“The Pride of Kashmir” – Book Review of Anwar Shah Kashmiri’s Biography
Reviewed by Dr. Javid Iqbal
Edited by IlmGate
Book: The Pride of Kashmir
Author: Professor Nazir A Qadiri
Release Date: December 2015
There is a dearth of literature available on one of the most profound scholars Kashmir has ever produced – Allāmah Muhammad Anwar [Shah] Kashmīri. As Nazir A Qadiri labels him, he is indeed the “Pride of Kashmir,” one of the greatest of her sons. The author – Nazir A Qadiri – has filled a vital need by providing an elaborate compilation of [the] life and work of the illustrious scholar. How an obscure boy from Lolab, son of a cleric – Mu’azzam Shah – made it to the exalted chair of Sadr al-Mudarrisīn of Dār al-Ulūm Deoband, the prime theological school of the subcontinent, is a story replete with quest for learning and attaining the status of one of the most knowledgeable scholars of all times in the realm of the religion of Islam and its profound understanding.
Nazir A Qadiri has diligently provided the background notes, so vital in understanding the times in which Allāmah Muhammad Anwar [Shah] Kashmīri worked to build up his scholastic base. In a book of about 300 pages with 12 chapters, the author glosses over all that is vital to note of the remarkable life of the Allāmah. The first two chapters provide notes on growth of Islamic religious seminaries [in] the subcontinent. Firangi Mahal of Lucknow, established in 1692 during the reign of Aurangzeb was the forerunner of Dār-al-Ulūm Deoband (established: 1866) followed by Mazāhir al-Ulūm of Sahāranpūr (1866), Madrasah Baqiyat al-Salihat of Vellore (1883), Nadwat al-Ulama of Lucknow (1894), and Madrasah Ameeniyah of Delhi (1897). Establishment and growth of these seminaries provided the basis [for] the growth of academics [of Islam] in the subcontinent and attaining scholarship in the vital realm.
The author follows it with filling the reader with subject matter – the life and work of Allāmah Muhammad Anwar [Shah] Kashmiri. He traces his genealogical tree to a family of Baghdad that escaped the tyranny of [the] Tatars in 1258 and made it to Multan and Lahore and ultimately to Kashmir. Whatever the antecedents, Anwar Shah was born on October 16th, 1875 in Dhoodwan, Kupwara in the house of maternal grandparents, the second son of six sons of Mu’azzam Shah and his first wife, Maal Deedi. [They also had two daughters]. [From] his second marriage, Mu’azzam Shah had one son, Ghulam Muhammad Shah of Drugmulla, Kupwara who passed away in 2014. The progenies of Mu’azzam Shah’s family are spread all over Kashmir valley.
There is a tale of shifting residences as the prodigy was growing up. From Lawat in Neelam Valley in Muzaffarabad, where Mu’azzam Shah was putting up when Anwar Shah was born, the family moved to Dhoodwan and ultimately settled in Warnau (Lolab). The family, notes the author, was hub of Islamic activities. Mu’azzam Shah was quick to note that he had been blessed with a prodigy. The father initiated him in [the] study of Qur’an when he was barely 4 years old, [and] within two years he learnt the Holy Book. Study of [the] Holy Qur’an was followed by [the] study of Qudūri, a book on Hanafi fiqh. Mu’azzam Shah is quoted as relating that he used to be cross questioned while his prodigious pupil – a dear son – was imbibing Qudūri. The analytical mind that unfolded amply as Anwar Shah grew was already on display. As Anwar Shah was growing beyond what Mu’azzam Shah could take, he entrusted him to Ghulam Muhammad Joo Jandal. Within two years, he imbibed Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) and Arabic grammar. [Along with that] he developed poetic taste in Jandal’s company. He is known to have taught him Persian.
Hazara was Anwar Shah’s next stop. In 1888 AD, aged 13, he was [sent] to Hazara wherein the Darsgah his father had been a pupil too, as were some of his cousins, when he joined. He was a pupil there for three years. Hazara had more than one Darsgah where studies were conducted in multiple disciplines, such as Sarf and Nahw (Arabic etymology and grammar), mantiq (logic), falsafah (philosophy), fiqh (law), and Hadith. He left Hazara in 1891 and during a year at home [became interested in arithmetic and geometry, especially the subbranch of mensuration. He excelled in these studies to such an extent that he was offered a job in the revenue department.] This was the period when Walter Lawrence was demarcating land in Kashmir Valley. Revenue service was not, however, Anwar Shah’s cup of tea. Within a year, he left for Deoband to tie an eternal bond with the institute, his name and fame remains tied to it even after his death. However strong and multiple ties to Deoband could not untie his love for his home, Kashmir. He continued to carry the suffix “Kashmīri”!
As [a] student in his initial years, he did not hesitate to do menial jobs to pay for his stay. Soon, he became the darling of the teachers, and eventually he donned the mantle of the teacher in multiple disciplines, eventually ascending to the towering pedestal of Sadr al-Mudarrisīn of Dār-al-Uloom Deoband. It was not a smooth sail all through, [however, with dissension in teaching ranks and students’ indiscipline which forced him to leave Deoband and settle in Dabhel, Gujarat for a few years, before again returning to Deoband]. In Dabhel, he continued to teach and deliver sermons. In between these endeavours, he donned the Sufi mantle in Gangoh, did a course in Hikmat in Delhi, and tried to set up a seminary, Faiz-e-Aam, in Baramulla which did not take-off [as] much as he wished. He stayed in Kashmir for 3 years from 1901 to 1904. In 1904, he performed Hajj in the exalted company of Kh. Samad Joo Kakroo and seven others, in all nine persons, whose Hajj expenses are believed to have been borne by Kh. Samad Joo Kakroo.
Allāmah Anwar Shah Kashmiri, as the author lays [out], was blessed with attractive personal traits and physical features: rosy-white skin, proportionate parts, turret like head, soft and shinning hair, prominent eyes, extensive forehead, soft and delicate lips, wide ears, and a delicate nose. White dress with a cap of Kashmiri design was his favourite. He had an exalted moral character, a contended look. He was self-respecting, humble, and had respect for his teachers and affection for his students. He was known for his piety and asceticism, [as well as] comprehensiveness of knowledge. His memory power was peerless, especially in [the] grasp of Hadith. Once in Burma, he was addressed as “the lord of researchers, the peak of investigators, Ghazali of the era, Bayhaqi of the time, the master of excellence!”
Allāmah Anwar Shah Kashmiri preferred celibacy until he was 44 years old. In 1919, he married a girl from a Sayeed family of Gangoh. From 1919 to 1934 the couple had 5 children, three boys and a girl. The youngest was the illustrious Muhammad Anzar Shah, [who later became the Shaykh al-Hadith at Deoband Waqf]. Allāmah Anwar Shah Kashmiri died in 1934 of bleeding piles. He lies buried in a corner near Eidgah Deoband. His father Mu’azzam Shah outlived him and is [reported] to have died at the age of 115. On his death, he was paid rich tributes [from] all over the Islamic world. [The poet] Muhammad Iqbal in a condolence meeting in Lahore rued the fact that he could not take his guidance for compiling Islamic Jurisprudence. Eminent scholars like Mawlana Āzād would take pride in being in his company. Such was the scholastic eminence of Allāmah Anwar Shah Kashmiri.
Courtesy of Greater Kashmir online newspaper.
The author is a doctor of medicine, a social activist, and a senior columnist.
Note: This article was edited for spelling, grammar, and style.