened seven
times. The doctors insisted on administering the anesthetic but he refused to
take it and lay motionless throughout the operation. The surgeon, afterwards,
said, that he had not seen the like of it in his life.
Maulana Mohammad spent most of his time in prayer and meditation. During the 16
years before his death, he did not miss the Tahajjud( before dawn prayer )
prayers even once, and breathed his last while performing the Sajda in the Namaz
Maulana Mohammad Ilyas had route to Delhi to look after his sick brother and was
staying with him in the Nawab Wali Masjid of Qassab Pura. It was there that
Maulana Mohammad died and the burial took place at Nizamuddin. Thousands of men
attended the funeral.
After the burial, people urged upon Maulana Muhammad Ilyas to take up residence
at Nizamuddin in order to fill the void caused by the death of his father and
brother. They, also, promised monthly donations for the Madrassa to which the
Maulana agreed subject to certain conditions which he observed throughout his
Maulana Mohammad Ilyas had made it clear that he would come to Nizamuddin and
take charge of the Madrassa only if Maulana Khaiil Ahmad Saharanpuri approved.
Upon it, several persons offered to go to Saharanpur to obtain the permission,
but Maulana Mohammad Ilyas checked them saying that it was not the way to do it.
He would go himself, unaccompanied by anyone.
The Maulana, thus, went to Saharanpur and explained the whole thing to Maulana
Khalil Ahmad. The latter gave his approval, but added that, in the first
instance, only a year’s Ieave be taken from Mazaahirul Uloom and if the stay at
Nizamuddin proved useful and it was decided to settle down there permanently, he
could resign at any time.
But before Maulana. Muhammad Ilyas could move to Nizamuddin, he was suddenly
taken ill with pleurisy and went to Kandhla where his condition worsened. One
night his illness took such a grave turn that all hope was lost. The pulse sank
and the body became cold, but God had to take some work from him. unexpectedly,
he began to improve, and, in a few days, was able to leave the bed.
On regaining health, Maulana came to Nizamuddin from Kandhla. In those days,
there was no habitation in that part of Nizamuddin, and, adjoining the mosque,
there was a thick growth of trees and underbrush. Maulana Ihtishamul Hasan who,
in his childhood, had come to live, for sometime, with Maulana Mohammad Ilyas
tells that “I used to go out and stand in the hope of seeing ‘a human face. When
anyone appeared, I felt so happy as if someone had given me a precious gift.”
A small pucca (built of bricks) mosque, a shed, a living apartment, a small
settlement of the attendants of the tomb to the south of it, and a few Mewati
and non-Mewati students that as all that formed the world of the mosque and the
The resources of the Madrassa were so meager that, some times, they had to
starve, but. the Maulana bore it all with a cheerful heart. Occasionally, be
would say plainly, that there was nothing to eat. Whoever wanted to stay’ might
stay and whoever wanted to go might go and make his arrangement elsewhere. The
moral and spiritual training the students were receiving, however, was such that
none of them. was willing to leave. Often, they would live on wild fruits. The
scholars themselves brought wood from the forest to prepare the chappati (flat
bread) which they ate with chutney (pickle) The extreme poverty made no
impression on the Maulana. What worried him was the prospect of abundance and
prosperity which, he was sure, was going to open up, according to the practice
of the Lord, after the phase of trial and tribulation.
The outward appearance of the Madrassa held no interest for the Maulana. He was
supremely unconcerned with it. Once, during his absence, some residential
quarters were built for its staff through the efforts of Haji Abdur Rahman, an
old friend of his and an ex-student of the Madrassa, which made the Maulana so
angry that he did not speak to him for a long time. The Maulana remarked that
the real thing was education, and, referring to a certain Madrassa, said that
its building had become pucca, but the standard of education had gone down.
Once a prominent merchant of Delhi begged the Maulana to supplicate to the Lord
for him in a very important matter, and presented him a purse. The Maulana
agreed to pray on his behalf, but declined to accept the’ money. Haji Abdur
Rahman, however, took it in view of the chronic financial difficulties of the
Madrassa, but the Maulana had no peace until he had it returned. He used to
impress upon Haji Abdur Rahrnan that the work of faith was not carried out with
motley, otherwise much wealth would have been granted to the holy Prophet
Maulana Mohamrnad Ilyas, exclusively, kept himself occupied with prayers and
other spiritual exertions in those days. He had inherited the inclination for it
from his ancestors which blossomed up during the stay at Nizamuddin. He sought
solitude and carried out vigorous exercises for the purification of the soul.
According to Haji Abdur Rahman, the Maulana remained in seclusion for long hours
at the gate of Arab Sara which was the favorite place of worship of Hazrat
Nizmuddin Aulia, and was situated to he north of Humayun’s tomb. near the
mausoleum of Abdur Rahim Khan Khana and the grave of Syed Nur Mohammad Badaynni,
the spiritual mentor of Mazhar jan-i-Janan. Usually, his mid-day meal was sent
there while the evening meal he took at home, He offered the five daily prayers
in congregation. Haji Abdur Rahman and his fellow students used to go to the
gate to form the congregation, and for their lessons, they, sometimes, went
there, and, some times, the Maulana himself came to Chukkar Wali Masjid.
The Maulana performed the Wuzu (abulation) and offered two Rak’ats of Namaz
before commencing the lesson of the Traditions, and remarked that the claim of
the Traditions was even greater. He did not talk to anyone, however important,
while teaching the Traditions, nor ever complained if the meal came late from
Nizamuddin, nor found fault with food.
Interest in teaching
The Maulana took keen interest in his pupils and personally taught all the
subjects, elementary as well as advanced. Sometimes, he had as many as eighty
students directly under his instruction, and took the class of
Mustadrak_i_Haakim before Fajr.
The main emphasis in his method of teaching was on the application of mind. He
wanted the students to come thoroughly prepared. The Maulana did not follow the
general syllabus of the Madrassas in the selection of books and many books that
were but prescribed in the other Madrassas were taught at Nizamuddin He thought
of new ways to stimulate the students and develop the faculties of imagination
and understanding in them.
Beginnings of the movement of Religious
Reform in Meewat
The area to the south of Delhi where the Meos have been settled from the olden
days is called Mewat, Presently, it includes the Gurgaon district of the Punjab,
the native states of Alwar and Bharatpur and the district of Mathura of the
United Provinces. Like all other regions, its boundaries, too, have been
changing from time to time and the dimensions of the old Mewat must have been
different from what they are now.
The English historians hold that the Meos do not come from the Aryan stock, but
are related to the non-Aryan races of ancient India. Their history, thus, dates
far back than that of the Rajput families of Aryan blood. According to them, the
Khanzadas (lowest order of Mughal nobility) of Mewat, however, belong to the
same ethnic group as the Rajputs, and, in the Persian history books, wherever
the word ‘Mewati’ occurs, it denotes the very Khanzadas. We, further, learn from
Ain-i-Akbari that the Jatau Rajputs came to be known as Mewatis on embracing
In the annals of Firoz Shahi dynasty, Mewat is mentioned, for the first time, in
the memoirs of Shamsuddin Al-timash. The Mewatis had become very troublesome
during the early days of the Muslim Kingdom of Delhi. Aided by the long range of
thick forests that extended up to Delhi, they used to raid it frequently and had
become such a terror that the gates of the capital were shut at sunset. Still,
they managed to enter the town in the night in search of plunder. Ghayasuddin
Balban, thereupon, dispatched a strong military force against the Mewatis,
killing a large number of them. Outposts manned by the Afghan soldiers were set
up in Delhi, the surrounding forests were cut down and the land was brought
under cultivation. Mewat, thereafter, remained in oblivion for about a hundred
After the long lull, the Mewati adventuress, again, became active and started
harassing the people of Delhi which forced the authorities to take punitive
action against them from time to time. The names of Bahadur Nahir and his
successors are, particularly, mentioned in the chronicles in this connection.
They succeeded in establishing the Kingdom of Mewat which was, later, reduced to
a Jagir (a feudal estate) by the rulers of Delhi.
Another prominent Mewatis was Lakhan Pal who brought the whole of Mewat and its
outlying territory under his domination. He embraced Islam during die reign of
Moral and religious condition
Owing to the negligence of the Muslims religious teachers, the moral arid
religious condition of the Mewatis had sunk so low that there was little to
distinguish between their beliefs and practices and wholesale apostasy. Even
non-Muslim historians have commented at length on their estrangement with Islam,
as the following extract from the Alwar Gazetteer of 1878, written by Major
Powlett, will show:
“All the Meos are, now, Muslims, but only in name. Their village deities are the
same as those of the Hindu landlords, and they celebrate several Hindu
festivals. Holi is a season of special rejoicing among the Mewatis and they
observe it like their own festivals, such as, Moharrum, ‘Id and Shab-i-Barat.
The same is the case with Janam Ashtami, Dussehra and Diwali, The Meos engage
the services of the Brahmins to fix the dates of marriages. They have Hindu
names, with the exception of the word ‘Ram’, and their last name, often, is
‘Singh’, though not as frequently as ‘Khan’. Like Ahirs and Gujars, the Mewatis,
too, observe Amawas as a holiday on which they abstain from work. When they
build a well, they begin with the construction of a parapet in the name of
Beeriyi or Hanuman, but when it comes to pillage, they do not show much
reverence to the Hindu temples and other places of religious significance. If,
on such an occasion, their attention is drawn to the sanctity of these
establishments, they, unhesitatingly, says, ‘You are "Does" and we are "Meos".’
Meos are, largely, ignorant of their faith, i. e., Islam. Very few of them know
the Kalima,’ and fewer still observe Namaz regularly. About the hours and rules
of namaz, their ignorance is complete. This is the state of the Meos of Alwar.
In the British territory of Gurgaon, the position is a little better because of
the Madrassas. In some parts of Alwar, also, where the mosques have been built,
the religious duties are observed to some extent. A few of them know the Kalima
and offer up namaz and an attachment for the Madrassas, also, is found among
them. As we have seen earlier, the initial ceremonies of marriage are performed
by the Brahmins, but the real ceremony (of nikah) is performed by the Qazi. Men
wear dhoti and loin-cloth. The pajamas are not worn at all. Their dress, thus,
is wholly Hinduised. Even ornaments of gold are worn by men.”
At another place, Major Powlett writes:
“The Meos are half-Hindu by their habits. Mosques are rarely to be seen in their
villages. There are only eight mosques in the fifty villages of the tehsil of
Tijarah. Leaving aside the temples, the places of worship of the Meos are very
much similar to those of their Hindu neighbors. These are known, for instance as
Paanch Peera, Bhaisa and Chahand Chahand or Khera Deo is consecrated to the
service of Maha Davi where animals are offered as a sacrifice. In Shah-i-Barat,
the banner of Syed Salar Masud Ghazi is worishipped in all Meo villages.”
Similarly, ii the Gazetteer of Gtrgaon (1910), it is stated that ‘‘the Meos,
still, are a very loose and careless type of Muslims. They share most of tile
customs of the neighboring community specially those which possess an element of
fun and merriment . Their basic rule seems to be to observe the religious
celebrations of both the communities and disregard the religious duties of
either. Lately, some religious teachers have appeared in Mewat and a few Meos
have started to keep the fasts of Ramzan and to build mosques in their villages
and observe namaz. Their women, too, have taken to wearing Pyjamas instead of
the Hindu Chagras. All these are the signs of religious awakening.”
The Gazetteer of Bharatpur, again, says:
“The customs of Meos are a mixture of Hindu and Muslim customs. They observe
circumcision, perform nikah and bury their dead. They make a pilgrimage to the
tomb of Syed Salar Masud Giiazj at Bahraich, and attach a great importance to
the vow taken under his banner, and consider it a religious duty to fulfill it.
They, also, visit the other shrines of India, but do not perform the Hajj. Among
the Hindu festivals, they celebrate Holi antI Diwali. They do not marry in the
family or in their own branch or subdivision of the clan, girls do not have a
share in ancestral property, and they give mixed Hindu and Muslim names to their
children. They are, wholly, illiterate and have a fair number of bards and
minstrels among them whom they pay liberally. Many quatrains on the themes of
agriculture and rural life are popular which they love to recite. Their speech
is rough arid coarse, and the manner of addressing both men and women is the
same. Intoxicants are widely in use. They are extremely weak of faith and highly
superstitious, and believe in omens and auguries. Both male and female dresses
are Hinduised. In the olden days, infanticide was prevalent, but now it has been
given up. Highway robbery and pillage had been’ their traditional profession,
but they have been reformed lately. They. however, are still notorious ifor
All the same, the Meos are distinguished for some excellent moral qualities and
their vices and weaknesses are in the nature of the evil ways and practices that
become a part of the moral and social pattern of brave and adventurous races as
a result of want of education, isolation from the civilized world and
indifference towards religion. These were rampant even among the Arabs during
the Age of Ignorance. Natural talents and capabilities had taken a wrong turn
owing to the perversity of the environment. Chivalry had degenerated into
banditry, manliness had found expression in mutual warfare and bloodshed, sense
of pride and self-respect, with no better purpose to serve, had sought
fulfillment in the defense of imaginary standards of honor and renown, and high
mindedness, for its display, had adopted the path of pomp and flourish on petty
occasions in the family or clan. In brief, God-given gifts of mind and character
were being put to unworthy use, otherwise there was no dearth of virtue and
merit among the Meos,
Rugged simplicity, hardihood and firmness of purpose were the chief
characteristics of the Mewatis in which they were far superior to the urban
Muslim population. It was on account of these qualities that in spite of having
drifted so far away from Islam, the floodtide of Apostasy could not submerge the
territory of Mewat even in the darkest period of its history.
For centuries the Maos had been living within the shell of their ignorance
keeping by themselves and isolated from the outside world. A parallel can
scarcely he found in the Indian history of a community so large and living in
such a close proximity to the central seat of power and yet remaining so obscure
and isolated. An advantage of it, however, was that the energies of the Mewatis,
on the whole, remained conserved, the soil remained virgin while the deplorable
habits and customs and superstitious belief and practices were, so to speak,
like the weeds and scrubs growing on an uncultivated land. The Meos, in the 20th
Century, were very much like the Arabs in the Age of Perversion
As we have seen, contact with the Mewatis was established during the lifetime of
Maulana Mohammad lsmail. It was not a chance occurrence, but an act of destiny
that Maulana Mohammad Ismail came to live in Basti Nizamuddin which was the
gateway of Mewat, and much before the arrival of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, seeds
of loyalty and devotion of his. family had been sown on its soil.
When the followers of Maulana Mohammad Ismail and Maulana Mohammad came to know
that their true successor, the son of Maulana Mohammad Ismail and the brother of
Maulana Mohammad had come to live at Nizamuddin they, again, started coming to
it and requested Maulana Mohammad Ilyas for a visit so that the old suppliants
of his family had an opportunity to renew the ties of fealty and spiritual
Maulana Mohammad Ilyas felt that the only Way to the religious reform and
correction of the Mewatis was promotion of religious knowledge and
familiarization with the rules and principles of the Shariat.
Maulana Mohammad ismail, and, after him, Maulana Mohammad had adopted the same
method. They used to keep the Mewati children with them and educate them in
their Madrassa, and, then, send them back to Mewat to carry on the work of
reform and guidance, and what little religious awareness was found there was
owing to the efforts of these pioneers.
Maulana Mohammad Ilyas went a step ahead and decided to establish Maktabs and
Madrassas in Mewat itself so that the influence of Faith could spread to a wider
area and the pace of change was accelerated.
The Maulana knew what was, commonly, meant by inviting a spirtua! mentor or his
successor to their place by his disciples and admirers, and he was not willing
to go to Mewat only to fulfill the formalities of attending the dinner given in
his honor delivering a few sermons and giving good counsel. He wanted to make
sure before undertaking the trip, that some real advance would be made, as a
result of his visit, towards bringing the Meos closer to Islam and improving
their moral condition, arid, during those days, the setting up of Maktabs and
Madrassas in Mewat appeared to him to be the most effective step in that
direction. H had, thus, made it clear that he would accept the invitation only
on the condition that they promised to establish Maktabs in their territory.
For the Mewatis, however, no undertaking could be harder to give. They
considered the establishment of Maktabs next to impossible for the simple reason
that no one would be sending his children to them, and, thus, depriving himself
of their contribution to the family income as daily wage-earners. The enthusiasm
of those who came to invite quickly subsided as they heard of the stipulation.
In desperation, however, a Mewati, finally, made the promise, leaving the rest
Establishment of Maktabs
Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, accordingly, went to Mewat and demanded the fulfillment
of the promise. After great persuasion, the beginning was made and the first
Maktab was established.
The Maulana used to tell the Mawatis, “Give me the pupils, I will provide the
money.” The Meos who were, mainly, farmers, could not easily reconcile
themselves to the position that their children applied themselves to reading and
writing and stopped working in the fields or looking after the cattle. It took a
lot of tact and perseverance to bring them round to it.
Ten Maktabs were opened during that visit. Once the ice was broken, the progress
was easy. Sometimes, several Maktabs were opened in a day till, within a few
years, hundreds of such schools were functioning in Mewat.
The Maulana had not undertaken the service of Faith as a “national cause”, the
burden of providing the funds for which fell wholly upon the nation or the
community, but as a personal affair and felt no hesitation in spending all he
had on it. He believed that a person should perform a religious task as his own
and expend his time and money freely in its way.
Once a person presented a purse to him with the request that he used it,
exclusively, for his own needs. The Maulana replied, “If we do not regard
Allah’s work our own, how can we claim to be His bondmen ?“ With a sigh, he
added, “Alas! We are not the just appreciators of the sacred Prophet. We do not
know his true worth.”
This was the Maulana’s rule of life. First of all, he spent from his own pocket
on the religious endeavor he had launched in Mewat, and, then, alone, would
accept help from others.
Due to Maulana Mohammad Ilyas (RA)'s sincerity and hard work the work of
Tableegh began to spread and Jamaats started to visit all parts of the
sub-continent within his life time. Hazrat Maulana Syed Suleiman Nadwi (RA)
remarks, " Hazrat Maulana Mohammad Ilyas (RA) with his simplicity and dedication
to the correct principles of Dawat (invitation) quietly turned the Mewatees into
sincere and pious Muslims over a twenty five years and made them the envy of
even the Muslims belonging to traditional religious families.
His hard word bore fruit in his life and he raised thousands of dedicated
Muslims who continued on the path of Dawat even after his passing away.
Finally the humble, physically weak and thin Maulana passed away in 1324 Hijra
leaving behind not one or two but thousands to take up his cause and continue on
the path of reformation.
Source: Taken (with Thanks) from As-Sidq.org