Mufti Isma’il Bismillah: Grand Mufti of Gujrat

By Sayyid Mahbub Rizwi
Translated by Prof. Murtaz Husayn F. Qurayshi

He was born in 1316 H/1898 C at Dabhel, a small village in Surat district. He received primary education at his native-place and a nearby village named Kathor. Then he took admission in the Dar al-‘Ulum, Deoband. Due to arrangement of marriage during the course of his studies he went back to his native-place. Thereafter, living at Madrasah Aminiyyah, Delhi, he practised the art of fatwa-writing under Mufti Kifayat Allah al-Dehlawi’s guidance. In 1336 H he again took admission in the Dar al-‘Ulum, Deoband, and completed the Dawrah Hadith.

After having completed the educational career he served as a teacher in his native-place and then departed for Johannesburg (South Africa). But very soon he returned from there and was appointed a teacher in Madrasah Ta’lim al-Din (present Jamiyyah Islamiyyah), Dabhel. In 1353 H/1934 C he was appointed as a mufti in Burma. There, besides fatwa-writing, he established Jami’yyat al-‘Ulama Burma in collaboration with Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ashraf Randeri, and started many religious schools at different places. In this way he got a chance to render religious and political services to the Muslims of Burma.

In 1359 H/1940 C, due to ill health, he returned to his native-place. There he was made superintendent of educational affairs in Jamiyyah Islamiyyah, Dabhel, and was soon promoted to the rector’s post. His personality was cynosure for the people in Gujarat; his fatwas were held in high esteem not only by the common people but also the ‘ulama of Gujarat. His fatwaswere being regularly published in the Gujarati weekly, Muslim Gujarat (Surat), edited by Sayyid Azim al-Din Munadi, for nearly 33 years. These fatwas have been published in three volumes in the Gujarati language. The number of these fatwas is sad to run into 35,000. Some of them are also found in the Urdu language.

Mufti Bismillah was a very accommodating man, free from affectation, and very regular in saying his daily offices and observing his daily practices. His usual practice was to recite one manzil of the Qur’an daily. He died in 1379 H/1959 C.

Rizvi, Sayyid Mahboob (1981). History of the Dar al-’Ulum Deoband, Volume 2. Deoband: Idara-e Ihtemam. p. 94-5.

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