Moulana Abul Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi (RA) was born in an extremely pious and noble family on the 6 Muharram 1332 A.H. (15 December 1913) in a village of Rai Bareli, India. This village was previously a centre for tauhid, sunnat and jihad for several centuries. The family that inhabited this village was very meticulous in ensuring that they only partook of halaal food. Moulana Abul Hasan’s father, Hakim Sayyid ‘Abdul Hayy (RA), who was exceptionally pious, always took special precautions that not a single grain of doubtful food enter the house. Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) began his studies at the age of four under the careful guardianship of his uncle, Moulana ‘Azizur-Rahmaan (RA). Even during his childhood, he was not inclined to play and amusement but instead developed a keen interest in reading kitaabs. The entire family was enveloped in the desire for literature. Whatever few coins the children were given as gifts were used to buy kitaabs. Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) experienced very little of his father’s compassion as his father had passed away in 1341 A.H. (1923) when Moulana was was not even ten years old. Although he was a hakeem (physician), his father used to spend most of his time in writing ‘Nuzhatul Khawatir a voluminous work on the biographies of Muslim scholars of India. Due to no adult male being in the house, Moulana (RA) was brought up by his mother who saw to his nurturing in the correct manner. Although she was extremely compassionate, she never tolerated him missing his Salaah or oppressing the children of the servants. She earnestly made dua to Allah Ta’ala to make her son fulfil all her dreams. Her duas were proverbial in the family. Sometimes she would spend hours making dua to the extent that her scarf would become wet due to excessive weeping.
During this period of history in India, Arabic was only taught so that one could understand the essential aspects of Jurisprudence and Theology. There was no perception of mastering the language at any level. All efforts were spent in Persian. Moulana’s elder brother, Moulana Hakim Doctor Sayyid ‘Abdul Ali (RA) who himself was an expert in Persian, foresaw the decline of Persian and therefore instructed Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) to stop his Persian studies and concentrate in Arabic. Coupled with his Arabic studies, he also encouraged him to start an English reader. Moulana ‘Abdul Ali (RA) made such an arrangement for his brother’s Arabic studies, that one can only regard it as being divinely inspired. He handed Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) over to an expert Arabic teacher of the time, Sheikh Khalil Ibn Muhammad Yamani (RA). The Sheikh (RA) paid special attention to his beloved student and made him excel in the language. He also studied Arabic Grammar and Morphology under Moulana ‘Azizur-Rahman (RA) and Moulana Sayyid Talha (RA). Acting on the advice of Moulana Lahori (RA), Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) went to Dinpur in 1931/2 where he took bay’t at the hands of Hadrat Khalifah Ghulam Muhammad (RA), a noble saint of his time. In 1932, he spent several months in Deoband where he learnt at the hands of Hadhrat Moulana Husain Ahmad Madani (RA) and Moulana I’zaz ‘Ali (RA). During December of the same year, he travelled to Lahore to attend the Qur’aanic lessons of Moulana Ahmad Ali Lahori (RA). Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) completed the course and passed the examinations with the highest number of marks. At the indication of Hadrat Lahori (RA), he returned to Lahore in 1934 to spend time in his company. He spent 3 months there under very difficult conditions only spending his time in Zikr and recitation of the Qur’aan. It was during this year that he was appointed as an ustadh at Nadwa to teach tafsir and literature. In his first year of teaching, he married Sayyidah Tayyibun-nisa, the granddaughter of Hadhrat Shah Ziyaun-Nabi (RA).
Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) was only 23 years old when he wrote in 1936, one of his masterpieces on the life of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid (RA). This book was very well received when it was printed in 1939. It made him very famous. While he was teaching at Nadwa, Moulana (RA) wrote several Arabic textbooks which were so beneficial that they were included in the syllabi of many institutes in India and abroad. Amongst some of these textbooks were Mukhtaaraat, Al-Qiraaatur Raashida and Qasasun-Nabiyin.
Towards the end of 1939 Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) together with Moulana Muhammad Manzur Nu’maani (RA) undertook a journey to Sahaaranpur, Raipur, Delhi and other centres of learning in order to acquaint themselves with the work of tableegh on a collective scale. On this journey they met people like Moulana Abdul Qadir Raipuri (RA) and Moulana Muhammad Ilyaas (RA). Hadrat Raipuri (RA) became closely attached to Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) and later conferred the mantle of Khilaafat to him in 1948. Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) became acquainted with the work of tabligh and became a very close acquaintance of Moulana Muhammad Ilyaas (RA). He delivered talks in many ijtimas and went out frequently with jamaats for tabligh. He played a major role in introducing the work of dawah to the Arab countries. He also wrote letters to the leaders of the Arab countries informing them of the deficiencies prevalent there and the steps to be taken to remedy the situation. Moulana Abul Hasan (RA) at one stage joined the organisation of Moulana Maududi but left it later on due to its retrogression and the errors caused by Maududi himself. He explained his position very clearly in a book “’Asr-e-Haazir me Din ki Tafhim wa-Tashrih”. After the demise of Qaari Tayyib Saahib (RA) Moulana Abul Hasan ‘Ali (RA) was appointed the head of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in December 1983. He remained on this portfolio till his demise.
Moulana (RA) first suffered from gout in 1960. His brother treated him at that time and the pain was relieved. From 1990 onwards when the illness recurred, he could barely place his feet on the ground due to the excruciating pain. During his final illness, he completed the final volume of his autobiography, Kaarwane Zindagi. Moulana (RA) finally bid farewell to this temporary abode on a Friday, 22 Ramadan 1420 (31 December 1999). Moulana Muhammad Rabi’ Nadwi (RA) performed the janaazah Salaah. Janaazah Salaah in absentia was performed in both Makkah and Madinah. It is approximated that about 3.5 million people performed the Salaah in both the Harams.