The Making of a Modern Maulvi by Ajmal Kamal

Text-only Preview

The making of the modern maulvi -- I - The Express Tribune
The making of the modern maulvi -- I
By Ajmal Kamal
Published: August 19, 2011
Since Islam was first adopted and practiced by people speaking Arabic -- the language of the Holy Quran -- they did not need
any intermediary between themselves and the religious text. However, there was a possibility of a group or class of people
taking it upon themselves to give a specific interpretation to the divine word. Besides, many of the Islamic acts of worship and
social rites were such that somebody was needed to lead them in congregations. Therefore, there certainly was a likelihood
that some people might choose to make it a source of their living.
Syed Naseer Shah, a writer of an exceptional merit, born and based in Mianwali, in his classic 1962 essay titled Kya khidmat-
e-deen ka muawza laina ja'iz hai?' (`Is it allowed to get paid in exchange of a religious service?') lists in sufficient detail verses
from the Holy Quran, clear and generally accepted Hadiths and the opinions of the Islamic legal experts through of the early
centuries to show how they were unanimous in condemning, disallowing and declaring haram -- absolutely forbidden -- and
said it was a grave sin to demand or accept any economic reward in exchange of teaching and explaining religious texts, leading
and facilitating acts of worship and performing religious rites. This was done with an unambiguous purpose of discouraging
people from making khidmat-e-deen their bread and butter.
The logic was that since all the major prophets quoted in the Holy Quran have shown their hatred for the idea of receiving
economic benefit for performing the divine task of teaching religion to people, those carrying on with their task in the later
period must also refrain from making it a source of economic benefit. Besides, when a member of a Muslim community assists
another member in performing an act of worship, he is actually performing this religious duty for his own self, and not for the
other person. Therefore, it is absurd to demand or accept any material, worldly reward for it.
However, according to Shah, by the end of the eighth century of the Hijra calendar (roughly corresponding to the fifteenth
century of the Gregorian calendar) not only had getting paid in exchange of khidmat-e-deen been declared halal -- allowed --
by those who monopolised the interpreting of religious texts, but minimum wages for teaching the Quran had been fixed in
cash and kind -- 35 dirhams and a measure of halwa -- and, what's more, refusing to pay such wages had been made a crime
punishable by imprisonment.
In this newspaper space, in the coming weeks, we intend to try and understand what form the profession of maulvi took in
South Asia during the later part of the colonial era -- from mid-nineteenth century onwards -- and how it influenced the social
and political life of the Muslim communities in the subcontinent in the decades that followed. This study seems meaningful in
that this particular era could be seen as the beginning of a fundamental transformation of the role of religion in public life and
that the new form of the profession was essentially shaped by the technologies of modern times -- new means of
communication, dissemination of knowledge and information, printing, public instruction and so on -- along with specific
skills and professions that emerged as a result of this huge change in technology and sociology. It is vital to see in proper
perspective the part it has been playing in the politics of identity in our region.
However, before coming to this period, it would help to see what it was that the modern era replaced or transformed, meaning
what the form, content and ways of dissemination of knowledge were before the introduction and prevalence of the new
technologies of communication, which happened, in the event, during and under the colonial rule.
To quote from the 1978 paper titled "The Art of Memory: Islamic Education and Its Social Reproduction" by Dale F Eickelman,
then professor of anthropology and human relations at New York University (and currently at Dartmouth College): "Islamic
education... was in some ways intermediate between oral and written systems of transmission of knowledge. Its key treatises
existed in written form but were conveyed orally, to be written down and memorised by students." He goes on to quote (and
critique) Marshall Hodgson's statement that education was "commonly conceived as the teaching of fixed and memorisable
statements and formulas which could be learned without any process of thinking as such".
According to Professor Eickelman, the "accurate memorisation" of the Holy Quran "in one or more of the seven conventional
recitational forms", and of the key religious texts, formed "the starting point for the mastery of religious sciences". The
generally accepted assumption was that "religious knowledge is fixed and knowable and that it is known by men of learning".
Furthermore: "The religious sciences... throughout the Islamic world are thought to be transmitted through a quasi-
genealogical chain of authority which descends from master or teacher (shaykh) to student (talib) to insure that the
knowledge of earlier generations is passed on intact. Knowledge of crafts is passed from master to apprentice in an analogous
fashion, with any knowledge or skill acquired in a manner independent from such a tradition regarded as suspect."
The system of religious education in South Asia followed the same general pattern as outlined above. Since the common
means of transport were bullock carts and horses (and also boats where there were rivers), geographical mobility was highly
limited. People of suitably high social status -- based on their being born in the correct caste -- travelled in search of
knowledge in much the same way as other high-born individuals set out to kill, plunder, conquer, occupy and rule. Most of the
1 of 2
22-10-2011 13:35

The making of the modern maulvi -- I - The Express Tribune
common people, tied to the agricultural land, had no business travelling to other places, except mass-migrating in times of
drought, famine or other such calamities. They were tied to their ancestral means of earning their living as firmly as they were
to the land. The activity of acquiring and imparting religious knowledge was therefore something out of their world.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed or derived from.
Unless otherwise stated, all content is copyrighted (c) 2011 The Express Tribune News Network.
Technical feedback? [email protected]
2 of 2
22-10-2011 13:35

The making of the modern maulvi -- II - The Express Tribune
The making of the modern maulvi -- II
By Ajmal Kamal
Published: August 26, 2011
Syed Manazir Ahsan Gilani's book Musalmanon ka Nizam-e- Taleem-o-Tarbiat (The System of Education and Training under
the Muslims) is a good source of information about how the business of acquiring and imparting religious education used to
be conducted till the time when technological advancement -- coinciding with the British rule -- initiated fundamental change
in the concept, practice and social character of education in the subcontinent.
Gilani was born in Bihar and at the time of writing this book, in 1942, was faithfully serving the state of Hyderabad which was
faithful to the colonial masters, just like other princely states. His book is a passionate defence of the pre-colonial system of
Muslim religious education against criticism that came not only from the recipients of the so-called `modern' or `English'
education but, significantly, from some of the maulvis of the modern era as well. Gilani quotes in his preface a Deobandi
maulvi -- without mentioning his name -- as follows:
"The fate handed over the task of interpreting Islam to such men (sufis and alims) in this country who did not properly know
its teachings, and whatever little they knew they did not practice.... Allah's book is in Arabic and these men wrote and spoke
Persian and did not have even a distant inclination towards the Arabic language.... The result is obvious: the monotheistic
religion which originated in Hijaz came to suffer a sorry fate in Bharat." (The Urdu phrase used in the last sentence of this
quotation is "mitti paleed ho gayi.")
One could easily sense where the motivation of such views lay. The Deobandi movement sought (just as enthusiastically as
the newly-surfaced Ahle Hadith sect but perhaps a little more tactfully) to undermine the local form the religion had taken in
the course of centuries. Both were influenced, to different degrees, by the Salafis or Wahabis from Najd, which had become
the ruling credo in what came to be called Saudi Arabia. Hence the harsh criticism of whatever happened earlier in this field in
the subcontinent. (Gilani feels that the wholesale rejection of the past was meant to highlight the significance of Shah
Waliullah and his school.)
Highly incensed by this `unfair' criticism, Gilani set out to write a brief article on the subject and ended up writing a 750-page
tome, employing his near-encyclopaedic knowledge about the conventional system of religious education, in the course of 20
days. The book is full of information about how the old system worked. Those connected with that system belonged to the
shurafa castes (mostly Syed) -- who are termed as `ilmi gharanas' (upper-caste clans who had the monopoly of knowledge) --
aided and supported by big or small kings, nawabs, amirs and aristocrats. The madrasas were located either in mosques or
more commonly in the havelis or deorhis of the amirs. Gilani mentions a number of maulvis who enjoyed the hospitality of
the wealthy zamindars of respectable origin for decades in their divan-khanas.
Students travelled to well-known madrasas in their regions of residence to stay and study. Their food came from the kitchens
of generous, God-fearing shurafa households. Books used for educating the students were calligraphed by hand and used
hand-made paper, ink and pens. In order to acquire a book, one had to first gain access to the personal collection of someone
who owned it and then copy it (or have it copied by warraqs -- calligraphers who made a living out of it ) word-by-word.
Compared with printing which had become common by the end of the nineteenth century, this traditional system of
hand-written books afforded more effective control of the written word, so that knowledge did not go astray and reach those
who were supposed to have no connection with it. One great grievance of the progeny of the ilmi gharanas against the printing
of books and the new system of universal education was precisely this: that it resulted in the `devaluation of knowledge' (ilm ki
na-qadri) by throwing it open to all, including those who were unsuitable as a result of their low-birth status to access it.
The curriculum was limited to manqoolat -- the Holy Quran, the Hadith and commentaries thereon, i.e. the Tafseer and the
Fiqh. Gilani is of the firm view that maqoolat -- philosophy (actually ilm-e-kalam), logic and other non-religious disciplines --
had no place in the syllabus of the Muslim education in the subcontinent until a few centuries previously. He feels that the
inclusion of maqoolat in the curriculum was a harmful innovation and that it might have been a result of a conspiracy hatched
by Shias during that period to bifurcate the madrasa syllabus.
Discussing what motivated upper-caste Muslim youths to study, Gilani quotes from the classic Akhbar-ul-Akhiar as follows:
"Once some students were talking and trying to know each other's circumstances as to how they described their aim in
acquiring knowledge. A few of them, artificially, said that their ultimate wish was to know the divinity [ma'rifat-e Ilahi], while
others simply spoke the truth and said that their aim in getting educated was to gain economic benefit."
Gilani compares the `crisis' of the so-called ilmi gharanas during the colonial era with the situation that prevailed two
centuries earlier when the disintegration of the Mughal empire had disturbed the smooth lifestyle of the purveyors of
knowledge. Faced with economic hardship, they had to abandon the profession of knowledge and take up that of soldiery and
had joined different local armies fighting with each other to gain control of relatively smaller tracts of land. Fortunately for
them, they were traditionally well versed in using both pen and sword. However, as a result of such economic crisis, the search
1 of 2
22-10-2011 13:35

The making of the modern maulvi -- II - The Express Tribune
for knowledge declined and the institutions that imparted religious education were badly affected.
It becomes abundantly clear that what concerns Gilani -- and all the`reform' or `educational' movements among Muslims of
the subcontinent -- is the economic interest of the shurafa who had monopolised knowledge, physical power and land, to the
exclusion of everyone and everything else.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed or derived from.
Unless otherwise stated, all content is copyrighted (c) 2011 The Express Tribune News Network.
Technical feedback? [email protected]
2 of 2
22-10-2011 13:35

The making of the modern maulvi -- III - The Express Tribune
The making of the modern maulvi -- III
By Ajmal Kamal
Published: September 2, 2011
There are certain established biases underlining the world view of people like Syed Manazir Ahsan Gilani that we would do
better to acknowledge and understand at the outset. The first assumption that they take as a settled, unquestionable affair, is
the supremacy of Islam over all other religions. For example, while talking about the materials used for writing before the
introduction of paper, Gilani mentions an old library which was acquired in his time by Osmania University and which had a
large collection of `books' written on toddy-leaves with iron pens and tied together with a string. The contents of such books
could not be ascertained, he says, `because they are mostly in Kannada, Telugu and Marathi languages and some in Sanskrit'.
He spoke to some `Hindu' professors of the university and came to the conclusion that they contained nothing but qissa-
kahanis of eras gone-by and mumbo-jumbo used for jhaar-phoonk. That some of those devoted to this other religion might
have considered these writings a treasure of religious knowledge would break no ice with people like Gilani, because for them
religious knowledge or ilm could only be in languages such as Arabic, Persian and well, Urdu, and could only deal with the
single true faith in the world, professed incidentally, by a minority of humankind.
There was a long-held belief that each non-Muslim that ever existed in the world, no matter if he is pious according to his
religion or good to people, was inevitably destined for hell while heaven was reserved for Muslims. The political power held by
Muslims in the Islamic mainland and elsewhere, including the subcontinent, had generally caused this belief to be taken as
something like as an established fact. In the new era of the colonial rule, when group identities became the basis for politics in
the public sphere, the question whether all non-Muslims were to burn in hell after death came into sharp focus and became a
constant topic of religious debates. As identities started to solidify, the maulvi of the modern era hardened his stance on this
point, although the laws of the colonial government did not normally allow him to go further than propagating it as a mere
religious belief.
There was another very active bias that worked within the collective Islamic community at large. The supremacy of the Sunni
theology over Shia or other sects within Islam was and, still is, considered as much a settled affair as that of Muslims over all
the rest. The Muslim body politic had broken into two groups at the beginning of the caliphate which later came to be known
as Shias and Sunnis. The ascendance of the latter under the Banu Umayya and Banu Abbas dynasties politically subjugated
the Shias except in places where they themselves were able to relegate Sunnis to a subject status. The proportion of Shias
among Muslims as a whole is believed to be close to a quarter. In the Sunni power circles, Shias of various persuasions were
considered as insurgent political groups, always scheming to dislodge and replace Sunnis from positions of authority.
The canonisation of Islamic learning -- the compilation of six books of hadith (Sahah-e Sitta) and the establishment of four
schools of interpretation and fiqh -- was carried out in the time and places where Sunnis were in power. Men of learning who
were Sunni, backed by men of authority who were also Sunni, did not treat the Sunni-Shia divide as a sign of diversity. They
took a view under which Shia religious thought was nothing but a deviation from what they thought to be the true faith. The
proponents of the four schools of fiqh, came together and declared that the work of interpreting the religious texts had been
completed and since human life was not likely to throw up any new matters to resolve, therefore, the door of ijtehad was
closed from then onwards. This was a political move meant, at least in part, to isolate the Shia minority.
Many of the preachers who came to the subcontinent and spread the message of Islam were Shias, which resulted not only in
the conversion of a number of local castes into Shia biradris (such as Ismaili, Asna-Ashri) but also created a soft corner among
the converted population of Sunnis for religious concepts associated with Shias as well as public feelings for them. This was
unbearable for the orthodox Sunni clergy and the maulvi of modern times has tried to isolate and fight such trends which has
created sorry results, as we all know. The political subjugation of Shias wherever they acquired power was also considered
necessary. For example, Mahmud Ghaznavi in the 10th century, first invaded and destroyed the Fatimid Shia kingdom of
Multan before turning his destructive attention towards Somnath.
The darbar politics during the Mughal era and in the states away from the centre also sharpened the Sunni-Shia political
tussle. In an interesting, revealing footnote, Gilani mentions that Tabatabai, the author of the history Seerul Muta'akhhereen,
calls the Nizam Asif Jah a dunyadar and a zamana-shanas, not because the Nizam deserved these epithets as a collaborator of
the East India Company, but because Tabatabai was writing under a heavy, incorrigible Shia bias! The fact was only that Gilani
was in the service of the Hyderabad state and felt that he had to defend his masters.
The third strong bias that we can sense in Gilani and his likes is against the local coverts. He mentions a great Muslim
preacher and sufi-saint who was taught the Quran by a "Hindu", and later clarifies that the Quran teacher was actually a
respected Muslim and was called a Hindu only because he was a convert. He insists that this very atypical, isolated incident of
a person of a low status being allowed to teach the Quran should be taken as proof that in matters of knowledge, Muslims
treated everyone equally! The fact is that the growing caste-consciousness among the lower-caste Muslims as a result of social
change had made it difficult by the 1930s and 1940s to treat them as incapable of accessing religious and other knowledge.
1 of 2
22-10-2011 13:34

The making of the modern maulvi -- III - The Express Tribune
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated Syed Manazir Ahsan Gilani as Yousuf Raza Gilani. The changes
have been made.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed or derived from.
Unless otherwise stated, all content is copyrighted (c) 2011 The Express Tribune News Network.
Technical feedback? [email protected]
2 of 2
22-10-2011 13:34

The making of the modern maulvi -- IV - The Express Tribune
The making of the modern maulvi -- IV
By Ajmal Kamal
Published: September 9, 2011
While listing the three traditional biases strongly held by mainstream religious decision-makers and inherited by the maulvis
of the modern times -- against non-Muslims; minority sects; and local converts of the lower castes -- I did not mention the
gender bias, because the prejudice against the socially weaker sex cuts all religious, sectarian and caste boundaries and could
be considered as common to all. When the process of socio-economic change began during the colonial era, all these biases
started becoming the basis of the politics of identity.
After the Bengal Army's mutiny of 1857, the subcontinent came directly under the crown and a new -- third, according to
Hamza Alavi -- phase of the colonial administration began. While the previous phase was characterised by a transfer of wealth
in terms of cash -- used to build the textile and other industries of Britain -- it was decided in the latter half of the nineteenth
century by the colonial rulers to turn the subcontinent into a supplier of raw material for the British industry, grain for its
populace and soldiers for its colonial army.
These decisions were to have a deep and lasting impact on the individual and collective lives of the inhabitants of this region. A
huge canal network was constructed in the northern plains of Punjab and UP to make the land capable of growing cotton,
sugarcane, wheat and other important crops. New mandi-towns and port cities were developed and railways and road
networks were built to transport agricultural produce and industrial products, and to move troops. These public works brought
into being an institution called the thekedar, or contractor, which ensured the supply of labour and materials of all kinds for a
commission. Modern civic and administrative services of water supply, sewerage, transport, law courts, policing etc. were
developed in urban centres. Important changes were made in the recruitment policy of the British Indian Army and a `theory'
of the so-called `martial races' was invented to support it.
All these changes were taking place side-by-side with developments in technology that changed the way people communicated
with each other. While modern post and telegraph transformed communication between individuals and families, the
currency of the printing technology changed the way knowledge was disseminated and shared. Since all these developments
needed new skills and forms of knowledge at every level, a large system of public education was put in place, the like of which
had never existed in previous eras. People from some of the lower castes who were considered unfit to get education under the
traditional system of hereditary occupations, were now allowed to acquire skills needed for the modern systems and to change
the way they earned their livelihood.
Among the mainstream Muslim communities of North India, there were two significant elite reactions to this. The MAO
College at Aligarh (later to be called Aligarh Muslim University) and the religious madrassa at Deoband (later to be known as
Darul Uloom of Deoband) could be taken as expressions of these two reactions. There has been a tendency among social
analysts and critics of making much of the differences in the approach of Aligarh and Deoband. However, their commonalities
could be much more significant and revealing from another perspective. While the two elite points of view had some
differences with respect to the rationality of the biases against non-Muslims and against minority Muslim sects, they displayed
an identical repugnance towards people of low birth whose aspirations to acquire education, change their profession and
improve their lives turns them into `upstarts'. Both these `educational' movements and their leaders were clear about the class
they were meant to serve and benefit. It was the well-defined class of Muslims who considered themselves of high birth and
called themselves shurafa. While the phenomenon called Aligarh, with its impact on the politics of Muslim identity in the
subcontinent, deserves to be studied from this angle separately, just now I would like to focus on Deoband which produced
the quintessential character I have chosen to call `the modern maulvi'.
Masood Alam Falahi, a young graduate of a madrassa in Bihar who went on to do his M Phil and PhD in Delhi, has written a
book called Hindustan Mein Zaat-Paat Aur Muslman in 2007 (reissued in a revised and enlarged form in 2009 and available
in English translation on the internet at This book is a treasure trove of revealing quotations from the
Muslim religious and historical literature of the subcontinent on the subject. Among other things, Falahi quotes an interesting
anecdote about Aligarh written by the famous Deobandi Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (1863-1943) in his collection of responses
to religious queries called Ashraful Jawab, which shows how the firm policy of segregating and differentiating between people
of higher and lower castes was a common factor between Aligarh and Deoband. The learned maulana apparently respected the
deep, though misplaced, concern of the questioner about the dangers of mixing people of higher and lower origins at places
like Aligarh. In his response, Thanvi writes: "An Englishman went to visit Aligarh College. He saw that while the sons of
aristocrats (raeeson ke larke) studied, the servants accompanying them stood and waited at a distance; they could not even
think of sitting next to their masters. But at the time of the namaz, the servants and masters stood next to each other. He
asked the raees-zadas if standing shoulder to shoulder during the prayers did not make these servants bold and impudent. He
was told that they could not dare to consider themselves equal in any way to their masters after the namaz."
He then goes on to state: "The haq during namaz is that everybody should be equal, and the hukm for other times is different."
1 of 2
22-10-2011 13:34

The making of the modern maulvi -- IV - The Express Tribune
In the remaining parts of the current series, I am going to comment on the life and thoughts of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi
who, in my view, perfectly fits the bill of the modern maulvi.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2011.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed or derived from.
Unless otherwise stated, all content is copyrighted (c) 2011 The Express Tribune News Network.
Technical feedback? [email protected]
2 of 2
22-10-2011 13:34

The making of the modern maulvi -- V - The Express Tribune
The making of the modern maulvi -- V
By Ajmal Kamal
Published: September 16, 2011
Although the positions he took -- regarding important religious, social and political questions of his time -- were clearly
orthodox, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi can be studied as a product of the modern, colonial times. For a professional maulvi, he
came from a non-traditional background, received his higher education in the newly commissioned madrasa at Deoband and
throughout his busy life, used most of the modern means of communication for his purposes. He wrote and published books
and risalas (religious booklets or pamphlets) using the new printing technology, which had become quite popular by the time
he became active, travelled to places near and far, using the brand-new railways, to offer waaz on the invitation of big urban
raoosa, and helped create a sect-based community of followers communicating with them through the great institution of the
post office. In fact, as we are told innumerable times in his official three-volume biography, Ashraf-us Sawaneh, and other
sources, the activity of reading and replying to letters took a considerable part of his time. Also, he received donations from his
mureeds and others by money order, although one of his teachers at Deoband had once declared it un-Islamic.
Ashraf-us Sawaneh falls into the category of hagiographies of men of God that became current in Urdu after the introduction
of printing, with the difference that it was an authorised biography written during the lifetime of its subject and actually
supervised and occasionally corrected by him. The writer, Khwaja Azizul Hasan Ghouri, was among Thanvi's akabir khulafa
(prominent khalifas who were allowed to make mureeds on the maulana's behalf). Besides, Ghouri was a graduate from
Aligarh (he is particular in writing `Alig' in brackets after his name) and had served the colonial administration as a deputy-
collector and an inspector of schools in UP. Not only is his name adorned by a curious title `Khusrav-e-bargah-e-Ashrafia'
(meaning he was to Thanvi what Amir Khusrau was to Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia), one is amused by the strangest
combination of his official title of `Khan Bahadur' with what appears to be his takhallus (or poetic pen-name) `Majzoob'. A Sufi
term derived from the Arabic `jazb', which means to be absorbed in or fatally attracted to the Almighty, a majzoob would
perhaps be looked at as a rare bird among the worldly wise men who managed to earn titles such as `Khan Bahadur' from the
British colonial masters.
This particular brand of biographies is characterised, among other things, by the prominent place enjoyed in them by
predictions and dreams of apparently semi-divine personalities that one would doubt or question at one's peril. According to
Ghouri, who quotes Thanvi on this, the latter's maternal grandmother complained to a majzoob that her daugther's male
children did not survive infancy. He enigmatically replied that they died because of a tug of war between Hazrat Umar (RA)
and Hazrat Ali (RA), and advised, "Ab ki bar Ali ke supurd kar dena, zinda rahe ga", ("this time hand over the newborn to Ali
and he'll survive"). It was taken to mean that since the paternal side of Thanvi was Farooqi and the maternal side was Alavi,
and the male infants were named in the former's tradition (such as Fazl-e-Haq), hence, the male infant mortality. The next
time the newborn was to be given a name with `Ali' in it.
The majzoob laughed at the correct interpretation of his utterance and predicted that the mother would give birth to two sons
in succession, both of whom would survive, and instructed that they were to be named Ashraf Ali and Akbar Ali, respectively.
The prediction came true and the sons were named as advised. The paternal side, however, insisted on giving a name of their
own to Ashraf Ali, and named him Abdul Ghani, though the latter did not gain currency. It was, incidentally, used much later
by Thanvi himself as a cover in one of his risalas (titled Khutoob-ul Muziba) that he wrote as a reply to his younger brother
Akbar Ali, who had objected to Ashraf Ali taking a second wife (much younger to him) while his first, older wife was still alive.
It appears that under the influence of the Protestant ethics, made current by the colonial rule, polygamy had begun to be
openly objected to.
Ashraf Ali was born in Thana Bhavan (hence his adopted surname `Thanvi'), a UP qasbah or small town some 150 kilometre
from Delhi, in 1863, i.e., a mere five years after the last Mughal lost his nominal place in the Red Fort. By that time, the
traditional system of the Shahi or Nawabi patronage of the maulvis (and others calling themselves ahl-e-kamal) had been all
but dismantled. The primary occupation of Thanvi's father, Abdul Haq, was to serve a tiny state in Meruth (Meerut) as its
Mukhtar-e-Aam, but with the permission of his employer he used to take contracts of the commiserate from which he had
earned considerable amount of wealth and social status and bought a lot of semi-urban property. Abdul Haq, therefore,
belonged to the profession of thekedar, or contractor, which became the source of `new money', especially from the later part
of the 19th century onwards.
Ghouri quotes Thanvi while speaking about the Firasat-e-Khudadad or the God-gifted wisdom of Abdul Haq. In that, he
decided very early in their childhood, what course the lives of his two sons were going to take. Ashraf Ali was chosen for
taleem-e-arabi (`Arabic education'), while Akbar Ali was to acquire taleem-e-angrezi (`English education'). An old aunt of
Thanvi took it as discrimination against the elder son that he was being deprived of the modern education, as she thought the
`Arbaic education' would limit his chances of earning money. Abdul Haq got enraged and said, "Bhabi sahiba, tum kehti ho ko
yeh arabi parrh kar khayega kahan se. Khuda ki qasam, jis ko tum kamane-wala samajhti ho, aise aise is ki jutiyon se lage
lage phirain ge."
1 of 2
22-10-2011 13:34

The making of the modern maulvi -- V - The Express Tribune
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2011.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed or derived from.
Unless otherwise stated, all content is copyrighted (c) 2011 The Express Tribune News Network.
Technical feedback? [email protected]
2 of 2
22-10-2011 13:34

Document Outline

  • The making of the modern maulvi I ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi II ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi III ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi IV ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi V ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi VI ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi VII ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi VIII ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi IX ą The Express Tribune
  • The making of the modern maulvi X ą The Express Tribune