The Great and Splendid Gnostic: Shaykh Imdad Allah al-Faruqi al-Thanawi
[Also known as Haji Imdadullah Muhajir Makki]
The Shaykh, the Great and Splendid Gnostic (‘Arif), the Migrant to the blessed city of Makkah Imdad Allah ibn Muhammad Amin al-’Umari al-Thanawi was from amongst the saints, spiritual travellers (saliks) and gnostics. Tongues are united in praising and exalting him.
He was born on Monday when there were eight days left till the end of Safar in the year 1233AH in the village of Nanautah in the district of Saharanpur. He studied the books of Persian, as was the norm. He studied Al-Hisn al-Hasin and Al-Mathnawi al-Ma’nawi under Mawlana Qalandar Baksh al-Jalalabadi, who had studied Al-Mathnawi under Mufti Ilahi Baksh al-Kandehlawi. He then travelled to Delhi and remained in the company of Shaykh Nasir al-Din al-Shafi’i, the mujahid, and studied tasawwuf under him. After his martyrdom, he returned to Thana Bhawan and remained there for some time. He then went to Lohari and stayed in the company of Shaykh Nur Muhammad al-Janjhanawi and studied tasawwuf under him. Allah Most High opened for him the doors of ma’rifa (gnosis) and made him from amongst the ‘ulama who are grounded in knowledge. At the orders of his shaykh he proceeded to spiritually guide and instruct people.
[The Muslims and the people of the country revolted against the English in the year 1274AH. A group of ‘ulama, the pious and the people of zeal from amongst the Muslims arose in the districts of Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar, and announced war against the English. They selected Shaykh Imdad Allah as their amir (leader). The two sides came to war on the plain of Shamli, a village in the district of Muzaffarnagar, where Hafiz Muhammad Damin was martyred. The wheel turned against the Muslims and the feet of the English became firm. They were ruthless with anyone accused of participating in the revolt, the earth became narrow for the passionate and practicing ‘ulama, and the field of activity in India became restricted. Some of them spent time hiding and in secrecy; others were forced to migrate (hijra) and abandon the land. Shaykh Imdad Allah chose to migrate to Makka al-Mukarrama. He entered the blessed city in the year 1276AH and settled down there. His first place of residence was the Al-Safa area of Makkah, after which he moved to the Harat al-Bab area where he remained for the rest of his life and met his Lord.
For a long time he lived in great hardship, poverty and destitution, as was the condition of the saints of the earlier times; he bore patience in search of reward and was content with the condition that Allah had decided for him until He brought him relief and replaced hardship with ease, and the Earth came to him in spite of its submissively. He remained preoccupied with spiritual struggle (mujahadat) and worship, and with heart and soul he would be attentive towards Allah. He would constantly remain in dhikr and meditation, and his heart and interior overflowed with knowledge and light. He himself remained patient and on the threshold of worship. He would always humble himself in front of people, and was high-aspiring and noble. He would honour knowledge and the ‘ulama, and revere the Shari’at and the Sunna, until Allah embedded his love in the hearts of His slaves, and, so, the hearts of the great ‘ulama and the revered shaykhs became attached to him and benefited from him, and seekers of ma’rifa and yaqin headed towards him from distant lands. Allah blessed his method of tarbiyya (spiritual training) and his tariqa whose light spread to faraway countries. He renewed the Chishti-Sabri tariqa, and great ‘ulama and learned individuals became affiliated to it and entered it.]
Through him, Allah benefited many people whose numbers cannot be enumerated. The greatest of them is Shaykh Qasim (al-Nanotwi), Shaykh Rashid Ahmad (al-Gangohi), Mawlana Ya’qub (al-Nanautwi), Molwi Ahmad Hasan (al-Amrohi), Molwi Muhammad Husayn and Molwi Ashraf ‘Ali (al-Thanawi). All of them became shaykhs and many people benefited from them.
[Shaykh Imdad Allah was of medium height, inclining towards being tall. He was of fragile build, brown skinned and had a large head. He had a wide brow with beautiful arched eyebrows and wide eyes. He was of pleasant speech and friendly. He would always be smiling, and would sleep and eat little. The love of Allah had made him weak, and mujahadat and spiritual exercises had made him thin. He was extremely patient, had a big heart and possessed diverse qualities; people who were different in inclination and mashrab (methodology) would unite in love for him and they would all benefit from him. He was tolerant of people, open with regards to subsidiary fiqh issues (juz’i masa’il) and the differences among the madhhabs. He was not fanatical (or bigoted) [to his school of thought] nor did he hold an overly stern viewpoint. He was passionately fond of the Al-Mathnawi al-Ma’nawi and would always be preoccupied with it by way of contemplation, teaching, dictation or slowly reading it with enjoyment — he would also advise his companions to read it and to contemplate its contents.
He has several literary works to his name, all of them regarding the love of Allah, m’arifa and tasawwuf. Among them is Dhiya al-Qulub in Persian, and Irshad-e-Murshid, Gulzar-e-M’arifa, Tuhfat al-Ushshaq, Jihad-e-Akbar, Ghidha-e-Ruh and Dardnama-e-Gumnak in Urdu. The majority of these are in poetry form.]
He died on Wednesday, 12 Jumada al-Ukhra, 1317AH, in Makka al-Mukarrama. He was laid to rest in Al-Ma’lat at the side of Shaykh Rahmat Allah al-Kiranwi.
Translator’s note – The biography of Shaykh Imdad Allah al-Faruqi al-Thanawi is in the eighth volume of ‘Allama Sayyid Abd al-Hay ibn Fakhr al-Din al-Hasani’s magnum opus, Al-I’lam bi man fi Tarikh al-Hind min al-A’lam (also known as a Nuzhat al-Khawatir wa Bahjat al-Masami wa ‘l-Nawadhir), a historical eight-volume record of the biographies of significant individuals from the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
Shaykh Sayyid Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali al-Hasani al-Nadwi, the author’s accomplished son, writes in the preface to the final volume that since his father died before its completion, he carefully undertook the task of finishing the biographies using the same methodology and writing style of his illustrious father.
He adds that the eighth chapter comprised 559 biographies, and that 350 biographies had been left completely or partially blank, or important details had been missed, as the biographer died before the person whose biography was recorded. In order to separate his additions and the writings of his father’s, the shaykh used brackets, which have been preserved in the translation above.