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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 13    Issue 11   01 - 31 January 2019

Mawlana Muhammad Khwaja Sharif

Professor A. R. MOMIN

Over the past several centuries, Muslim scholars of the Indian subcontinent have made outstanding and wide-ranging contributions to Islamic disciplines, especially to Hadith literature. Their contribution to Hadith literature encompasses editing and publication of dozens of rare manuscripts of Hadith, critical annotations and commentaries on Hadith works, narration, transmission and preservation of Hadith, and teaching of Hadith texts. Rabi’ ibn Sabih al-Basri (d. 160 AH), who lies buried in Bharuch (Gujarat), was one of the early pioneers in the compilation of Hadith. Another eminent scholar of Hadith of Indian origin, who was a contemporary of Rabi’ ibn Sabih, was Abu Ma’shar Sindhi (d. 170 AH). Notable contributions to the study of Hadith literature in subsequent years were made by Raja Sindhi (d. 321 AH), Radi al-Din Hasan Saghani (d. 650 AH), ‘Ali Muttaqi (d. 975 AH), ‘Abd al-Wahhab Muttaqi (d. 1001 AH), Tahir Patni (d. 986 AH), Abu Hasan Sindhi (d. 1139), ‘Abd al-Haq Dehlavi (d. 1239 AH), Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (d. 1762), Shah ‘Abd al-Aziz Dehlavi (d. 1239), ‘Abd al-Hayy Firangimahli (d. 1304 AH), Mawlana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (d. 1352 AH) and Mawlana Habib al-Rahman al-Azami (d. 1992), among many others.

Some of the most important and rare Hadith texts were first printed in India. The Dairat al-Ma’arif al-Uthmaniyah at Hyderabad has the distinction of printing a number of rare and highly important Hadith texts. These include Sunan of Bayhaqi (in 10 volumes), Musnad of Abu ‘Awanah (in 5 volumes), Musnad of Abu Dawud Tayalisi, Lisan al-Mizan of Ibn Hajar Asqalani (in 6 volumes), Al-Isti’ab of Ibn Abd al-Barr, Tarikh al-Kabir of Bukhari, Thiqat of Ibn Hibban (in 9 volumes), Al-Kifayah of Khatib al-Baghdadi, Mustadrak of Hatim, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib of Ibn Hajar and Kanz al-Ummal of ‘Ali Muttaqi (in 22 volumes).

Not many would know that the publication of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s Musnad for the first time in Egypt in 1313 AH was made possible by a generous grant from the then ruler of Hyderabad, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan.

A significant aspect of the contribution of Muslim scholars in India to Hadith literature lies in critical annotations, notes and commentaries on major Hadith texts and on the biographies of narrators and transmitters of Hadith. The important works include Tahir Patni’s Majma’ Bihar al-Anwar, Al-Mughni and Tadhkirah al-Mawdua’t, Shah Waliullah Dehlavi’s commentary on Muwatta, Abd al-Haq Dehlavi’s commentary on Mishkat al-Masabih, Abul Hasan Sindhi’s notes on Bukhari’s Al-Jami’ al-Sahih, Abu Muhsin Sindhi’s commentary on the Sunan of Nasa’i and on Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Hayat Sindhi’s commentary on the Sunan of Ibn Majah, Shams al-Haqq Azimabadi’s and Khalil Ahmad Ambethvi’s commentary on the Sunan of Abu Dawud, Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani’s commentary on the Sahih of Muslim, Anwar Shah Kashmiri’s commentary on the Sahih of Bukhari, Zakariya Saharanpuri’s commentary on Muwatta, Rashid Ahmad Gangohi’s and Abd al-Rahman Mubarakpuri’s commentaries on the Sunan of Tirmidhi and Shah Fad-Allah’s commentary on Bukhari’s Al-Adab al-Mufrad.

The celebrated Egyptian scholar Sayyid Rashid Rida (d. 1935) paid glowing tributes to Indian scholars of Hadith for their original and highly important contribution to the preservation of Hadith literature. He said: “If not for the kind concern and dedication of Indian scholars, Hadith studies would have disappeared from the world. The interest in Hadith studies began to decline in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Hijaz from the 10th century of the Hijra till it reached a very low level of decline in the 14th century.”

Jamia Nizamia, Hyderabad

Jamia Nizamia is one of the oldest and reputed institutions of Islamic learning in India. It was founded by Mawlana Anwarullah Faruqi, a renowned and widely respected scholar of Hadith and other Islamic disciplines, in 1872. Since its establishment nearly a century and a half ago, hundreds of thousands of students have graduated from Jamia Nizamia. The alumni of this great institution include many distinguished scholars, poets and writers. Muhammad Hamidullah, an internationally renowned Islamic scholar, had graduated from Jamia Nizamia.

Mawlana Muhammad Khwaja Sharif

Mawlana Muhammad Khwaja Sharif was born in a respectable and learned family in the village of Potlapalli in the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad in 1940. His lineage is traceable to Halima Sa’diya on his father’s side and from Banu Hashim, the Prophet’s lineage, on his mother’s side. He came to Hyderabad with his parents when he was eight years old and was admitted to Jamia Nizamia two years later. He graduated from Jamia Nizamia in 1961 and thereafter took up a teaching post at a madrasa in a neighbouring town, Anantpur. In 1966 he was appointed to a teaching post at Jamia Nizamia. While studying and teaching at Jamia Nizamia, Mawlana Sharif evinced a keen interest in the study of Hadith. The yearning to delve deeper into the vast ocean of Hadith studies took him to Madrasa Aminiya in Delhi. After completing a specialised course in Hadith studies and obtaining a certificate from Madrasa Aminiya, Mawlana Sharif returned to his alma mater to resume his teaching responsibilities. In 1993 he was appointed Shaykh al-Hadith, a highly respected position in an Islamic seminary, in recognition and appreciation of his proficiency in Hadith studies. He held this position till the end.

Multi-faceted Contributions

Mawlana Sharif’s contributions to the promotion and advancement of Islamic studies, especially Hadith studies, are note-worthy on four counts. First, he wrote an extended commentary on Al-Jami’ al-Sahih of Imam Bukhari, which was published as Tharwat al-qari fi anwar al-Bukhari. This commentary is based on his extensive lecture notes and discourses over three decades at Jamia Nizamia. One of the works of Mawlana Anwarullah Faruqi is Al-kalam al-marfu’ fima yata’lliq al-maudu’, which deals with the question of Hadith narrations that were fabricated and falsely ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAAW). Mawlana Sharif translated this book into Urdu for the benefit of students and teachers.

One of the well-known collections of Hadith, which is included in the curriculum of most Islamic seminaries, is Mishkat al-Masabih, compiled by Muhammad bin Abdullah Khatib Tabrezi (d. 941 AH). Mishkat al-Masabih is actually an expanded version of Al-Baghawi’s Masabih al-Sunnah. Several eminent scholars of Hadith have written commentaries on Mishkat al-Masabih, the most notable of them being Mirqat al-Mafatih by Mulla Ali Qari (d. 1606) and Asha’t al-lama’t by ‘Abd al-Haqq Dehlavi (d. 1642). Mawlana Sayyid ‘Abdullah Shah Naqshbandi (d. 1384 AH), who was a pupil of Mawlana Anwarullah Faruqi and is popularly known as “Muhaddis-e-Dakan,” wrote an extended commentary on Mishkat al-Masabih in five volumes. Parts of this commentary, known as Zujajt al-Masabih, were translated into Urdu by Mawlana Sharif. Mawlana Sharif wrote an important work on Imam Abu Hanifah, in which he convincingly demonstrated that Abu Hanifah was not only a pioneering scholars of Islamic law but also one of the foremost authorities on Hadith studies.

Second, Mawlana Sharif was a dedicated and inspiring teacher of Hadith. He taught Hadith studies at Jamia Nizamia for over three decades. A distinctive feature of his method of teaching Hadith, especially Imam Bukhari’s Sahih, was that, while explicating the legal connotations and implications of Hadith, he would point out that Imam Abu Hanifah formulated his legal opinion or edict (fatwa) in a particular case on the basis of such and such Hadith. He would likewise draw attention to the way in which Imam Shafi’i interpreted a certain Hadith in order to formulate a particular legal opinion. This comparative approach to the teaching of Hadith was particularly significant in view of the fact that his students included the followers of both the Hanafi and Shafi’i schools of Islamic law. With this method he sought to emphasize that Islamic law (fiqh) is essentially derived from the Quran and Hadith and that Hadith and Fiqh are inextricably intertwined. This also testifies to his erudition and breadth of vision.

The Prophet (SAAW) is reported to have said, “May Allah keep one who heard something from me and passed it on to others fresh and blooming.” Mawlana Sharif did not keep the teaching and dissemination of Hadith to the confines of Jamia Nizamia. He regularly held discourses on Hadith for the benefit of common Muslims in local mosques. For nearly four decades, he regularly held a brief session at the mosque of Jamia Nizamia wherein he would read one Hadith from Zujajatul Masabih and then offer an explication of the same in a simple, easy to understand language. Similarly, he used to deliver a short speech after the Maghrib prayers every Friday at the Chunti Shah Mosque, in which he offered an explication and commentary on selected Hadith. These discourses were attended by students, teachers and educated as well as common Muslims from different walks of life.

Mawlana Sharif had the good fortune to visit Makkah and Madinah several times. During one of these travels, some Arab students and teachers requested him to give discourses on the Sahih of Imam Bukhari and the Shamail of Tirmidhi. He acceded to their request and held the discourses at the Holy Mosque in Makkah and concluded them at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. The discourses, which were concluded in two weeks, would begin early in the morning after the Fajr prayers and go on until 10 o’clock in the night. The discourses, given in Arabic, were attended by a fairly large number of Arab students, scholars and university teachers. Following the conclusion of the discourses, some Arab scholars requested Mawlana Sharif to grant them permission (ijaza) to narrate Hadith through his chain of narrators, which he granted.

In 2013, Dr Hasan Haitu al-Jilani, an eminent scholar of Kuwait, requested Mawlana Sharif to visit Leipzig University in Germany as a visiting professor and to give lectures on Imam Bukhari’s Sahih at the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies. Mawlana Sharif accepted the invitation and travelled to Germany and gave a series of lectures on Imam Bukhari’s Sahih, in Arabic, which were attended by Arab and other students, teachers and scholars.

Proficiency in Arabic Language and Literature

Some teachers of Jamia Nizamia had an exceptional proficiency in Arabic language and literature. This can be illustrated with an interesting episode from the annals of this great institution in the 1920s. D. S. Margoliouth (d. 1940) was a famous English Orientalist who was Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford from 1889 to 1937. He had a remarkable mastery over Arabic language and literature and had written a number of widely read and influential books on Islam, including The Rise of Islam (1905), The Early Development of Mohammedanism (1914) and The Relations Between Arabs and Israelites Prior to the Rise of Islam (1924). He had translated parts of Al-Baidawi’s celebrated commentary on the Quran and published a critically edited version of the works of Abul A’la al-Muarri. He also published critical editions of Yaqut’s Dictionary of Learned Men (Mu’jam al-Udaba) in 6 volumes and Sama’ni’s Kitab al-Ansab. He travelled to India after World War II and visited Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bombay and Lahore, where he delivered lectures at universities and institutions of Islamic learning. In the course of his itinerary, he visited Jamia Nizamia and gave a lecture in chaste Arabic. After he concluded his speech, Mawlana Ibrahim Adib Rizvi, a teacher of Arabic at Jamia Nizamia and an accomplished Arabic writer and poet, rose to propose a vote of thanks. Mawlana Rizvi thanked Margoliouth in eloquent Arabic verse, which he had composed extempore. Margoliouth was astounded at Mawlana Rizvi’s incredible command over Arabic.

Mawlana Sharif had a remarkable proficiency in Arabic language and literature. He was an accomplished Arabic writer and poet. His Arabic compositions in Arabic have been published in reputed journals. In recognition of his exceptional proficiency in Arabic, Mawlana Sharif was appointed Shaykh al-Adab at Jamia Nizamia in 1988. Mawlana Sharif was a great admirer of Qasida al-Burda, penned by Imam Al-Busiri (d. 1294 CA) in praise of the Prophet (SAAW). He wrote an extended commentary on the poem in Urdu, which he completed before his death.

Mawlana Sharif was not a reclusive, ivory tower scholar. He was deeply involved in the religious, educational and cultural upliftment of Muslims. In 1405 AH he established a unique institution for Islamic learning, known as Al-Ma’had al-Dini al-Arabi. At present, over 700 young men and women are studying at various institutions affiliated to Al-Ma’had al-Dini al-Arabi.

Mawlana Sharif’s character and personality were marked by simplicity, humility, selflessness and sincerity. He was an epitome of courtesy. The Prophet (SAAW) is reported to have said, “One who cultivates the trait of humility for the sake of Allah, He enhances his prestige and respect (in the eyes of people).” Mawlana’s Sharfi’s life bore a testimony to this insightful remark of the Prophet. He was widely respected by scholars as well as common people in Hyderbad in particular and in Islamic circles across the country in general.

Thousands of people attended the funeral procession of Mawlana Sharif

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