By Bint Samir (4th Year ʿĀlimah Student, DarusSalam Seminary)
Mawlanā Muḥammad Ashraf ʿAlī Thānvī is known as Ḥakīm al-Ummat. He is a famous jurist, theologian, and spiritual guide. He was born on Rabīʿ al-Thānī 5, AH 1280 in Thana Bhawan, which is a small village in the Muzaffarnagar District of Uttar Pradesh, India. His mother died when he was only five years old. His father, who was a generous and wealthy man, raised and educated him.
Mawlanā Ashraf ʿAlī Thānvī’s father observed his son’s talents and unique abilities. And with seeing the potential in him, he decided that his son should become a scholar. He enrolled him in a madrasah to study Arabic and Persian. He memorized the entire Qurʾān under the guidance of Ḥāfiẓ Ḥusayn ʿAlī. He then went to Thana Bhawan, where he studied under Mawlanā Fātiḥ Muḥammad and Mawlanā Wājid ʿAlī.
He then continued his studies at Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband. In five years, he finished the dars niẓāmī curriculum under Mawlanā Muḥammad Yaʿqūb, Shaykh al-Hind Mawlanā Maḥmūd al-Ḥasan, and the seminary’s other esteemed teachers. He was twenty years old at the time. Thus, he became a scholar at a young age. After finishing his studies at Deoband, he settled in Kanpur and worked at Madrasah Faiz-e-Aam. He lived there for fourteen years teaching various subjects and delivering lectures. Eventually, he became the torch bearer of Islām in the subcontinent.
The mawlanā maintained an active daily schedule. From morning to noon, he would write. At noon, he would nap. Then, after the ẓuhr prayer, he would meet with his visitors and companions who wanted to seek his guidance in religious matters. After aṣr, he would return to his writing work. He would retire to bed after ishāʾ.
Without a doubt, he was right-minded. From a young age, he habitually followed the Prophet’s Sunnah. He would remain in a state of purity and do everything in a timely fashion. He never troubled other people. He never held money in his left hand nor shoes in his right. He would note down urgent matters and try to get them done as soon as possible. If anyone came to him to seek a favor, he never kept them waiting.
He led a simple and disciplined life. He always brought comfort to others and he valued time. He would say:
“Through discipline and punctuality, one gives what is due to Allāh and His creation.”
The mawlanā never forced his teachings or views upon others. When he found criticism, in a scholarly way, he would respect it. At times, he would withdraw his opinion if convinced by the evidence.
In the days before he died, his health deteriorated. Due to a stomach illness, his face and feet swelled. He faced other various medical complications. He was being treated by Ḥakīm Muḥammed Saʿīd Gangohi. When that treatment did not work, another physician was summoned. The mawlanā did not want to undergo allopathic treatment, however, he agreed after his friend gave him advice. Unfortunately, the treatment went wrong.
His health worsened and he began to reach the end of his days. During the last few hours of his life, he prayed and engaged his Lord in worship. While his soul was leaving his body, his right thumb and forefinger came together as if he was holding a pen. And there was a sparkling light that was seen between his thumb and finger which stayed until his soul departed from his body. He passed on to the mercy of his Lord in AH 1362 at the age of eighty-two.
Arif, Abdul Hai & Khawaja, Ahmad Ali. Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. Pakistan: Idara Talifat-e-Ashrafia, 2002.
al-Nadwī, Muḥammad RaḥmatuLlāh. Ashraf ʿAlī al-Tahānawī Ḥakīm al-Ummah wa Shaykh Mashāyikh al-ʿAṣr fī al-Hind. Damascus: Dār al-Qalam, 2006.