By Mawlana Ebrahim Muhammad
Mawlana Shah Abd al-Ghani was born in 1293 AH in Azamgarh, India. He was 13 years younger than his Shaykh, Hadrat Thanawi. Because he spent the major portion of his life in Phulpur, he was referred to as Phulpuri.
He had taken admission at the local primary school when after two or three days his grandfather guided his mother in a dream to instruct Abd al-Wahhab (the father) to impart religious education to the child. Mawlana’s grandfather was a pious saint and he was bay’at to Mawlana Abd al-Subhan. Consequently his father sent him to Jaunpur for religious education in the service of Mawlana Abu al-Khayr Makki. After spending two years with him, he went to Mawlana Sayyid Amin al-Din Nasirabadi and then to Jami’ al-‘Ulum in Kanpur where he studied uptil Miskhat. During this period, Hadrat Thanawi came to Kanpur and from this time onwards, the love and respect he held for Hadrat Thanawi intensified. After qualifying, his studying Logic led him to Madrasah Aliyah, Rampur which was regarded as the centre of Logic and Philosophy at the time.
After graduating, Shah Abd al-Ghani taught for a awhile at Madrasah ‘Arabiyyah Sitapur and thereafter for five years he was the head ustadh at Jaunpar. During this period, he accompanied Hadrat Thanawi to Saraimar in Azamgarh where the latter delivered a talk. Shah Abd al-Ghani took bay’at at the Eidgah and Hadrat Thanawi conferred the mantle of khilafat (successorship) on him. This was in 1338 AH.
With the consultation of Hadrat Thanawi, he established a madrassah in Phulpur, namely Madrasah Rawdat al-‘Ulum. Hadrat Thanawi laid the foundation with his own hands and remarked that he was naming it Rawdat al-‘Ulum (garden of knowledge) in relation to Phulpur (flower).
In 1349 AH Shah Abd al-Ghani established another madrasah, Bayt al-‘Ulum in Saraimir. Sometimes for the administration of this madrasah, he had to travel from Phulpur for five miles to Saraimir and sometimes he had t spend the entire day there. He would carry dough, salt and clarified butter and cook separately for his meals. He never even tasted the salt of the madrasah and he never took any salary. He solely undertook the journey of ten miles for the pleasure of Allah.
Regarding his qualities, Hadrat Thanawi said, “Masha Allah, Mawlana Abd al-Ghani is a soldier. He is always obliging. He is a wrestler. Then his educational and practical qualities are another matter. However one cannot recognize from his appearance that he is someone. This is the effect of dhikr. Dhikr is an amazing factor. All reformation is due to it.”
From the very inception, the desire to sacrifice his life in the path of Allah made him uneasy. Due to this sentiment, he employed a famous ustadh at the madrasah for ten years and learnt the art of self-defence and military tactics from him. He also learnt wrestling from another teacher. He therefore had a very good physique. At the order of his Shaykh, he taught the art of using a stick to some scholars in Thana Bhawan. On one occasion, Hadrat Thanawi remarked, “Our Molwi Abd al-Ghani is sufficient to oppose one thousand men if we ever require an army, our army is in Azamgarh.”
Shah Abd al-Ghani’s nature used to revolt against any act which opposed Din. Once someone complained about his anger to Hadrat Thanawi. He replied, “We require a hot-tempered person among us also, otherwise the enemy will devour us.”
His piety and abstinence were of such a high caliber that he always washed his clothes at home. If perchance the clothes had to be given to a washerman, he would them once more at home before using them.
The love which Hadrat Thanawi had for him can be estimated from the fact that once when he sought permission to go to Thana Bhawan, Hadrat Thanawi wrote, “Your presence is a cause of a hundred delights.”
On one occasion he wrote, “Permission for what? In fact we have a longing for you.” Once when Mawlana Abd al-Ghani came to Thana Bhawan without informing the people at Thana Bhawan, Hadrat Thanawi was lying down at the time. On seeing him, out of ecstasy he took a few steps and embraced him saying, “Unexpected bounty.”
Besides his teaching and reformation services which he rendered to the people he also wrote several books like Ma’rifate Illahiyyah, Ma’iyyate Illahiyyah, Sirate Mustaqim and Barahine Qari’ah.
He passed away on 12 August 1963 and was buried at the Paposhnagar graveyard in Karachi.