Early life Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Saharanpuri (r.a) was born toward the end of Safar 1269 A.H. (December 1852 A.D.) in Ambehta, a town in the district of Saharanpur India. He was named both “Zahiruddeen” and “Khalīl Ahmad”, but Khalīl Ahmad became his official name. His mother, Bi Mubarak an-Nisā, was the daughter of Maulānā Mamlūk `Ali (r.a) and the sister of Maulānā Muhammad Yā’qub Nānotwi (r.a).
Maulānā Khalīl commenced his studies at an elementary school at the age of five. Maulānā Mamlūk `Ali (r.a) conducted his Bismillah and Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) soon completed the recitation of the Qur’an. He then studied the primary books of Urdu and Persian under various Ulamā in Ambehta and Nanota. Thereafter, he accompanied his paternal uncle, Maulānā Ansār `Ali, to Gwalior, where he studied the primary texts of Arabic grammar, after which he returned home.
During this period, some of his relatives insisted that he be enrolled at a secular school. Though he did not want to, he commenced his secular studies. he constantly made dua for Allāh to free him from the fetters of British education, Allāh accepted his dua When Dārul was opened in May 1866 ( 1283 A.H.) and his uncle, Maulānā Muhammad Yā’qub (r.a) , was appointed as the Sadr-Mudarris (dean), Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) took permission from his parents and travelled to Deoband, where he continued his studies. Six months later, in November 1866, Mazāhirul Uloom Saharanpur was established. There, another maternal uncle of Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a), Maulānā Muhammad Mazhar (r.a) was appointed as the Sadr-Mudarris. Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) transferred to Mazāhirul Uloom Saharanpur where he completed his studies in 1288 AH (1871) at the tender age of 19.
Academic career The burning desire to study (Ulūmul Adabiyyah) literature took him to a college in Lahore where he studied under Maulānā Faizul Hasan Saharanpuri (r.a). After culminating his studies at Lahore, he was appointed as an assistant teacher at Mazāhirul Uloom. When there arose a need for an Ustād at the Islāmic institute of Mangalore, he was sent there as the head teacher. Hadhrat Maulānā also taught in Bhopal, Bahawalpur, Bareli and Deoband. Eventually in 1344 (A.H.) at the age of 45, he was appointed the head teacher of Mazāhirul Uloom Saharanpur where he taught Sahīh al-Bukhari, Sunan Abu Dawūd, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, and Sahīh. Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl (r.a), together with internal spiritual knowledge, also possessed external theoretical knowledge. Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) is one of the primary visionaries behind the success and achievements of Dārul Uloom Deoband. He could lecture on any Kitāb with ease and possessed perfect methodology. Even the likes of Hadhrat Maulānā Anwar Shah Kashmiri (r.a) would visit Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib for advice and guidance in his writings and discourses..
Onto the path of Tasawwuf: One day, Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl’s paternal uncle, Maulānā Ansār Ali (r.a), said, “After your studies, you should acquire Tasawwuf from Molvi Saab (i.e. Hadhrat Maulānā Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi (r.a))”. Previously, Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl (r.a) did not have any personal connection with Hadhrat Gangohi (r.a). However, he held Maulānā Rashid Ahmad Sahib in his highest esteem as his uncle and Ustād, Maulānā Muhammad Mazhar sahib (r.a) (notwithstanding all his unique spiritual and academic qualities) used to attend the gatherings of Hadhrat Gangohi (r.a). After taking the Bay’ah at the hand of Hadhrat Maulānā Rasheed Ahmad sahib (r.a), Maulānā Khalīl sahib (r.a) continued his academic activities whilst spending his spare time in Dhikrullah (remembrance of Allāh Ta’ālā ). Undoubtedly, he was a paragon of steadfastness; whether on a journey or at home, the demise of a family member, nothing interfered with his schedule.
Personality and piety: 1. During his stay at Makkah Mukarramah, Hadhrat Maulānā (r.a) did not visit Ghār-e-Thaur, in spite of his immense yearning to do so. He would say: “Everything has been affected by change besides the Ḥajrul Aswad and the cave of Thaur, they are still intact and were touched by the blessed hands of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم .” Hadhrat did not visit the cave of Thaur as he would have missed the congregational Salāh at the Haram of Makkah Mukarramah. In spite of heavy rains, Hadhrat would always perform his Salāh at the Masjid. 2. Hadhrat would say: “The Haramayn (sacred precincts of Makkah Mukarramah and Madinah Munawwarah) are not meant for sight-seeing, these are Masājid, wherein one must remember Allāh Ta’ālā through Ibādah.” 3. Once Maulānā’s relative visited him whilst he was teaching. Up to the end of class Hadhrat did not pay attention to the guest, thereafter he stood up to receive him. The man said, “Hadhrat! Please remain seated; there is no need for you to get up.” Hadhrat Maulānā replied: The madrasah has supplied this carpet for teaching purposes, not for me to sit on it and engage in my personal discussions. 4. Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) continued reciting the Glorious Qurān in Taraweeh till the age of 72 notwithstanding all physical aches and weaknesses. 5. The words of Haji Imdādullah (r.a), suffice to indicate his high rank: “You are the pride of my Silsilā… 6. Sheikhul Islam, Maulānā Zafar Ahmad Uthmāni (r.a) relates that once during Hajj, when Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Saharanpuri (r.a) entered the haram for Tawāf, Maulānā Muhibbuddeen (Khalīfah of Haji Imdādullah ) remarked: “Oh! It is you who has filled the entire Haram with Nūr.”
JOURNEYS FOR HAJJ Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) performed several Hajj during his lifetime. 1. His first Hajj occurred in 1293 AH, while he was teaching at Bhopal. After completing Hajj, he proceeded to Medina Munawwarah where he remained for two weeks. During this journey, Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad sahib (r.a) received ijāzah (permission) in hadith from Sheikhul Haram Ahmad Dahlan and Sheikhul Mashāikh Shah Abdul Ghani Mujaddid Naqshbandi Dehlawi (r.a). 2. Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad’s (r.a) second Hajj occurred when he was in Bahawalpur in Shawwāl of 1297 AH. When he departed for Hajj, his spiritual mentor, Hadhrat Maulānā Gangohi (r.a) wrote to his Sheikh, Hadhrat Haji Imdādullah (r.a) saying: “Molvi Khalīl Ahmad will present himself; Hadhrat will be pleased to note his condition. When Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad sahib (r.a) arrived, haji Imdādullah (r.a) was extremely satisfied with his spiritual condition. At the time of his departure, haji Imdādullah (r.a) embraced him, placed his turban on Maulānā Khalīl’s head and granted him khilafah (Vicegerency). However, the respect of Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad (r.a) was such that whenever he would initiate a Mureed, he would instruct the Mureed to proclaim, “I have made Bay’ah to Hadhrat Maulānā Rashid Ahmad Sahib at the hands of Khalīl Ahmad”. 3. Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) third Hajj was after the demise of his spiritual mentor, Hadhrat Maulānā Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi (r.a). Consolation for the immense grief that he suffered as a result of this event could only be obtained by the blessed grave of Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم . 4. Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) fourth Hajj was performed in 1910. 5. Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad (r.a) fifth journey for Hajj was a momentous occasion which occurred in Shawwāl of 1332 AH in the company of Sheikhul Hind (r.a) and many other elite Ulamā of that time., Sadly, Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) was compelled to return before Hajj due to on-going civil unrests at Makkah Mukarramah. 6. Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) sixth Hajj occurred in 1920. Despite his poor health and sea-sickness he led the Taraweeh Salāh while standing. He would recite half a Juz in eight Rak’āt and the remaining twelve Rak’āt was performed by someone else. 7. Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad Sahib (r.a) seventh Hajj was the journey during which he bid his final farewell to India. He took 1½ years leave from Mazāhirul Uloom, not knowing that he will not be returning again.
COMPLETION OF BADHLUL-MAJHŪD After the completion of Hajj, Hadhrat took up residence at Madinah munawwarah. Haji Sayyid Ahmad (r.a) had rented a house at Madrasah Shariah Qadeem for Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad (r.a). After the Ishrāq Salāh, Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad (r.a)would remain in his room for a few hours in complete solitude, engrossed in writing Badhlul-Majhūd. (Commentary of Abu Dawūd Shareef) After the completion of Badhlul-Majhūd, this portion of the morning was utilised to study Wafa-ul-Wafa and other Kitāb which had accumulated during his sojourn in Madinah Munawwarah. During Ramadan, Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad (r.a) would engage in the recitation of the Qur’an after the Ishrāq Salāh for a considerable time.
Upon his arrival to Madinah Munawwarah, Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad (r.a) engrossed himself in the completion of Badhlul Majhud which had reached four volumes prior to his arrival. The solitude which Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad sahib (r.a) had coupled with the Baraka of Medina enabled him to complete one and a half volumes in seven and a half months. For the acquisition of Baraka, it was completed at the Raudatu Min Riyadhil Jannah in Masjid Nabawi. Upon the completion of Badhlul-Majhūd, Maulānā Khalīl sahib (r.a) said: I made three duas to Allāh Ta’ālā, of which two have been accepted: 1. To see an Islāmic government controlling Makkah Mukarramah 2. To complete Badhlul-Majhūd 3. To be buried in proximity to Rasūlullah صلى الله عليه و سلم
DEMISE Seven months and 24 days after the culmination of Badhlul-Majhūd, Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad (r.a)passed away on the fifteenth of Rabi’ al-Thāni 1346 ( 13th October 1927)after the Asr Salāh and was buried in close proximity of the Ahlul Bayt. Thus his third Dua was also accepted. It is astoundingly amazing that the 1½ years leave which he took from Mazāhirul Uloom, was the exact amount of his life that remained, not a day more, not a day less; the leave ended on the 16th of Rabi’ al-Thāni 1346, he passed away one hour before sunset. Prior to his demise he no longer had any strength to lift himself. Besides Pas-Anfas, which is a method of Dhikr by breathing, Maulānā Khalīl (r.a) could not do anything. Twenty-four hours passed in complete silence and on Thursday he bid this ephemeral world farewell as he repeatedly proclaimed “Allāh!”
Khulafāh: Hadhrat Maulānā Khalīl Ahmad sahib (r.a) was undoubtedly one of the greatest Muhaddith, Faqih and spiritual mentor of his time. He inspired thousands of lives and filled thousands of heart with the Ma’rifah and love of Allāh Ta’ala. His successors were great personalities and men of virtue and excellence. Some of whom were: 1. Hadhrat Maulānā Muhammad Yahyā Kandahlawi (r.a) 2. Maulānā Muhammad Zakariyya kandahlawi (r.a) 3. Hadhrat Maulānā Muhammad Ilyas (r.a) 4. Maulānā Zafar Ahmad Uthmāni (r.a) 5. Maulānā Abdullah Gangohi (r.a) 6. Al-Haj Muhammad Husain Habshi (r.a) 7. Hadhrat Hafiz Qamruddeen (r.a) 8. Hafiz Fakhrudeen Ghaziabad (r.a) 9. Maulānā Hafiz Faizul Hasan Gangohi (r.a) 10. Mufti Jameel Ahmad Thanwi (r.a) 11. Maulānā Badr-E-Alam (r.a) 12. Hadhrat Maulānā Ashiq Ilahi Meerati (r.a)