An Absolutely Fascinating Incident

[The delegation of the government coming to Hazrat Thanwi (Rahmatullahi alaih) was touched upon in the foregoing passage. We deem it of immense benefit to reproduce the full account of this delegation’s meeting with Hazrat Thanwi (Rahmatullahi alaih) and the discussion that took place. The delegation consisted of the renowned barristers and advocates of Hindustan (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh prior to the British engendered split). The account is therefore reproduced from Al-Ifaadhaatul Yaumiyyah, V.6 P.278-283 and we propose as its title:

The Bar in the Court of Ashraf

Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Quddisa Sirruhu) says:
 
“The Ulama have abjured the value of their knowledge (Ilm). Hence, they have abandoned studying their kitaabs with understanding. Otherwise, there is everything in these kitaabs (the curriculum taught by our Madaaris and Darul Ulooms in India).
 
If these kitaabs are utilized then even the highly educated, the holders of top degrees and the advanced certificate holders of today (in other words, the products of secular and university education) turn to dust in front of them (the Ulama who have studied their kitaabs properly).

Just recently a delegation consisting of nine members came here. This delegation met almost all the renowned Ulama of Hindustan to discuss the matter of Awqaaf (plural of Waqf: Shar’i endowment). They wished to ascertain the proposal of handing over all the Awqaaf of Hindustan to the government for administration. For the purpose of investigating this issue they also came here.
 
In this delegation there were top ranking English speaking barristers and advocates. Before the discussion I wrote a memo of set principles to follow in the discussion and sent it to the principal of the delegation. In this memo I mentioned that, “You have come to ascertain a mas-alah (Shar’i issue). You do not have the right to question about the evidence and proofs.
 
Secondly, we are going to explain the mas-alah from Durr-e-Mukhtaar, Shaami, Kanzud Daqaaiq, etc. (these are Fiqh and Fataawa kutub). These will have to be accepted. No one will have the right to object on the basis of reason.
 
Thirdly, I reserve the right to excuse myself from anything I am not familiar with. Further, there are two options; either a written note is forwarded which I shall respond to later, or you may ascertain through correspondence.
 
Fourthly, there will be no discussions based on logic. You only have the right to discuss what is documented and traditional.
 
Fifthly – this is sort of an explanatory clause to clause one – you have no right to question the wisdom, rationale, mysteries and raisons d’etre of the Ahkaam (Shar’i Injunctions) because we are not the legislators of the Law of Islam. We are advocates of the Law.
 
Here (in clause five) I took into account their temper as they were all barristers and advocates.
Looking at these principles they became sullen. Much of their fury of cross-questioning died down; the fury, verbosity, eloquence and expertise they displayed when meeting eminent Ulama of Hindustan. Just these few principles humbled them.

The Wisdom, Order and Procedure of Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali (Rahmatullahi Alaih)

One thing I did was not to meet them at the station so that vanity is not produced. [This refers to vanity of those who receive such distinguished guests. They pride themselves at having the ‘honour’ of hosting such high ranking officials and people of worldly prominence.] However, I sent my close family members so that they [the members of the delegation] are not inconvenienced [at the station, not knowing where to go].
 
Furthermore, I arranged for their stay at Molvi Shabbeer Ali’s home. [Moulana Shabbeer Ali was the nephew of Hazrat Thanwi.] I did not allow them to come to the Khaanqah for this reason that if they had to come here then I would have had to get up out of honour for them. If I did not get up then it would have been considered to be bad character.  Why should I needlessly put myself to shame? Like that where did I hitherto receive any medal in honour of my name? [Hazrat (Rahmatullahi alaih) alludes here to the objections against him which uninformed and misinformed persons levelled against him for his strictness.] Nevertheless, the bad name I have is restricted to people of my own circle and who I am acquainted with. It has not spread to outsiders.
 
By lodging them elsewhere they would have had to get up when I present myself. Also, had they come to the Khaanqah to meet me then I would have been confined till they leave. By me going to them they would be confined whilst I would be free to leave whenever I wished.
 
Furthermore, by me going to them they would be appreciative, “He honoured us by coming to meet us.”
 
For these reasons I lodged them at Molvi Shabbeer Ali’s home.
 
Then I informed them that they will have meals with me. “You are my guests.”
 
One of them asked Molvi Shabbeer Ali: “Whose house is this?” He replied that it was his. “Then aren’t we going to eat here by you?” he questioned. Molvi Shabbeer Ali replied: “You are his guests. Without his permission I cannot even give you a toothpick for you to clean your teeth. There are rules and regulations here.”
 
Now they understood that everything here was orderly and followed procedure.
 
Thereafter I sent a message that meals will only be enjoyed once you complete the mission you have come here for. They accepted all the petitions.

The Discussion

Then I came and handed to them the memo of set principles [to follow in the discussion]. The discussion commenced.
 
One question germane to the discussion was very complicated. Before they [the delegation] came I consulted some of my associate Ahl-e-Ilm [Ulama] that if this question comes up then what is our response going to be. No one had any answer. Everyone just remained thinking. Even I could not think about a response. Rather, I made Du’aa that, “May Allah Ta’ala block this question.”
 
In short, regarding the Mas’alah of Awqaaf the actual point of investigation was the presentation of a bill to the government to take control and administrate the Awqaaf. Was this permissible in the Shariah or not?
 
I totally opposed it and said: “It is not permissible at all. The government has no Shar’i right to interfere in this matter as it is purely a matter of Diyaaniyyaat [Acts of Ibaadat in the Shariah] just like Namaaz and Roza [Salaat and Saum]. Just as it is not jaaiz for the government to interfere in these [Namaaz and Roza], in the same way here [in the matter of the Awqaaf] too it is not permissible.

For example, you wish to solicit government aid for enacting law on Namaaz. Just as this is not permissible, similarly soliciting government aid in this matter [is not permissible].”
 
Prior to the discussion it was agreed that one person [from the delegation] would be the speaker. And the other members were permitted to assist him where necessary. However, only the one selected would speak.
 
From their side they selected as speaker a top ranking barrister of the Punjab High Court who was noted for his vigorous cross examining. Upon my speech he questioned: “This analogy [of Salaat and Saum with the Awqaaf] is questionable. The issue we are probing is related to money and assets, whilst Namaaz and Roza are not monetary matters.”
 
I replied: “Okay, Zakaat and Haj are money related. The resemblance is with these two. The argument still holds. Thus, the actual raison d’etre is being a part of Ibaadaat.”
 
After quite a period of silence he said: “If someone gave his wife Talaaq and then forcefully restrained her from leaving. The wife brought an application to court and proved him issuing Talaaq with witnesses. In this scenario there was no recourse other than soliciting aid from the government, and everyone considers this to be permissible, whereas it is also purely among the Diyaaniyyaat. So what is the difference then between Nikaah and Talaaq and between soliciting aid in this matter [the issue of the Awqaaf]?”
 
This was the question which my mind could find no answer to.

The Response

But in the nick of time Allah Ta’ala’s Help came. He inspired the answer into my mind simultaneous to the question. I said: ‘You have not applied your mind. This case is a mixture of two issues. One is purely a religious matter (Diyaanaat), which is Talaaq. The objective is not to seek government aid in this matter. By usurping her right of freedom which the woman gained after Talaaq, the husband is harming her. The woman solicits government help to ward off the harm which her husband is inflicting upon her by not allowing her to go. This is not help in an unadulterated Diyaanaat issue. It is help in a civil matter.’
 
His rejoinder was: ‘Waqf too is an unadulterated Diyaanaat issue. But due to the dishonesty and maladministration of the mutawalli (curator), the masaakeen (poor) who are the beneficiaries and rightful claimants, are harmed. To stave off this harm, relief is solicited from the government. Thus, the objective is to ward off harm in both cases.’
 
I answered: ‘You have not applied your mind. There is no harm to the masaakeen here, because the rightful claimants are not determined, whereas in the Talaaq issue the woman is determined as the rightful claimant. Furthermore, it is not a case of harm to the masaakeen (poor), rather a disadvantage. In other words, it was a benefit which was not accrued. They were disadvantaged. A benefit was forthcoming, but it was lost.
 
The woman on the other hand had already earned her freedom. That was lost. This is harm. Harm and disadvantage are two separate concepts. Your analogy is fallacious.
 
To illustrate this, I wish to give you Rs100. Someone stopped me from giving. In this case you were not harmed; you missed out on a benefit. Yes, it will be harm if someone pickpockets from you Rs100.’
 
Upon listening to this response, ‘Subhaanallah, Subhaanallah’ echoed from all sides, and they cried: ‘Not in our entire lives have we heard the difference between harm and disadvantage.’
 
They also said: ‘We came here after having discussed Masaail with all the renowned Ulama of Hindustan, but nowhere have we gained such pleasure and nowhere have we heard such judgements. We didn’t know that there were even Ulama with such minds.’

They also said: ‘It is amazing. When he [Hazrat Thanwi] spoke he was with complete composure, not feeling the slightest pressure on account of us. His speech was not haphazard and he gave proof for every claim of his.’
 
They also said: ‘We haven’t seen such an Aalim.’
 
All this I learnt of afterwards from someone, as I left immediately after the discussion on the Mas-alah.
 
I responded: ‘Where have they still seen Ulama!? I am not even equal to the dust on the shoes of Ulama. Let them just see true Ulama. I am just an ordinary Taalib-e-Ilm [student of the Deen], yet they have this opinion! The day they behold the greatness of the Ulama or experience the Ilm and Virtue of Ulama then what will their condition be!?’
 
Be that as it may, I made Shukr to Allah Ta’ala for protecting the honour of us, students of the Deen.
 
When they arrived I did not go to receive them. However, when they departed then I came to the station after they had already reached. Upon seeing me they became overjoyed and they said: ‘Why did you take the trouble?’ I replied: ‘What trouble? I would have even come to receive you, but that would have been construed to be love for distinction, which I abhor. But coming now at the time of departure is the product of affection.’
 
Here too they raised their voices saying, ‘Subhaanallah, Subhaanallah.’
 
All this was from Allah. Otherwise we are nothing and absolute non-entities. It is the Fadhl [Grace] of Allah Ta’ala and the Barkat of the Du’aa of my Buzrugs [Venerable Seniors].

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