Tasawwuf was the special focus of the seniors of Deoband who, on completion of their exoteric studies, would not rest until they had achieved proficiency in the esoteric sciences to become ‘ulama who embodied the two wings of Shari‘ah and Tariqah. The letters of the seniors of Deoband are replete with discussions on Tasawwuf and highlight the importance that they gave to spiritual reformation. The following is a collection of three letters between Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri. These letters are of twelve that appear in Tadhkirat al-Rashid and Tadhkirat al-Khalil. Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya would advise his murids, especially those who had been granted khilafah, to read these letters diligently. These three letters were also reproduced in Shaykh al-Hadith’s introduction to Ikmal al-Shiyam. They provide excellent insight into our seniors and exemplify the way they lowered themselves in front of their spiritual guides to reform themselves. Incidentally, Ikmal al-Shiyam is to be soon published by White Thread Press together with Shaykh al-Hadith’s introduction.
From the needy servant Imdadullah Chishti, in the service of all my friends:
This needy servant has recently received some letters from India, in which was written that some people harbour ill-thoughts concerning Molwi Rashid Ahmad [Gangohi], [and they wish to know] what they should make of him. Therefore, let it be announced and published on behalf of this needy servant that Molwi Rashid Ahmad is an Allah-fearing man of learning and an upright scholar. He is an example of the pious predecessors. His personality is the sublime combination of the exoteric (shari’ah) and esoteric sciences (tariqah).
His days and nights remain occupied in seeking the pleasure of Allah and his Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace). He is preoccupied with the teaching of hadith. After Molwi Muhammad Ishaq that kind of dissemination of the religious sciences has uniquely continued with Mawlana in the entire sub-continent.
‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar (may Allah have mercy on him) used to love his akabir deeply and used to trust their research fully. He would advise this to his people, and the same advice was printed at the card given at the time of ba’yah, which read:
“Dear ones! I do not have an opinion in any matter, rather I trust the unanimous (ijma’i) research of the akabir ‘ulama of Deoband in all matters of the Qur’an, Sunnah, Fiqh, History, etc, and I believe their unanimous teachings as true and follow them as source of guidance and deliverance for myself. Therefore, I advise all my students, muridin and those connected to me to strictly follow the maslak of the akabir ‘ulama of Deoband and not to leave their path at any cost. One who sticks to the unanimous maslak of the akabir ‘ulama of Deoband considering them in line with the Qur’an and Sunnah, he is from amongst my people, and one who does not trust the unanimous research of the akabir, he has no relation with me.”
”From the lowly Imdad Allah (may Allah forgive him) to the blessed service of my dear Molwi Khalil al-Rahman (may his love for the sake of Allah remain forever.) After the sunnah greeting and a prayer for goodness, I acknowledge receipt of your dear letter. It gave the heartbreaking news of the demise of Mawlana Ahmad Ali and my most beloved, the portion of my heart, Molwi Muhammad Qasim (may Allah shower His mercy upon them). I had also received this news before. Indeed, to Allah do we belong and to him is our return.
A translation of a portion of a letter from Shaykh al-‘Ulama’ Haji Imdad Allah Muhajir Makki to Shah Rafi’ al-Din Deobandi ‘Uthmani in which he emphasises his love for Shaykh al-Sunnah Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (may Allah shower them with His mercy) and highlights his dim view of those who bear enmity towards him. The letter is also a manifestation of Haji Imdad Allah’s high level of humility – a quality distinctly found in him and those affiliated to his tariqah.
Question: To my sayyid, my mawla (may Allah increase your piety), Al-Salam ‘alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh, Your dear letter arrived on 15 Dhu ‘l-Hijjah. I am regretful for not being able to present myself in the service of Maulwi ‘Abd al-Rahman. What are the detailed circumstances of the destitute that I may convey to you? The road to here, however, is very dangerous. Do not, at all, take the trouble [to visit]. This would be very difficult on this lowly one.