Hajji Sayyid Abid al-Deobandi: First Rector of Deoband

Birth and Life
Haji Syed Muhammad Abid, also known as Haji Syed Abid Husain, was born in Deoband in a Sadat family in the year of 1834CE (1250AH).  After completing the recitation of Holy Quran he learned Persian. Later he moved to Delhi for higher studies in Islamic religious sciences; but he could not complete his education because of his extreme attachment with TASAWWUF (mysticism). He had received the honor of khilafat (spiritual succession) from Mian ji Karim Bakhsh Rampuri and Haji Imdadullah Muhajir Makki (may their secret be sanctified!).

Haji Mohammad Abid joined Imam Muhammad Qasim Nanawtawi in his mission to establish Darul Uloom Deoband. The vision of Imam Nanawtawi was to establish a higher level of institute, which could provide a systematic and comprehensive education of Islamic religious sciences. Though in the beginning Haji Syed Mohammad Abid was not convinced with this mission but after much insistence from Imam Muhammad Qasim Nanawtawi and having seen Imam Nanawtawi’s enthusiasm for the establishment of a major Institute of Islamic religious sciences Haji Mohammad Abid agreed to join his mission and became one of the founders of Darul Uloom Deoband.

Spirituality and Religiosity
Haji Mohammad Abid was a very pious, abstemious and competent saintly man of Deoband. He was far famed in the art of amulet-writing and spiritual recitations. Because he was one of the pious founders of Darul Uloom, therefore, the first management of Darul Uloom had been firstly constituted under his pious and competent leadership.

Haji Sahib lived in the Chhatta Mosque (where Darul Uloom began at first) for sixty years. It is well known among the people that for thirty years he never missed the Takbir Ula of any prayer. He had taken upon himself to saying the Tahajjud prayer (late night prayers) so regularly that he never missed a single prayer (to be made good after the scheduled time) for sixty years. He was a master of mystical revelation and a wonder working saint. Besides giving spiritual instruction and guidance, ‘remembrance’ and purification of heart, he had prodigious mastery in “the art of amalyat” (spiritual theory). People used to come to him for amulets and spiritual practices and used to return well satisfied. Despite the excess of different works, punctuality for him was extremely binding and every work used to be performed at its scheduled time.

Those who needed amulets sometimes used to cause him much embarrassment, but the state of his affability and graciousness was such that no one ever saw him sour faced. He was extremely careful about conforming to the Sunnah. It is his maxim that “an inactive dervish is like a weaponless soldier; a dervish, in order to hide his condition, should express himself to be an a’mil”. He was a saint of the Chishtiya, Sabiriya order and, a personification of asceticism and self-discipline.

Once it came to his knowledge that from amongst his proselytes one Haji Muhammad Anwar Deobandi had given up eating and drinking completely by way of self-repression. So he wrote to him with insist­ence: “This thing is against the Sunnah; one must eat and drink in the traditional (masnun) manner, though less”.

It is stated in Sawanh-e Qasmi with reference to Sawanh-e Makhtuta that “the’ inhabitants of Deoband have had very great faith in him; the people derive many kinds of benefit from his graceful person.

“Followers of other religions too believe in his amulets. House and its equipments, land, garden, whatever was there in his property, he has given away all in the way of God and now lives with mere trust in God”.

He used to be very careful about the regularity of his daily schedule of works and practices. Maulana Muhammad Yaqub Nanautawi used to remark that “a knowledgeable man can always show that Haji Sahib at this time should be busy in such and such work; if someone goes and sees he would find him busy in the same work”.

A discourse of Hakim ul Ummat Ashraf Ali Thanwi has been reproduced in Ashrafus ­Sawaneh. It says in it “that I did take Haji Sahib to be a saintly person but I did not think that he was also a Shaikh (spiritual guide) and Murabbi (spiritual patron); but during the course of an esoteric difficulty of mine I came to know from his satisfactory reply that he was an accomplished Shaikh and Murabbi”.

Movement of Deoband
He had started the movement for the public fund for Darul Uloom Deoband, only. Haji Fazle Haq had stated in Imam Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi’s Sawanah-e Makhtuta as under: ­

“One day at the time of Ishraq (which is 20 minutes after sunrise), Haji Syed Muhammad Abid, making a wallet of a white handkerchief and putting three rupees in it from his own pocket, went all alone from the Chhatta Mosque to call upon (the late) Maulawi Mehtab Ali, Maulawi Sahib donated six rupees most cheerfully and also gave his blessings. Maulawi Fazlur Rahman donated twelve rupees and this humble one (Haji Fazle Haq, author of the Sawanh-e Makhtuta), six. Rising up from there, he went to Maulawi Zulfiqar Ali (may Allah keep him safe!). Maulawi Sahib, as Allah willet, is a patron of knowledge; promptly he gave twelve rupees. By a lucky coincidence, Syed Zulfiqar Ali thani Deobandi was also present there; on his behalf too, the former donated twelve rupees. Getting up from there this kingly dervish reached Mohalla Abul Barakat. By this time two hundred rupees had been collected; by dusk fall, three hundred. Then gradually it became the talk of the town and took air, and it is well known the way it effloresced and fructified. This thing happened on Friday, 2nd Zi-qa’da, 1282 A.H”.

Administration of Darul Uloom Deoband
Besides membership of the Majils-e Shura of Darul Uloom Deoband, its management was entrusted to him thrice. As the first Rector from the day of establishment to 1284/1867; second time from 1286/1869 to 1288/1871 and third time from 1308/1890 to 1310/1892; totally this period comes to ten years.

The construction of the Jame Masjid Deoband is also the result of his effort and endeavor only. In the end, due to excess of engagements, he resigned from the management. Darul Uloom gained many advantages from his influence and dignity and each step of it advanced towards progress.

Death
He passed away on Thursday, 27th Zil-hijja, 1331A.H./1912C.E., at the ripe old age of four score and one. The chronogram for the year of his death is “Madarul-Miham-e Bihisht-e Barin”. Details of his life have been mentioned in Tazkiratul A’bidin.

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