A Brief Biographical Sketch of ʿAllāmah Anwar Shāh al-Kashmīrī
By Mln. Bilal Rawala (Takmīl Graduate, 2019)
Shaykh Muḥammad Anwar Shāh b. Muʿaẓẓam Shāh b. Shāh ʿAbd al-Kabīr al-Narūrī al-Kashmīrī was the imām of his era, the essential ḥadīth master of his time, the erudite exegete of the Noble Qurʾān, the principled jurist, the insightful theologian, the ascetic sage, and the eloquent historian and poet. Indeed, he left an indelible mark on Islāmic knowledge.
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī’s Family & Roots
His forefathers migrated from Baghdad to India. They resided in Multan for a while, then they traveled onwards to Lahore, and then they moved to Kashmir. Kashmir become their permanent abode and ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī’s future home.
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī’s Early Life
He was born on Saturday, Shawwāl 27, AH 1292 at the village of Wudwan, which is located in Kashmir. Allāh blessed him with a pious family; his father was a devout scholar and worshiper, who followed the Suhrawardiyyah Sufi Order. His mother was also a righteous woman, whose noble qualities left a lasting imprint on her son.
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī began seeking knowledge at the tender age of five, when he sat with his father and read to him the Holy Qurʾān, along with several primers in Persian. He quickly transitioned to larger texts in the Persian language, mastering the works of Persian poets and authors including al-Saʿdī, al-Niẓāmī, Khusro al-Dihlawī, and others.
One of his students mentioned regarding him:
“He would not sleep laying down except for Friday night. Rather, he would spend his nights studying and revision. If the Shaykh was overcome with drowsiness, he would sleep sitting.”
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī’s father attests to the incredible potential and abilities he showed at a young age. ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī would question his father with such inquiries that he would be forced to refer to complex texts to find answers for him. This would reoccur throughout his studies, as he would often pose meaningful questions to his teachers. Once, his father took him to visit a scholar in their city. Upon seeing the young boy, the scholar remarked that this child would go on to become the most learned man of his time, equating him with Ghazālī and Rāzī.
His Studies in Kashmir
Soon after, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī progressed to higher level subjects. He studied from the scholars of his city and neighboring areas. In two short years, he completed his studies in Arabic syntax, morphology, Islāmic jurisprudence, as well as logic and rhetoric. After solidifying his foundational knowledge at home, he traveled to Madiriyah on the outskirts of Kashmir in AH 1307. This area was saturated with scholarship. ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī stayed there for three years. During this time, he expanded his knowledge in the fields of logic, philosophy, and law.
Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband
After his years studying in Kashmir, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī made a long journey to the world-renowned institute, Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, located in Deoband, India. At this time, the madrasah was a center filled with dozens of the most pious and knowledgeable men in all the greater India. From amongst these men, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī had the privilege of sitting with Shaykh Maḥmūd Ḥasan al-Deobandī. Shaykh Maḥmūd was the product of two great luminaries, Shaykh Rashīd Aḥmad al-Ghangohī and Shaykh Muḥammad Qāsim al-Nānautawī.
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī dedicated himself to the Islāmic higher sciences and would go on to complete the canonical ḥadīth books under Shaykh Maḥmūd Ḥasan and Shaykh Muḥammad Isḥāq. In AH 1313, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī completed his formal studies and graduated from Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband.
His Teaching Efforts at Gangoh
Shortly after graduation, he traveled to Gangoh. There, he began teaching at a small madrasah known as Madrasat ʿAbd al-Rabb. This teaching post only lasted for a few months because ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī was encouraged by many who saw his potential to start his own institute. With the support of a few scholars and sponsors, he established Madrasah Amīniyyah. ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī continued to teach and support the students until many graduated from his institute. For years, he saw the fruits of his efforts bloom.
His Teaching Efforts at Kashmir
However, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī felt a longing to return home. He left his madrasah in capable hands. Then, he returned to Kashmir and stayed there for three years. During this time, he established another madrasah, al-Fayḍ al-ʿĀmm. From here, he continued to serve the Muslim ummah with his lessons and publications.
In AH 1323, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī was blessed to visit the two Holy Cities, Makkah and Madīnah. He spent several months in Makkah, performing the rites and supererogatory devotions. Soon after, he traveled to Madīnah to be in the proximity of the Prophet Muḥammad (upon him be peace). In Madīnah, he was fortunate enough to sit in the company of Shaykh Ḥusayn al-Jisr, as well as attain an ijāzah from him in ḥadīth.
As was his nature, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī spent countless hours in the libraries of Madīnah, poring over ancient manuscripts and increasing in his ever-growing reservoir of knowledge. After having spent several months enjoying the peace and serenity of the Holy Cities, he returned to his home in Kashmir.
Upon arrival, the townspeople began to approach him in crowds, hoping to encourage him to marry one of their daughters. However, he knew that a commitment to any of these families would hamper his efforts of learning and teaching; thus, he rejected their proposals and instead set off once again towards the Holy Cities.
His Return to Deoband
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī desired to reunite with his beloved teachers, so he set off towards Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband once again. After his arrival, his teacher Shaykh Maḥmūd Ḥasan, redirected ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī’s enthusiasm from migrating to settling down.
In AH 1325, he took up residence in Deoband and began teaching at the institute. Shaykh Maḥmūd knew that his star pupil was extremely talented. And thus, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī began teaching the highest books of ḥadīth, including Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Sunan al-Nasāʾī, and Sunan Ibn Mājah.
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī continued to teach at the seminary until AH 1333 when he was again blessed to visit the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madīnah. Upon his return, his beloved teacher, Shaykh Maḥmūd Ḥasan, had been imprisoned by the colonialists. Shaykh Maḥmūd was exiled to the island of Malta for a lengthy period of time. While his teacher was gone, Shaykh Anwar took up the post of Shaykh al-Ḥadīth and began teaching Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī.
Given his brilliance, the administration of Deoband desired that he remain at the institute for many years to come, but they anticipated that he would once again try and emigrate to the Holy Cities. To curb that desire, the administration encouraged him to marry. After his marriage, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī was burdened with the responsibility of caring for a household, along with teaching several major ḥadīth books and looking after his students’ wellbeing. To make matters more difficult, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī was receiving a very small salary from Deoband. In Deoband, he received less than fifty rupees monthly, whereas in other institutes a teacher of his rank would receive eight hundred rupees a month. But he, from his abstinent and self-sufficient nature, did not complain or seek assistance for his dire financial straits.
During his time at Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, over 2,000 scholars graduated at the hands of ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī. Such was his genius that, due to his efforts, Deoband grew in fame and basked in glory. He continued to serve the institute for nearly a third of his life.
His Migration to Dabhel
Finally, in AH 1346, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī completed his tenure at Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, after more than twenty years serving the seminary. Upon resigning from his post, he began receiving offers from seminaries all over India. Many institutes offered him lofty sums, in the hopes of enticing him to come and benefit them with his wisdom and knowledge. However, the state of Gujarat, specifically the city of Dabhel, was fortunate enough to convince him to take a position in al-Jāmiʿah al-Islāmiyyah. Similarly, a publishing house nearby, al-Majlis al-ʿIlmī, also solicited his help. And soon after, they began publishing his works in abundance. ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī remained at Dabhel for five years, busying himself with teaching, writing, and delivering speeches to crowds of thousands. As he grew older, his demeanor and temperament softened; he would often weep in his lessons and bring others to tears with his moving words.
The Last Part of His Life
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī’s health began to wane in his later years and he developed severe illnesses that affected his organs. As if he knew his time on earth was nearing an end, ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī desired to return to the place that he had called home for so many years of his life, Deoband.
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī returned to Deoband in AH 1351. The following year, in the blessed last third portion of the night on Monday, Ṣafar 3, AH 1352, he passed on to the eternal abode of his Lord. With heavy hearts, the residents of Deoband performed his funeral prayer and laid him to rest on the illuminated seminary’s grounds.
ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī’s legacy continued through his three sons, all noble scholars themselves. It was also by the Almighty’s will that his father, Shaykh Muḥammad Muʿaẓẓam, lived on after him. His father was over 110 years old when news of his son’s passing reached him. ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī’s death sent reverberations around the Muslim World, with scholars and poets, authors and dignitaries, all conveying their condolences in the form of prose, books, and lectures.
Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah authored a work under the title Tarājim Sittah min Fuqahāʾ al-Aʿlām al-Islāmī fī al-Qarn al-Rābiʿ ʿAsharah, and I have relied on that for the biographical details on ʿAllāmah Kashmīrī that are presented herein.