Imam Al-Rabbāni – Hadhrat Ml Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi رحمه اللہ
During every century the world witnessed the advent of such men who kept the correct beliefs, fundamentals and practices of Islam alive. From amongst these great sons of Islam were the Ulamā of Deoband. These personalities did not belong to any sect or particular circle but rather they committed their entire lives in serving the Deen of Allah in every possible way and all possible fields. They are fitting examples to be followed as they followed the teachings of Rasūlullah i and treaded on the footprints his revered companions.
Their every word and action was based on Taqwā and adherence of the Sunnah of our Beloved Rasūl صلى الله عليه و سلم. It is of utmost importance that we acquaint ourselves with their holistic lifestyles as this will make it clear that following the lifestyle of the Sahābah al-Kirām is not impossible. Once whilst depicting the Ulamā of Deoband, Hadhrat Shah ‘Atāullah al-Bukhari رحمه اللہ remarked that it seems that whilst the caravan of the Sahābah al-Kirām were moving on, Allah Ta’ala deliberately left a few individuals behind so that they may serve as paragons of the Sahabah to the Ummah.
The eminent spiritual leader of the past, Hadhrat Junaid Baghdadi رحمه اللہ once remarked that narrating the anecdotes of the pious is from amongst the divine forces of Almighty Allah. Such narrations strengthen the hearts of those seeking the cognizance and love of Allah Ta’ala. Someone asked him if he has any proof to substantiate his statement. He replied in the affirmative and recited the following of the Quran Shareef:
وَكُلًّا نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ الرُّسُلِ مَا نُثَبِّتُ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ
And all that we relate to you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم) of the news of the messengers is in order that we may strengthen your heart.
From amongst these great luminaries of Deoband, in the frontline was Hadhrat Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi Shb رحمه اللہ . Hadhrat Maulana’s birthplace is Gangoh. Gangoh is an old village situated approximately 16 miles from Saharanpur, which has been the birthplace of many a devout Saint (Awliyāh Allah). Maulana Rasheed Ahmad shb رحمه اللہ was born on the sixth of Dhul Qa’dah 1244 A.H.( 10 May 1829) Hadhrat Maulana is of the lineage of Hadhrat Ayyūb Ansari رضي الله عنه .
He obtained his initial education in Gangoh, after which he travelled to Delhi to quench his thirst of knowledge. Together with Hadhrat Ml Qāsim Nānotwi رحمه اللہ he presented himself at the service of Hadhrat Ml Mamlūk Ali shb رحمه اللہ . From thereon, these two illustrious pinnacles of virtue and knowledge remained companions until death (Hadhrat Ml Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi P and Ml Qasim Nanotwi رحمه اللہ were the original visionaries of Darul Uloom Deoband). Ml Rasheed Ahmad shb was so diligent and engrossed in the acquisition of knowledge, that if someone took the food that was placed next to him away, he would not even realize it. Many a times, it so happened that whilst perusing through his books at night, he fell asleep and only in the morning he would realize that he did not partake of his supper which was right next to him. Maulana acquired the science of Hadith under Shah Abdul Ghani Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمه اللہ . At the age of twenty-one, Hadhrat Maulana رحمه اللہ had completed all his academic education and returned home.
FIRST STEP ONTO THE GOLDEN PATH OF SULOOK
On one of his journeys to Tāna-Bhawan he met the great spiritual mentor Haji Imdādullah رحمه اللہ to whom he pledged his allegiance, after which he started the system of Dhikrullah taught by the Mashāikh (spiritual mentors). On the eight day, Haji Imdādullah رحمه اللہ said:
“Mia Rasheed Ahmad, Allah Ta’ala has blessed you with the same bounty which he has blessed me. Now it is your duty to increase it.” After forty-two days he returned home after Haji shb had granted him khilafah. On his return to Gangoh he resuscitated the Khanqah of Shah Abdul Quddūs Gangohi رحمه اللہ which had been desolate for more than three hundred years. He spent day and night in Dhikrullah and the reformation of mankind. Even in old age he would fast during the day and performed twenty units of Awwābin Salāh after Maghrib wherein he would recite two Juz of the Holy Qur’an. He would spend two to three hours in Tahajjud Salāh on a daily basis.
A FEW INSPIRING INCIDENTS FROM HIS LIFE
- Hadhrat Maulana Ashiq-Ilāhi shb رحمه اللہ said that the sincere humility and selflessness which was to be found in Ml Rasheed Ahmad رحمه اللہ was indeed very rare. Hadhrat Ml never addressed any of his attendants as mere servants but he would rather address them as ‘My brothers’ and ‘my beloved friends’.
- Once during a Hadith lesson it started to rain, Hadhrat Maulana and the students were all seated outside in the open. Due to the heavy downpour all the students ran for shelter. In the meanwhile, Hadhrat Maulana gathered the shoes of his students so that they wouldn’t get wet in the rain. All those who witnessed this episode broke down in tears.
- Once during a Hadith lesson, one of the students commented that if Imam Shafi’i رحمه اللہ was alive, he would also follow the Hanafi Madhhab after listening to Hadhrat Ml Rasheed Ahmad shb elucidation in regards to Hadith. When Maulana heard this comment he became very upset and angry. He rebuked the student and said :’ How dare you make such a ludicrous comment, do you think that I would have had the audacity of arguing the academic proofs of the Hanafi and Shafi’i school of thoughts in front of Imam al-Shafi’i if he was alive? If Imam Shb was alive, I would sit like a student in front of him.”
- Once the respected Maulana requested Hadhrat Ml Yahyā shb (Hadhrat sheikh Ml Zakariyya Shb’s رحمه اللہ father and the elder brother of Hadhrat Ml Ilyas shb رحمه اللہ ) to read the letters of Ml Ahmad Radha Khan, who had the habit of vilifying Ml Rasheed Ahmad Shb. Politely Ml Yahyā shb excused himself from this task, because many a time the letters of Ml Radha Khan contain insults and derogatory terms in regards to Hadhrat Maulana. Ml Rasheed Ahmad Shb remarked: “Molvi Yahyā, please do read out his writings to me. I want to listen because maybe he has written something which will be beneficial for my Islāh. Maybe he did highlight some of my mistakes and then hopefully I will rectify those mistakes.”
- Once at the annual graduation (Dastarbandi) of Darul Uloom Deoband, Hadhrat Maulana missed the Takbīr al-Ūla of the ‘Asr Salāh. After the Salāh he seemed saddened and depressed. Hadhrat Ml Muhammad Yā’qub shb (the chief Ustād)asked him for the reason of his sadness, only after much insistence did Maulana Rasheed Ahmad shb replied that today I missed a Takbīr al-Ūla after twenty-two years.
- In the latter part of his life, Hadhrat Ml Rasheed Ahmad’s رحمه اللہ eyesight started to deteriorate. The doctor advised him to use a cushion for Sajdah and not to prostrate on the ground. Hahdrat Maulana’s adherence to the Sunnah was such that he remarked that he will rather lose his eyesight than leaving the prescribed Sunnah of Sajdah.
Hadhrat Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi رحمه اللہ was one of the most eminent scholars of Hadith and Jurisprudence of his time. Hadhrat was well versed in every subjects of Islam but he had a special affiliation with the sciences of Hadith and Fiqh. He taught the magnum opus of the Hanafi school of thought, al-Hidāyah more than fourteen times and all the six canonical works of Hadith (Sihāh al-Sittāh) as well. He also composed Fatāwā Rashidiyah and several other exceptional works. Literally, it is impossible to encompass all his exceptional qualities in this short thesis; however as a measure of his perfection it would suffice to name some of his outstanding students, the likes of:
- Sheikhul Hind-Hadhrat Ml Mahmūd Hassanرحمه اللہ
- Ml Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri رحمه اللہ
- Ml Abdul Rahīm Raipūri رحمه اللہ
- Hadhrat Ml Husain Ahmad Madani رحمه اللہ
- Hadhrat Ml Ashraf Ali Thanwi also greatly benefitted from him.
His Sheikh, Hadhrat Haji Imdādullah رحمه اللہ once praised him in the following words:
‘If Allah Ta’ala asks me what I have brought in the hereafter, I will answer that I have brought Molvi Rashid Ahmad and Molvi Qāsim Nānotwi.’
Thousands of ‘Ulamā and pious servants of Allah Ta’ala quenched their thirst at this well of knowledge and piety. Finally he breathed his last on the sixth of Jamādul Thāni 1323 A.H. (11 August 1905)