Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah and the scholars of Nadwa and Deoband

By Prof. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami

Impact on scholars on Nadwa

From the early twentieth century, as we have noted, a number of ‘ulamā’ became interested in the works of Ibn Taimiyya and Ibn Qayylm. Nawāb Siddiq Hasan Khan, Maulana Shibli, and Maulana Abul Kalam Az5d were largely responsible for creating this interest. Maulana Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi recalled that when he got hold of the works of Ibn Taimiyya and Ibn Qayyim, ‘every other impression disappeared from his heart’ and ‘every other colour completely faded away’.124″ As Director of the Shibli Academy, he was able to enthuse his pupils with admiration for the works of Ibn Taimiyya.

Maulana Sayyid ‘Abd al-‘Ali, Nazim of Nadwat al—’Ulama’, zealous for the works of Ibn Taimiya and Ibn Qayyim, repeatedly urged his younger brother, Maulana Abul Hasan Ali, to study them closely.125 Another teacher at Nadwa, Maulana Shah Halim ‘Ata, appreciated especially the clear, cogent and powerful exposition of Islamic monotheism in the writings of Ibn Taimiyya and Ibn Qayyim. He particularly admired Ibn Taimiyya’s Madarij al-Salikin, al-Jawab al-Kafi, Zad al-Ma’ad, and ‘lda al-Sabirin. Excepting Ibn Taimiyya’s views about Ahl al-Bait, as expressed in Minhaj al-Sunnah,116 he upheld the Imam’s arguments in almost every other respect. He would advise his students that if anybody had not the time to read all the works of Ibn Taimiyya, he should at least study his Fatawa and Majmu’at al-Rasa’il which contain the essence of his thought.127

Maulana Abul Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi regards Ibn Taimiyya’s Tafsir Surat al-Nur and Ibn Qayyim’s Jawab al-Kafi as the best guides for young minds.128 In 1957 he wrote a comprehensive account of Ibn Taimiyya in his Tarikh-i Da’wat wa’Azimat,119 stressing his efforts to revive the religious zeal of the community. He propagated Ibn Taimiyya’s ideology without bringing it into clash with the religious psychology of the Muslims in South Asia.

Deoband and Ibn Taimiyya

The early scholars of Deoband—Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi (d. 1880) and others—did not envince any interest in Ibn Taimiyya’s teachings. Interest in them began only with Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (d. 1933),130 who studied very carefully the works of Ibn Taimiyya and Ibn Qayyim. Assisted by a prodigious memory, he would cite passage after passage while discoursing on the works of Ibn Taimiyya. He passed on to his pupils131 his own enthusiasm for and commitment to Ibn Taimiyya. This is evident in the works for example, of Maulana Muhammad Manzoor Nu’mani (editor al-Furqan), Maulana Sa’id Ahmad Akbarabadi (editor Burhan) and others. Anwar Shah quoted in his writings from Ibn Taimiyya’s al-Jawab al-Sahih and Sarim al-Maslul ‘ala Shatim al-Kasul and paid tribute to him as a mountain of knowledge (jabal al-‘ilm). He was, however, critical of some of the views of Ibn Taimiyya.

Among others, Maulana Khalil Ahmad of Saharanpur and Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani, while not hesitating to refer to Ibn Taimiyya and Ibn Qayyim, did not commit themselves to their ideology. Maulana Ashraf All Thanwi expressed his disagreement with Ibn Taimiyya in moderate, polite language, refraining from entering into open rebuttal of his views. Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani made no secret of his disagreement with the views of Ibn Taimiyya. Maulana Manazir Ahsan Gilani, an alumnus of Deoband, who later chaired the Department of Theology at the Osmania University of Hyderabad, was also sceptical of Ibn Taimiyya’s views. His article, Ibn Taimiyya ka Nazariya-i Makhdumiyat132 is a critique of Ibn Taimiyya’s al-Nabuwwat.133


124 Mashahir Ahl-i ‘Ilm ki Mohsin Kitabain, ed. Maulana Muhammad ‘Imran Khan (Karachi, 1979), p. 18.
125 ibid., 106.
126 ibid., 106-7.
127 ibid., 108.
128 ibid., 175.
129 Tarikh-i Da’wat wa’Azimat (Azamgarh, 1957), ii.
130 For his life, see: Muhammad Rizwan Allah, Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (Aligarh, 1974); Muhammad Azhar Shah, Hayat-i Anwar (Delhi, 1955); ‘Abd al-Rahman Kondo, Al-Nur (Delhi, 1979).
131 e.g. Maulana Sa’id Ahmad Akbarabadi. See Mashahir Ahl-i ‘Ilm ki Mohsin Kitabain, 78.
132 The word makhdum has a technical meaning in this context. It is used for one who controls the jinn.
133 See Maqalat-i Ahsani (Karachi, 1959), 369-91.

Nizami, K A. (1990). The Impact of Ibn Taimiyya on South Asia. Journal of Islamic Studies. 1 (1), 120-149.

One thought on “Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah and the scholars of Nadwa and Deoband

  1. Inn Tamiyya remains a controversial figure in respect of his position as a Mujaddid.If salafiyya claims him to be a Marja’ of their understanding of sharia then opposition groups consider him to be a deviant figure who discarded the taqlidi tradition.Paradoxically salafiyya have elevated his status with an aura of infallibility and thus any constructive discourse or critical engagement of his unconventional views are thwarted with their fiery response.
    Is this adab that characterized the approach of the a’imma who are subjected to ridicule and worse still are consigned to the dark chambers of takfir that salafiyya advocate?
    Or is Ibn Taimiyya the only voice of authentic Islam?

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