Shah Rafi Uddin’s Metaphysics

blind men

John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816-1887) version of Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

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Islamic Tradition of Books

The visitor to an Islamic bookstore is struck by the orderly rows of
Arabic sets, usually handsomely bound in rich colours with calligraphic
titles framed in arabesque and stamped in gold or silver. Nowadays, the
title commonly runs boldly across the spines of all the volumes.


A well run
bookstore will have these works sorted by discipline: commentaries
on the Qur’an; collections of the reported words and deeds of the Prophet
and his Companions, with their commentaries; Islamic law, both rulings
and studies of the principles to be followed in deducing law; theology;
large biographical dictionaries of individuals of various classes, most
commonly scholars; histories and geographies; and Arabic grammars
and dictionaries. Continue reading →

Shah Waliullah’s Hujjatullah al-Baligha

Shazad at Shah Waliullah's grave

At Shah Waliullah’s grave

Shah Waliullah’s project in his magnum opus, Hujjatullah al-Baligha, represents not only an intellectual synthesis of morality, law, theology, mysticism and philosophy but also an anthropological foray into capturing the intellectual, socio-communal, and psychological forces that shape Islam’s paradigm. Continue reading →

Hadith vs. ‘Amal

mosqueImam Malik wrote a letter to Layth b. Sa’d saying:

“It has come to my notice that you give decisions on religious matters which go against   the position of the scholars of this city of ours. You are a leading scholar, a man of position and eminence in your area. People need you and trust you in your decisions. Because of this you must fear for yourself and tread the path that is likely to take you to safety. Continue reading →

Tradition & Change: To Reform or not to Reform?


Tradition is here defined as an intellectual tendency or social perspective of continuing the preservation of values, statements, norms and the like from one generation to the next. In contrast, modernity is the social outlook on life which is inclined to break with tradition. It is driven by the force to repudiate traditional values, customs and beliefs in favour of more radical ideas. A delineating feature of modernity is constant change whilst tradition is identified by continuation. Where do we stand regarding these two polarities as religious people?

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Shaykh Anwar Shah’s Presidential Address (1927)

Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (1875-1933), a native of Kashmir, was a leading Islamic scholar and taught in the Darul-’Uloom at Deoband, India’s premier Islamic madrasa. Among the many Muslims who crusaded for the country’s independence from the British and called for an India where people of all communities could live together in peace and harmony and justice were numerous Deobandi ulama. Their leading role in the freedom struggle and in the effort to form a united front of all religious communities for a new India have, sadly, been largely forgotten. It is crucial that such voices be retrieved and an important part of Indian history—the heroic role of many Muslim leaders in the movement for free India—be brought before the general public.This translation of certain sections of a lecture of historical importance by Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri is a small effort in this regard.This lecture was delivered by Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri as a presidential address to the 1927 Peshawar meeting of the Jamiat ul-Ulama-i Hind. The lecture, recently published in Urdu by the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Research Centre (Kokerbagh Dak Khana, Nowshehra, Srinagar, Kashmir) runs into over a hundred pages in the original Urdu. The Presidential Address of Hazrat Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri to the Annual Session of the Jamiat ul-Ulama-i Hind, Peshawar, 1927. Continue reading →

Shah Waliullah: The Benefits of Congregational Prayer

“To save the people from fatal effects that their own customs and rituals can bring them, there is nothing more useful than to make one of the religious services so common a custom and so public a ritual that it may be performed open before everybody by any person; whether he be learned or illiterate. Townfolk and countrymen should both be equally anxious to observe it. It should become a subject of rivalry and pride among all of them, and it should be so universally practised that it becomes a part and parcel of their social setup, so much so that life without it maybe worthless for them. If this is achieved, it will help in establishing the worship and obedience of Allah and will form a very useful substitute for those rituals and customs which could cause them serious harm. Since ritual Prayer is the only religious observance that surpasses all others in importance and universality, attested by both reason and scripture, it becomes therefore absolutely necessary to get it established universally by propagating it and by arranging special congregations. Continue reading →