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Hakim al-Ummah

Ashraf Ali Thanwi
Born1862 (1862)
Died1943(1943-00-00) (aged 80–81)
Resting placeThana Bhawan, Muzaffarnagar
EraModern era
Main interest(s)Tasawwuf
Notable idea(s)Reformation, Moderation, and Islamisation of every aspect of life.
Notable work(s)Bayan Ul Quran, Bahishti Zewar
Alma materDarul Uloom Deoband
OccupationIslamic scholar
Muslim leader
Disciple ofImdadullah Muhajir Makki
Influenced by

Ashraf Ali Thanwi (1862–1943) was an Indian Sunni Islamic scholar, author, jurist and a Sufi mentor of the Chishti order. He was an alumnus of the Darul Uloom Deoband, and authored several hundred books including Bayan Ul Quran and Bahishti Zewar.

Early life and career

Birth and education

Ashraf Ali Thanwi was born at Thana Bhawan in 1862.[2] He received his primary education at Meerut where he studied the primary books of Persian language and memorized the Quran.[3] He moved to Thana Bhawan for his higher studies and studied primary books of Arabic language and intermediate books of Persian with Fateh Muhammad.[3] In 1295 AH, he enrolled at the Darul Uloom Deoband, and studied there with Mahmud Hasan Deobandi, Manfa'at Ali and Muhammad Yaqub Nanautawi.[3] He graduated in 1301 AH.[3]


After his graduation, Thanawi taught books of religious sciences in Faiz-e-Aam Madrasa, Kanpur. Over a short period of time, he acquired a reputable position as a religious scholar of Sufism among other subjects.[4][5] His teaching attracted numerous students and his research and publications became well known in Islamic institutions. During these years, he traveled to various cities and villages, delivering lectures in the hope of reforming people. Printed versions of his lectures and discourses usually became available shortly after these tours. Until then, few Islamic scholars had their lectures printed and widely circulated in their own lifetimes. The desire to reform the masses intensified in him during his stay at Kanpur.

Eventually, Thanwi retired from teaching and devoted himself to reestablishing the spiritual centre (khānqāh) of his mentor, Imdadullah Muhajir Makki, in Thāna Bhāwan, UP, India.

Opposition by Barelvis

In 1906, Ahmad Raza Khan and other scholars issued a fatwa against Thanwi and other Deobandi leaders entitled Husam ul-Haramain (Urdu: Sword of The two Holy Mosques), calling them unbelievers and Satanists.[6][7][8]

Deobandi elders, including those accused in the Fatwa, prepared a reply to questions sent to them by the scholars of Hijaz to clarify the matter. Thus, Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri's al-Muhannad 'ala al-Mufannad (The Sword on the Disproved), was written in Arabic and signed by all Deobandi scholars including Ashraf Ali Thanvi.[9][10][11] Thanwi's disciple Murtaza Hasan Chandpuri also wrote articles and leaflets in defence of Thanwi.[12]


Ashraf Ali Thanvi stressed on adopting the complete way of Islam to attain salvation. He shunned those Sufis who stressed on voluntary worshiping but neglected other important commandments of Islam including fair dealings and fulfilling the rights of others. Thus his stress would be more on the basic personal reformation and the prescription of Wazaif would come later.[13]

At times, he would caution and stress towards matter that are generally thought to be not related to Islam and spirituality but he would explain the forgotten and ignored link. For example, once he stressed the son of his close disciple, Mufti Muhammad Shafi, to improve his handwriting so that others may read it with ease. Thereafter, he remarked that he was nurturing him to become a 'Sufi' by stressing upon this matter (since being mindful of other's comfort was central to his teachings of Sufism).[14]

Political ideology

Thanwi was a strong supporter of the Muslim League.[15] He maintained a correspondence with the leadership of All India Muslim League (AIML), including Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He also sent groups of Muslim scholars to give religious advice and reminders to Jinnah.[16][17]

Thanwi and his pupils gave their entire support to the demand for the creation of Pakistan.[18] During the 1940s, many Deobandi ulama supported the Congress but Ashraf Ali Thanvi and some other leading Deobandi scholars including Muhammad Shafi and Shabbir Ahmad Usmani were in favour of the Muslim League.[19][20] Thanvi resigned from Deoband's management committee due to its pro-Congress stance.[21]

His support and the support of his disciples for Pakistan Movement were greatly appreciated by the leadership of AIML.[16][17] This can be gauged from the fact that Pakistan became independent, its first flag hoisting in West Pakistan was done by Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani in the presence of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan; while in East Pakistan, it was done by Allama Zafar Ahmad Usmani in the presence of Khawaja Nazimuddin.[22][23]

Literary works

Thanwi authored 345 books and booklets, his statements and anecdotes were compiled in over 325 books; and his works put together make a count of 877.[3] He wrote Bayan Ul Quran, an exegesis of the Quran which has been considered among famous commentaries in the Urdu language, and "exhaustive of all aspects of tafsir."[3] His another major work is Bahishti Zewar, which was translated and annotated by Barbara D. Metcalf in English.[3]

Thanwi's books on the Quranic sciences include Ādāb al-Qur’ān, al-Taqsīr fi al-Tafsīr, Islāh Tarjumah Dihlwiyah, Islāh Tarjuma-e-Hairat, Jamāl al-Qur’an, , Mutashābihāt al-Qur’ān li tarāwīh Ramadān, Raf’ al-Khilāf fī Hukm il-Awqāf, Tajwīd al-Qur’an and Yādgār-Haqq-ul-Qur’ān.[3] Several works of Thanwi have been translated into English, including:

Death and legacy

Thanwi died in 1943. He was buried in his home town of Thana Bhawan.[3] His edicts and religious teachings have been deemed authoritative even by many of his opponents. Muhammad Iqbal once wrote to a friend of his that on the matter of Rumi's teachings, he held Thanwi as the greatest living authority.[24] Many of his contemporaries also sought his advice and held him in high esteem. For example, when the Indian scholar, historian and linguist, Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi, wished to seek Islamic spirituality, he went to Thana Bhawan and another Indian scholar, Abdul Majid Dariyabadi, did the same. However, the legacy has been upheld long after his death by his written works which have been translated to many languages.

See also



  1. ^ Bruckmayr, Philipp (2020). "Salafī Challenge and Māturīdī Response: Contemporary Disputes over the Legitimacy of Māturīdī kalām". Die Welt des Islams. Brill. 60 (2–3): 293–324. doi:10.1163/15700607-06023P06.
  2. ^ Aafi, Aaqib Anjum (2022). "Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi and his Qur'ānic services". The Chenab Times. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Aafi 2022.
  4. ^ Ali Abbasi, Shahid. (2008, January–March)
  5. ^ Rethinking in Islam: Mawlana Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi on Way and Way-faring. Hamdard Islamic-us, 21(1), 7–23. (Article on Ashraf 'Ali's teachings on Sufism.)
  6. ^ 'Arabic Fatwa against Deobandis' Sufi Manzil website, Published 3 May 2010, Retrieved 11 August 2020
  7. ^ Fatawa Hussam-ul-Hermayn by Khan, Ahmad Raza Qadri
  8. ^ As-samare-ul-Hindiya by Khan, Hashmat Ali
  9. ^ "Al-Muhannad ala 'l-Mufannad |". Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  10. ^ Al Muhannad 'ala Al Mufannad Urdu.
  11. ^ "Al Muhannad 'ala Al Mufannad English". Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  12. ^ Mawlānā Ashraf Ali Thanwi. Hifz al-Iman. Dar al-Kitab, Deoband. p. 19.
  13. ^ 'abd (18 September 2019). "The essential instructions for mureed". ASHRAFIYA. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  14. ^ Talhah, Sayyid (5 August 2018). "Handwriting and Spirituality". Pearls for Tazkiyah. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  15. ^ "'What's wrong with Pakistan?'". Dawn. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  16. ^ a b Khan, Munshi Abdur Rahman. Tehreek e Pakistan aur Ulama e Rabbani. Karachi, Pakistan.
  17. ^ a b Saeed, Professor Ahmad. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi aur Tehreek e Azadi. Lahore, Pakistan.
  18. ^ Shafique Ali Khan (1988). The Lahore resolution: arguments for and against : history and criticism. Royal Book Co. ISBN 9789694070810.
  19. ^ Svanberg, Ingvar; Westerlund, David (6 December 2012). Islam Outside the Arab World. Routledge. p. 224. ISBN 978-1-136-11322-2.
  20. ^ Jetly, Rajshree (27 April 2012). Pakistan in Regional and Global Politics. Taylor & Francis. pp. 156–. ISBN 978-1-136-51696-2.
  21. ^ Robinson, Francis (2000). "Islam and Muslim separatism.". In Hutchinson, John (ed.). Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science. Anthony D. Smith. Taylor & Francis. pp. 929–930. ISBN 978-0-415-20112-4.
  22. ^ Talhah, Sayyid (22 November 2018). "Asia Bibi case: Pakistanis need to bridge the 'mister-mulla' divide". Musings of a Muslim Doctor. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  23. ^ "NPT sitting on Usmani". The Nation. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  24. ^ Maqalat-e-Iqbal; Compiled by Syed Abdul Wahid Mueeni

Further reading