Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Al-Kandhlawi was born on 25
Jumada I, 1335 H, corresponding to 20 March 1917 at Kandahla in India.
His family was well-known for its Islamic scholarship and total
devotion. His father, Sheikh Muhammad Ilyas Al-Kandhlawi (d. 1943),
played an important role in the reform movement led by two scholars,
Ahmad ibn Irfan and Muhammad Ismaeel, both of whom were to be martyrs.
The reform movement aimed to remove all deviation from people’s beliefs
and return them to the pure Islamic faith. Several scholars in his
family studied under Sheikh Abd Al-Azeez ibn Ahmad ibn Abd Al-Raheem Al-Dahlawi,
a highly reputable scholar of Hadith. Indeed the family produced a long
line of famous scholars who were devoted to the study of Hadith and Fiqh,
as well as other Islamic studies.
Maulana Muhammad Yusuf son of Maulana Muhammad Ilyas son of Maulana
Muhammad Ismail son of Shaikh Ghulam Hussein son of Hakim Karim Baksh
son of Hakeem Ghulam Mohi-uddin son of Maulana Muhammad Sajid son of
Maulana Muhammad Faiz son of Maulana Hakeem Muhammad Sharif son of
Maulana Hakim Muhammad Ashraf son of Shaikh Jamal Muhammad Shah son of
Shaikh Noor Muhammad son of Shaikh Baha-uddin Shah son of Maulana Shaikh
Muhammad son of Shaikh Muhammad Fazil son of Shaikh Qutb Shah.
His mother daughter of Maulvi Rauful Hasan son of Maulana Zia-ul-Hasan
son of Maulana Noorul Hasan son of Maulana Abul Hasan son of Mufti Ilahi
Baksh son of Maulana Shaikhul Islam son of Hakim Qutbuddin son of Hakim
Abdul Qadir son of Maulana Hakeem Muhammad Sharif son of Maulana Hakim
Muhammad Ashraf son of Shaikh Jamal Muhammad Shah son of Shaikh Noor
Muhammad son of Shaikh Baha-uddin Shah son of Maulana Shaikh Muhammad
son of Shaikh Muhammad Fazil son of Shaikh Qutb Shah
The paternal and maternal families of Maulana Yusuf Saheb come together
in Hakeem Muhammad Sharif. Then the family traces their lineage back to
Ameerul Mumineen Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq (Radhi Allahu Anhu). These two
families were residing in the villages of Kandhala and Jinhjana. They
were famous for their religiousness, knowledge and piety.
Childhood & Early Education:
Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Saheb was born in such an environment in which
the attainment of piety was the purpose of one and all. The whole family
was ingrained with spirituality and nearness to Allah. It was a family
of Scholars, Huffaz, and Soofia. Memorizing the Quran had been the
common practice of all men and women of this noble family. The women of
the house used to keep themselves busy in the recitation of the Quran,
optional prayer, studying of religious books and rememberance of Allah.
Inside the family, there were numerous renowned scholars.
Scholars such as Maulana Muhammad Saheb, Maulana Muhammad Yahya, Maulana
Muhammad Ilyas, Maulana Muhammad Ihtishamul Hasan, Maulana Muhammad
Zakariyyah were all members of this outstanding family in which Maulana
Yusuf Saheb was nurtured in.
As a young boy, Muhammad Yusuf Al-Kandhlawi showed
very early promise. Indeed, he completed the memorization of the Qur’an
when he was only 10 years of age. He then completed his primary
education and studied Hadith, starting with the six main authentic
collections, under his father. He then undertook a more specialized
study of Hadith under the distinguished scholars of Mazahir Al-Uloom, a
specialized school which placed particular emphasis on the study of
Hadith, and trained its students in the art of Islamic advocacy. During
his attendance at this school he particularly benefited from studying
under his cousin, Sheikh Muhammad Zakariya Al-Kandhlawi, one of the top
scholars of Hadith in the Muslim world in the twentieth century. He
graduated from this school at the age of 20, in 1355 H.
“The lap of the mother is the child’s first madrassa (school).” This
saying is very true, training of the children at home forms the
foundation of their beliefs, character and personality. The training and
education Maulana Yusuf Saheb had at home was similar to that of the
training the Muslim women in the time of Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) used to
give to their children. Each women of that household was ready to give
her son for the work of Rasulullah (SAW). The stories of the companions
of Rasulullah (SAW) had replaced the fairy tales in those homes. The
lesson of the heroic freedom movement of Maulana Syed Ahmed Shaheed and
Shah Ismail Shaheed had become so common in those homes, that when
Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi wrote the detailed biography of Hazrat Syed
Ahmed Shaheed, Maulana Ilyas Saheb did not find anything new in that
Maulana Yusuf Saheb memorized the Quran at the age of ten from Hafiz
Imam Khan Mewati. It was a blessing and a bounty of Allah on Maulana
Yusuf Saheb that right from the very beginning the elders of that time
had great concern and interest in him. Maulana Syed Ahmed Saheb
Faizabadi, the elder brother of Hazrat Maulana Syed Hussein Ahmed Madni,
sent an honorary degree to Maulana Yusuf Saheb commemorating his
memorization of the Quran.
Hazrat Maulana Khaleel Ahmed Saheb Saharanpuri, who is the Khalifah of
Hazrat Maulana Rashid Ahmed Gangohi and the Sheikh of Hazrat Maulana
Ilyas Saheb and Maulana Zakariyya Saheb had great affection for the
young Maulana Yusuf Saheb. Although, Maulana Yusuf Saheb was about ten
years at the time of Hazrat Saharanpuri’s death, they had still shared
tremendous love. Maulana Yusuf Saheb would call Hazrat Saharanpuri as
“abba” (father in Urdu). Once, Maulana Yusuf Saheb rejected eating the
bread cooked by the servant of Hazrat Saharanpuri and insisted on eating
bread baked by Hazrat Saharanpuri himself. Hazrat Saharanpuri then went
in the kitchen and cooked the bread with his own hands and fed Maulana
Yusuf with his own hands as well.
Dedication to Tableegh & Arabs:
It was his father, Sheikh Muhammad Ilyas Al-Kandhlawi,
who established an organization dedicated to Islamic advocacy. Its
members devote a good portion of their time to travel and educating
Muslim people in their faith, trying also to explain Islam to others.
This organization is well known as Tableegh, or Jama’at Al-Tableegh,
with members in many countries of the world. An important aspect of this
organization is that it does not concern itself with politics in any
way. It is dedicated to Islamic propagation and advocacy.
Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Al-Kandhlawi began his scholarly career in
teaching and writing. However, after consulting several scholars and
figures of the Tableegh, his father entrusted to him the leadership of
Tableegh as he sensed his approaching death. Al-Kandhlawi dedicated
himself to this task which practically filled every day of his life. He
traveled all over the Indian Subcontinent giving lectures and speeches
and holding circles advocating a return to the pure faith of Islam,
which should be implemented in people’s life.
Al-Kandhlawi believed that the Arabs must always take the leading role
in Islamic advocacy, because they were the people chosen by God for this
task as He revealed His final message in their language. Hence he was
keen to spread his efforts and the Tableegh work to Arab countries.
He also realized that the best centers to spread this work were Makkah
and Madinah, regularly visited by pilgrims from all over the Muslim
Therefore, he gave particular attention to educating Indian and
Pakistani pilgrims, speaking to them at the ports of Bombay and Karachi,
before embarking on their journey.
He would teach them the proper way of performing their pilgrimage
rituals, and educate them in the need for Islamic advocacy. Thus, he was
able to form groups of advocates from the pilgrims. These groups
undertook the task of speaking to other pilgrims in the Grand Mosques in
Makkah and Madinah. This generated interest among pilgrims of other
countries who approached al-Kandhlawi to send groups to their areas. He
responded to their requests and the Tableegh work began to take roots in
several Arab countries.
Al-Kandhlawi traveled a great deal to promote the Tableegh work of
Islamic advocacy. He made numerous trips to Pakistan where he held
heavily attended functions, which contributed to the Tableegh
organization taking strong roots in that country. His first pilgrimage
was in the company of his father, before he took over the Tableegh. In
his second pilgrimage, undertaken in 1374 H, 1954, in the company of
Sheikh Hussain Ahmad Madani, a famous Hadith scholar, he met many Saudi
scholars and discussed with them the issues and problems of Islamic
advocacy and propagation. He made his final pilgrimage one year before
his death, in 1383, where he held an endless series of meetings with
scholars from all over the Muslim world, and was keen to meet as many
Saudi scholars as possible.
Despite his total dedication to the Tableegh work,
which took much of his time, Al-Kandhlawi was able to write and his
writings reflect his broad knowledge, particularly in Hadith and in the
history of the Prophet and his companions. Two books feature more
prominently among his writings. The first is Amani Al-Ahbar Fi Sharh
Ma’ani Al-Athar, which is an annotation of a major work by Imam Ahmad
Al-Tahawi, a famous Egyptian scholar who lived much earlier. The book is
in four large volumes.
However, his book Hayat Al-Sahabah, which may be translated as The
Prophet’s Companions’ Way of Life, has earned wide acclaim and become
essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the Islamic way of
life or to explain Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims. In this book, Al-Kandhlawi
collects reports mentioned in books of Hadith, history and biographies
about the Prophet himself and his companions.
It highlights the aspects related to Islamic propagation and advocacy.
It thus reflects life at the time of the Prophet’s companions, and shows
their manners, feelings and thoughts in different situations. The book
was published in Arabic in three volumes many times by different
publishers. It has more recently been published, with annotation, in
four large volumes, with two introductions by two highly reputable
scholars, Syed Abu Al-Hasan Ali Nadwi, and Sheikh Abd Al-Fattah Abu
In 1965, Al-Kandhlawi made a long trip to Pakistan,
where he traveled throughout the country, giving a long series of
lectures and speeches, and holding a continuous series of meetings, with
people from all strata of Pakistani society. Although he was not feeling
well at the start of his trip, he continued with his heavy schedule,
paying little attention to his deteriorating condition. On the final day
of his trip, he was scheduled to give a major speech in Lahore, and
although he was too ill to give such a speech, he felt that he could not
let people down.
But the speech took its toll of his health. On finishing it, he was
immediately taken to hospital, but he died on his way there, at the age
of 48. His body was airlifted at night to Delhi, where his funeral was
attended by tens of thousands of mourners. May God shower His mercy on
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