by Syed Abdul Hasan Ali Nadwi


On the outskirts of Delhi, near the tomb  of Khwaja Nizamuddin, there lived, some seventy years ago, a godly person in the house on top of the red gate of the historical building called Chaunsath Khamba. His name was Maulana Mohammad Ismail.

Maulana Mohammad Ismail.

The. ancestral home of Maulana Mohammad Ismail was in Jhanjhana in the district of Muzaffarnagar. But when, after the death of his (Ismail)  first wife, he married again in the family of Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh Kandhlawi, who belonged to the same ancestry as him, he visited Kandhla frequently and it became a second home to him.

The family of Siddiqui Sheikhs of Jhanjhana and Kandhla  had been known, for generations, for piety and learning,  and was held in high esteem in the neighborhood. The lines of descent of Maulana Mohammad Ismail and Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh Become one, six generations upwards. with Molvi Mohammad Sharif.  The lineage runs as follows: Maulana Mohammad Ismail, son of Ghulam Husain, son, of Hakim Karim  Bakhsh, son of Hakim Ghulam Mohiuddin, son of Molvi  Mohammad Sajid, son of Mofti Mohammed Faiz, son of Molvi  Mohammad Sharif, son of Molvi Mohammad Ashraf, son of  Sheikh  Jamal Mohammad Shah, son of Sheikh Baban Shah, son of Sheikh Bahauddin Shah, son of Molvi Mohammad Sheikh, son of Sheikh Mohammad Fazil, son of Es Sheikh Qutub Shah.

Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh

Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh was among the most outstanding pupils of Shah Abdul Aziz. Besides being a distinguished teacher, author and legist, he was, also  a Unani physician of a high order, and possessed a thorough knowledge of both the rational and traditional sciences. He had a great command over Arabic, Persian and Urdu poetry as well, as is borne out by his commentary of Banat Su'ad in which he has translated every line of Hazrat K'ab into Arabic, Persian and Urdu verse.  He left behind about 40 books in Arabic and Persian of which Shiyamul Habib and Mathnaawi Maulana Rum Ka Takmial are more famous.

Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh had taken ba'it  at the hand of Shah Abdul Aziz.  A glowing proof of his sincerity and selflessness was that though he was a renowned spiritual mentor himself, on the death of Shah Abdul Aziz, he felt no hesitation in taking ba'it at the hand of the latter's young deputy,  Syed Ahmad Shaheed, who was about 28 years his junior in age, and in seeking guidance from him.  Mufti Sahib was born in 1748, and died in 1831, at the age of  83 years.  All his sons and grandsons were men of learning and position. Scholarship and religiousness have been the characteristics of this family  Molvi Abul Hasan's Mathnawi, Gulzar-i-Ibrahim, which forms a part of his well-known work, Bahr-i- Haqiqat, is a poem of rare spiritual feeling.  Till recently, it was very popular. His son,
Molvi Nurul Hasan, and all the four grandsons, Molvi Ziaul Hasan, Molvi Akbar, Molvi  Sulaiman and Hakim Molvi Ibrahim, attained to fame as worthy representatives of their celebrated ancestors.

Maulana Muzaffar Husain

Mufti Saheb's nephew, Maulana Muzaffar Husain, who was a most favorite pupil of Shah Is'haq and a deputy of Shah Mohammad Yaqub, and had, also, been favored with the company of  Syed Ahmad Shaheed, was a very pious and godly person.  He never touched anything that was of doubtful purity in the eyes of the Shariat. Incidents of his humility and prayer and fullness are still fresh in the memory of the people of the neighboring areas and serve as a reminder to the glorious days of the earliest decades of Islam.

The maternal grand-daughter of Maulana Muzaffar Husain was married to Maulana Mohammad Ismail.  It was his second marriage which was solemnized on October 3 1868. Maulana Mohammad Ismail was the tutor of the children of Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh, who was related to Bahadur Shah Zafar the last of the Mughal Emperors. He lived, as we have seen. in the house on top of the red gate of Chaunsath Khamba.  Close to it, was a small mosque with a tin shed in front which used to serve as the parlor of  Mirza Ilahi
Bakhsh, and, owing to it, it was called Bangle Wali  Masjid.

The Maulana was spending his days in obscurity and even Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh had no idea of his high station till he had a personal experience of how the Maualna prayers were granted by God.  Worship, Zikr (repeating the Names, praise and Attributes of the Lord), attending to the needs of the travelers and teaching the Quran giving instruction in the Faith were his sole occupation in life. He used to take down the load from the heads of the thirsty laborers who passed the way place it on the ground, draw water from the well and give it to them to drink, and, then, offer two Rak'ats of  Salaat, expressing gratitude  to the Lord that He had given him the opportunity  to serve His  bondsmen, though he did not deserve it.  He had attained the state of Ihsan.  

Once, as he requested Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi to teach him Sulook,  the latter remarked, "You don't need it. You have already attained the objective that is to be reached through this method. It is like a person who has read the Quran saying that he should, also, read the elementary text book of Arabic because he had not begun with it".

The Maulana was very fond of the recitation  of the Quran An old wish of  his was that he went on grazing the goats and reciting the Quran.  He was very particular about some member of his family keeping vigil in the night.  His second son, Maulana Yahya, used to study till midnight, and, then the Maulana himself got up and Maulana Yahya went to bed, and for the last part of the night, he woke up his eldest son, Maulana Mohammad.

The Maulana never bore a grudge against anyone. His detachment with the world was so complete that it had made him attached to everybody.  All the persons who came into contact with him were impressed by his piety, sincerity and selflessness.  Leaders of the different warring groups of Delhi held him in the highest esteem, and put an equal trust in him, though they disliked each other so much that none of them was willing to offer Salaat behind the other. 

The link with Mewat, too, was established in his lifetime.  It is related that, once, he went out in the hope of finding a Muslim whom he could bring to the mosque and offer Salaat with him  On meeting some Muslim laborers, he inquired from them where they were going.?  "We are going in search of work", they replied.  "How much do you expect to earn?'  asked the Maulana. The laborers, thereupon, told him about  the daily wages they, generally, received. "If you get the same here," the Maulana asked, "What is the use of going elsewhere " The laborers agreed and the Maulana took them to the mosque and began to teach the Salaat and the Quran. He would pay them their wages every day and keep them engaged in their lessons.  In a few days, they developed the habit of offering up Salaat. Such was the beginning of the Madrassa of Bangle Wali Masjid, and these laborers were its first scholars.  After it, about ten Mewati students always remained in the Madrassa and their meals used to come from the house of Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh.

Death of Maulana Mohammad Ismail

Maulana Mohammad Ismail died on :26th February, 1898 in Khajoor Wali Masjid  at the Tiraha  of Bahram in Delhi.  The number of mourners, at his funeral, was so large that though long bamboo poles had been tied to the either side of the bier to enable them to lend a shoulder to it,  many people did not get a chance during the entire route of three- and-a-half miles from Delhi to Nizamuddin.

Muslims belonging to various sects and schools of thought,  who never got together, joined the procession.  The Maulana's  second son, Maulana Mohammad Yahya, narrates that my elder brother, Maulana Mohammad, was a very soft-hearted  person and had a most obliging nature. Fearing that he might invite someone to lead the funeral service behind whom people of another sect or group refused to offer the prayer, and, thus an unpleasant situation arose,  I stepped forward and said that I would lead the service. Everyone then, offered the prayers peacefully and there was no dissent or commotion.

Owing to the vast concourse of men, the funeral service had to be held a number of times and the burial was delayed.  During it, a venerable person and another man known for his spirituality had a vision that Maulana Mohammad Ismail was  saying, "Send me off soon. I am feeling ashamed The Holy Prophet is waiting for me

The Maulana had three sons:  Maulana Mohammad from the first wife, and Maulana Mohammad Yahya and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas from the second, who was the maternal granddaughter of  Maulana Muzaffar Husain  The Maulana had married her after  the death of his first wife.

Maulana Mohammed Ilyas 

 Maulana Mohammed Ilyas  was born in 1885  His childhood was spent in maternal grandfather's home in Kandhla, and with his father at Nizamuddin.  In those days, the Kandhla family was the cradle of godliness and piety so much so that reports of the high religiosity  nightly devotions and Zikr and Tilawat  of its members, both male and female, would seem imaginary and fictitious to the faint-hearted men of our time

The ladies used to recite the Quran themselves in the Nafl  prayers as well  listen to its Tarawih and other Nafl prayers. standing behind the male relatives  The month of Ramadan, in particular, was the springtime for the Quran. It was read for long hours, almost in every home The limit of absorption was that, sometimes, the ladies forgot to pay attention to purdah and would not become aware of the coming of outsiders in the house at a time of urgent need.

The Quran with its translation and commentary in Urdu, and Mazaahir-i-Haq Mashariq ul Anwaar and His-i-Haseen formed the limit of the education of the ladies.  Deeds and accomplishments of the families of  Syed Ahmad Shaheed and Shah Abdul Aziz were the most popular themes of conversation, and facts regarding these illustrious men of God were on everybody's lips.  Instead of  the stories  of kings and fairies, ladies of the household  related these to the  children.

Ammi Bi  Maulana Ilyas's maternal grandmother

The Maulana's maternal grandmother, Amtus Salam, who  was the daughter of Maulana Muzaffar Husain and was known   in the family as Ammi Bi,  was a very pious lady. About her   Salaat, the Maulana, once observed  "I saw her likeness of  Ammi Bi's Salaat of Maulana Gangohi"

 During the last phase of  her life, Ammi Bi's state was that she never asked for food and ate only when someone placed before her.   It was a large family and there was always so much  to do.  If the thought of having her meal! did not occur to her  in the midst of domestic chores, she simply went hungry.  Once,  someone said to her, "You are so old and weak. How do you  manage to without  food ?"  "I draw sustenance from my  Tasbihat (remembrance of Allah)  was her repy"

Bi Safia, Maulana Ilyas's mother.

The mother of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, Bi Safia, had  learnt the Quran by heart and attained great  distinction in it.   It was a regular practice with her to recite the whole of the  Quran and additional  ten Juze (part) every day during Ramadan.  She, thus, completed forty recitals of the Quran in that month  and was so fluent in it that her household duties did not suffer  on account of it.  See, generally, kept herself engaged in some  work while doing the recitation.  Apart from the month of  Ramadan, her daily routine of worship included: DURUD Sharif,  5,000 times; Ism-i-Zaat Allah, 5,000 times; Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim, 1,000 times,  Yaa Mughnee-u 1,100 times, La illaaha illallaah, 1,200 times Yaa-Haiyyu, Ya Qaiyum 200 times,   Hasbiallaah wa ni'mul Vakil, 500 times;  Subhan Allah, 200 times;  Alhamdu lillaah, 200 times; La ilaaha illallaah, 200 times; Allah O-Akbar, 200 times; Istighfar, 500 times; Ofwwizu amree illallaah,  100 times; Hasbunallaah wa ni'mul Vakil, 1000 times; Rabb-i in-ni maghloobun fantasir, 1,000 times: Rabb-i-inni masanni-az-zurru  wa anla ar-hamur rahimeen, 100 times; Laa ilaaha enta  subhanaka in-ni kunzu minaz-zalimeen, 100 times. In addition, she recited a Manzil (1/7)  of the Quran everyday.

Like all other children in the family, the Maulana Ilyas began his education in the maktab,  and, according to the family tradition, learnt the Quran by heart.  The learning of the Quran was so common in the family. that in the one-and-a-half row of worshippers in the family mosque, there was not a single non Hafiz  except the Muezzin.  Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was Ammi Bi's favorite child.  She used to say; to him.  "Ilyas, I feel the aroma of the holy Companions in you. " Sometimes, placing her hand on his back, she would say,  "How is it that I see figures resembling the holy Companions moving along with you?

From his childhood, there was present in Maulana Mohammad Ilyas a touch of the religious ardour and fervent feeling of the blessed Companions which had led Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan to remark that "when  I see Mohammad Ilyas, I am reminded of the holy Companions. Eagerness and enthusiasm for Faith were ingrained in his nature.  Even in his early days, he, sometimes, did things which were much above the common level of the children. Riazul Islam Kandhlawi,  a class fellow of his in .he Maktab, says that  "when we were reading in the Maktab,  he, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, once, came with a stick and said,  "Comes  Riazul Islam, let us do Jihaad  against those who do not offer up Salaat

Stay at Gangoh

In 1893, his elder brother, Mohammad Yahya, went to live at Gangoh with Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. Maulana Mohammad Ilyas used to live with his father at Nizamuddin, and, sometimes, with his maternal grand-father's family at Kandhla.  At Nizamuddin, his education was being neglected owing to the over- fondness of his father and his own excessive occupation with prayers. Maulana Yahya, thus, requested his father that as the education of Mohammad Ilyas was suffering, he might be allowed to take him to Gangoh.  The father agreed  - and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas came to Gangoh in 1896 or early 1897 where Mohammad Yahya began to teach him regularly.  

 Gangoh, in those days, was the seat of Sufi-saints and savants, the benefit of whose company was constantly available to Maulana Mohammad Ilyas. A greater part of his impression able age was spent there. When he went to live at Gangoh, he was 10 or 11 years old, and at the time of Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi death, in 1905, he was a young man of about 20. Thus, he stayed with Maulana Gangohi for about 9 years.

 Maulana Mohammad Yahya was an ideal teacher and benefactor. He wanted his brother to derive the utmost advantage from the society of those illustrious men.  Maulana Mohammad Ilyas used to tell that when the Ulema who had been the favorite pupils or disciples of Maulana Gangohi came to Gangoh, his brother would, often, stop the lessons and say that  his education, then, lay in sitting with them and listening to their conversation.

Usually, Maulana Gangohi did not take bait from children and students.  It was only when they had completed their education that he allowed them to take the pledge.  But owing to the exceptional merit of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, he, at his request, permitted him to do the bait at his hand.

 Maulana Mohammad Ilyas had been born with a loving  heart.  Such a strong attachment did he develop for Maulana Gangohi that he felt no peace without him.  He would, often, get up in the night, go and see the Maulana's face, and return to his bed.  Maulana Gangohi, too, had a great affection for him. once, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas told his brother of severe headache after which he could not bend his head even to the extent of performing the Sajdah on a pillow for months.  Maulana Gangohi son,  Hakim Masud Ahmad, who was his physician, had a peculiar method of treatment.  In certain diseases, he forbade the use of water for a long time which was :unbearable to most of the patients. But with the strength of mind that was so characteristic of him,  Maulana Mohammad Ilyas abided strictly by the advice of his physician and abstained from drinking water for full seven years, and, during the next five years, he drank it only sparingly.

There was little hope that he would be  to resume his education after the discontinuation owing to illness.  He was very keen to take it up again, but his well-wishers would not allow.  One day, as Maulana Mohammad Yahya said to him what he would, in any case, do by studying, he retorted, "What will I do by living?" Ultimately, he succeeded in resuming his studies.

 The death of Maulana Gangohi occurred in 1905. Maulana Mohammed Ilyas who was at his bedside during the dying moments and reciting the Sura of  Ya-Sin, was so deeply affected by it that he used, often, to say,  "Two shocks have been most painful to me. One was of the death of my father, and the other, of the death of Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. " In 1908, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas went to Deoband where he studied Tirmizi  and Sahih Bukhari from Maulana Mahmood Hasan.  The latter advised him to approach Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri for spiritual guidance and instruction, since his mentor, Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, was no more, and, thus, he completed the various stages of Sulook  under Maulana Saharanpuri's supervision.

 Absorption in prayers 

During his stay at Gangoh, after the death of Maulana Gangohi, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, generally, remained silent and spent most of his time in meditation.  Says Maulana Mohammad Zakaria,  "We read elementary Persian from him  those days. His practice, then, was that he sat cross  legged, and in utter silence, on a coarse mat behind the tomb of Shah Abdul Quddus. We presented ourselves for the lesson, opened the book, and placed it before him, indicating with the finger where we were to begin from on that day.  We would read aloud and translate the Persian verses.  When we made a mistake, he would shut the book with a movement of the finger, and the lesson came to an end. It meant that we were to go back, prepare the lesson thoroughly, and, then, come again . . . ................. He used to offer Nafl prayers much and often at that time. From Maghrib  till a little before Isha, he devoted himself exclusively to Nawafil.  His age, then, was between 20 and 25 years. 

Ardor and eagerness

Ardor and eagerness, without which no real success is possible in any field, were deeply rooted in him.  It was by sheer determination and earnestness that he accomplished what he did in spite of persistent ill-health.  One day, during his last illness,  Maulana Mohammad Ilyas related that  "once I was so ill and feeling so weak that I could not go down the stairs.  All of a sudden, I heard that Maulana Saharanpuri had come to Delhi and I was so excited that I left for Delhi immediately on foot and forgot all about my illness and exhaustion.  It was in the way that I remembered I was sick.

Contact with other spiritual mentors

Regular contact with other spiritual mentors and disciples of Maulana Gangohi was maintained during those days. About  Shah Abdur Rahim Raipuri and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi he used to say that they abided in his heart.  They, too, had a great regard and affection for him owing to his extraordinary qualities. 

Spirit of Jehad

Together with Zikr, Saga (spiritual exercises and exertions) Nawafil and Ibadaat, Maulana  Mohammad Ilyas was, also, infused with the spirit of Jehad.  Throughout his life, he was never without it, and had, in fact, taken the pledge of Jehad at the hand of Maulana Mahmood Hasan for that very reason.

 Estimation in the eyes of elders

From his early days, he was held in the highest esteem by the elders of the family as well as the spiritual leaders of the day.  Maulana Mohammad Yahya was like a father to him, yet the former's attitude towards his younger brother was like that of the sacred Prophet towards Hazrat Usman  Indifferent health prevented him from taking part in duties involving physical labor. He concentrated wholly on his  studies, and on Zikr, and other forms of worship. Maulana  Mohammad Yahya, on the contrary, was a very industrious  person. He owned a bookshop which he managed with great  care. It was not only his source of livelihood, but of his  brothers as well.  One day, the manager of the shop said that Maulana Mohammad Ilyas did not take any interest in the  business which was not good for him, too, benefited from it.  When Maulana Mohammad Yahya heard of it, he was very angry and remarked that  "a Tradition has it that the sustenance that reaches you and the help you receive from the Lord is due to the blessedness of the weaker ones among you.  I believe that I am receiving my sustenance owing to the good fortune of this child. Nothing should be said to him in future.  If there is anything to say, it should be said to me.

 Sometimes, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was asked to lead the service in the presence of renowned theologians and spiritual leaders.  Once Shah Abdur Rahim Raipuri, Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi happened to be in Kandhla. When the time for Salaat came and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was asked to lead it, a senior member of the family, Molvi Badrul Hasan, humorously remarked that "such a small engine has been fastened to so many big carriages." "It depends on the power  (not the size of the engine", replied one of them. 

Career with a teacher in Mazaahirul Uloom

In 1910, a large number of men, including most of the senior teachers of the Madrassa of Mazaahirul Uloom, left for the Haj from Saharanpur.  It necessitated the recruitment of new teachers for the Madrassa, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas being one of them. He was given the secondary books to teach.  On the return of the senior teachers from the Pilgrimage, all the new entrants were relieved of their duties, but the services of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas were retained.

At Mazaahirul Uloom, the Maulana had to teach some books which he had not read himself as,  in Maulana Mohammad Yahya's scheme of instruction, it was not customary to complete the books, and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, further, had to miss some secondary books owing to ill-health.  During his teaching days, he tried hard to make up for the deficiency and prepared his lectures carefully.  For instance, for teaching Kinzul Daqa'iq, he studied Bahr-ur-Ra'iq, Shaami and Hadaya, and consulted even Hisami's notes and comments when he  taught Nurul Anawaar.


The Maulana married the daughter of his maternal uncle, Maulana Rauful Hasans on Friday, October 17, 1912 was performed by Maulana Mohammad, and Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, Shah Abdur Rahim Raipuri an Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi,  all the three of them, attended the ceremony. Maulana Thanwi's celebrated sermon, Fuwayid us Suhbat, which has subsequently been published times without number, was delivered on that occasion.

 First Haj

In 1915, Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri and  Maulana Mahmood Hasan, decided lo go on the Haj Pilgrimage. When Maulana Mohammad Ilyas came to know of it, he was strongly seized with the desire to perform the Haj.  He felt  that it would become dark and gloomy in India with their departure and he would not be able to live in Saharanpur any more. But there was the question of permission.  As his sister, the wife of Molvi Ikrarnul Hasan, saw his distress, she offered her ornaments to meet the expenses of the Pilgrimage. Contrary to expectations,  the Maulana's mother gave her consent. after which Maulana Mohammad Yahya, also, agreed.  The Maulana, then, wrote to Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri asking for his permission, and explained that as far as she wherewithal for the journey was concerned, three courses were open to him.  He could take his sister's ornaments or borrow the amount or accept the offers of money made by certain relatives. Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri preferred the third course. Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was fortunate enough to travel by the same boat as Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri.  He sailed in August, 1914 , and returned in February, 1915, to resume the teaching at the Madrassa. 

 Death of Maulana Mohammad Yahya

The death of Maulana Mohammad Yahya, on Wednesday, the 9th of August, 1915, was an extremely sad and frustrating event for the Maulana.  In addition to being a most affectionate brother, he was, also, his teacher and benefactor.  He could  not get over the shock till the end of his days. He used to get lost in thought and a peculiar kind of abstraction took possession of him when he talked about his brother. 

 As-Sidq (The Truth) Montreal Canada
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