Mawlana Shah `Abd al-Qadir Raipuri: Life & Achievements

By MUFTI MOHAMMAD ANWAR KHAN

Maulana Shah Abdul Qadir Raipuri, the celebrated spiritual reformer and well-known guide of Sufism in India, was born in 1296 A.H., in the village of Dhadiyal located in Sargodha District of Punjab Province of modern day Pakistan. His father, Hafiz Ahmad, was a righteous individual who belonged to a family steeped in religious learning and piety. Thus, when Maulana Raipuri was born, he was surrounded by Islamic scholarship and religiosity. As the Maulana’s life shows, he too began to develop a thirst for knowledge that was a common trait amongst his family members. In his early years, Maulana Abdul Qadir Raipuri committed to memory the entire Holy Qur’an under the guidance of his uncle, Maulana Kalimullah.  It was also under the tutelage of his uncle that he acquired knowledge of the Persian language. As he continued his studies, Maulana Raipuri had the privilege of learning the Arabic language from Maulana Muhammad Rafiq, a renowned scholar from amongst the most talented students of Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. He also traveled to Delhi, where he studied the subject of hadith in Madrasa Abdur Rabb from Maulana Abdul Ali as well as Sunan at-Tirmidhi from the great Maulana Muhammad Anwar Shah Kashmiri. All in all, Maulana Abdul Qadir Raipuri vigorously pursued his academic endeavors and he fulfilled the courses of the general Islamic syllabus by traveling to different Islamic schools and institutions in India. At the culmination of his studies, Maulana Raipuri was an expert in logic and philosophy.

After achieving his goals in his studies of the religious books of his time, Maulana Raipuri dedicated himself to the task of learning Greek medicine. Once he had successfully acquired the depth and breadth of the medicinal sciences, he opened a clinic in Afzal Garh, a small town in the district of Bijnor, where he assisted in providing relief for the sick. Later in life, he traveled to Bareilly in U.P. and conducted classes on Qur’an and hadith.  Maulana had always had an enquiring mind, which compelled him to spend his life in pursuit of knowledge. His continuous journey in search of truth required that he travel to different localities in India, which concluded after his meeting with Maulana Abdur Rahim Raipuri. After his first encounter with the wise scholar, he felt a desire kindle within him to remain in his company and have the opportunity to live under his new mentor’s guardianship who would help him develop his intellect, his morals, and most importantly, his soul. While Maulana Abdur Rahim advised his newfound student to head for Gangoh in order to learn from Maulana Rasheed Ahmad, his apprentice could not bear to part ways with him. Eventually, Maulana Abdul Qadir pledged himself to a spiritual allegiance under Maulana Abdur Rahim.  His teacher counseled him to become more punctual in his task of worshipping Allah and remembering Him throughout the day as he carried out the daily tasks that needed his attention. Soon, many students would flock to his school in search of spiritual knowledge, which is the first step for the seekers of truth in the science of Tasawuff.

As time passed, Maulana Abdul Qadir began to develop the spiritual perception known as Wuquf Al Qalb, a state in which an individual constantly reflects on the signs of Allah while carrying out his daily tasks.  The Maulana would devote his whole day in remembering Allah while serving his spiritual guide and teaching students of knowledge.  His nights were filled with devotions and determined supplications to Allah, the Almighty. Maulana Abdur Rahim was pleased with the piety and spiritual progress of his student. At the time of his death, he declared Maulana Abdul Qadir to be his foremost successor and spiritual inheritor and urged him to spend the rest of his life in Raipur so that people may benefit from his knowledge and company. It is for this reason that the Maulana has always been remembered as “Maulana Raipuri.’

After his teacher’s demise, Maulana Abdul Qadir followed in the footsteps of his beloved mentor and devoted his efforts to the spiritual reformation of thousands of new students who traveled to him from different parts of India. For forty-five years, he spent his days and nights teaching his disciples the methods of the purification of the soul and the secrets of Tasawuff. He himself had strived in his spiritual training to the level in which he exemplified the Sunnah. Now he was helping others inculcate the Prophetic Tradition within their own lives. Word of Maulana Raipuri’s self-reformation movement spread to the homes of hundreds of thousands of Muslims who began to correct their practices and beliefs and took to sincere repentance inspired by Maulana Raipuri. Thousands of Muslim scholars also turned to him in order to tread on the path of Tasawuff gaining knowledge, seeking truth and ultimately finding peace and solace. Observing his students’ quick progress, he began to authorize them to teach and propagate Islam in different parts of India. While Maulana Raipuri spent many years encouraging and guiding the Muslims of India on the path of truth, his time in this world was nearing its end and he finally passed away on Rabi Al-Awwal, 14, 1382 AH.

Concentration in studies

During his years as a student, Maulana Raipuri was engrossed in Islamic scholarly literature and would always be seen studying from them. Later in life, when he was a teacher, he would instruct students to read their books out loud so that he could listen and revise what he had already learned. It was during this early period of his life when Maulana Raipuri lost himself in the world of books. During his stay in Saharanpur, he was always seen in the company of his student Mr. Azad and would call on him after the Fajr Prayer. He selected him to read out the book – Futuh ash Sham – or any other Islamic book discussing the biographies of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (saws). When Mr. Azad was busy attending to his personal needs, Maulana Raipuri would long for him to such a degree that he would send someone to fetch him to be at his side reading out the books that he desired. Maulana pressed Mr. Azad to continue reading, which would take up all of his time, and when he would fall silent, Maulana would find more books for him to read out loud.

Maulana Abul Hasan remarks, “His love for books may well be highlighted from the following story. When I was staying in Rai Bareilly in the month of October 1960, I wrote to him that the third volume in the series of books ‘Saviors of the Islamic Spirit,’ which covered the biography of Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia, was successfully completed. A short period after writing this letter to him, I presented myself before him in Raipur. He was extremely delighted to see me and asked me for the manuscript of my book. He instantly ordered it to be read out to his students. After prayers, it became a regular routine for me to read this book before him and his students. He kept away from all other tasks until I completed reading out my entire book before his students.”

Amazing Spiritual Strength

The first thing that would catch the attention of a newly arrived visitor coming to see Maulana Raipuri at his seminary was the humming of Allah’s names and the whispered supplications of his devout students. When new students set foot on his campus, it would seem that even the leaves of the trees in the area were making mention of Allah’s name. Even Maulana’s students seemed to be constantly glorifying and calling unto Allah, taking only a few moments of rest in between their praises and prayers.

Those who had the special opportunity of attending the gatherings of Maulana Abdul Qadir would get the feeling of contentment and spiritual ecstasy during the time spent in his company. Experiencing a relief from their daily anxieties and burdens, it was as if their grief and sorrows melted away every time they drew near to him. Those gifted with keen insight and farsighted ones would clearly comprehend that it was originally the wonderful characteristic of the Naqshbandi chain of Sufism, which prevailed over the entire ambiance in Raipur.  Some witnessed that as they gained in physical proximity towards Maulana Abdul Qadir, they increased in spiritual strength required for worship which in turn would allow them to enjoy a sweet inward bliss that was like nothing comparable to any worldly joy they knew. Maulana Raipuri’s remarkable and enlightening personality uplifted their souls over their benign daily lives and served as an inspiration of the spirit of submission to the will of Allah, the Almighty.

Anecdote

Once a person, who attended the Khanqah of Maulana Abdul Qadir, reported an incident related to one of his spiritual gatherings, “I was always disheartened when hearing people say that they experienced some strange and incredible inner change in themselves while in the presence of blessed persons who had devoted their entire lives to the will of God because this was one feeling that I had not yet experienced.  However, I was amazed to experience this feeling after the Maghrib Prayer in the gathering of people who were present in the congregation led by Maulana Raipuri. During this gathering, I felt a unique proximity towards the Divine presence of Allah, the Almighty, during my supplications. Suddenly, I felt tears started flowing from my eyes as this feeling overwhelmed me and Maulana Raipuri was besides me, consoling my unexpressed emotions and the love that I felt towards God, a mood that was shared by all the seekers. On this special occasion, I completed the prescribed amount of meditation only after great difficulty. Once I had done so, I turned to Maulana Raipuri, and said, “O master, today everything appeared to me as completely mysterious and different.”

Love for the Righteous Men

Once, Maulana Abul Hasan Nadwi remarked: “Since his early days, Maulana Raipuri had developed a keen sense of love and desire for learning.  This desire was coupled with the flames of divine love that were always kept alive burning in his heart, a love which had become second nature to him, and pulsated throughout his arteries and veins like blood. That is the reason that he was a great admirer of Khawaja Nizamuddin Auliya. He always listened with great attention to the biographies of renowned devout Sufis- an obsession that only grew his affection towards them. He developed a deep admiration within his heart for those selfless individuals who strived to cure the spiritual ills of the people around them.

On another occasion, Maulana Abul Hasan mentioned about Maulana Raipuri: “During his stay in Lahore in 1959, some of his close companions advised him to select the biography of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, while they were at the villa of Haji Mateen Ahmad, to be read out for people after the Asr prayer, to which he agreed to. The book was still unpublished but I had its incomplete manuscript with me, which was read before him. The inspiring, and heart-touching stories were related to the Maulana, after which he was completely entranced and in a state of spiritual elation that words cannot describe. The people who were attending the gathering listened with rapt attention, which was a reaction that was sparked by his elevated spiritual state, a state that began to spread to others. Some of those who were present at the gathering remarked that they had never felt such an extraordinary spiritual experience. At the closing of the sitting, Maulana Raipuri commented, “These stories are so lovely. In fact, all the actions of beloved people are always beloved.”

Standard of Decoration

Once while he was staying in the Mosque of the Prophet at Madinah, one of his servants said to him, “Master, the later generations of Muslims have added much decoration to the mosque of the Prophet and they have spread extremely expensive carpets over its floor. I wish it were left in its previous state of simplicity.” On hearing this, he reacted strongly, “Wherever decoration and beauty are found, they are a result of the Prophet’s being.” While expressing these words, his inner spiritual state was enigmatic, pregnant with strange deep emotions and love that he held in his heart for the Prophet Muhammad (saws).

Love for the Prophet (saws)

It is said that while Maulana Raipuri was on his deathbed, whenever he heard the name “Madinah Al-Munawwarah”, the abode of the Holy Prophet, he would start to weep bitterly. Once, Maulana Muhammad Anwari paid a visit to Maulana Raipuri, who was about to set out for his Umrah (minor pilgrimage). Whenever Madinah was mentioned to the Maulana, he would start weeping sadly and uncontrollably for being parted from the charismatic company of Holy Prophet’s (saws) presence that comes into view by every Muslim looming large in his mosque at Madinah even today. Maulana Muhammad says, “I never saw the Maulana expressing as much inward joy as he would at the mere word of the City of Light, Madinah, the last resting abode of the Prophet Muhammad.” When one of his acquaintances, Babu Abdul Aziz, came to him, the Maulana said to him sadly, “Look! He is going to Madinah!” When he uttered these words, there were tears in his eyes.

Humility and Modesty

Maulana Abul Hasan describes his humility in the following manner: “During his stay in Faisalabad, his well wishers, servants, and those who were close to him were in a state of confusion about where Maulana Raipuri should pass the month of Ramadan. The people from Faisalabad wanted him to stay in their area and they tried to persuade him to accept their invitation, whereas, those from Lahore wanted him to be in their midst while Mr. Qureshi was of the idea that he should stay in Rawalpindi. One day the Maulana called three eminent people from the three groups and said to them, “My brothers, I am just a son of a poor farmer. My family belonged to a financially weak background such that when I returned home from my daily tasks, my mother would get worried as to how to arrange a meal for me. Yet now, all of you are requesting me to take his side. Actually, this situation in itself is such a blessing and reward for which I have been granted only for mentioning Allah’s name for a few days. Why should you too not engage yourselves in remembering Allah’s name with sincerity? Why do you make me feel ashamed?” His words that were said on this occasion moved some people to tears.

His Generous Nature

Thanks to Allah, Maulana Raipuri’s needs were always fulfilled ahead of time by his well-wishers. Whenever he was in possession of extra funds, he would immediately spend these funds in charity as he was generous by nature. He found it unbearable to withhold surplus wealth with him throughout the night. Haji Fazlur Rahman Khan says, “I have on many occasions distributed hundreds of thousands of rupees among the needy ones by his order.” It was a general habit of the Maulana that he gave some Ulama one or two hundred rupees under the pretext of giving them a journey fare.

One of his servants while on his pilgrimage to Makkah left from there to Egypt and then to Syria. Maulana Raipuri gave the amount of one thousand rupees to a friend of his and requested him to send the funds to him and ordered him to write: “Your health cannot allow you to make this journey by a sea route. Therefore, you should accept this money and arrange your travel by plane.” In brief, he received money from one only to give it to another.

Availability of Funds

Once while there was a large gathering of people sitting with him, someone came to him to shake hands and then requested Maulana Raipuri in an unceremonious manner, “Master, I need ten rupees.” The Maulana said to him, “Pray to Allah.” And, then he kept silent. After a short period of time, someone came to the Maulana and placed a hundred rupee note into his hand. Then he inquired, “Where is the man who just asked me for ten rupees?” He said, “Here I am, O master.” He said to him, “Take the ten rupees that you asked for.” He said, “Master, it is a hundred rupee note.” He said, “No problem, just take it and enjoy.”

His Kind Nature

Once a certain person who frequented Maulana Raipuri’s sermons described the kind nature of Maulana Raipuri by stating, “During my fifty-two years of life, I have never had a teacher, friend, or any other person as compassionate and loving as him. If any of his guests ever fell ill, he would lie awake worrying over him throughout the night. Each individual who was connected to the Maulana thought that the Maulana loved him more than anyone else. He had such a considerable amount of love stored in his heart that even the most wretched, worried person facing hardships found all his problems vanishing on meeting him.”

Another student adds, “Throughout my life, I have never come across a kind person like him. No one can even behave so kindly and lovingly as he did with us.”

Maulana Abul Hasan added: Once, after finishing my meal, my eyes fell on Maulana Raipuri who had not eaten anything and I requested the Maulana, “Master, you have taken nothing for yourself from the meals!” On that he said, “When I see you eat, I feel that I am also eating.”

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