I have written in Aap Beeti Vol. 6 under the heading of spiritual exertion that while dictating the practices of Hadrat Rashid Ahmad Gangohi in Ramadan, I wanted to note it down because of its relevance to the subject. There I wrote:
“His extreme exertion in spiritual exercises was such that onlookers felt pity for him. Such was he that in Ramadan, even when his age had advanced beyond seventy, he fasted the whole day. Then in awwabin, instead of six rakats he used to perform twenty rakats during which he never recited less than approximately two juz. So long did he stay in ruku’ and sujud that onlookers thought that he had forgotten himself. Upon finishing this salat, he proceeded homeward to partake of the evening meal. Even during this time he would not remain idle, but en route and waiting for the food etc…, he also finished reciting several juz.
Soon he would commence ‘isha salat and tarawih, which did not take less than an hour or an hour and a quarter at least. Thereafter he would lie down at about half past ten only to rise again at about two o’clock or half past two for tahajjud. At times his attendants and assistants found him performing wudu’ at one o’clock. At this time of the night he used to spend 2 ½ hours to three hours in tahajjud. Sometimes it happened that an attendant would go to him at five o’clock to join him for suhur and would find him in prayer.
After fajr he remained busy reciting wazifas, wirds and engrossed in meditation until eight o’clock or half past eight. Then it was time for the ishraq prayer. Thereafter, for a few hours he would rest.
During this time the mail would arrive and he would begin answering letters and writing fatwas or dictating them. Thereafter it was time for salat al-duha (chasht), and on performing this salat, he would have his daytime siesta.
After zuhr salat he usually closed the door of his private room and busied himself with the recitation of the Quran until ‘asr. Note that in the year for which this was his practices, he was suffering from extreme old age and various other sicknesses to such an extent that to walk from the toilet to his room – a mere fifteen paces – he became so tired that he had to sit down somewhere along the way to rest. In spite of this condition he never performed fard nor nafl salats sitting down, but remained standing for hours. On several occasions attendants implored him: “Hadrat, today you should perform tarawih while sitting. It seems appropriate.”
He always replied: “No! It is a sign of a lack of courage and perseverance.”
All I can say is this that it is no easy task to be a true follower of him who is reported to have answered:
“Shall I then not be a grateful slave?”
During Ramadan there was a marked increase in his ‘ibadah and exertion especially as far as his recitation of the Quran was concerned. Even when going to and from his house he never spoke. If an estimate of the total amount of his daily recitations in and out of salat is made, it comes to about half a complete recitation of the Quran daily. On the morning of the first day of fasting he used to say:
“From today all noises of conversation shall cease. If any man allows Ramadan to be wasted, it is a great sorrow indeed.”
Now, what was his diet for such severe efforts? So little did he eat for the whole of Ramadan that the total of it all amounted to less than five kilograms of grain. In his biography, Tazkirat Rashid written by his successor (khalifah), Hakim Ishaq, his Ramadan habits are discussed:
“During Ramadan he used to emerge from his private resting place late in the morning. In summer he generally came out about ten o’clock because he used to greatly increase his nafl salat, tilawah of the Quran, and his moments of silence and meditation as compared to other months. In this time he slept very little, spoke very little, only retiring after maghrib for a while to eat something. Initially he himself used to lead all twenty raka‘ahs of tarawih salat and later performed it behind his son, Hafiz Hakim Muhammad Mas‘ud Saheb. After that he performed two long raka‘ahs of nafl salat, sometimes standing up and sometimes sitting down, thereafter remaining seated for a long time facing the qiblah and reciting. Thereafter he performed one sajdat al-tilawah and stood up. From hearing some of the words that he recited softly, I deduced that he would recite Surat al-Mulk, Surat al-Sajdah and Surat al-Dukhan. He usually fasted the ten days of Dhu ‘l-Hijjah, the days of ‘ashurah, and the middle of Sha‘ban.” [Tadhkirat Rashid]
My late father (Mawlana Muhammad Yahya al-Kandhalawi) on many occasions told the following story:
“During Hadrat’s last Ramadan I led the tarawih prayers (for him and his attendants). It so happened that because of some reason or the other, Hadrat’s son, Hakim Muhammad Mas‘ud was unable to perform it.”
For quite some days before the commencement of Ramadan Hadrat told us:
‘Mas‘ud Ahmad Sahib is indisposed and not available to lead the tarawih prayers. Who then is going to recite the Quran for us in tarawih?’
On every occasion I wanted to offer my services and declare my readiness, but out of respect I refrained from doing so. Two days before Ramadan, Hadrat said:
‘Maulwi Yahya Sahib, are you not also a hafiz of the Quran?’
I replied: ‘Yes Hadrat, I am. But I recite the Quran in a Persian tone. You are used to hearing the recitation of Hakim Mas‘ud Ahmad Sahib, who is indeed a fine Qari.’
Hadrat replied: ‘No, I have already heard your recitation. You shall lead in tarawih.’
My father says: “On the first day it was a great burden for me. By way of preparation, I had to recite one and a quarter juz by looking into the Quran. I had memorized the Quran at the age of seven. Thereafter for six months I had to look into the Quran and daily recite one full khatam. And since then I had never looked into the Quran to recite it. The first day, in order to prepare myself properly, I recited 1 ¼ juz from the Quran, but from the second day onwards the fear, nervousness and anxiety disappeared. Thereafter there was no further need to look into the Quran.”
My late father (may Allah fill his resting place with light) was indeed a very good hafiz with tremendous energy to recite the Quran by heart. He had a bookshop where he himself made up the parcels to be posted and wrote the addresses himself. While doing that he was all the time reciting the Quran in audible fashion without ever becoming confused or struggling over the mutashabihat.
Mawlana ‘Ashiq Ilahi writes about him in Tadhkirat Khalil:
“Once upon my request he was invited to Meerut to lead tarawih prayers and recite the Quran in Ramadan. I saw that wherever he went, he was always busy reciting by himself so that he finished a whole khatam daily. When it was time for iftar, he would be reading: qul a‘uthu bi rabbi al-nas…”
When he arrived by rail at Meerut it was ‘isha time. Being one continuously in a state of wudu’, he entered the masjid and immediately proceeded to the prayer area to lead the prayers and in three hours recited ten juz so clearly and without any struggle over difficult patches that it was as if the Quran was an open book in front of him. So comfortable was his pace of recitation that he completed a full khatam of the Quran in three nights and departed. So good a hafiz was he that there was no need to revise his reading beforehand; neither was there any need for someone to stand behind him and listen with a view to correct if needed.”
My father also used to say about this visit to Meerut: “When the word got around in Meerut that a certain man was coming to complete a full khatam of the Quran in salat within three days, thirty or forty huffaz arrived from far and wide to stand behind him and test him.”
My late father never had trouble with fever in Ramadan like myself. On the invitations and insistence of friends, he often went to their places to finish a khatam in two or at the most three nights before returning home. In masjids he generally did it in three nights and in other places of worship he generally did so in two or even in one night. Once on the invitation of the late Shah Zahid Husayn he completed a khatam at Shah Sahib’s house in two nights.
I can still remember his recitation in the Nawab Wali Masjid in Qasabpura, Delhi. A certain Maulwi Nasir al-Din was busy performing tarawih in the Hakim Ishaq Masjid. At that time my father arrived in Delhi from somewhere. He went to rest a little at the resting place of Hakim Ishaq attached to the masjid. It so happened that Mawlvi Nasir al-Din was reciting the 14th juz and making heavy weather, so that he had to be corrected time and again. My father went into the masjid and as soon as Maulwi Nasir al-Din performed the next salam, he asked him to vacate the spot, and he himself took over. In the next sixteen raka’ahs he recited sixteen juz. No doubt, the musallis must have found the going tiring and exhausting. But it is a fact that people are more pleased with finishing the Quran quickly than they are worried about a bit of hardship. To have been able to finish the Quran on the 12th night made them forget their exhaustion.
I can also remember his recitation of the Quran in the house of Ammi Bi in Kandhla. She is Amat al-Rahman, the daughter of Mawlana Muzaffar Husayn, my father’s maternal grandmother who became known as Ammi Bi. In answer to a special request he remained reciting the Quran throughout the night in nafl prayers. Because of the fact that according to us (Hanafis) it is not permissible to have more than four muqtadis in nafl prayers, the ladies behind him had to be changed continuously, while my father continued reciting.
My late uncle (Mawlana Ilyaas) also used to visit Kandhla in Ramadan because of the presence there of Ammi Bi. At such times the Quran khatam used to be completed in a single night. At such times he performed ‘isha salat in the masjid and thereafter go to the house of Ammi Bi to perform tarawih there from after ‘isha until suhur time, thereby completing fourteen or fifteen juz. Mawlana Ra’uf al-Hasan Sahib is the uncle of my late father and the father of my late wife. His story has already been mentioned in Aap Beeti under the heading “Taqwa”. On the 30th of Ramadan he recited from alif lam mim until qul a‘udhu bi rabb al-falaq in one single raka’ah and in the second raka’ah he recited only Surat al-Nas! Then at suhur time he told his mother Ammi bi:
“I have now performed two raka’ah. Will you now perform the other eighteen?”
During all that time his mother listened to the Quran while standing behind him in the salat!