A Man Among the Men of Allah
Shaykh al-Islam wa al-Muslimeen, Sultan al-Fuqaha, Faqeeh al-Asr, Taaj al-Shari'ah Mufti Muhammad Akhtar Rida Khan (may Allah preserve him) has produced a number of first-rate works/translations in various Islamic disciplines. Among them are (non-exhaustive list):
1) Mufti Akhtar Rida translated “al-Zulal al-Anqa Min Bahr Sabaqat al-Atqa” into Urdu which was written by Imam Ahmad Rida Khan in Arabic on the commentary of the verse “those who are most God-fearing will be far removed from it” (92:17). This scholarly commentary argues to establish that Sayyiduna Abu Bakr al-Siddique is the most virtuous companion. It contains arguments against Tafdhili Shi’ites and requires an in-depth understanding of Usul al-Tafsir and Usul al-Din.
2) Mufti Akhtar Rida wrote an Arabic commentary to a selection of Hadiths to Sahih al-Bukhari which is titled “Namudhaj Hashiyat al-Bukhari”. His strength and authenticity of arguments is very clear in the way he rebuts Ahmad Ali Saharanpuri in a number of Fiqh related issues.
3) He also wrote and excellent Usuli commentary to the Hadith of the intention “Actions are based upon intentions” which he called “Sharh Hadith al-Niyyah”.
4) [Fiqh/Hadith] The Shaykh dictated the translation to Imam Ahmad Riza Khan’s magnum opus work on the issue of combining prayers titled “Haajiz al-Bahrayn al-Waaqi an al-Jam bayn al-Salatayn” into Arabic. The work combines Fiqh with Hadith and perfectly illustrates how a faqih analyses Hadith evidences.
5) [Usul al-Hadith] Mufti Akhtar Rida fully dictated the Arabic translation to Imam Ahmad Rida Khan’s “al-Haad al-Kaaf Fi Hukm al-Di’aaf” (The Sufficient Guide on Weak Hadiths). It was published by Dar al-Sananbil of Damascus and Dar al-Hawi of Beirut in 2009. The work uniquely examines the definitions of weak Hadith, and their application and usage in areas of Fiqh uncovering Wahhabi fallacies in their understanding of their acceptance and rejection. It is ample with scholarly discussions and is an outstanding gift for the student and teacher as its signatory Sayyid Yusuf al-Hashimi al-Beiruti (p. 139) clearly points in his endorsement,
فوجدته فريدا في بابه، يغني عن تطلابه، ثقيل المضمون، منكوز العلم، مرصوص العبارة، دقيق المباحث، طويل النقول، يتعرض للعويصات والمشكلات. فبالجملة: إن الكتاب له قيمة علمية راقية
This book can be obtained from Dar al-Faqih in Abu Dhabi, Dar al-Dhiya lil-Nashr in Kuwait, Maktabah Tarim al-Hadithah in Tarim, Dar al-Salam in Cairo, Maktabah al-Tamam in Beirut and Dar al-Ulum al-Islamiyya in Indonesia. Six Ulama endorsed it with their remarks. They are: Abu Muhammad Musa Abduh Yusuf al-Is’haqi (from the Is’haqiyya Ashraf of Somali-Jeddah), Muhammad Anas Muhammad Saleem Murad who wrote the endorsement on behalf of his Shaykh Sa’d al-Din al-Murad (Jeddah), Sayyid Yusuf Muhammad Idris al-Hasani al-Husaini al-Hashimi (Beirut), Sayyid Yusuf Hashim Rifa’i (Kuwait), Shaykh Mahmud al-Huwt al-Nabhani (Halab, Syria) and Muhammad Nazim Ali Misbahi (Mubarakpur, India).
Sayyid Yusuf al-Rifa’i (p. 240-1) thanks the Shaykh for producing the translation of a work that was much needed in the Arabic language such that it now “fills an empty area in the library of the Ah al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah” and addressed him saying “al-Allamah al-Mukarram al-Akh al-Shaykh al-Mubajjal al-Shaykh Akhtar Ridha” and “al-Allamah al-Hafid al-Da’iyah”.
Shaykh Mahmud al-Huwt (p. 244-5) refers to the Shaykh as “al-Imam” and “Taaj al-Shari’ah” and claims that "he has never seen a work of its kind" saying,
فما أن أحظيت بهذا الكنز، وبصرت في عنوانه، وتمنعت في مقدمته، حتى أسلمني أوله إلى اخره، فقرأته في رحلته هذه، والحق أقول: إنني ما رأيت مؤلفا نسج على منواله، ولا كتابا حوى بديع خصاله
Shaykh Musa Abduh Yusuf al-Is’haqi (p. 236) calls the Shaykh “Mawlana wa-Ustadhuna al-Fadhil” among other revering names. Here is the Arabic,
ولقد قام مولانا وأستاذنا الفاضل وسليل السادة الأفاضل، شيخنا الأكبر ومرشدنا الأنور، تاج الشريعة سماحة المفتي محمد أختر خريج الجامع الأزهر بترجمة "الهاد الكاف في حكم الضعاف" من اللغة الأردية إلى اللغة العربية، وأضاف إليها إضافات سنية ومرضية من معلومات فائقة وشائقة، مما كسا الكتاب رونقا وجمالا، وزاده روعة وكمال، فلله دره، وأطال الله عمره، ويسر الله أمره، ورفع الله قدره، وأجزل الله أجره، ونفع بعلومه الخاص والعام من أهل الإسلام
6) Mufti Akhtar Rida dictated the complete Arabic translation of Imam Ahmad Rida Khan’s “al-Amnu wa al-Ula li-Naa’iti al-Mustafa bi-Daafi al-Bala” (Protection and Eminence for the Person who Praises the Chosen One as an Eliminator of Calamity) which was published Dar al-Nu’man, Damascus, 2009. This work is a scholarly refutation of Muftis that considered the “Salat Taajiyah” shirk on the basis that is impermissible to call anyone other than Allah “Daafi al-Balaa”. It categorically refutes the Wahhabi stance using numerous verses of al-Qur’an al-Karim and its commentaries and two hundred and eighteen Hadiths of the Noble Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) with their sources on the topic making it an encyclopaedic work. The muqaddima contains an excellent explanation to the types of Isnad and Nisbah highlighting the correct usage of this title for the Noble Prophet (may Allah bless him ad give him peace). The Shaykh put excellent Hadith notes to this work and his student created its bibliographical references.
It contains a three page endorsement by the great fadhil and adeeb, Abdul Jaleel Ata in which he addresses the Shaykh with titles such as “Fadilat al-Allamah al-Jalil al-Shaykh Muhammad Akhtar Rida Khan”, “Taaj al-Shari’ah”, “Fadilat al-Shaykh al-Jalil al-Murabbi al-Fadil” and praises the scholarly activities of the Shaykh saying,
فاهنأ يا فضيلة الشيخ الجليل المربي الفاضل وأنت تنعش اثارا جليلة تحيي به وفاء واداء بعض ما أنت به قمين لنشر العلوم الغزيرة التي أنبتها روضكم العامر، وأثمرتها أشجاركم الباسقة. يناعة وغذاء للألباب والعقول والأفكار! ولا زلت كما مرّ أسلافك الكرام منارات اهتداء وأسنة مشرعة في الدفاع عن حصن الشريعة الغراء بكل عزة وشموخ وكبرياء. ولا زالت جهودنا الوضيعة في خدمة علومكم الغزيرة فتوة، وتمكّنا بفضل ما طوقتمونا به من ثقة وحسن ظن! فلنكن عند حسن ظنكم، ودام ظلكم الوارف لمزيد من إحياء اثار الجد الجليل، ولتدم منكم الهمة القعساء للنهوض بالأجيال القادمة تربية وتعليما وإرشادا، وحلما وتسديدا. وفقكم الله للمزيد، وفر أعينكم بكل محب مريد، وأدام عطاءكم بلا تحديد
7) Mufti Akhtar Rida Khan dictated the full translation of Shah Fazl al-Rasul Badayouni’s “al-Mu’taqad al-Muntaqad” from the Arabic into Urdu, and its commentary “al-Mu’tamad al-Mustanad” by Imam Ahmad Rida Khan. Those teaching Aqidah know how difficult of a text this work is. It contains many intricate discussions on Asma wa-Sifaat yet the Shaykh has effectively translated the work which when read in Urdu seems as though it was originally written in Urdu! The Shaykh translated this work throughout the car and aeroplane journey to Sri Lanka in 2003 and completed it within six months. This single example is sufficient to establish to our readers the immensity of the Shaykh’s knowledge and determined efforts to teach.
8) [Asma wa-Sifat] The Shaykh has dictated the translation to Imam Ahmad Riza Khan’s “Subhan al-Subbuh an Ayb Kadhib Maqbuh” into Arabic. I sat in one of awe-filling majalis to listen to the Shaykh’s mastery in the subject and translation of the text. This will be the largest known work on establishing the sifah of truth (sidq) for Allah Most Sublime and refuting the view of Imkan al-Kadhib. It shall shatter - by the aid of the Most Truthful - the Deobandi stance in Arabic when released. The work is a masterpiece in Asma wa-Sifat containing a wealth of rational and transmitted proofs. The translation is near completion, wal-hamdulillah. None other than an expert can embark such a task.
9) [Hadith/Aqidah] The Shaykh dictated the translation of “Shumul al-Islam li-Usul al-Rasul al-Kiram” by Imam Ahmad Rida Khan into Arabic on the Iman of the parents of our Noble Prophet (upon him peace and blessings). This was published along with the Shaykh’s study on the Father of Sayyiduna Ibrahim in Arabic titled “Tahqiq Anna Aba Ibrahim Tarih wa-laysa Azar”. These works were endorsed by the following Ulama:
Sayyid Abdullah Fad’aq Hashimi (Da’iyah of Makkah and student of the late Sayyid Muhammad Alawi Maliki), who referred to the Shaykh as “Fadilat al-Imam al-Shaykh Muhammad Akhtar Ridha Khan al-Azhari al-Mufti al-Azam fi al-Hind”
Shaykh Isa Mani al-Himyari (Muhadith of Dubai) who referred to the Shaykh as “al-Shaykh al-Aarif billah al-Muhadith Muhammad Akhtar Ridha al-Hanafi al-Qadiri al-Azhari”
Shaykh Waathiq Fu’ad Ubaydi (Baghdad) who called him “Shaykhuna al-Jalil, Sahib al-Radd al-Qati, Murshid al-Saalikeen, al-Mahfouz bi-Rabb al-alameen, al-Aalim al-Fadhil” and “Taaj al-Shari’ah”
Mufti Jamal Abdul Kareem al-Dabban (Baghdad) who referred to him as “al-Imam al-Allamah al-Qudwah Sahib al-Fadhilat al-Shaykh”
10) [Qasaid/Madih] During my stay in Jeddah in Dhul Hijjah (2009) after the completion of Haj, I visited Mufti Akhtar Rida Khan in Jeddah and witnessed his knowledge and piety. He gave his daily commentary on Qasidah Burdah (verses 90-91) fluently in Arabic which was being recorded (I personally possess 3 unedited audio cds).
The Shaykh has memorised the entire Qasidah Burdah and Dalai’il al-Khayrat by heart. Every morning after Fajr, he recites the entire Burdah till sunrise. After every Asr prayer, he recites a section from Dala’il al-Khayrat. This has been his wird-occupation since teenage years. I witnessed this on the 13th morning of Dhul Hijjah in Mina and after Asr in Jeddah. The Shaykh has a Diwan to his name titled “Safinah-e-Bakhshish” which contains several qasaid and mada’ih on the Noble Prophet (upon him peace and blessings) and the chosen people, some of which are in Arabic too. One of his famous Qasidahs is which he recited in his majlis with the Ulama of Damascus in August 2008 and in Jeddah 2009 (partial):
الله الله الله ۔۔۔ ما لي رب إلا هو
يفنى الكل ويبقى هو ۔۔۔ ليس الباقي إلا هو
من كان دعاه أن يا هو ۔۔۔ ذاك حميد عقباه
من كان لربي دنياه ۔۔۔ ذاك سعيد اخراه
من كنت الهي مولاه ۔۔۔ كل الناس تولاه
تنسى ربك يا فاني ۔۔۔ دم إن شئت بذكراه
ترجو الناس لجدواهم ۔۔۔ إن الحدوى جدواه
ربي رب الأرباب ۔۔۔ ليس يضاهى حاشاه
كن لنبي الله رضى ۔۔۔ تحظ لديه بزلفاه
وهذا أختر أدناكم ۔۔۔ ربي أحسن مثواه
When the Shaykh recited the last verse, Sayyid Abdul Aziz Khatib (Damascus) began profoundly saying (as heard from students that were present):
أختر سيدنا وابن سيدنا
Expressing his yearning for the Noble Habib (may Allah give him peace and blessing) Mufti Akhtar Rida writes (partial):
رسول الله يا كنز الأماني
على أعتابكم وقف المعاني
بهذا الباب يعتز الذليل
لهذا الباب يأتي كل عان
لهذا الباب انتدب الرحيم
ذوي الأوزار من قاص ودان
رسول الله إني مستجير
لدى أعتابكم من كل جان
لكم جاءت رواحلنا حفافأ
وكم صدرت محملة عواني
فداكم مهجتي أنتم عمادي
مرادي بغيتي كنزي أماني
ألا تحيون من قلبي مواتا
ألا تأتون مندرس المكان
ولا زالت بحارك تفيض
وأمطار الندى مر الأوان
اما للشمس في ليلي شروق
ألا ما يجلو محياكم كياني
A Notice: The reader must keep in mind that Mufti Akhtar Rida Khan is visually impaired and cannot read or write. He listens to a text and dictates the translation and those occupied in translating know how difficult of a task this is especially when translating difficult texts in Islamic disciplines!
Acclaim Among Contemporary Arab Ulama:
1) Shaykh Abdul Jaleel Ata (Damascus) recited the following qasidah in praise of the Shaykh in Damascus in the presence of numerous scholars and students who gathered to join the Shaykh, every letter of which lustres with love and truth,
یا کوکب من بھاء الدین ذاألق ۔۔۔ ومنھا من دقیق العلم متسق
اقدام قولک في التحقیق مصدرہ ۔۔۔ اھل التمکن في النبراس کالشفق
ولو تباھی رسول اللہ في أحد ۔۔۔ مثل طلعتکم یا فاتح العبق
محمد أختر جاء الرضا به ۔۔۔ فمر حبافي منبع الحصن الدرق
This majlis was attended by Shaykh Abdur-Razzaq Halabi, Shaykh Hussam al-Din Farfour, Shaykh Abdul Aziz Khateeb, Shaykh Hisham Burhani, Shaykh Abdul Hadi Kharsah and many others.
2) In his first-rate work on the defining the manhaj of Imam Ahmad Rida Khan titled “Insaf al-Imam”, the Egyptian author Shaykh Muhammad Khalid Thabit (p. 114-5) speaks of his encounter with Mufti Akhtar Rida Khan in Egypt in the following words,
منذ أيام – وأنا أكتب هذه السطور- استنارت مصر بزيارة الشيخ الكبير محمد أختر رضا القادري الأزهري المعروف بتاج الشريعة المفتي الأعظم بالهند، حفيد الإمام أحمد رضا خان البريلوي والقائم على جماعته، ورأيت حديثه عن جده الإمام اكثر من حديثه عن نفسه، واعتزازه بجده الإمام الأعظم من اعتزاز بنفسه، ورأيت تمسكه بما أرساه جده من القواعد ومن الثبات على الحق مما يثير الإعجاب حقا...نظرت إلى وجه الشيخ الكبير محمد أختر والبهاء يكسوه، والسكينة والوقار يجللانه، واستمعت إلى كلماته –بلغة عربية صحيحة-تخرج من فمه في قوة وثقة تصدق بالحق المبين فوجدتني أقول: سبحان الله...ذرية بعضها من بعض
3) The Azhar Journal titled “Sawt al-Azhar” (May Issue 2009) referred to the Shaykh as “Mufti al-Hind”. In this visit, the Shaykh met with Shaykh al-Azhar in his office for an hour and who presented him an Azhar award for his scholarly achievements and activities.
Among Those Who Visited Mufti Akhtar Rida Khan in Bareilly:
1) The late Muhadith of Makkah, Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki (may Allah have mercy on him) travelled to Bareilly in April 2004 during Rabi' al-Awwal. They engaged in a number of scholarly discussions with Shaykh Akhtar and in his talk addressed Shaykh Akhtar with the title “al-Mufti al-A’zam bil-alam”. When he studied the Shaykh’s Arabic Hashiya on Sahih al-Bukhari titled “Namudhaj Hashiyat al-Azhari” he regarded the Shaykh as “Muhadith Hanafi” before those that were present.
2) Sayyid Muhammad Umar ibn Saleem al-Mahdi al-Dabbagh of Baghdad was appointed as the Head of Arabic literature at Jamiat al-Ridha in Bareilly in 2007. He showed immense love for the Shaykh and wrote a qasidah in his praise which he publicly recited on the Imam Ahmad Rida Conference in Bareilly on the 24th Safar, 2007.
3) The Mufti of Damascus, Shaykh Abdul Fattah Bizm visited Mufti Akhtar Rida at his residence twice during the last Hajj season (2009) in Jeddah and in Madinah Tayyibah. I personally witnessed the amount of love these Shuyukh had for one another on both occasions. In his talk in Jeddah, Mufti Abdul Fattah expressed his feelings about the Shaykh and spoke of his previous meetings with him in Syria and Bareilly. He said, “When the Shaykh came to Damascus the first time round, I heard about him and wanted to visit him. Some people prevented me but I went to meet him and at the first sight Allah made me realise that he is from the people of Allah (Ahlullah)”.
He then added, speaking of a miracle he experienced, that when the Shaykh invited him to Bareilly he was in two minds about travelling even to the moment of submitting his passport. For some reason, the visa was not issued. Upon collecting the passport, he mentioned that Shaykh Akhtar rang him and said, “If you make a firm intention, Allah will make the means easy”. Mufti Abdul Fattah said, “This struck my heart and I came to realise that the Shaykh is aware of the state of my heart”. Thereafter, I made a firm intention and re-submitted my passport and received the visa”.
He also said, “When I travelled to Bareilly and saw the thousands of people that are attached to Shaykh Akhtar, it brought joy to my heart that the people of India are still connected with their shuyukh and illustrate immense love and respect for them”. This is what I remember from his comments. If anyone requires an audio recording of this talk, Insha Allah, I can try to facilitate it and perhaps others too.
Acclaim in Indo-Pakistan:
Bareilly, as all of us know, has a massive Sunni following in and around the world. Mufti Akhtar Rida Khan has been the Shaykh of the silsilah and head Mufti there for many years. The claim that he is not known among India’s people is clearly a lie intended to discredit the Shaykh. A 700 page book has been compiled on the life, works and activities of the Shaykh titled “Tajalliyaat Taaj al-Shariah” containing the comments, letters, articles of hundreds of ulama from around the world to the Shaykh and their views about him. Majority of these articles, letters, qasa’id are in Urdu by scholars of India and Pakistan. It includes articles on the Shaykh’s travels within India and meetings with its people that shatter the false notion. Mufti Abdul Fattah Bizm has witnessed the annual urs event at Bareilly in the month of Safar whose remarks I presented above
The Manhaj of Mufti Akhtar Rida Khan in Love and Hate:
It would be not be a hyperbolic comment if I were to assert that Mufti Akhtar Rida is an embodiment of the Hadith “Love for the sake of Allah and Hate for the sake of Allah”. He loves the awliya of the entire world and hates the enemies of Allah and His Messenger (upon him peace and blessings). He does not unite with those who “offend” Allah and His Messenger with comments that are by nature “repulsive”, “repugnant”, “below the standards of scholarly discourse”, “indefensible breaches of proper respect” and thus “unacceptable to Muslims around the world” and neither does he have compassion for those who shamelessly destroy the graves of the companions and Ahlul Bayt, demolish Muslim sites and heritage whilst preserving Jewish landmarks and relics of their Kings in their museums, and speak with minimal respect about the Noble Habib (may Allah bless him and give him peace), his companions, kin, and the majority of the Ummah whom they consider misguided. He has no love for those who consider it permissible to shout out Shirk and kufr slogans to those who recite the Burdah and Dalai’il. He has written and spoken against such people and their beliefs as this is the duty (wajib dini) of every upright scholar from Ahlus-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, and is not a hobby as some may assert, to warn people from wavering and falling into the trap of the Shaytan.
As for the claim that the Shaykh makes takfir of everyone other than himself and those affiliated with him is another exaggeration, rather, a lie that stems from animosity. The Shaykh has replied to this accusation in Arabic in his “Mira’at al-Najdiyyah” published by the name “Haqiqat al-Barelwiyyah”, which is the reply to Qadhi Atiyyah’s endorsement to Ihasan Ali Zahir’s “al-Barelwiyyah” (Published in Egypt by Dar al-Muqattam, 2009) asking him to produce a single nas of our ulama in which they have made takfir of Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Abdul Wahhab and their followers. Rather, it is these people who make takfir and tadlil of the entire ummah. This accusation is the popular one found in “Nuzhat al-Khawatir” and “al-Barelwiyyah” about Barelwis and is false.
On these premise, our conclusions therefore are that Shaykh Akhtar Rida Khan
a) is a scholar, a Mufti and one who possesses immense knowledge “Allamah” of the Shari’ah.
b) is a tireless teacher of the Islamic sciences, valuing time and teaching throughout his travels.
c) has excellent command on the Arabic language and translation skills.
d) is beloved to the Ulama of the Arab world and has been received with warm hearts and love.
e) produces works in various scholarly disciplines which have brought immense benefit to the Ahlus-Sunnah.
f) is not just a scholar of the outward sciences but a man of Allah whose presence is awe-filling and a person of karaamat.
g) is on the manhaj of the Ahlus-Sunnah Wa al-Jama’ah.
h) is well-known in India and its people of the Ahlus-Sunnah.
And to hold otherwise leads to the falsification of popular accounts by ulama and awliya on the basis of a solitary report lacking proper adab of discourse which appears biased to anyone who reads it with a sound mind. Supporting false notions attributed to the Shaykh such that he is not an “alim”, he is “unknown” and that he makes “takfir of everyone” is unlawful when there are clear signs to the contrary. Beware too of having animosity towards the awliya as its consequence from Allah is devastating! And alone gives guidance.
Shaykh Munawwar Ateeq
[Birmingham - United Kingdom]