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Shah Walliullah al-Dehlawi’s Approach to Reform

By Abu al-Hassan al-Nadwi | Translated by Suhaib Webb

Imam al-Dahlawi undertook efforts towards revival and reform by focusing on the following:

  1. During his age, the majority of Muslims had major shortcomings in understanding how to have faith in God (Ar. tauhid). It was clouded by numerous ignorant ideas, corrupted philosophies, and un-Islamic customs, so It was incumbent to clarify the true faith in all its purity and clarity, explaining what the people of ignorance (before the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, peace be upon him) believed, until the difference between their faith and what Islam brought was clear.
  2. It was incumbent for the Muslim community to have direct access to the Qur’an and Sunnah (teachings of the Prophet ﷺ). A gulf occurred between the scholars and the teaching of the Qur’an to the masses, which prevented and weakened the common person’s ability to understand revelation. This was due to the scholars’ fear of losing their status, whether political or religious. Due to this, they did not translate it into the native language and they failed to teach the books of Prophet’s ﷺ traditions. Thus, it was imperative that the meanings and rulings of the Qur’an be rendered into the language of the people along with returning to the six authentic books of hadith (prophetic narration).
  3. Religious knowledge in India had reached an all time low in general, and particularly in the knowledge of hadith. It was imperative to spread the knowledge of hadith. Thus, the sahih (authentic) texts (al-Bukhari and Muslim) were taught, as was the Muwatta of Imam Malik, until India became renowned in the Muslim world as a place that specialized in the science of hadith.
  4. He noted that the world was about to welcome a new intellectual age. An age in which political upheaval was about to run rampant. Thus, it was incumbent to explain the idea of the Caliphate, as well as the different approaches and fundamentals that Islam employed in running a state and day to day activities. Therefore he wrote a number of books, which are still beneficial till this day: The Clear Proof of God and Removing the Doubts Surrounding the Differences of the Caliphs.
  5. He noted that there was no hope in reforming the royal families or their youth of his time for reasons explained in the quote by Ibn Khaldun: “If a pyramid is established in a country, it will never rise again.” (Meaning: opulence tends to corrupt and pacify.) Thus, there was no hope in reforming them. True reform must start with a new group, from the bottom up, who could reform the society in the correct way.

Translated from pgs. 83-85 of Rabaniyya la Rahbaniyya fi al-Islam by Sh. Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi (God be pleased with him)


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