Surprisingly enough, an objective study of Indian Sufi literature shows that many early Indian Islamic figures who were spiritually inclined and influenced by Sufism are mistakenly taken today as the ideologues of India’s Wahhabism. Regrettably, the visionary efforts of great Indian mystics in the search of spiritual enlightenment, human welfare and common goodwill have been concealed from our collective negligence and intellectual stagnation. Those who loudly claim to represent the Sawad-Azam (mainstream Muslims) should be aware of the troubling fact that a large part of the literature of the Indian Sufis has not yet been published and has been in the form of manuscripts for ages. And that is exactly why present-day ignoramuses are misrepresented and even defamed.(1, 2)
The Imam of Ahle Sunnah (Sunni Muslims), Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi (958-1052A.H), one of the leading 11th century Islamic scholars, is one such instance. Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi, an epoch-making personage well-versed in the sciences of Islam and the traditions of Sufism, made historical contributions to the Indian Muslims’ revival and renewal of faith and spiritual guidance. It would be no exaggeration to say that from the beginning of the 11th century until the end of the 13th century, almost all of India’s remarkable works and studies on classical Islamic sciences were the result of Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi’s rigorous intellectual efforts and endeavours. (3)
Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi , whom many eminent historians consider “the pioneer of the Islamic literature in Indian subcontinent”, greatly excelled in the sciences of the Rivayat and Dirayat (narration and critical appreciation) and al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel (criticism and praise) of the Hadiths. He was Shaikh Saifuddin Turk Bukhari’s son, and Hazrat Syed Musa Gilani Quadri’s spiritual devotee (Mureed). He was a source of inspiration for the Muslims of the undivided Indian subcontinent because of his deep association with Sufism and mastery of Islamic sciences, and is now venerated by Sufi lovers, especially in Delhi. The Hajj, a pilgrimage to Makkah in 996H, was undertaken by Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi and stayed there for a few years to learn from the then spiritually inclined Ulema of Haramain Shareefain (Makkah and Madina). He spent much of his time in Hijaz with Shaikh Muttaqi, who mentored him spiritually. He thus excelled under the patronage of the early Sufis of the Hijaz in the Islamic sciences and the practises of Sufism.(4)
Not just a Sufi practitioner, Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi was also an authoritative Islamic scholar, a prolific writer, a Qur’an commentator and a profound critic of the narrations of the Hadith. He wrote 116 books on spirituality, Islamic sciences, and spirituality, imbued with the mystical teachings of Islamic mystics. Among his widely distributed and highly accepted works on Islamic sciences and particularly mysticism are: “Ash’at al-Lam’at (a scholarly critical commentary on the Hadiths of the Mishkat), “Tareekh al-Madina” (classical work on Islamic history), “Madarij an-Nabuwat” (a seminal work on the Prophethood and its attributes), “Akhbar ul Akhyar” (an incredibly comprehensive contribution to documenting the history of South Asian mysticism), “Zad ul Muttaqeen fi Suluk Tariq al Yaqeen” (the spiritual teachings of Shaikh Ali Muttaqi and his disciple Shaikh Abdul Wahhab bin Waliullah Muttaqi, both are Indian mystics who migrated to Makkah) and “Takmeel ul Iman” (a book candidly explaining the crucial Islamic doctrines in particular and the concepts of Ilm ul Kalam or science of theological discourse in general).
Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi also concentrated on the comparison between “knowledge of philosophy” and “understanding of faith” in his writings, while at the same time describing the rational concepts of Ilm ul Kalam. This helped many to take deep scholarly insights into the Sufi doctrines. He also made reconciliation between the Qur’anic injunctions and mystical precepts paramount importance.
Numerous gems of Islamic and mystic literature were also translated into Persian by Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi. For instance, the historical document of mystical discourses “Futuh al Ghaib” (knowledge of the unseen) delivered by Shaikh Muhiyuddin Abdul Qadir Jilani, who founded the Quadria Sufi order, he made into Persian.
Elaborating on the Sufi practice of Zikr-e-Jali (loud mystical chanting), Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi writes:
“Undoubtedly, loud Zikr is permissible. One of the proofs is that Almighty God himself proclaims: ‘Remember God as you used to remember your forefathers'” (Ash’atul Lam’aat, Vol. 2, pg. 278). This is a mystical explanation to the Qur’anic verse: “Then, when you have finished your prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting and lying on your sides”. (Surah an-Nisa: 103)
There is a tradition attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): When the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) uttered the salutations at the end of his prayer, he used to loudly say the words of Kalimah “La Ilaha Illalahu Wahdahu La Sharika Lahu” (Mishkaat, pg. 88). Sufis referred to this portion of the Kalimah as a proof on the beautiful doctrine of Wahdatul Wajud (unity of existence). In his commentary on this prophetic tradition, Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi relates: “This Hadith is a categorical proof that Prophet (peace be upon him) used to perform the Zikr-e-Jali”. (Ash’atul Lam’aat, Vol. 1, pg. 419)
Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi also received one, as Sufi mystics have hearts filled with the deepest love for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) after Almighty Allah. From his beautiful way of devotion to God, which he explains in his own words, he can measure his inseparable spiritual connection to the Prophet ( pbuh). He also invoked Allah in his prayers, saying: “O Lord! I do not have any such deeds that I can offer in your mighty court. I remained prone to sins and misdeeds all my life. However, this humble servant has an act of virtue that can be offered to you in order to seek your mercy. That is; my salutations on your beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) that I regularly offer with honesty and integrity in standing position, in the blessed gatherings of Meelad celebration.” (Akhbar ul Akhyaar, Page: 644)
This is considerable and irrefutable proof that Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi supported the Sufi tradition of celebrating the birthday of the Prophet, known in the Indian subcontinent as Meelad, and in other parts of the Muslim world as Mawlid. Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi penned down several pages in a number of his mystical books in support of this Sufi practice. He writes, for instance, in his book titled ‘Ma Sabata Min as-Sunnah’ on the authenticated prophetic traditions: “Muslims have always celebrated Meelad functions in the month of Rabi ul Awwal. They always gave charities in the days and nights of this month and expressed their gratitude and great gusto. This is a common practice of Muslims that they observe with the special mention of the glorious incidents related to the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).” (Ma Sabata Min as-Sunnah, Page 82, Published by Qaiyyumi Press, Kanpur, August 1923)
Referring to the night of the birth of the Holy Prophet, he further elaborates: “I would rather say that the night when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was born is certainly superior to Lailat-ul-Qadr (the night of power when the Qur’anic revelations commenced). For the night of his birth is the blessed night when his presence was manifested in this world and Lailat -ul Qadr is a night that was bestowed upon him as a gift. So, the night which has the blessings of the Prophet’s birth is definitely more blessed than the night which is blessed because angels descend on it. Moreover, Lailat-ul-Qadr is a blessing only for the Ummat-e-Muhammadi (community of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) but the night of his birth is a blessing for all human beings (irrespective of faith and creed), because the Prophet (pbuh) was sent down as a mercy to all the worlds. And it is through him that God completed His blessings on all His creations both in heavens and the earth.” (5)
Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi has beautifully enumerated the incident of Abu Lahab’s relief in setting free his female slave Thuwaibha in his assertion to validate the practice of the Meelad celebration, which gave him the happy news of the birth of the Prophet. He dwells on it: “This incident is a clear proof in support of those who celebrate Meelad by rejoicing and giving in charity on the night of the holy Prophet’s birth (peace be upon him). On the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal, People of Makkah (in Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi’s time) assemble at the house in which the Prophet (pbuh) was born. Because the Prophet was his nephew, Abu Lahab set Suabia free and, thus, he received the benefits of rejoicing in his grave every Monday, in spite being an disbeliever. Imagine how much more blessing will be shown to those who believe the Prophet (pbuh) as God’s beloved and His true messenger, and frequently celebrate the Meelad.” (Madarijun Nabuwwat, Vol. 2, Page: 34, Ziaul Quran Publication, also in Madarijun Nabuwwat, Vol. 2, Page: 14/19) (6)
Shah Abdul Haque Dehlvi met his lord on the 21st of Rabi-ul-Awal, 1052 AH (1642 C.E) at the age of 94. It was the era of Shahjahan’s rule in India. In the famous area of Mehrauli in Delhi, his shrine is located. In the centre is the main mausoleum, surrounded by the tombs of many Sufi mystics buried there.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, Jamia Amjadia Rizvia (Mau, U.P.), acquired Diploma in Qur’anic Arabic from Al-Jamiat ul Islamia, Faizabad, U.P., and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies, Badaun, U.P. He has also graduated in Arabic (Hons) and is pursuing his M. A. in Comparative Religion from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.