Shah Waliullah


A reformer in India who was one of the first Muslim thinkers to see the threat that Western modernity posed to Islam. Shah Waliullah was the most celebrated theologian, scholar, translator and expounder of the Qur'an in Muslim India. His greatest contribution to India was popularising the Qur'anic education. He was the first man in India to translate the Qur'an into Persian. He stood for reform in social customs, beliefs and practices and worked for shia-sunni amity. Shah Waliullah expressed the new embattled vision, and as Muslims felt their power slipping away in other parts of the world and experienced similar fears about the survival of Islam, other philosophers and reformers would reach similar conclusions. First, Muslims must unite, bury their sectarian differences with one another, and present a united front against their enemies. The Shariah must be adapted to meet the special conditions of the Indian subcontinent, and become a means of resisting Hinduisation. It was essential, according to Shah Waliullah, that Muslims retain the upper hand militarily and politically. He strongly opposed the Sufi veneration of saints, which he considered to idol worship and was outspoken against practices Indian Muslims had picked up from their Hindu neighbours - making pilgrimages to Hindu holy places, consulting Hindu astrologers, piercing the noses of women for nose studs, lighting lamps on tombs, playing music in holy places, and celebrating Hindu festivals. Shah's solution was to strip out all non-Islamic accretions and innovations, and to emphasise instead a strictly Islamic monotheism in which prayers could be directed only to Allah, and never through any saintly intermediary. Shah Waliullah also opposed what he saw as the corrupt Muslim rulers of his day, and he encouraged Muslims to defy what he perceived as the decadence of the Mughals. His dislike of the Mughals was as much theological as political. Shah Waliullah whose family stronghold was in Madrasa-e-Rahimyya was the author of many books including his most famous book hujjat-ullah-al baligha. His sons produced the first two Urdu versions of the Qur'an. Shah Waliullah was the son of a scholar who had participated in the compilation of fatwai-alamgiri. He completed his education in Hejaz and came back to India in 1732.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan / Ghulam Mohiuddin

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