Birthday of Alahazrat Imam Ahmad Rida Al Qadiri
The Mujaddid of the 14th Century is Mawlana alHaaj al-Hafidh al-Qarī Muhammad Ahmad Rida Khan al-Qadrī al-Barkāti al-Baraylwī radiyallahu ta’ala ‘anhu. He was born in the town of Bareilly [northern Indian state of U.P.) at the time of Duhr prayer on 10th Shawwal, 1272 AH and demised on 25th Safar, 1340 AH. He was named Muhammad and a historic name of al-Mukhtar (1272 AH) was given to him. Due to his fervent love for the Messenger şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam; Imām Ahmad Rida would write Abdul Mustafa before his name. He was a master of Abjad and he deduced his year of birth from the verse of the Holy Qur’ān: These are they in whose hearts Allah has inscribed faith and helped them with a spirit from Himself. [58:22]
Education and Upbringing
His initial education was taught by (1) Mirza Qadir Baig al-Baraylwī (d. 1297 AH) and he completed his education with his father, (2) Mawlana Naqī Alī Khan al-Baraylwī. He also took knowledge of Islam and Ijazahs in Hadīth from the following scholars:
1. Mawlana Abdul Ali Khan Rampurī (d. 1303 AH) – student of ‘Allama Fazle Haq Khairabadī
Imam Ahmad Rida went to Shah Aale Rasūl Marehrawī Radi Allahu Ta’ala ‘anhu along with his father and ‘Allama Abdul Qadir Badayunī (d. 1319 AH) who was the son of ‘Allama Fazle Rasūl Badayunī (d. 1289 AH). During their very first meeting, Imām Ahmad Rida was granted Bay’ah, Ijazah and Khilafah. Upon seeing this extraordinary event, some of the disciples of Shah Aale Rasūl exclaimed that they had been busy in worship and spiritual training for such a long time yet had not received the same benevolence. Shah Aale Rasūl answered this query by saying: “Others have to be trained whilst these people came already trained”. He then said:
4. Imām al-Shafi’iyah Shaykh Husain Salih (d. 1302 AH)
Imām Ahmad Rida specialised in over fifty branches of knowledge including: Tafsīr, Hadīth, Fiqh, Usūl al-Fiqh, ‘Aqaid and Kalam, Tasawwuf, Nahw, Sarf, History, Logic, Philosophy, Astronomy, Astrology and Mathematics.
Imām Ahmad Rida lived for 28 years, 2 months and 5 days in the 13th century, in which he gained recognition due to his efforts in writing and research, teaching and sermons; and he lived for 39 years, 1 month and 25 days of the 14th century, which he spent in holding up the flag of Islam, refuting the innovators, promoting the truth and fighting against falsehood. He supported the Sunnah and challenged the Bid’ah. Whenever and howsoever he possibly could, he used his knowledge to promote the Sharī’āh and refute all types of falsehood – and in doing so – he did not let anything stop him including any important personalities. He never craved fame and praise nor did he care what people said against him as long as he spoke the truth.
He was given such a brilliant mind that he completed his religious education at the age of 13 years and 10 months. He is amongst the greatest Hadith scholars of his age and in Fiqh, the whole of the 14th century did not produce a jurist to his like. Hence, ‘Allama Iqbal pays tribute to his juristic brilliance thus:
Hindustan did not produce such a genius Faqīh as him. I have read his fatawa and they are proof of his extraordinary intellect. When Mawlana forms an opinion; he sticks to it. This is because he only decrees a ruling after careful thought. Hence, there is never any need to change any ruling.
Imām Ahmad Rida was also a poet par excellence. His collection of religious poetry, Hada’iq-e-Bakhshish, has received praise by hundreds of poets, researchers, critics and scholars. There have also been Ph.D. theses that have been completed on his poetry.
He was also a master of ancient and modern philosophy. This can be seen from books of his such as al-Kalimatu’l Mulhima, Nuzul-e-Ayaat-e-Furqan and Fauz-e-Mubeen. As for his acumen relating to secular sciences, his answer to Sir Dr. Ziauddin’s mathematical problem is proof enough. Sir Ziauddin, vice chancellor of Muslim University, Aligarh, was sent to Imām Ahmad Rida by Mawlana Sayyid Sulayman Ashraf. Mufti Burhan Ul-Haq was eye-witness to this event and said:
Imām Ahmad Rida possessed a very powerful memory. He himself says that some people who are not well acquainted with me write Hafidh with my name. I am not a Hafidh but when I hear someone recite a part of the Holy Qur’ān, I can then repeat the same part back to them. When he did memorise the whole Qur’ān, it only took him a month where he would memorise one chapter a day between ‘Asr and Maghrib.
He was also able to read very quickly and retain what he had read. He borrowed ‘Uqud ad-Dariya from Mawlana Wasī Ahmad Muhaddith Surati and managed to read the two-volume work in one day. When asked what he would do when he needed to quote from the book, he replied that the contents of the book were now in his mind for ever.
His mastery of Fiqh
It is normally the case that scholars begin to pen their works after they have graduated from their religious education. However, Imām Ahmad Rida is amongst those scholars who began to author books during their student days. He began to issue judicial verdicts the very day he graduated and the very first fatwa he ever decreed was so well researched and comprehensive that his father, Mawlana Naqī Ali Khan – himself a renowned Mufti of his era – was astounded. Imām Ahmad Rida began writing fatawa at the tender age of 13 years and 10 months and continued this till his demise in 1340 AH – a total of 54 years.
It is unfortunate that some of his earlier fatawa could not be kept safe. Those that remain have been gathered in the form of al-‘Ataya al-Nabawiya fi al-Fatawa al-Ridawiyah. They cover 12 volumes, each of 900-1000 pages. Finding such a voluminous fatwa work is rare and the research qualities of Imām Ahmad Rida can be seen throughout the work. The fatawa have been a source of reference for the Hanafi School ever since they were written.
The total number of monographs and books written by him number around 1000 that cover over 50 subject areas. By 1887, at the age of 30 years, he had already written 75 books and treatises and by 1909, at the age of 43 years, this number had increased to approximately 500.
As is evident, Imām Ahmad Rida did write a lot of books but what must be noted is that the quantity of books is not what makes Imām Ahmad Rida great; it is the quality of each one that makes him great. In many cases, one page written by Imām Ahmad Rida is more valuable than whole books of other scholars.
His excellence in Fiqh can be seen from the number of references he cites for each issue. Some examples of this are seen below:
Other aspects of his superlative knowledge of Fiqh can be seen from his answers to perennial issues. For example, when the issue of currency notes arose, the scholars were baffled. Even the Hanafi Mufti of Makkah, Mawlana Jamal bin Abdullah, was unable to provide a comprehensive answer and left it by saying:
العلم امانۃ فى اعناق العلما
It is a favour upon the whole Muslim ummah that Imām Ahmad Rida answered the question with utmost clarity. When he went to his second Hajj in 1323 AH, news of the brilliance of al-Dawlah al-Makkiyah had spread far and wide. Hence, the scholars took advantage of his visit and asked 12 questions about currency notes. Imām Ahmad Rida wrote Kifl al-Faqih al-Fahim and when he went to the library of Haram on 4th Safar 1324 AH, he found the Mufti-e-Hanafiya, Mawlana Abdullah bin Siddiq, reading Kifl al-Faqih and when he reached the point where Imām Ahmad Rida had cited Fath al-Qadir which said that: If a man wishes to sell a piece of paper for Rs. 1000, then this is permissible; the Mufti was shocked and whilst hitting his thigh he exclaimed: “Jamal bin Abdullah, how did you miss such a clear evidence?” By saying this, the current Mufti was addressing the Mufti of old .
Imām Ahmad Rida was a great Faqīh because he was able to convey what Fuqaha before him had researched in their own books but he was also able to add his own research to issues. For example, Fatawa Ridawiyah has 311 points on Tayammum whereas previous works of Fiqh have 72. The additional 239 points have been derived by Imām Ahmad Rida himself.
His Mastery of Hadīth
For one to be a Muhaddith; it is not necessary to be a Faqīh but to be a Faqīh, one must be a Muhaddith and Imām Ahmad Rida was an undisputed Imām of Fiqh. He had a vast knowledge of Hadīth and its related sciences including Turuq, Nasikh and Mansūkh, Rajih and Marjūh, Tatbīq and Rijal. Sayyid Muhammad Muhaddith Kachochawi writes:
Concerning the etiquettes of Takhrīj al-Hadīth, Imām Ahmad Rida wrote a monograph named al-Rawd al-Baheej fi Adab al-Takhreej. Mawlana Rahman Ali writes about this work:
Sayyid Muhammad Muhaddith Kachochawi once asked his teacher, Mawlana Sayyid Wasī Ahmad Muhaddith Surati: “Was the rank of Imam Ahmad Raza the same as yours in the field of Hadith?” The latter replied, “Not at all, not at all”. He then said, “Do you understand what I mean by this? Imām Ahmad Rida is Amīr al-Mu’minīn fi’l Hadīth and if I study Hadīth at his feet for many years, I will still not reach his rank”.
Imām Ahmad Rida was once questioned about how many books of Hadīth he had studied. He replied with the names of 29 books and said that he had studied over 50 books of Hadīth. Moreover, when one researcher studied 356 books of Imām Ahmad Rida, he found citations therein from not just 50 books but 240 books of Hadīth. As mentioned, these 240 books are mentioned in just 356 of his books whereas he has authored approximately 1000 books; hence, this number is likely to be much greater.
Many a time, for only one hadîth, he cites up to 25 references. He wrote 45 books specifically on Hadīth and when answering questions, he would cite extensively from the books of Hadīth. A few examples are given:
· Is it allowed to refer to Sayyidinā Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam as ‘the remover of difficulties’? Answering this, Imām Ahmad Rida wrote al-Amnu wa’l ‘Ula wherein he proved his motif by presenting 60 verses and 300 ahadith.
Some Wahabis denied the fact that Sayyidinā Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam is the best of creation. Imām Ahmad Rida answered this fallacious claim by gathering 100 ahadith and named this monograph Tajalli al-Yaqeen bi Anna Nabiyyina Sayyida’l Mursaleen.
· When asked about having a feast to remove the difficulties of famine and smallpox, Imām Ahmad Rida presented 60 ahadith to show its permissibility.
· Whilst burying the nonsensical claim of Prophethood by Mirza Qadiani, Imām Ahmad Rida wrote a monograph wherein he presented 121 ahadith which demolished Mirza’s claim.
· On the issue of the second Adhan for Jumu’ah, Imām Ahmad Rida wrote Shama’im al-Anbar in Arabic in which he gathered 45 ahadith.
· Regarding the hearing of the dead, he presented 60 ahadith.
· On the creation of Angels, he cited 24 ahadith.
· About dyeing the hair, he presented 16 ahadith.
· Regarding Mu’aniqa , he cited 16 ahadith.
· On the importance of the beard, he gathered 56 ahadith.
· On the rights of parents, he presented 91 ahadith.
· Regarding the impermissibility of the prostration of reverence, he put forward 70 ahadith.
· On intercession, he gathered 40 ahadith.
· On the issue of pictures, he cited 27 ahadith.
His Knowledge of Tafsīr
Though he did not compile a single Tafsīr of the whole Qur’ān; he did compile numerous works that relate to Tafsīr. He wrote marginalia to books of Tafsīr and when he did write a commentary of just one Surah – Surah ad-Duha – he wrote 600 pages. Glimpses of majestic knowledge of Tafsīr can be seen in numerous works of his.
His Translation of the Holy Qur’ān
One of his most outstanding works is his translation of the Holy Qur’ān into Urdu which he named Kanzu’l Iman fi Tarjamatu’l Qur’ān which is unique and unparalleled in every sense. Each and every line of this translation gives glimpses of the beauty of the Holy Qur’ān and shows his mastery of the sciences of Tafsir. The translation takes into account the Glory of Allah and the perfection of His Messenger şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam; hence, it is free from the faults that are found in other translations.
Hajj and visitation to the Sacred Sanctuaries
Imām Ahmad Rida performed Hajj twice – in 1295 AH and 1323 AH. His books al-Muneeratu’l Wadiya, al-Jaamu’s Sunnah, Fatawa al-Haramayn, Husam al-Haramayn, al-Dawlah al-Makkiya and Kiflu’l Faqih al-Fahim are all masterpieces in the Arabic language that he compiled during his visits to the sacred lands. Some of these books have scores of taqaridh from the scholars of Haramayn. This shows that the views and beliefs of Imām Ahmad Rida were the same as those held by the scholars of the sacred lands.
Imām Ahmad Rida was loved by the scholars of Haramayn. Shaykh Karimullah Muhajir Madani [student of Shaykh al-Dala’il Muhammad Abdul Haq Muhajir Madani (d. 1333AH)] writes his account thus:
The famous historian, Mawlana Rahman Ali, adds:
Abu’l Hasan Ali Nadwi writes:
The ‘Ulama turn to Imām Ahmad Rida [Marja’ul ‘Ulama]
Mawlana Waqaruddīn, the student of Mawlana Amjad Ali Aa’zmī, writes regarding the knowledge of Imām Ahmad Rida:
Volumes 1-7 and 10-11 of Fatāwa Ridawiyyah contain a total of 4095 fatāwa. Out of this, 1061 are questions sent to Imām Ahmad Rida by other scholars. This shows that along with the general public, the scholars also turned to Imām Ahmad Rida to find solutions to their problems.
His refutation of Ahlu’l Bid’ah
Those who wished to challenge the greatness of Allah by attributing deficiencies to Him were refuted by Imām Ahmad Rida. He wrote Subhan al-Subbuh ‘an ‘Aybi Kadhibi al-Maqbuh and wrote another 5 monographs on the issue of Imkan-e-Kidhb. He also refuted those who believed in Allah having a body by compiling Qawari’ al-Qahhar ‘alal Mujassamatu’l Fujjar. Refuting ancient philosophers, he wrote a lengthy monograph named al-Kalimatu’l Mulhima. He strongly refuted those who insult and curse the dear Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam, his companions, his family, the Mujtahid Imams and the saints. As for the fitna of Qadian, he tore it from the roots by writing 5 monographs against it and was the first scholar to issue a fatwa of Kufr against it. It can easily be seen from his literary masterpieces that he strove against all the prevalent innovations of his era and saved the Muslim ummah from their dangers.
His love for Sayyidina Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam
Many scholars have paid tribute to his sincerity, honesty, piety and to the purity of his heart but the whole world pays tribute to his unfaltering adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah and his love for Sayyidinā Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam. Not only his followers; even unbiased opponents of his are witness to the reality of his love. He awakened such an inspiring love for the Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam that the dwellings of the heart began to shine like mirrors. Every day and night in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, England, Holland, the USA and Africa, his poetic masterpiece is heard thus:
مصطفٰى جانِ رحمت په لاكهوں سلام
Whenever someone returned from Hajj, he would ask them if they had been to visit Sayyidinā Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam and if they had, he would immediately kiss their feet.
Imām Ahmad Rida and the Scholars of Haramayn
Imām Ahmad Rida was not just a personality revered and accepted by the scholars of the Indian Subcontinent – even the scholars of Haramayn accepted his leadership and his status as the Mujaddid of his era. These are the words of some scholars of Makkah in praise of Imām Ahmad Rida.
Mawlana Muhammad Yusuf al-Afghani al-Makki writes:
Shaykh Salih Kamal Mufti Hanafiya writes:
Shaykh Abu’l Khayr Mirdad writes:
Shaykh Abdur Rahman Dahlan writes:
Shaykh Muhammad Mukhtar bin ‘Ata al-Jawi al-Makki writes:
Shaykh Musa Ali Shami al-Azhari Ahmad Darderwi Madani writes:
Shaykh Muhammad Yaseen Ahmad al-Khayari Madani praises him thus:
‘Allama Mawlana Tafaddal al-Haq Makki writes:
Due to weakness, Shaykh al-Khutaba, ‘Ustad al-‘Ulama, ‘Allama Mawlana al-Shaykh Ahmad Abu’l Khayr Mirdad was not able to visit Imām Ahmad Rida at the latter’s residence. The Shaykh heard al-Dawlah al-Makkiya from cover to cover and when Imām Ahmad Rida was about to leave Makkah, he respectfully touched the feet of the Shaykh. The Shaykh addressed Imām Ahmad Rida and said:
Shaykh Mirdad also addressed Imām Ahmad Rida as:
Shaykh Sayyid Alawi Maliki Makki says:
The Imam of Ahlus Sunnah, the Mujaddid, Shaykh al-Islam wa’l Muslimīn, Imām Ahmad Rida Khan al-Hanafī al-Qadrī al-Barkatī al-Baraylwī passed away on 25th Safar, 1340 AH, at the age of 65. From beginning to end, this shining star of the Ummah was an embodiment of Sharī’āh. Hence, even on his death bed, he ordained that nothing be done in contravention to the Sunnah. He said:
In the majority of cases, food from the Fatiha is only for the rich and only the poor miss out. Imām Ahmad Rida destroyed this ugly practice which was snatching the rights of the poor and in doing so he revived a dying Sunnah of the dear Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam.
The benevolence of Allah and His Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam remained with Imām Ahmad Rida till his demise. He said that my weakness has left me in such a state that I may not even recognise some of my own relatives but all the matters of the Sharī’āh are still with me and I have not forgotten any of them.
May Allah shower abundant blessings on the grave of the great Imam and may He raise us with him on the day of Judgement.
 Ikram-e-Imam Ahmad Raza, p.59-60, Lahore, 1981