Syed Nazeer Husain

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Born 1805
Died May 1902 (aged 96–97)
Region India
Religion Islam
Denomination Wahhabi
Husain's ode to Queen Victoria on her Golden Jubilee in 1887 in Urdu.

Syed Nazeer Husain Dehlawi (1805-1902) was a leading scholar of the reformist Ahl-i Hadith movement and one of its major proponents in India. Earning the appellation shaykh al-kull (teacher of all, or the shaykh of all knowledge) for his authority among early Ahl-i Hadith scholars,[1][2] he is regarded, alongside Siddiq Hasan Khan, as the founder of the movement.[3]

Life[edit]

Husain was born into an aristocratic ashraf family in the northern Indian city of Monghyr, Bihar,[4] he was raised a Shi'ite, but later abandoned that faith.[5] He began his studies in Sadiqpur in Bihar before continuing his learning in Delhi in 1826 where he studied under Abdul Aziz and his successor Muhammad Ishaq (1778-1846), a renowned muhaddith in India.[5] When the latter emigrated to the Hijaz, Husain took his place as a teacher,[6] because he was seen by the British as the only scholar of the Ahl-i Hadith who could allay the conflict between the movement and followers of the prevailing Hanafi school of thought, which often resulted in civil disturbances that the government sought to prevent, and because he also knew English which was very rare among Indian Muslim scholars at the time, Husain's turbulent relations with the British at Delhi had improved.[7] He was granted a letter of recommendation by the government to the British Vice Consul in Jedda when he travelled there in 1883 to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. However, he was already denounced as a Wahhabi by Indian Hanafis to the Ottoman governor of Jedda who had him arrested and imprisoned before he could present the letter, he was later released with the intervention of the British Vice Consul.[8]

Husain taught hadith at Delhi for half a century,[9] and attracted students from different parts of India, Afghanistan and Central Asia,[10] as well as Wahhabi students from Najd.[11] Almost all of the major scholars of the early Ahl-i Hadith movement studied under him.[12] Husain held together a network of scholars who aligned themselves to the teachings of Ahmad Sirhindi and Shah Waliullah Dehlawi, but were more uncompromising in their rejection of what they believed were blameworthy innovations in the faith and the legitimacy given to the four Sunni schools of law.[5] The solicitude of the British also gained Husain favour among modernist Muslims associated with the Aligarh Institute, whose Aligarh Institute Gazette dedicated an obituary praising him when he died in 1902.[13]

Teachings[edit]

The teachings of Nazeer Husain and Siddiq Hasan Khan were shaped amidst broader reformist developments in South Asia which saw the Muslims of India as having drifted away from 'authentic' Islamic beliefs and practices that compromised the Islamic concept of the indivisible oneness of God and bordered on idolatry. However, in contrast to other reformist currents in India, for guidance on religious matters, they advocated direct use of the central Islamic scriptures: the Quran and hadith – which they interpreted literally and narrowly – rather than looking to the classical lawmakers and the legal traditions of Islam that developed around them.[14] Accordingly, Husain was known for his emphasis on the primacy of the Prophetic traditions as the source of Islamic law over deference (taqlid) given to the Sunni legal schools and for the opposition to popular rituals and folk practices associated with the Sufis which were deemed to be illegitimate innovations in the faith.[15] Although Husain himself has been seen as less literalist and more favourably inclined towards Sufism than later exponents of the Ahl-i Hadith, demanding an oath of allegiance (bay'ah) from his disciples and even praising Ibn Arabi.[16] Nevertheless, overall, these teachings resulted in the development of friendly ties with Wahhabi scholars but strong controversy between the Ahl-i Hadith and the Deobandis who staunchly upheld adherence to the Hanafi school.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Claudia Preckel. (2013; p.174), 'Screening Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān's Library: The Use of Ḥanbalī Literature in 19th century Bhopal' in B. Krawietz & G. Tamer (eds.), Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law: Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp.162–219
  2. ^ Chanfi Ahmed (2015). West African ʿulamāʾ and Salafism in Mecca and Medina: Jawāb al-Ifrῑqῑ - The Response of the African. BRILL. p. 99. ISBN 978-90-04-27031-2. 
  3. ^ Sophie Gilliat-Ray (2010). Muslims in Britain: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-521-83006-5. 
  4. ^ Chanfi Ahmed (2015). West African ʿulamāʾ and Salafism in Mecca and Medina: Jawāb al-Ifrῑqῑ - The Response of the African. BRILL. p. 98. ISBN 978-90-04-27031-2. 
  5. ^ a b c Kenneth W. Jones (1989). Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India, Volume 3 (reprint ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780521249867. 
  6. ^ Chanfi Ahmed (2015). West African ʿulamāʾ and Salafism in Mecca and Medina: Jawāb al-Ifrῑqῑ - The Response of the African. BRILL. p. 98. ISBN 978-90-04-27031-2. 
  7. ^ Chanfi Ahmed (2015). West African ʿulamāʾ and Salafism in Mecca and Medina: Jawāb al-Ifrῑqῑ - The Response of the African. BRILL. p. 98. ISBN 978-90-04-27031-2. 
  8. ^ Chanfi Ahmed (2015). West African ʿulamāʾ and Salafism in Mecca and Medina: Jawāb al-Ifrῑqῑ - The Response of the African. BRILL. p. 99. ISBN 978-90-04-27031-2. 
  9. ^ Annmarie Schimmel, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, pg. 208–9. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1980. ISBN 9004061177
  10. ^ Chanfi Ahmed (2015). West African ʿulamāʾ and Salafism in Mecca and Medina: Jawāb al-Ifrῑqῑ - The Response of the African. BRILL. p. 99. ISBN 978-90-04-27031-2. 
  11. ^ Guido Steinberg. (2004; p.95), 'Ecology, Knowledge, and Trade in Central Arabia (Najd) during the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries' in M. Al-Rasheed & R. Vitalis (eds.), Counter-Narratives: History, Contemporary Society, and Politics in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.77–102
  12. ^ Claudia Preckel. (2013; p.174), 'Screening Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān's Library: The Use of Ḥanbalī Literature in 19th century Bhopal' in B. Krawietz & G. Tamer (eds.), Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law: Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp.162–219
  13. ^ Chanfi Ahmed (2015). West African ʿulamāʾ and Salafism in Mecca and Medina: Jawāb al-Ifrῑqῑ - The Response of the African. BRILL. p. 98. ISBN 978-90-04-27031-2. 
  14. ^ Sophie Gilliat-Ray (2010). Muslims in Britain: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-521-83006-5. 
  15. ^ David Commins (2006). The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris. p. 144. ISBN 184-511-080-3. 
  16. ^ Martin Riexingr. (2013; p.501), 'Ibn Taymiyya's Worldview and the Challenge of Modernity: A Conflict Among the Ahl-i Ḥadīth in British India' in B. Krawietz & G. Tamer (eds.), Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law: Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp.493–518
  17. ^ David Commins (2006). The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris. p. 144. ISBN 184-511-080-3.