Saturday, January 1, 2022

Abdul Bari - “A Forgotten Leader of Indian Muslims”

By Mohammad Ali, New Age Islam 1 January 2022 Human Contributions To The Islamicate Civilization Have Been Very Rich And Diverse Main Points: 1. From Arabia to Spain, Iran, and India, literature and fine arts were among the most popular objects of attraction and the ingenuity . 2. Muslims and non-Muslims alike cultivated a good many of literary genres and curated them for later generations. 3. The Tazkira is a reference book not only for the history of the ulama of Farangi Mahal but also for the history of the Muslims’ contribution to learning and the Indian freedom struggle. ----- Ulama-e-Firangi Mahal By Khushtar Noorani ----- Human contributions to the Islamicate civilization have been very rich and diverse. It was embellished by various human expressions that were evolved and nurtured in the Islamic heartlands. Muslims along with non-Muslims living in the Muslim world discovered and developed the skills, techniques, and genius that are instrumental to the development of what we can call the features of civilization, such as science, fine arts, literature, etc. These are some of the features that help determine the advancement of civilization. The more sophisticated they are the more advanced the civilization is. From Arabia to Spain, Iran, and India, literature and fine arts were among the most popular objects of attraction and the ingenuity and energy that were put into them are still manifested by their presence after so many years. Muslims and non-Muslims alike cultivated a good many of literary genres and curated them for later generations. Not only the literary marvels of scholars and poets were preserved but the lives of the geniuses who had brought them into being were also recorded so that people should remember them and applaud their intellectual feats. The efforts of the preservation of the lives of scholars and poets gave birth to a unique literary genre, Tazkira, or a biographical dictionary, developed by the Persianate scholars and made its way later into Urdu as well. The word is derived from an Arabic root word meaning, to remember. This genre flourished in the Indian subcontinent during the medieval and modern periods. Several Tazkiras were written recording the lives of Sufis, Ulama, and poets, such as Tazkiratul Awliya by Fariduddin Attar, Tazkira Ulama-e-Hind by Rahman Ali, Talāmiza-e-Ghalib by Malik Ram, etc. The aforementioned names of Tazkiras are very famous in the literary world. However, there are many Tazkiras that are lost in obscurity and forgotten. They are either extinct or shelved in libraries and archives waiting to be destroyed completely until or unless they are revived again. Khushtar Noorani has revived two of such Tazkiras, Mazharul Ulama fī Tarajim al-Ulama wa al-Kumala (published with a new Urdu title, Tazkira Ulama-e-Hindustan), and Āthārul Awwal min Ulama-e-Farangi Mahal. The latter Tazkira, about whom I will be discussing in this essay, was written in Arabic by Abdul Bari Farangi Mahalli and was first published in 1907 from Matba Mujtabai, Lucknow. Noorani gives an account of the circumstances under which he came across the Tazkira in Raza Library, Rampur, and how he determined to translate and republish the Tazkira, and how he sought to find other manuscripts of the Tazkira from the libraries of Budaun, Aligarh, and Lahore. This Tazkira comprises biographical accounts of 137 Ulama of the prestigious family of Firangi Mahal. This family of Ulama due to its contribution to Islamic learning and education possesses a distinct position in the intellectual history of Islam in the subcontinent. The family traces its lineage back to the notable companion of Islam, Abu Ayyub Ansari. The family appears in Indian history during the time of Aurangzeb. A scholar, Mulla Qutubuddin, whose expertise in Islamic science was admired none other than the Mughal Emperor himself, lived and taught at a small town, Sihali, in the district of Barabanki, UP. An unfortunate event occurred when a mob of miscreants killed him at his house while he was delivering lectures to students. After the incident, Aurangzeb granted the family an empty mansion, which was once used by French traders, in Lucknow. Thereby, the family came to be known as Ulama-e-Farangi Mahal, i.e., the Ulama who live in the Farangi (the Urdu dialect of French) mansion. Mulla Qutubuddin had three sons, and the youngest of them was Mulla Nizamuddin. This Nizamuddin was destined to become a great scholar whose name is immortalized in the curriculum, Dars-e-Nizami, which he designed for madrasa students. The curriculum of Nizamuddin soon become very popular and was adopted by Ulama and madrasas across the subcontinent. It is still in function, of course, with some modification, not just in the Indian subcontinent but in the madrasas of other countries in the world running by the Indian and Pakistani diaspora. Noorani says that the family produced more than two and a half hundred Ulama in its three hundred years of history. They all tremendously contributed to Islamic learning and teaching and wrote hundreds of books. The Tazkira under discussion mentions more than five hundred books of Firangi Mahalli Ulama on various subjects. However, there is not even a single comprehensive history, laments Noorani, on the family of Firangi Mahal (pp.28-29). This realization motivated him to edit and translate the Tazkira into Urdu and publish it. He employed modern and scientific techniques in editing the Tazkira, which discusses in detail in its introduction. As mentioned earlier, the actual Tazkira, Āthārul Awwal min Ulama-e-Farangi Mahal was written in Arabic and spread over 95 pages. Noorani edited the Arabic text and then translated it into Urdu. Both texts he published under a new title, Ulama-e-Firangi Mahal, which is easier and more accessible. Both Arabic and Urdu texts make respectably the second and the third chapter of the book. The fourth chapter comprises the extensive annotations that Noorani have added to explain the actual text of the Tazkira. These annotations are scattered over 107 pages. The annotations help the reader to access the text with much more depth and understanding. At the end of the book, Noorani has added an appendix in which he has given information about the books that Abdul Bari had consulted to write the original Tazkira, an index. Another important feature of this book is its first chapter. Instead of writing an introduction in a traditional sense, Noorani chose to write a lengthy biographical account of the author, Abdul Bari, and entitled it, “A Forgotten Leader of Indian Muslims”. This chapter comprises 73 pages. While discussing the biography of Abdul Bari, Noorani focuses on his achievements in the field of education, and politics and his efforts to unite Muslim Ulama and seek a Hindu-Muslim unity against the British. Abdul Bari was born on April 14, 1878, and received traditional education from his father, elder brother, and other Ulama. Abdul Bari was a bibliophile from a very young age and had amassed a number of books in his library which was the second largest library in Firangi Mahal. He was also devoted to teaching. In 1905, he established Madrasa-e-Aliya Nizamiya, a madrasa that was built on modern standards. When the Balkan Wars started in 1912, Abdul Bari was travelling to the Muslim countries in the Middle East and had a chance to witness first-hand the plight of the Muslim world. After coming to India, he organized Muslims and raised funds to help the injured in the Balkan Wars. He later established Majlis Khuddam-e-K’ābā along with the famous Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali and played a significant part in the formation of the Khilafat Movement and Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind. He also supported the non-cooperation movement. In the second decade of the twentieth century, Abdul Bari emerged as one of the prominent political and religious leaders in India. He died in 1926. Noorani’s contribution is remarkable in many ways. This Tazkira is not a simple republication. Noorani’s annotations, appendix, and biographical note on Abdul Bari provides the Tazkira with a historical context and make it more valuable. The Tazkira is a reference book not only for the history of the Ulama of Firangi Mahal but also for the history of the Muslims’ contribution to learning and the Indian freedom struggle. Scholars, as well as students of Islamic studies and Indian history, can easily be benefitted from the book. ----- Mohammad Ali has been a madrasa student. He has also participated in a three years program of the "Madrasa Discourses,” a program for madrasa graduates initiated by the University of Notre Dame, USA. Currently, he is a PhD Scholar at the Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. His areas of interest include Muslim intellectual history, Muslim philosophy, Ilm-al-Kalam, Muslim sectarian conflicts, madrasa discourses. Link for the book on Amazon:علما-فرنگی/dp/B08K7FY3WX URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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