Religious Thinkers
Key Question 1: How successful were the religious thinkers in spreading Islam in the sub-continent during the 18th and 19th centuries?

Shah Wali Ullah


Biography:

  • He was born on 21 February 1703 just when the end of Aurangzeb’s reign was about to conclude.
  • By birth, he was given a name, Qutb-ud-Din.
  • Waliullah is a title given to him for his services.
  • His father was religious scholar himself, named Shah Abdur Rahim.
  • His father founded helped in the compilation of Fatawa-I-Alamgir under the direct supervision of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir.
  • His father also founded Madrassa Rahimya.
  • Shah Waliullah taught at the Madrassa Rahimya for 12 years.
  • In 1730, he went to Arabia for higher studies.
  • He was greatly influenced by the teaching of Abu Tahir a famous scholar of his time.

Beliefs: 

  • Shah Waliullah believed that Islam has lost its glory in the sub-continent.
  • He realized that it was necessary for Muslims to reconnect with Islam and its teachings if they want to improve their conditions.
  • He wanted the rulers to enforce Islamic laws.
  • He urged rich Muslims to live a simple life and traders to follow Islamic laws in their dealings.
  • He feared that if reforms are not taken then Muslims and non-Muslims will be indistinguishable.
  • He despised the division of Shia and Sunni because it was weakening Muslims roots and wanted them to be united.
  • He believed that reforms cannot come from weak leadership of Dehli, they must come from Community itself. 

Role in Religious Services:

  • He completed the translation of the Quran in Persian, which was the local language at that time in order to make the Quran more accessible and easily understandable for the community.
  • He wrote a commentary on Ahadithsin in Persian and Arabic.
  • He arranged Hadith with respect to their topics to make it easier for people to take guidance from it.
  • Shah Wali Ullah was a passionate author, most of his writing is on Fiqh and Hadith.
  • He wrote 51 Islamic books, 28 in Persian and 23 in Arabic.
  • Shah Waliullah’s most recognized and famous book is Hujjatullah al- Baligha. In this book, he described the versatility and complete knowledge present in Islam and how it can guide people from all cultures and races. 
  • He studied writings available in various school of thoughts and then comprehensively explained in his writing what is really in Islam.
  • He adopted an analytical and balanced approach to creating a balance between the four major schools, Hanafi, Malaki, Shafi, and Hanbalihe.
  • Role in Political Services:
  • Shah Wali-Ullah using his deep political insight tried to figure out the real cause of the Mughal Empire's decline.
  • The Marhattas was a great political power in the eighteenth century were advancing to occupy the crown of Delhi.
  • Keeping in view the looming threats, Shah Waliullah wrote a letter to Ahmed Shah Abdali (Afghan King) to help the Muslims of India in defeating the Marhattas.
  • He also prepared the Rohilla Chief, Najid-Ulla and Nawab of Oudh, Shuja-ud-Daula for Jihad.
  • Ahmed Shah Abdali (also known as Ahmed Shah Durani) defeated the Marhattas in the third battle of Panipat.
  • Ahmed Shah Abdali:
  • Ahmed Shah Abdali was a general under Nadir Shah, the emperor of Persia.
  • He elected as King of Afghan in 1747.
  • He helped Shah Waliullah in defeating the Marhattas in the third battle of Panipat.

Syed Ahmed Shaheed Barelvi


Biography:

  • He was born in November 1786 at Rai Bareilly near Lucknow.
  • His father name was Shah-Ilm-Ullah, a religious scholar.
  • He was a trustworthy follower of monarch Shah Abdul Aziz.
  • He was greatly influenced by the teachings of Shah Waliullah.
  • Took his education at Madrassa Rahimiyya in Delhi.
  • He joined the military force of Nawab Ameer Khan Tonak.
  • He went for Hajj, studied religion there and returned in 1823 with a clear and focused aim of Jihad. 
  • He soon started the Jihad Movement against the Sikhs of Punjab and British.


Beliefs: 

  • He realized that Muslims could not have their freedom to practice Islam without defeating the British and Sikhs. 
  • He believed that evil in the Islamic Society had to be cured. 
  • He was sure, it is crucial to start a Jihad Movement to defeat the forces that are not letting the Muslims practice their religion properly. 
  • He was sure, it is the only way to rescue Islam from the evil customs of other societies.

Contributions for the Spread of Islam:

  • After he came back to Delhi in 1823, he devoted himself to bring reforms to the religious and social sector of Muslims of India.
  • He was inclined to bring back the former glory of Islam for the Muslims by disposing Sufism and implementing Sharia.
  • He denied and refused to support Bida (innovation) and supported “Tauhid”.

Jihad Movement:

  • In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Sikhs of Punjab were disregarding the Muslim places, culture, and customs. They even banned the Azaan,, Ahmed Barailvi founded the Jihad movement to rebel and crush them.
  • In 1826, he sent a warning to Ranjit Singh, who was the Sikh ruler of Punjab at that time that either he allows Muslims freedom to practice their religion or he should prepare to face the Mujahideen. 
  • Jihad Movement was launched from Peshawar headquarters in 1826. 
  • In order to gather force for this mission, he went to different states including Afghanistan, Sindh, Rajasthan, and Balochistan. Everyone supported him except the Afghans.
  • The army that Ahmed Barailvi led was known as “Mujahideen” meaning ‘fighters for the faith – Islam’ because the main vision behind it was ‘Jihad’.
  • Since the force was comprised of people from different communities which gave Sikhs a way to exploit them by calling out to them as being un-Islamic.
  • Ahmed Barailvi with the Mujahideen led the first attack at Okara with a force of 80,000 men and come out victorious.

The Battle of Balakot:

  • After the success of Okara battle, Ahmed Barailvi was preparing to attack on Attock.
  • During this time, he faced unknown difficulties as his servant tried to poison him and Yar Muhammad Khan, a Pathan Chief was bribed by Sikhs.
  • Yar Muhammad Khan deserted Ahmed Barailvi in the battlefield that created chaos among the men and resultant in defeat.
  • Following the betrayal and defeat, Ahmed Barailvi moved his headquarter to Panjtar near Kashmir.
  • He was again betrayed when a person in his army told the British a secret way to attack them. 
  • In the battle of Balakot 1831, a surprise attack was led by Sikh and Six hundred Muslims were killed along with Syed Ahmed.
  • The Jihad Movement is considered as the pioneer of Pakistan Movement. 

Haji Shariatullah 


Biography: 

  • Haji Shariatullah was born in 1781 in Faridpur, Bengal.
  • His father was an ordinary farmer.
  • At the age of 18-year, he went for Haj in 1799.
  • He stayed in Saudi-Arabia from 1799-1818 and received his religious education there.
  • He returned to Bengal in 
  • Muslims living in poor conditions in Bengal were greatly influenced and motivated by his leadership.
  • During his stay in Arabia, he was greatly influenced by Sheikh Mohammad Abdul Wahab who had initiated the Wahabi Movement in Arabia. 


Beliefs: 

  • He believed that the Muslim community had moved away from Islamic practice and were taking influence from other religions such as Hinduism.
  • He wanted the Muslim community to return to the Faraizi i.e. the proper observation of Islamic practice.
  • He realized that the miserable conditions of Muslims have led the country being Dar-ul-Harb (Area where non-Muslims rule).  
  • He supported the idea of Jihad against the non-Muslims who were undermining the true principles of Islam.

Faraizi Movement:

  • Muslims were living in poor conditions and they were given fewer opportunities for jobs. He wanted to restore their Pride  
  • He started a movement, in the nineteenth century named as the Faraizi Movement for Muslims in Bengal. 
  • The movement was targeted to restore the Pride of the Muslims and remove what he thought were the Hindu practices.
  • Haji Shariat Ullah urged from his followers to adopt ‘Tauba’ for past sins and a pledge to lead a righteous that is in accordance with Islam and its teachings. 
  • The Faraizi Movement provided a platform to Muslims to work together and fight the bad treatments of Hindu Zamindars. 

Zamindars:

  • Until the 1750s, Muslims were the ruling class, but everything changed after the British took over.
  • The British were working with the ‘Zamindars’, who were the landowners and tax collectors.
  • By 1800s, nearly all Zamindars were Hindus.
  • The Muslims were mistreated by their British Rulers and oppressed by the Zamindars.
  • Haji Shariatullah regarded British domination in Bengal as detrimental to the religious life of Muslims.
  • The Hindus were troubled by the unity of the Muslim peasants and opposed Haji Sahab.
  • The Hindus put false allegations against him and forced him to leave Dhaka.
  • Haji Sahab returned to Faridpur and continued his fight.
  • He categorized East Bengal into areas called circles, with their own Khalifa, who was responsible for their wealth.
  • He died in 1840.
  • After his death, his son, Mohsin-ud-Din carried his legacy.

Titu Mir 


Biography:

  • He was born in January 1782.
  • The real name of Titu Mir was Syed Mir Nisar Ali.
  • He was a faithful follower of Ahmed Barelvi.
  • He was a peasant leader and a freedom fighter from Bengal.
  • In 1822, he went to Makkah where he came into close approximation and influence of Ahmed Barelvi, who was a great Islamic reformer.


Beliefs:

  • He believed that the terrible state of Muslims can only be improved if the Muslims of Bengal stand united against the cruel Hindu Zamindars.
  • He realized that Muslims are introducing Shirk and Bid’dat and advised them to refrain from doing it. 

Workings:

A cruel Zamindar, Krishna Deva Rai imposed a tax on Muslims on beards that made the Muslims enraged.
Following Titu Mir's guidance, the Muslims refused to pay this tax.
The peasants and weavers saw Titu Mir’s leadership as a way free themselves from the slavery of Hindu Zamindars and were greatly influenced by him.
He gathered a small army and trained the people with the lathi.
In 1831, he built a bamboo fort in Narkelbaria, Calcutta and set his own rule.
The British were threatened by his fellowship and with a force of 300 sepoys and 100 soldiers attacked Titu Mir and his army.
They failed to resist the British attack and Titu Mir along with many of his followers died in the battle.
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